To prevent failure, middle-class parents pass along to their children every possible advantage, in the form of "social capital," or those habits of speech and self-discipline that allow a child to thrive in the classroom. Middle-class parents who can afford the property taxes move to the best school districts, or send their children to private schools. Economists have a vocabulary for this: They write about "Cobb-Douglas utility functions," whereby parents forgo current consumption in order to secure for their children high levels of future income. Legal theorists have a vocabulary for this: They talk about inter vivos bequests, whereby parents pass along a good education as a kind of inheritance. (Even literary critics have a vocabulary for this: They talk about Bourdieu-ian "reproduction.") So there's a technical language for inherited middle-class advantages; but as of now no ideological, no emotional, and no public-policy language for the phenomenon. Held to the impossible standard of the Golden Age, universities are now easily portrayed—even public universities, and even the old land-grant colleges—as finishing schools for a stable professional elite.
Skull and bones and cheese
I don't know if my students think they're in a finishing school for professional elites, but there's certainly a sense of entitlement - to A's, to large amounts of my time whenever they want, to special consideration for any excuse. I'd much rather teach students that worked hard in high school to get B's than a great deal of my students - many of whom I suspect received A's without much effort. I've yet to meet a TA that would characterize the general UW-Madison undergrad population as hard-working and intellectually curious. Admittedly, it's possible that's just a function of their age and the transition from being taught to learning - maybe my expectations are too high. Are my students qualified to be at this school? Sure. Are they the students who will benefit the most from the type of education that we try to provide? I'm not so sure.