More proof that ‘meritocracy’ (as we currently understand it) doesn’t work


Earlier this month I wrote a post entitled Why It’s Time to Let Go of ‘Meritocracy’. I argued that:

A simplistic meritocratic approach to society and our education systems has failed. It’s time to stop ‘doubling-down’ on narrow education targets and results that privilege the few and, instead, embrace more holistic, open approach such as Connected Learning and microcredentialing.

The way that society is currently structured is rigged towards the affluent. We fool ourselves when we think that, just because everyone can take the same tests, that it’s a level playing field. It’s not. At all.

Earlier this week, I read in The Washington Post that, at least in the USA:

Even poor kids who do everything right don’t do much better than rich kids who do everything wrong. Advantages and disadvantages, in other words, tend to perpetuate themselves.

I found the following chart quite disturbing — and can’t imagine the situation is much better in the UK:

Is this what meritocracy looks like?

It’s perhaps not immediately obvious how to read this, so I’ll quote the original author again:

Specifically, rich high school dropouts remain in the top about as much as poor college grads stay stuck in the bottom — 14 versus 16 percent, respectively. Not only that, but these low-income strivers are just as likely to end up in the bottom as these wealthy ne’er-do-wells. Some meritocracy.

In other words, ‘meritocracy’ hasn’t fixed anything. The approach, based on examinations and ‘objective’ testing was designed to stamp out sinecures, the type of job that children from rich families could take — whether or not they were suited for the position. It looks like, on the evidence of this data at least, that the rich have rigged the game. 

While none of this is surprising, what concerns me is that evidence suggest that the poorest in society have swallowed the meritocracy myth hook, line and sinker. It’s shocking: the 1% have managed to win the hearts and minds of those they’re simultaneously managing to economically repress.  

Image CC BY-ND Bryan Mathers