We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
There have always been natural meritocracies of talent and skill. In the Western world, the idea of meritocracy has been a conscious push-back against aristocracy, inheritance, class, prejudice, and patronage.
These days, some complain that meritocracy is a cover for sexism and racism. The history: The New Ruling Class. A quote:
...Peter is not at St. Paul’s because his parents went to Harvard; as he makes clear to Khan, he is there because of his hard work and academic achievement. Here we have the meritocratic delusion most in need of smashing: the notion that the people who make up our elite are especially smart. They are not—and I do not mean that in the feel-good democratic sense that we are all smart in our own ways, the homely-wise farmer no less than the scholar. I mean that the majority of meritocrats are, on their own chosen scale of intelligence, pretty dumb. Grade inflation first hit the Ivies in the late 1960s for a reason. Yale professor David Gelernter has noticed it in his students: “My students today are…so ignorant that it’s hard to accept how ignorant they are.… [I]t’s very hard to grasp that the person you’re talking to, who is bright, articulate, advisable, interested, and doesn’t know who Beethoven is. Had no view looking back at the history of the twentieth century—just sees a fog. A blank.”42 Camille Paglia once assigned the spiritual “Go Down, Moses” to an English seminar, only to discover to her horror that “of a class of twenty-five students, only two seemed to recognize the name ‘Moses’.… They did not know who he was.”
I expected to mostly dislike this article and had my usual complaints (because writers on this subject make the same mistakes) ready. I confess I did decide to skip over the history of meritocracy after reading a few paragraphs in, searching for her discussion of the current situation.
Reaching that, I found she had anticipated and answered a good many of my objections and added some things worth pondering. I have a quibble that she equates knowing the Western Canon (as Gelernter and Paglia also do) with knowing any specifics. This is only partly true. There is an increased tendency to teach this nonsense about "how to think" instead of actual knowledge, which should not be done until college. But the Western Canon is not only not taught in schools, it is less-used in the wider culture, where a bright student might encounter it anyway and pursue it. Today's student learns other specifics - much of popular culture and current events, some social science, technical knowledge of the new machines of living. I would greatly prefer that they be taught the Western Canon instead. Yet it should be noted that they have not learned this inadequately because they aren't that intelligent - they may be - but because it has not been bequeathed to them properly.
I quibble, as I said. There is much to consider here. I'm am not fond of her solution, but I have little but clichés to oppose it with, so I will reserve judgment instead.
Assistant Village Idiot