Monday, March 29, 2010


“In teaching there should be no distinction of classes.” – Confucius

There is a political and social system that focuses on one’s talent and abilities: meritocracy. In a meritocracy, a form of examination of candidates is needed. This examination often manifests itself as education. Confucius was one of the earliest proponents of meritocracy and allowed any kind of individual to be his disciple. Yet, what he taught was meant for future rulers of the land. Confucius believed that the hierarchy should be set so that those that have the greatest talent can rise to the top. Later, China became one of the nations with the greatest examination systems, allowing the poor to become rulers.

Likewise, Genghis Khan chose his chiefs out of merit and not out of social connections. Napoleon handpicked his generals by looking at their courage, their fighting ability, and their intellect. Thomas Jefferson advocated the “natural aristocracy,” who would look at the public’s needs before their own.

Today, we have a somewhat meritocratic system in America. Those that work hard in school and move on to greater colleges and grad schools have a much greater chance at becoming someone powerful, whether it is in government or in the private sector.

Yet, there are many opposing forces to this meritocratic system. One of the major ones is the denial of opposing forces. Another is the socio-economic status of many. Although some (mostly the rich) argue that a rags to riches story is possible with enough effort, that is not the case with many of the poor. Public schools, which are designed to ensure that everyone has a fair chance, have not been doing their part. Many schools that are located near those with little socio-economic status not only lack many basic things like new textbooks and quality teachers, but also lack the ability to foster a “can do” attitude.

Many find it difficult to not acknowledge this truth, so they hide behind sayings like “Life is not fair”. Clearly, life is not fair, but that does not mean we should shrink from trying to make it as fair as possible.

Others say that the parents worked hard to allow their children to have a good education. Parents that did not work as hard should not have the satisfaction of watching their children go to a good school. I think this makes zero sense. I am not too sure about the others, but I do not want to be thought of as my parents’ property. My education is not something that my parents should decide; it should be something that I receive through my own hard work. Is that not the point of meritocracy? Second, the parents of those who are in the lesser schools could have easily been in the same situation as their children. This demonstrates a cycle of incompetency. Some might argue that this circle must have a beginning. Even if this circle did have some sort of beginning, there certainly does not seem to be an end. Also, retracing the circle back to the beginning would only to a conclusion like “it’s the black kids’ fault that their ancestors were slaves”. That’s not a smart thing to say.

In the end, I have not covered fully the merits of a meritocracy and its downfalls. Yet, there seems to be sufficient evidence that public education needs a boost, especially in the lower socio-economic areas, for there to be a true meritocracy in the United States.

1 comment:

  1. Nick I love you.

    The epigraph that you chose perfectly underscores the problems with public education in America. I agree with all of your statements regarding America's attempt at a meritocratic society. The most effective rulers, civilizations, dynasties, and nations have used the concept of rewarding those who excel, not those whose parents have money. Power manifests itself in intelligence and cleverness. Nick nailed this universal maxim.

    Furthermore, I agree with Nick's statements regarding public schools' role in molding kids' futures. Many kids do not have parental guidence to tell them that they are capable to do great things. Schools have to reinforce kids' desire to excel past graduation. Otherwise, kids will simply follow in their parents' footsteps; this is not always a good thing.

    Nick grabbed my attention when he wrote, "I do not want to be thought of as my parents' property." I feel ya Nick! America relies on its previous generations for advancement. More often than not, kids excel in school if their parents did. If the parents do not reinforce hard work and the benefits of learning, the kid is far less likely to be successful. Public education should fill this role if the parent can't, but like Nick wrote, "public education needs a boost."