This section is from the book "Principles Of Sociology With Educational Applications", by Frederick R. Clow. Also available from Amazon: Principles of sociology with educational applications.
One of the curious instances of the materialized thought of the present time is the increasing reference on the part of the highly educated to the rich as "the privileged class."
This point of view cannot be sustained, whether the quality or the quantity of privilege is considered. The minute fraction of each generation which has lavished upon it all the best gifts that come of the infinite accumulated toils of literature, science, art, and the intellectual vocations is indisputably more privileged as to the human values intrusted to it than are the merely financial rich.
The highly educated are a smaller group in numbers than the rich. There are only about 200,000 college graduates in the United States, while there are 350,000 incomes of $5,000 and over. Even leaving the more intangible values out of the account, the total power of the 200,000 and their total responsibility is certainly much greater than that of the 350,000. The overpowering financial preeminence of a few is likely to blind us in making a proper comparison on the whole. While, of course, there is considerable overlapping in these two groups, it is a significant fact that the acquirers of great fortunes are not likely to be highly educated men. ... - The Survey, Vol. 31, p. 58, Robert A. Woods.
. . . There is no doubt but that in this body we have the greatest guiding and directing force in the development of our national life and civilization. . . . Though the college man forms no more than one hundredth of the total men in the country, he forms over fifty per cent of those named in "Who's Who," the best single measure we have of effective citizenship. - The Michigan Alumnus, December, 1914.
The number of college graduates, as given by Mr. Woods, is probably based on an estimate which was made a dozen years ago by Professor Willcox, of Cornell. An estimate made in 1914 doubles this number. Then the class of the highly educated also includes the graduates of many professional and technical schools. There is also a considerable number of persons who are self-educated, who by travel and private study have become as well acquainted with the world's best thought as the average college graduate. Teachers, journalists, and business men of many kinds, when they have the disposition, in time get a liberal education out of their vocation and thus enter the class of "intellectuals." It would not be far astray to say that there are a million persons in this class, or one in fifty of the adult population. High school graduates who have not gone on for advanced study constitute a secondary and more numerous rank of the learned.
This class of the highly educated has no name more common than the two slang terms used as the title of this section. Every country, and to some extent, every generation, has a favorite term for it: sophists, philosophers, clerks, humanists, illuminati, literati, savants. The class has no organization by itself except the alumni associations of the various schools, colleges, and universities, the American Association of Collegiate Alumnae, a university club in an occasional large city or university town, and a loose organization of alumni secretaries. The common body of knowledge which is the product of the ages constitutes the substratum of their social mind, and to this a living vitality is imparted by the friendships which they formed during their student days, and for it the ancient buildings and sites of their almae matres provide the local habitations. In bringing about the nomination of Woodrow Wilson in 1912 this class, next to Wilson's own personality, was the largest single factor. However, it scarcely works as a single factor. The prestige attaching to the holder of a degree or to the graduate of any particular school never goes very far, and in some circles is replaced by -opprobrium. Each member of the class simply counts for what he is worth in the office, shop, forum, or field where he does his work; if he counts for more than others it is because he has training in his hand, enlightenment in his head, and worthy purpose in his heart.
The biennial reunion of teachers and students of the "Old Red Brick" which occurred at Y. Thursday, was, like its predecessors, a notable occasion, which brought men and women from far and near to join in such festivities as the occasion never fails to produce. By ten o'clock the spacious high school building was filled and the round of recognition and hand shaking was under way. . . .
. . . One hundred and sixty people were seated at long tables placed in a large classroom of the Webster manual training school and in the long corridor connecting the high and manual training schools, and nearly a hundred more were served at a second sitting.
O., who succeeded Mr. S. as teacher, was next on the program and he declared that he had "come from Chicago to get a sight of Sam S." He referred to the fifty-one years that have passed since Sam S. taught school in Y. and declared that there must have been something worth while in a school, when after fifty-one years thirty-seven students came to meet Sam S.
. . . After all the speechmaking, adjournment was taken for supper. The evening session was full of entertainment, closing in time to enable the Z. visitors to catch the last car. - Report of over two columns from a village of 1300 souls in the daily newspaper of a neighboring city.
The " Masses" or "Lower Classes"
... To put it simply: the masses must forever remain the masses. There would be no culture without kitchen maids.
Obviously education could never thrive if there was nobody to do the rough work. Millions must plough and forge and dig in order that a few thousands may write and paint and study.
It sounds harsh, but it is true for all time, and whining and complaining can never alter it. . . . - Treitschke, Politics, Vol. I, p. 42.
These two terms, like Treitschke's ideas, are relics of medieval feudalism. In the United States the terms are used loosely to designate those who do manual labor or whose incomes are small. But a person who has skill in doing a work for which the world makes a legitimate demand cannot be classed as "low " in any important sense: he holds a definite status in the social organization and is necessary to its harmonious operation. On the other hand, the man who has no skill in anything, or only in something so intermittent that he is unemployed much of the time, belongs at the bottom industrially and in various other respects as well. The natural result is that he and his family can share only imperfectly in the life of his time; they tend to be segregated with others of their kind into the stratum of the poverty-stricken.
. . . But from this point of view the chimney-sweep or road-mender gains in dignity, for he is rendering a service with which we cannot dispense. If he does his work skillfully and conscientiously, it is illogical to despise him.
On the other hand, from the social point of view, the envied idle rich not only have no claim to special consideration, but appear as the drones of a hive, the camp followers of an army, the stowaways of a ship, the deadbeats of a business. ... - American Journal of Sociology, Vol. 23, p. 81, Ross, "Class and Caste: Equalization,"
The well-to-do and the educated are what they are because of inherited capacity: they have had the disposition and the energy to acquire the advantages which they possess. Herein exists whatever justification there is for a caste system. But it does not therefore follow that every poor or ignorant person is lacking in capacity. Two other conditions are also needful for entrance into any of the higher open classes: early surroundings to arouse ambition, and opportunity to carry it out. Perhaps the relation of the three factors is best stated another way: the capacity and the opportunity must fit each other, and then the ambition must be just the right one to set the capacity at work on the opportunity. Sometimes the capacity is strong enough to grow into an ambition without any special stimulus from the outside, and to find its opportunity even if none exists at hand. But for most persons all three factors must be present to give success. A little acquaintance with persons in humble occupations reveals much undeveloped talent; sometimes the person possessing it is not even aware that he has it.