More Common Sense, Less Elitism


In a great article first posted on LinkedIn, Marketing Strategist Dustin McKissen discusses moving beyond the idea that only those who go to the “right schools” should be in positions of leadership.

He touts the example of Harry Hopkins, who was hired by Franklin Delano Roosevelt to run the Works Progress Administration (WPA).

The WPA gave jobs to 8.5 million people at the height of the Great Depression. And while Harry Hopkins – credited with the success of the WPA – didn’t have an elite Ivy League degree, he knew how to work.

As McKissen writes, “Hopkins didn’t have a pedigree that said he was destined for greatness. But, he knew how to get things done. He knew how to create and run programs that put food on the table for millions of workers, and food on the table helped keep desperate Americans from being swayed by the fascism taking hold across the globe in the 1930s. Hopkins wasn’t born in the “right” place. Hopkins wasn’t born to the “right” family. And he didn’t go to the “right” schools.”

Around the world, and right here in Canada, many of the greatest businesses and innovations are being made by people without the “right background.”

And yet, on the political scene, we see the halls of power dominated by those connected to elite institutions. They spend time around all the same people, they all know each other, they all have the same ideas, and they all come up with the same “solutions.”

Is it any wonder that our problems keep piling up? As our world changes, those in power can’t react or adapt quickly enough, because they have too big a stake in keeping things as they are. Our own Prime Minister owes his job to his family name and the power and connections that got him. So why would anyone think he can change the status quo?

He is the status quo.

More common sense, less elitism

We need more common sense in government, and less of the same clubby elitism that dominates today.

The automatic assumption that those with the right name or title are automatically more qualified is what is holding our country back from achieving our true potential.

Leadership, talent, and intelligence can be found among people of all backgrounds, all family histories, and all forms of learning. In fact, there is often a big difference between “learning,” which can be accumulated through countless life experiences, and “education,” which is a more controlled, rigid, and official process which is often about regurgitating the elite consensus, rather than constantly growing and taking in knowledge.

As McKissen says, “Former Enron CEO Jeffrey Skilling and former Merrill Lynch CEO John Thain are two of America’s most notorious corporate villains. They both knew the way to Harvard Business School.”

McKissen continues,

“Harry Hopkins knew how to help working people because of his experience in the poor neighborhoods of New York City, not because he learned the way to the Ivy League. We need more people like Harry Hopkinsā€”even if they didn’t go to the “right” school.”

He’s absolutely right. To solve the new challenges of our era, we need a wider pool of people in power. We need to move beyond the closed elitism that dominates today, and embrace common sense.

Spencer Fernando


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