On cognitive privilege and other animals


Don't even try to look for the definition of cognitive privilege in the dictionaries, it is too new. There is a definition of cognitive elite, though, that brings us close to the subject.

The cognitive elite of a society, according to Richard J. Herrnstein and Charles Murray, are those having higher intelligence levels and thus better prospects for success in life.

This definition brings you close to the steps needed for definition of cognitive privilege. Once defined, you can start happily operating this excellent tool for naming and shaming a new category of the privileged people.


The story started for me a few weeks ago, when the parents of my grandson met the teacher of his first school year. It so happened that the youngster was sent to a few private lessons to prepare him to school, for reasons not having to do with the story. He has some rudimentary reading and writing skills, nothing to brag about, but still. When the teacher heard about it, she went kind of pale. The reason, as she explained, was that she is used to receiving a bunch of schoolchildren from one single kindergarten, uniformly unable to read or write, so there was no need for her to treat anyone differently...


Of course, in this case the advantage of the boy is temporary, to disappear in a few weeks with the other kids learning and catching up. And, of course, as it is customary in schools, applying the famous peer pressure to those who dare to be different. Anyhow, the lesson here is that our schools are built for uniformity, one size fits all is the motto.


It so happened that in a few days after this meeting with the schoolteacher, I have stumbled on this disturbing discovery, made, most probably, by a millennial:



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.

Of course, the author, Dan Williams, doesn't have in mind any malevolent actions against the cognitively privileged folks. His goals are, for now, somewhat more relaxed:

But when doing so, we must also bear in mind the purpose of drawing attention to privileges. The purpose is not to instill a sort of Catholic guilt in someone’s psyche, nor is it an excuse to make oneself feel better by demonizing another. The purpose of pointing out someone’s privilege is to remind them of the infinite number of experiences that are possible and the very large number of experiences that are actual that they know very little about. The purpose is to enlarge their moral consciousness, to make them more sympathetic to people who are less fortunate than they are.

Not that I understand the items listed under "the purpose", but at least there is no reason for alarm. I think so. The whole "cognitive privilege" idea so far hasn't put roots among the other "privileges", like "white privilege", "cis gender privilege", "male privilege" etc. Hopefully it will remain dormant, at least for a while.


Taken together, the case of my grandson and the (so far) abortive attempt on raising the specter of "cognitive privilege" brought me to check the situation in schools with regard of treatment the bright children receive.


CanadaUnited KingdomSweden: the results are similar and disturbing. A few quotes from the three sources sum up the situation pretty well:

For ordinary families with academically able children in the inner city or small town Canada, the everyday reality is bored kids seeking outside outlets for their creative or higher intellectual pursuits.

"The attitude at the moment is that you either fit in or go," says Clare Lorenz, the chairman of the support society, Children of High Intelligence (CHI). "It isn't how things should be."

Results show cause for concern. In particular, primary school appeared to be a hostile environment [for gifted kids].

It definitely doesn't look like the school system, at least the public one, is geared and ready to foster excellence and provide the necessary support to gifted kids, who are our hope and our future.


The only ray of light so far comes from Finland:

“Whatever it takes” is an attitude that drives not just Kirkkojarvi’s 30 teachers, but most of Finland’s 62,000 educators in 3,500 schools from Lapland to Turku—professionals selected from the top 10 percent of the nation’s graduates to earn a required master’s degree in education.

Otherwise it is no surprise that private schools, that promise all kinds of special education treats (and frequently don't deliver), tend to proliferate and take the money off many credulous parents. Some are, of course, quite good, but why shouldn't the respective states invest more in their most precious resource?


Instead we are facing the rising waves of idiotic identity politics nitpicking and creation of harmful buzzwords like "cognitive privilege" and similar. Like this product of some festering minds*:


Standing Up to Pee Gives Boys an Unfair Advantage in Physics

In the latest example of identity politics taken to its absurd end, three Australian college professors believe that "playful urination practices – from seeing how high you can pee to games such as Peeball (where men compete using their urine to destroy a ball placed in a urinal) – may give boys an advantage over girls when it comes to physics."

