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robertogreco : unfairness   2

How the Myth of the Meritocracy Ruins Students
"The inequitable outcome of the meritocracy is hiding in plain sight in every facet of society - in schools, workplaces, prisons and neighborhoods. We don't like inequality and we're alarmed by how fast the underclass is growing, but we believe that it's a fact of life because, let's face it, some people are just better than others. Most of us, liberals included, are to varying degrees beholden to the Myth of the Meritocracy.

Liberals are all for trying to level the playing field. We support basic civil rights measures that prohibit blatant discrimination and affirmative action programs that groom the cream of the crop for middle-class membership. But for all the leveling that has supposedly occurred since Martin Luther King Jr.'s time, things are still very lopsided. King's dream of economic equality was sidelined, because most Americans believe that once the shackles of overt discrimination are removed, the next logical step is for everyone to compete for as big a share of the spoils as possible.

We raise our kids to aspire to the "American Dream," which is understood to extend the promise of upward mobility only to the winners of the rat race. Theoretically, every individual has the opportunity to win the competition and live the dream. But so long as there are winners and losers (with outcomes largely predetermined at birth), the "American Dream" is a Trump-like zero-sum game, and our misplaced allegiance to it has led to nightmarish levels of inequality and social breakdown. As the late George Carlin said, "It's called the American dream because you have to be asleep to believe it."

Meritocracy is taken for granted as part of the natural order but, in reality, it's a political choice. The alternative to meritocracy is the organized, formal redistribution of wealth on the basis of need, not achievement, but this notion is not (yet) given air time because it upsets the Myth of the Meritocracy. What if some loser gets something he doesn't deserve? What if I have taken away something I deserve to keep?

There's a "me" and there's a "them," and they're in competition and conflict. We'd rather they be homeless, imprisoned, deported or fired than take what we believe is rightfully ours. There is, it seems, a little bit of The Donald in all of us.

We've been conditioned to prefer a society in which everyone has at least some chance of climbing to the top to one in which everyone's basic needs are met. And so it is. And so our society unravels because we'd rather fight each other and fetishize individual success than share.

This reflex to compete rather than cooperate stems from the modern delusion that humans are separate from one another and from nature. When we pause to reflect, we can readily sense and observe that all beings are interconnected and our fates intertwined. But we don't pause to reflect, because we're too busy reacting defensively to perceived threats to our well-being, threats that are amplified 24-7 by the media.

The biggest actual threat to our well-being is the hyper-individualist ethic that frightens us into participating in the war of all against all, the endgame of which is social collapse and, at the rate we're plundering a natural world we feel disconnected from, human extinction.

Dr. King said:
We must see that whatever diminishes the poor diminishes everybody else. And the salvation of the poor will mean the salvation of the whole nation. For we're all tied together in an inescapable network of mutuality. We are tied in a single garment of destiny.

Our culture conditions us to believe the opposite - that each of us can and must strive to rise above the fray. Schools do their part, training children to put a premium on personal excellence or be condemned to a lifetime of drudgery, poverty and, most horrifying of all, low status.

We can abolish homework and testing. We can turn classrooms into innovative hands-on laboratories of learning. We can tell our kids that their lives will be just as happy with a degree from a community college as from Princeton. We can run programs for at-risk youth and, with enough progressive elected officials in office, we can even wrangle some extra money for public schools.

And we should do all of those things. But so long as we focus on each individual child's success rather than the collective well-being of all children and families, we will not be able to extricate our children from the corrosive zero-sum game of "race to the top or get left behind" they are forced to play. So long as we remain trapped in the meritocratic arena, we ensure a mean and uncertain future for our children, a future in which most will be consigned to the underclass and even those closer to the top will unhappily strive to surpass thy neighbor.

Politics and culture keep the Myth of the Meritocracy alive. Market fundamentalism ensures high levels of economic inequality that have people worried enough to want to elbow their fellow citizens (and non-citizens) out of the race. Culturally, we're conditioned from such an early age to enter the race to the top and to believe that those at the top belong there, that we never consider what it would look like to cooperate instead of compete.

It doesn't have to be this way. The United States is blessed with more than enough to go around, enough food, enough medicine, enough housing, enough money to create space for every child to graduate from a university or vocational college and earn a decent living doing something they enjoy. We just need to get better at sharing and cooperating.

That, in the end, is our choice: Redistribute wealth equitably and invest in schools that honor and inspire students or force our children to run the gauntlet, knowing that only a fraction of them will succeed and the rest eliminated like Celebrity Apprentice contestants. Either Martin Luther King Jr.'s dream will be realized, or Trump's will."
meritocracy  society  ericaetelson  competition  capitalism  2015  inequality  wealthredistribution  wealth  politics  culture  us  learning  children  poverty  privilege  georgecarlin  mutuality  martinlutherkingjr  individualism  japan  collectivism  socialism  communism  americandream  socialsafetynet  economics  injustice  unfairness  race  racism  classism  class  libertarianism  success  virtue  work  labor  motivation  education  schools  racetonowhere  mlk 
november 2015 by robertogreco
Slack's Stewart Butterfield, in His Own Words | Inc.com
"I'm going to end up with a lot more money than I feel like I'm entitled to given how hard I work. I see all kinds of people work hard all over the world, and some of them are barely making it. I don't just mean subsistence farmers. I mean people in the developed world who work multiple jobs, and because the cost of health care and child care eats up almost all of the living they make. To be clear, I don't have a better way in mind. I think the system we've developed, and the byproduct, of people who founded tech companies getting stupidly rich--I don't have a better alternative. It's something that can be addressed through tax policy. But I'm definitely very conscious of the role that luck and timing and race and gender play in all of this stuff. If I were a woman, it would be twice as hard to do what I do. If I were black in the U.S., it would probably be five times as hard. 

But also, there are early twentysomethings who work here--kids, from my perspective as a 41-year-old--who are going to make a couple million bucks. I think about the shitty jobs I had when I was 23. I worked as hard as they're working these days. There's something untoward, something incorrect--I'm not sure exactly what the word is. Wait, I know: unfair. There's something unfair in that."
stewartbutterfield  2014  startups  money  inequality  wealth  luck  capitalism  work  labor  fairness  unfairness  economics  poverty  race 
april 2015 by robertogreco

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