A-star versus the X-factor

In our meritocratic age there is an increasingly distinction between the A-Stars and the X-factors.

A-stars are individuals who are academically brilliant and have Ivy/Oxbridge splashed all over them.

The X-factors are those who may not have the pedigree but have star quality written all over than not.

More often than not the two coincide but sometimes they don’t. In a question in how to raise a deprived community (Aframs, Dalits); one must ask whether the gambit should be to generate A-Stars or X-Factors.

This is the Dubois-Booker argument. To paraphrase (I’m not an expert) Booker T Washington wanted a black working class that would be the mechanics, blue collar works of the great American economy.

DuBois instead pushed for the “Talented Tenth”; the extraordinary Aframs (more often than not on the lighter spectrum like his mulatto background) who would ascend the American social hierarchy.

DuBois seems to have won out in the end and the Afram community mirrors the Indian Muslim community. A disproportionate cultural impact (it’s hard to think of American politics & culture without the black contribution same as with Muslims) but with strong deprivation on the other end.

What Shanti Bhavan (it’s non-religious by the way) has done is try to groom its Dalit students to the best of their ability but then also inject a bit of X-factor glamour into them.

Home-grown and authentic leaders are the only way to foster a community. How many of the African American and Muslim leaders actually stem from the ghetto?

Shanti Bhavan is taking girls (and boys) from the most deprived and broken homes; giving them quality education and almost forcing them to be leaders. It’s not easy because the students go back home for winter & summer holidays and are exposed to the problems of their lives. So they switch from a sanitised Americanised life to the most “Indian” experience, that of the poor and deprived Dalits.

It’s the sort of switch that can and break people, which also explains as to why the Shanti Bhavan students sometimes struggle. They usually repeat grades and I imagine use caste quota/reservations to secure the top slots for themselves.

However the upper castes have been able to *game* the Indian education system to be A-Stars but are unable to generate Global X-factor Appeal.

When white people look to India they don’t see Bollywood or Rajasthani palaces they notice the dire poverty. When the Upper Castes then try to *project* a different India; PewDeePie then immediately aims for the jugular.

The Upper Castes do not understand the Western mindset. Westerners have *won* history to such an overwhelming extent that they need new causes to evangelise over. The Environment is a symptom of that.

Instead of the Upper Castes *gatekeeping* India from Westerners; it would do better to make the elimination of Indian poverty a global affair.

Economic growth alone will not solve India’s social problem. The documentary happens over a decade and it’s obvious that the living standards of the girls’ families have risen. However their social circumstance hasn’t because they are still at the bottom of the social pole, they may have more to eat (not always) but they are still spiritually broken.

This social and spiritual malaise seems uniquely Indian in a way the caste system is uniquely Indian.

As I was telling V today; I don’t think caste is evil, in fact the Asabiyyah it generates against the isolation and anonymity of liberal capitalism.

However the Upper Castes monopolise the conversations on Caste the way White Americans did on race a century ago. That must end.

The absurdity that “caste is South Asian” (it may be South Asian but it is ultimately Hindu), the British invented caste (i don’t need genetics to tell me what my lying eyes see) or that caste *generated* just reek of bullshit.

What gives me the right to speak out. I’m an iconoclast and to paraphrase Theresa May; I am a citizen of nowhere.

If You Believe You are a Citizen of the World, You are a Citizen of Nowhere

Theresa May’ 2016

The earth is but one country, and mankind its citizens. Bahá’u’lláh 1860 something

I exist in the grey area between these two statements.

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4 years ago

You really like to bring up oxbridge and the ivies. I think their prominence has actually fallen, at least in America. The rise of a lot of strong kids at state schools has changed the landscape. Enough of my friends that got in and are upper middle class and got no financial aid (like me), choose to go to state schools on full rides and forego ivy/ivy equivalent education. Some were even entirely shut out with pretty perfect grades and scores and half decent ECs because of the “holistic” nature of the system.

I mean look at the rising star in the Republican Party, Niki Hayley and where she went to school. Look at Elizabeth Warren, who went to Rutgers Newark Law School. These types of things are becoming more and more common.

As for the X factor, populism has always had a place in the American political discussion. People like Williams Jenning Bryan proved that even a century ago. Charisma matters.

4 years ago

The Indian education system trains for clerical posts as Macaulay intended nearly 200 years ago.

4 years ago
Reply to  VijayVan

In Sri Lanka (my era 40+ years ago) the sciences at A/L and Uni were geared toward going into Academia.

We were not taught how all that theory (Physics, Chem, Pure and Applied math) could be used in a practical non academic business/industry jobs. In that sense Engineering degrees were more practical and theory oriented.

All the same, a Science A/L’s or Degree and some competence in English got you a job.

However, I found shockingly some schoolmates who were Senior Accountants in the west with UK qualifications did not understand exponents, specifically the compound interest equation or solving for the inverse.

That was what we learnt in Year/Grade 8 with increasing complex problems/questions at O/L’s.

To be honest leaving school and Uni, I would not have known the practical application. It was a decade or so later I made the connection with what we learnt in Grade 8 and Fixed/CD deposits.

So much for a solid education. Sometimes we need to be spoon fed.

4 years ago

(Related to what upper castes, or elites really, would like to highlight about India versus what Westerners see):

Indians generally seem to be satisfied with seeing a few people like them (or who they identify with tribally, through caste or religious links) succeed and them depend on the dregs being thrown their way rather than strive for broad-based and evenly distributed success across society. The Lalus and Mulayams have done zilch to ensure that Yadavs become prosperous, successful, and enlightened in a modern way, but Yadavs may still line like sheep to vote for them. Ditto with Mayawati and Dalits; she’s gained a lot of wealth personally, while most Dalits remain where they’ve always been.

The urge to make society serve all people and allow everyone to fulfill their human potential seems to be strongly attenuated in India versus, say, the US (the only other country I know.) Even people who should demand more seem to be satisfied with scraps.

Soft bigotry of low standards!

Brown Pundits