Posted on July 31, 2017

Check Your ‘Cognitive Privilege,’ All You Smart People!

Thomas Lifson, American Thinker, July 31, 2017

Progressives, crazed with identifying new forms of oppression attached to the currently fashionable catchword “privilege,” have finally embraced the stupid as a victim class.  Hey, let’s celebrate stupidity! Just ponder for a moment all the potential grand marshalls for the inevitable Supidity Day Parade in New York City, once the stupid are organized into a grievance-powered pressure group.

And where else, but at a university, a temple of higher learning?

In this case, one funded by taxpayers. The following is from a genuine column in the student newspaper of the University of Iowa.  A student suddenly has discovered that being smart is just like being white: an unfair privilege. Dan Williams writes:

Any of us could have been born the unluckiest person on the planet, which, by definition, picks out precisely one person. But we all have the privilege of not being that person. We are all privileged by comparison.

There are many kinds of privilege besides white privilege: cognitive privilege, for example. We now know that intelligence is not something we have significant control over but is something we are born with. We are living in a society in which success is increasingly linked to one’s intelligence. This is not to say that intelligence is the only factor that is important. All that is implied is that below a certain threshold of intelligence, there are fewer and fewer opportunities. These opportunities are being shifted upward to jobs that require heavier cognitive lifting or else are being replaced by robots. Thus, the accident of having been born smart enough to be able to be successful is a great benefit that you did absolutely nothing to earn. Consequently, you have nothing to be proud of for being smart.

Once we have admitted the reality of privilege itself and identified some species of privilege, we are better able to talk about the temperature-rising topic of racial privilege.

I am not certain if Williams is an actual sophomore, but he certainly is sophomoric. He understands nothing about intelligence, though he pretends he does. (In fairness, I was once an undergraduate college student intoxicated with the new ideas I was learning. And it was my privilege to learn from scholarsimmersed in classical thought not progressive propagandists.)

Intelligence is not merely an inherited characteristic that exists independent of effort, practice, and practical application. In fact, genuine intelligence is a skill, best analogized to athletics, the other thing that the University of Iowa is famous for.  Skills of any sort demand practice, effort, critical self-evaluation, coaching, and many other requirements.

Athletes can be born with excellent physical endowments, but unless they practice and try hard, they will end up as duffers. Pete Rose became a baseball legend, known as “Charlie Hustle” because he proved the point that sheer willpower is a major factor in athletic excellence.  True enough, I will never be an NBA star owing to my meager physical endowments. But I would have been a much less awkward and pathetic amateur if I had at least tried.

The inherited components – of intelligence, of athleticism, and of every trade that exists — are necessary but not sufficient to excellence. There is a strong moral component in the achievements of those who use well their particular inheritance, whatever it might be, if they strived, pushed themselves, and were driven by a sense of what could be. That is the true source of merit. And relatively few of us are able to achieve anything of note or worth to others without striving.

Stupidity, it should be noted, is also a characteristic acquired according to degree of effort.

One of my favorite expressions is, “There’s no fool like an educated fool,” and I appreciate it from abundant personal experience.

Merit is under attack on both the left and the right, in part because it is so often confused with education and privilege.