According to Ortega, the “characteristic of the hour is that the commonplace mind, knowing itself to be commonplace, has the assurance to proclaim the rights of the commonplace and to impose them wherever it will.” The “mass men,” as Ortega calls them, are “those who demand nothing special of themselves, but for whom to live is to be every moment what they already are, without imposing on themselves any effort towards perfection.” In the past, such men never made any pretension to leadership, recognizing perfectly well that they lacked the necessary virtues and taste to occupy any such position.It is important to note, though, that this has nothing to do with class or economic status. Ortega is quite clear that the mind of a person with an impeccable pedigree may be utterly commonplace. The same may prove so of someone who has amassed great wealth.
… market forces (take note, conservatives!) worked equally baneful ruin upon academic standards. A college education became transformed into a form of vocational training, and schools began discarding the ideals of liberal learning and replacing them with the crassest utilitarianism, evincing the same vulgar disdain for intellectual cultivation which prevailed throughout the majority of the public. Since a degree was now seen as a prerequisite for employment, greater numbers of young people sought enrollment in college, and the schools themselves, recognizing the profits to be gleaned from this expanded pool of applicants, did all they could to accommodate their matriculation – ie, dumbing down their curriculum even more.This was pointed out more than 80 years ago by Albert Jay Nock in The Theory of Education in the United States.