I've noticed at least a couple of times in the past month that fellow academics sometimes refer to the general populace as "normal people." It carries the implication that we are fundamentally smarter or better than them, not just that we are a minority or odd. It is often a reaction to someone's story about a frustrating interaction with a stranger or non-academic.
This seems condescending, elitist, and narrow-minded. Many people have talents that do not lie in the academic realm. Are all talents created equal? Is a great, dumb athlete equal but different to a smart, ungraceful scientist?
I don't believe the people making these comments completely subscribe to the opinion, but I can't help but internally fight every casual mention of it. I feel a kernel of truth to it in some cases, but I've always tried to guard against blanket statements.
Is this a wider symptom of academia or relatively isolated? What bred this opinion?
I would hope that the majority of academia is enlightened enough to realize that they are only slightly extraordinary people who have chosen a somewhat uncommon career that explicitly pays one to create new knowledge. Many people of equal or higher intelligence or talent choose other careers.