America's Meritocracy Was a Reality, But No Longer

America's most meritocratic institutions—schools, universities, and the workplace—are becoming places where inheritance thrives rather than individuals with talent.

America's most meritocratic institutions—schools, universities, and the workplace—are becoming places where inheritance thrives rather than individuals with talent, perseverance, and gumption. Long thought to be America's distinguishing mark, it's rejection of old-world classism is faltering, and the problem is about much more than the One Percent.


In the realm of education, America's primary and secondary schools are unique in that they are primarily funded through property taxes. The system allows neighborhoods and districts to vote in tax hikes that benefit local schools, and it is difficult to argue that communities should not be free to do so.

But the results, because some neighborhoods have more disposable income than others, are unequal. America is one of only three nations in the world to spend more money on students of wealthy families than students of poorer ones. 

At universities, fierce competition for a limited number of places at the nation's best schools, i.e. the ones with the most elite professional connections, results in a high-stakes game of tiger parenting children into being talented and miserable. Add to this legacy enrollments and slots that go to top athletes who are actively protected from too much academic pressure.

At the office, the divide between the mailroom and CEO's office has never been starker. Perhaps the idea that the dedicated shift employee could work his way to upper management was always a myth, but the ranks of upper management have changed so to exclude this possibility. Large firms now look for MBA degrees which only a certain segment of the population are likely to obtain (see above).

In his Big Think interview, Matt Miller, Senior Fellow at the Center for America Progress, argues that money no longer follows merit in the US, and that's something everyone should be concerned about:


Read more at the Economist

Photo credit: Shutterstock

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