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Elitism: A Double-Edged Sword

Elitism is defined as the advocacy or existence of an elite as a dominant element in a system or a society. As a result, the word is commonly associated with negative connotations such as snobbery and arrogance. This is not a completely unfounded idea, as it is true that an excessive amount of elitism in any society can quickly become toxic. This universal principle applies to any community, and can create  separate distinctions between groups of individuals and causes both mental and physical division.

However, while such dominance of one group should not be promoted, this does not imply that all forms of exclusivity are to be condemned. In fact, a certain dose of exclusivity seems to be necessary, especially at schools like ours where students are academically competitive and participate in similar extracurricular activities.  Without it, nothing is prestigious. It is safe to say that when something starts to lose its value in such a manner, people can quickly lose interest. Moreover, exclusivity can encourage healthy competition as those who are not included in the group might feel motivated and incentivized to improve themselves.

For the sake of conversation, let’s consider a top tier school such as Harvard. If Harvard suddenly decided that it would accept all of its applicants into the incoming freshmen class, would it still be considered the most prestigious school? Would it still be the most sought-after? Frankly, no. Similarly, if an honor society accepts so many members that the majority of the student body is included in the group, its “honor” inevitably is devalued.

Moreover, such exclusive groups at SIS exist in order to distinguish students’ various interests and niches. Just because one student doesn’t get into the National Art Honor Society doesn’t make them a less qualified student. Rather, it may give them the opportunity to explore different areas and find talent.

In a logical sense, there is some value behind reducing elitism. Doing so takes away the notion that a certain group of individuals dominate and allows for opportunities for more people. However, there is a certain paradoxical drawback to reducing elitism. It is that a more inclusive approach ironically creates more exclusivity. For example, lowering standards for receiving a spot in an honor society or a spot on the honor roll becomes less about rewarding the students who deserve such an honor; rather, it becomes more about ignoring the students who don’t even make that particular standard.

Increasing the inclusiveness of a club simply makes people want to distinguish themselves even more – this time, in other ways. If a student feels that he or she does not receive the recognition he or she feel deserves, then they will simply find another way to find it. No matter what you do, some students will create their own form of exclusivity and recognition.

Granted, these drawbacks may not apply to every attempt at reducing elitism. Though it is true that each scenario is different, one thing is for certain: while elitism may not be completely desirable, a certain dose of it provides motivation and creates a sense of prestige.