Why isn’t Higher Education Meritocratic?

While reading Armstrong’s article, I felt as if I could really see myself in Emma and or Taylor’s shoes. Their pasts and career objectives were almost identical to mine. Reading about one of the girls struggling and the other one somehow succeeding put things deep into perspective for me, as I know that my background is also similar to others at Oxy. It was hard for me to understand that despite similar upbringings, both girls did not do as well as the other. Thus, it is evident that colleges are not meritocratic because they are not based off of one’s merit but instead based off outside influences, such as money, class, and experiences. I asked myself, how could this happen? Armstrong notes in the first few pages, “In this book we argue that student experiences during college, and class trajectories at exit, are fundamentally shaped by the structure of academics and social life on campus. That is, in different institutional contexts, we might expect the same student to leave with better-or worse-chances for class reproduction and mobility” (3). Clearly, somewhere in this educational system inequality arose that continued to divide and separate students. Due to low-income households, it makes it impossible for some students to have the same opportunities as those students in top financial tier households. This inequality could be solved with a meritocratic form of higher education as more equality and fairness could arise. Meritocratic is defined by Merriam-Webster as “a system in which the talented are chosen and moved ahead on the basis of their achievement.” A higher educational system that lacks meritocracy is thus unfair and creates disparity among students, despite coming into college with similar backgrounds and upbringings. In Creating Degrees of Inequality Mettler writes, “As colleges grow more stratified, more differentiated in their accessibility to different socioeconomic groups and in what they offer them, they are generating greater inequality in American society” (37). It is evident that classification leads to increased inequality in colleges today. That is why higher education should gravitate towards meritocracy and not divide and classify students leading to a greater divide in individuals in society.


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