By RICHARD K MUNRO
“To the extent their grades and scores reflect hard work, maybe. But grades and test scores are at least equally reflective of innate abilities and early opportunities, for which the students themselves deserve no credit. They simply won the genetic and socio-economic lottery.”
TRUE to a certain extent. If one’s parents are well-educated, economically successful, and cosmopolitan the children MAY have an advantage IF they are not slackers. But sometimes they are and so crash and burn.
There is no question if you have money and connections, you have an advantage in an acting career for example but in classical music I think talent, training and natural ability make the classical music world more of a meritocracy. More Asians per capita are successful in the classical music field because they come from a culture that has emulated the high musical culture of the West more than other groups. Similarly the Italians seem to produce the best tenors and sopranos because singing is so deeply part of their musical tradition. The idea of having quotas for minorities is silly and harmful for classical music, medical school, engineering school the sciences etc.
And when it comes to piping it is just a cognate fact the very best pipers are Scottish or Irish then British then English speaking (Canadian/Australian/USA etc) of Celtic origin.
There may be a few great Israeli or African American pipers but I haven’t heard or seen any.
On the other hand I HAVE heard and seen great Indian and Gurkha pipers because those groups have many generations of close contact with Highland Regiments and so it is an integral part of its military culture. Piping and Pipe bands have public competitions and so are highly meritocratic.
I think the biggest difference is students from poor families or modest families have less of margin of error for failure. Students from upper class or upper middle-class families can start over at age 30 or 35 and still hope to have decent job or career. IF the are not hopelessly alcoholic or drug addicted.
You speak of STUDENTS but when I think of meritocracy I also think of ATHLETES, FIRST RESPONDERS and the MILITARY. Both these fields favor , generally speaking, true meritocracy.
No team wants to lower standards and so be a losing team. They may have female batting coaches or even female managers but unless a female can find a way to compete on the field successfully (always a possibility) teams will not have quotas for their starting lineups.
If one does not have a mediocratic approach (fitness, strength, health, sight, hearing etc) for FIRST RESPONDERS or the MILITARY one threatens public safety and national security.
When I was a young Marine everyone and I mean everyone knew the Marines were tougher, fitter and more highly motivated than the Army because they had higher standards and a strong ethos of training, pride of unit and identity. We were all volunteers and tended to be healthier, more motivated, and more physically fit than your average American. It meant something to be a MARINE and it still does to have been a US Marine just like it means something to be a Ranger or Navy SEAL.
If one lowers the standards (and I think the Marines have lowered standards to certain extent then man for man (or Marine for Marine) preparedness is someone lessened. One of the reasons the Marines held on at the Chosin Reservoir and at Guadalcanal is because the Marines were deep in soldiers trained as infantrymen. When down to the last platoon every Marine was a trained infantryman and familiar with small arms and unit defense.
Even Marine mechanics, cooks and pilots are trained as infantrymen. More recently we have the example of the Battle of Bastion in Afghanistan. Marine pilots, navigators and mechanics quickly and efficiently sallied out as INFANTRY to fight of terrorist infiltrators.
“Perhaps this is all a waste of breath. Elites have historically devised schemes for reproducing themselves. Sometimes the reproduction is literal, as when the children of elites are introduced to each other and pair off and have children. College selection serves this purpose very effectively, given that college is a time and place when many young people find their mates or at least figure out what they are looking for in a mate.
Whatever system is established for handing out scarce goods—prestigious diplomas, for instance—the smart and the rich will find ways to game the system. That’s what brains and money do. And they’ll end up with the prize.
But, please, don’t make us pretend they deserve it. “
NO IT IS NOT A WASTE OF BREATH. It is a very important topic. Society has to decide how much it is going to invest in EDUCATION, ATHLETICS and the MILITARY and who is going to get the “glittering prizes”. Scarcity is a universal law. We have scarce slots and scarce resources. We have to invest wisely so as to have the best engineers, best scientists, foreign language teachers, doctors, soldiers, Airmen, Marines, sailors, firefighters etc. For the sake of social harmony and societal peace when may have to address diversity issues but having AUTHENTIC HIGH STANDARDS IS GOOD FOR INSTITUTIONS AND SOCIETY. HAVING LOW STANDARDS OR OPEN ADMISSION IS BAD FOR INSTITUTIONS AND FOR SOCEITY IN THE LONG RUN.
I am glad you pointed out LEGACY entrances into universities. That is the OLD AFFIRMATIVE ACTION. Everybody knows it. But one wonders how small the number of White Males at university would be WITHOUT LEGACY Admissions. The number of males and White Males particularly had precipitously declined in the USA (and other places) And of course under the strictures of Affirmative Action schools and individuals were tempted to fiddle with the system by finding alternative paths of entry to select schools via athletics sometimes via obscure sports. In some cases we know these athletic CV’s were falsified or exaggerated. Sometimes the students athletes never even played a single game. The whole charade was to get INTO the college. And there is no question that CHILDREN of ELITES may intermarry and so maintain family wealth.
Some individuals will always have the edge over other individuals due differences in WEALTH, SOCIETAL CLASS, BEAUTY and YOUTH. It is of course, better to be YOUNG, BEAUTIFUL, HEALTHY and RICH than to be OLD, UGLY and SICK. It is better to KNOW PEOPLE and have connections than to be an isolated newcomer without a reputation or connections. I will say this, however, there is ALWAYS CHALLENGE and RESPONSE. Men and women who come up the hard way gain wisdom, strength and confidence that cannot be gained any other way. In other words there is no Royal Road to Geometry or Marine Corps OCS at Quantico.