Mind boggling? Not nowadays, I am afraid.


And, meanwhile, we are inexorably moving to the era of The Marching Morons.


Too bad.


(*) I am still willing to learn that the peeing advantage story is an elaborate spoof, but after reading the original article I am not so sure.


Original article.



Ari Silverstein Added Sep 23, 2017 - 4:58pm
The only person creating harmful buzzwords is you. After all, at the outset of this article, you pointed out that cognitive privilege isn't even in the dictionary.
I digress, I largely agree that our school system fails most kids because it only cares about the quantity of kids that pass the test and not challenging the best and brightest. I'm not sure how to change things but something needs to change.
One more thing, just because an individual or a select group of individuals believe something to be true doesn't mean everyone believes the same. So it isn't Australian professors believe, it's a small group of moronic Australian professors believe. It's simply unfair to make the leaps you make and that wasn't the only example in this passage.
Simply Jews Added Sep 24, 2017 - 2:23am
@Ari: It seems that attack mode is a preferred way of debating here.
"The only person creating harmful buzzwords is you." 
Interestingly, you agree with the main point of the article, but have chosen to do it in a singular way.
"So it isn't Australian professors believe, it's a small group of moronic Australian professors believe."
OK, agreed, and where have I said something different? Attack mode again...
Utpal Patel Added Sep 24, 2017 - 2:56pm
While I'm no fan of the public school system they do make excellent accommodation for the brightest students at the high school level. In most big cities there are exam schools, meaning if you do well enough on the test you can attend the school. Not to mention the ability to take AP classes and other more difficult classes. One of the problems with our educational system in elementary and middle school is that they don't believe in separating the best and brightest from the rest.
Simply Jews Added Sep 24, 2017 - 4:00pm
Yes, this point wasn't lost on me, I was focused on the elementary and middle levels. To tell you the truth I have a problem with trying to encourage creativity in high school after several important formative years when it wasn't encouraged at all.
Bill Caciene Added Sep 25, 2017 - 12:12pm
I’m sorry but I really couldn’t follow this article.  If you have a point to make on our educational system, there is no need to cloud that point with your thoughts on a term not even in the dictionary.  I also caution making broad conclusions about society based on the story of your grandson, which you might have misunderstood.  From my perspective, it’s perfectly natural for a class of similarly aged first graders to have similar abilities.  It must be really tough for a teacher to teach those that are above the rest no matter why they’re above the rest.   
Simply Jews Added Sep 25, 2017 - 12:29pm
The point, Bill, is that the educational system (all over the world, with a few exceptions like Finland) is not geared to cater to the gifted kids. This changes somewhat in the high school, but still not sufficiently, as you shall see in the articles I've linked. 
But you are right, the case of that specific first grader was not needed, and it was somewhat frivolous of me to bring it up.
As for the term "cognitive privilege" - yes, it is new and, as I mentioned, dormant for now. But I am afraid it will come forward later in force, together with all the other "privileges". Ideas like this one catch up like bush fire with our millennials.
Dino Manalis Added Sep 25, 2017 - 1:44pm
We all have to work hard to achieve our goals, there's really little or no privilege.
Simply Jews Added Sep 25, 2017 - 1:49pm
@Dino. Agreed, but some people will invent "privileges" to complain or to get some special entitlements.
Stone-Eater Added Sep 25, 2017 - 1:51pm
that the educational system (all over the world, with a few exceptions like Finland) is not geared to cater to the gifted kids
Why should it ? Gifted kids can question the way society works......in any way. And gifted kids have to made AWARE that they are gifted. For that they need our help. Not a couch potato parent.
BTW: The ideal society of neoliberals is a small elite on top and the rest yo-man huh ! people. That works fine. If not, give'em Ritalin or Valium, they might be too active. When was ADHD declared a disorder ? Oh sorry, the pharma needs to make its profit, so many employees...
Fuck it.
Simply Jews Added Sep 25, 2017 - 2:00pm
Ouch, SEF, so young and so cynical ;-)
Stone-Eater Added Sep 25, 2017 - 2:04pm
Bill Caciene Added Sep 25, 2017 - 11:13pm
No educational system should be geared towards the gifted kids.  All educational systems should attempt to challenge all children, no matter their ability level.  As classroom sizes get larger, thanks to pensions sucking up more of our educational dollars, that gets increasingly harder to do.  As for Finland being the superior educational system, I wouldn’t know anything about education in any country but this one.  Unless you’re intimately familiar with education in Finland, I don’t think you’re in no position to opine either.   
Simply Jews Added Sep 26, 2017 - 3:03am
@Bill, allow me to disagree with most of your statements, aside of this: 
"All educational systems should attempt to challenge all children, no matter their ability level." 
As for my right to opine - I think that we are all opining here, and my position is hardly different from anyone else's.
Glenn Verasco Added Sep 26, 2017 - 7:41pm
I enjoyed this. I agree with some of the comments that it seems to lack a central point, but I'll call it a rich and thoughtful ramble.
One point I'll make is that as education spending and hiring in education have risen over the past few decades, test scores have remained flat. There has been no improvement and no decline. And there is evidence to show that today's students have far less knowledge in areas like geography, history, civics, and more compared to generations of old. I believe this is caused by traditional history classes being replaced by "social studies," which often seizes upon the identity politics you and I despise.
To me, all of this suggests that reform, not resources, is the key to educating tomorrow's world leaders.
Simply Jews Added Sep 27, 2017 - 3:03am
@Glenn, thanks, and it is indeed a ramble. 
And agreed re resources too.
Pbier Added Sep 28, 2017 - 12:46am
Good article, and I disagree that it is somehow inappropriate to reference 'cognitive privilege' despite it being seldom employed - for now. Why? Because it neatly encapsulates the thinking of those on the left who see something wrong in the pursuit of excellence.
 We need to out these cultural marxists, who are the real enemy, at every opportunity.
Simply Jews Added Sep 28, 2017 - 3:13am
Thanks Pbier. Yes, we may be witnessing a birth of a new and popular "privilege" that will be difficult to get rid of. 
Ray Joseph Cormier Added Sep 28, 2017 - 9:14pm

