John W. Gardner, Central Closed Stacks 301.15 G22e 1984
p101 in Chapter 11, College and the Alternatives
"It is no sin to let average as well as brilliant youngsters into college. It is a sin to let any substantial portion of them -- average or brilliant -- drift through college without effort, without growth, and without a goal. That is the real scandal in many of our institutions.
We must expect students to strive for excellence in terms of the kind of excellence that is within their reach. Here we must recognize that there may be excellence in every line of human endeavor. We must learn to honor excellence in every socially accepted human activity, however humble the activity, and to scorn shoddiness, however exalted the activity. An excellent plumber is infintely more admirable than a shoddy philosopher. The society which scorns excellence in plumbing as a humble activity and tolerates shoddiness in philosophy because it is an exalted activity will have neither good plumbing nor good philosophy: neither its pipes nor its theories will hold water."
Gardner served as Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare from 1965 to 1968 under Lyndon Johnson. That was back before the label "liberal" was stolen by inept Marxists as a code word for hating the competent, and "conservative" was stolen by inept wealthy heirs as a justification for manipulating laws and politics to perpetuate inherited and unearned privilege. Gardner focuses on encouraging widespread improvement while thwarting aristocracy.
We should maximize progress up the ladder for everyone in the world, with people on the bottom pushing those above them, and the people above pulling up the people below. If we cannot achieve this worldwide, we should achieve this in the United States, and demonstrate it to the rest, by remote example and by direct instruction of students and immigrants.
Inheritors of wealth have the financial capability to hire, train, and lift many from below; their financial and reputational position on the ladder improves in proportion to the opportunities they offer and the services they provide to others. This is how they earn and amplify their legacy.