How elitism masquerades as meritocracy

Christopher Hayes, author of Twilight of the Elites (which I haven’t read),  wrote an article in The Nation about how systems supposedly based on merit are subverted to benefit the privileged.

Chris Hayes

Hayes was a student at the elite Hunter College High School in New York City, where admission is based on scores on a three-hour test.  In the 1990s, when Hayes attended, admission really was based on merit.  The student body was 12 percent black, 6 percent Hispanic and a large percentage the children of immigrants.

But with the rise of the test preparation industry, Manhattan’s elite sent their children cram schools charging thousands of dollars to teach how to game entrance exams.  Some consultants charged up to $90 an hour for one-on-one instruction on test-taking.  As a result of the ability of wealthy parents to game the system, Hunter High’s student body now is only 3 percent black and 1 percent Hispanic.  What happened with Hunter High is not unique, or even usual.  It is a typical example of how the privileged game the system.

Test preparation schools are contrary to the whole purpose of education.  They teach students how to pass tests without having learned anything.  They get the credential, but not necessarily the knowledge that the credential supposedly represents.

Yet I imagine the students who pass the tests through these methods think they have succeeded solely through their own individual effort and brilliance.   And because they think that, they think they have no obligation to anyone else.

Click on Why Elites Fail to read the whole article.

Click on The Age of Illusion to read an interview with Chris Hayes in Jacobin magazine.

Click on An Elite Like Any Other? Meritocracy in America for a review of Chris Hayes’ Twilight of the Elites by Mike Konczal in Dissent magazine [added 6/24/12]

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