The 'privilege' of attending a White suburban school will produce more agile minds than in the non-privileged, mostly Black, inner city schools.
Those schools are run down, poorly maintained, and ill equipped to educate toward a road to success.
But as we know, even among the Black population, there are a minority of students coming from such a background that do have the smarts and intelligence to succeed and get out of that poverty trap,
Ultimately, it's the Parents responsibility to prepare their children for the ways to succeed in a Future World. That's much more difficult for those who don't know success in life, scrambling to pay rent, utilities and keep food on the table. probably the silent majority Trump is tapping.
I'm thinking a pure Apartheid system of meaningful and realistic "separate but equal development" will lead this world out of the morass it's creating for itself.
What that means, the so called "successful intelligent" people would stop exploiting those less successful and intelligent than they are,  seeing them only as a means and commodity for making MONEY, the Biblical Image of the Beast.
There are basic human needs  for all earth's inhabitants, That is food, clothing, shelter and for these Days' indoor plumbing and electricity.
Logic, Intelligence and common sense should have the people realize, if Billionaires had any genuine care for workers, there would be no Billionaires. The Trump Administration has more of them than any government before.
It would seem the American people are in a deep sleep in the deep state!
Humans do not need the privilege of a mansion on every Continent.
Most Christian America totally ignores Christ's many teachings and POV on the Rich, as they blame everything on the gays. Distraction after distraction! The Devil's tactic.
They ignore James 5 in their Bibles and the explicit writing on the successful, privileged rich.
Go to now, you rich men, weep and howl for your miseries that shall come upon you.
Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are moth eaten.
Your gold and silver is cankered; and the rust of them shall be a witness against you, and shall eat your flesh as it were fire. You have heaped treasure together for the last days.
Behold, the hire of the labourers who have reaped down your fields, which is of you kept back by fraud, cries: and the cries of them which have reaped are entered into the ears of the Lord Almighty.