Quote of the Day – Meritocracy

 

“The SAT 50 years ago pulled a lot of smart people out of every little town in America and funneled them into a small number of elite institutions, where they married each other, had kids, and moved to an even smaller number of elite neighborhoods. We created the most effective meritocracy ever.”

“The problem with the meritocracy, is that it leeches all the empathy out of your society … The second you think that all your good fortune is a product of your virtue, you become highly judgmental, lacking empathy, totally without self-awareness, arrogant, stupid—I mean all the stuff that our ruling class is.”

— Tucker Carlson

Let me observe Carlson’s quote about meritocracy echoes something Tennyson wrote in the poem The Passing of Arthur:

The old order changeth, yielding place to new,
And God fulfils himself in many ways,
Lest one good custom should corrupt the world.

It is not our vices which are corrupting as it is our virtues carried to an extreme.

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  1. RightAngles Member
    RightAngles
    @RightAngles

    It is not our vices which are corrupting as it is our virtues carried to an extreme.

    Boy is that ever true!

    • #1
  2. MarciN Member
    MarciN
    @MarciN

    RightAngles (View Comment):
    It is not our vices which are corrupting as it is our virtues carried to an extreme.

    Boy is that ever true!

    Indeed.

    The SAT was based on the California Personality Assessment test, which measured three variables, one of which was G, which measured motivation. (See Nicholas Lemann, Dean Emeritus of the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism,  “The Great Sorting,” Atlantic Monthly, three-part series beginning September 1995.)

    What I’ve often pondered, as I’ve dealt with professionals in every field throughout my life, is how alike the personalities are in the different fields. Although one could safely say that the reason for that is that their interests are similar, I also can’t help wondering if the SATs actually did succeed in sorting out the boomers not into intelligence groups but, rather, into personality groups. :)

     

    • #2
  3. Misthiocracy Member
    Misthiocracy
    @Misthiocracy

    Note that this principle can also be applied globally, as the smartest people on the planet are funnelled into the most elite North American and European institutions and cities.

    • #3
  4. RightAngles Member
    RightAngles
    @RightAngles

    A boy at my high school got 100% on the SAT.

    • #4
  5. Trink Coolidge
    Trink
    @Trink

    Great juxtaposition of quotes Seawriter.  Wisdom across the ages.

    • #5
  6. Trink Coolidge
    Trink
    @Trink

    MarciN (View Comment):
    What I’ve often pondered as I’ve dealt with professionals in every field throughout my life is how alike the personalities are in the different fields. Although one could safely say that the reason for that is that their interests are similar, I also can’t help wondering if the SATs actually did succeed in sorting out the boomers not into intelligence groups but, rather, into personality groups

    Fascinating Marci.

    • #6
  7. MarciN Member
    MarciN
    @MarciN

    Trink (View Comment):

    MarciN (View Comment):
    What I’ve often pondered as I’ve dealt with professionals in every field throughout my life is how alike the personalities are in the different fields. Although one could safely say that the reason for that is that their interests are similar, I also can’t help wondering if the SATs actually did succeed in sorting out the boomers not into intelligence groups but, rather, into personality groups

    Fascinating Marci.

    Wouldn’t that be funny? :)

    • #7
  8. RightAngles Member
    RightAngles
    @RightAngles

    This post is a part of our Quote of the Day series. You can participate by signing up here:

    http://ricochet.com/412405/quote-of-the-day-signup-and-schedule-for-march-2017/

    • #8
  9. Seawriter Contributor
    Seawriter
    @Seawriter

    Both of my brothers are geniuses. Quite literally, with IQs above 145. That makes me the dumb one in the family even though my intelligence is likely two-sigma high (based on my academic achievements). If so, I am smarter than 90% of the population. (Or again, more likely – based on Sturgeon’s observation that 90% of everything is crap –  that I am in the 89th percentile.)

    Since I am the most successful of the three of us, it has bred in me a great cynicism about IQ and SAT scores. Not that I think intelligence is unimportant to success. It is. But so is physical strength, good health, perseverance, and appearance. Exaggerating the importance of any one trait at the expense of the others is a self-made trap, in my opinion.

    I think the talks which give me the most pleasure are the ones I have given at the local MENSA group. At least in part because when I go in front of the audience, I look out, realize I may be the dumbest one in the room, yet all these folks who are smarter than me are looking to me for knowledge.

    Seawriter

    • #9
  10. Doug Kimball Thatcher
    Doug Kimball
    @DougKimball

    Perhaps then, but less so now.  Not one of my daughters was accepted at any of the “elite” schools.  All had high SATs, National Merit letters, were in gifted programs, took nothing but AP and Honors courses at a large suburban high school, had numerous AP credits and achieved state or even national recognition in music.  Two were sports letter winners.  There were no required boxes left unchecked, yet even my alumni status didn’t help.  Why?

    My wife and I both have advanced degrees.  No special accommodation for disadvantage or first in family to go to college.  All my children are white.  No credit for minority status.  They were not likely to fit a necessary spot on a sports team, despite some high school success.  Dad is not famous nor likely to fund a professorship chair; no points for benefactor potential.  My girls were just vanilla smarties, so they all went to AZ state colleges on merit scholarships.  I only had to pay for room, board, books and fees,  so I funded a couple of Master’s degrees.  Number one has her Doctorate in Music Performance form ASU.  Another is finishing classes for a PhD at Vandy in Vocal Disorders (her Masters is in Speech and Language Pathology.)  The third is thriving at Northern Arizona, a junior, studying – what else? – Music.  She’s never missed the dean’s list and should graduate with top honors.

    They did have friends and classmates who were accepted at elite colleges; they were all accepted at several, with no real intention to enroll.  And they all had some unique pull – mixed racial credits (Dad was a physician), first in family to attend college (and avowed Lesbian), first team all-state soccer star, immigrant parents (Vietnam refugees).  The elite colleges seem to be more about collecting shiny specimens than following the old meritocracy saw.  These were great kids, mind you, but not necessarily those with the highest SAT scores.

    Looking back, I’m sorry my kids didn’t follow me at Dartmouth, but I can say one thing: it sure saved me a lot of cash!  And it didn’t slow them down one bit.

    • #10
  11. PHCheese Member
    PHCheese
    @PHCheese

    RightAngles (View Comment):
    A boy at my high school got 100% on the SAT.

    In a class of 34 students my prep school class had one with a perfect score and two that missed only one question. The one with a perfect score dropped out of Harvard after one year. The other two are both dead. Cigarettes killed them both. Smart but  for the last 20 years a guy with a measly 1250 was telling them to quit, me. I miss them both.

    • #11
  12. Boss Mongo Member
    Boss Mongo
    @BossMongo

    True.  But my SAT scores helped me get “leeched” into West Point.  Suckers.

    I can’t say that that makes it a two-way street.  It’s a one-way street.  But it’s got a pretty decent bike path, going the other way.

    • #12
  13. DocJay Member
    DocJay
    @DocJay

    The best thing that ever happened to me was not making it in to Yale and instead going to UC San Diego.

    • #13
  14. Boss Mongo Member
    Boss Mongo
    @BossMongo

    DocJay (View Comment):
    The best thing that ever happened to me was not making it in to Yale and instead going to UC San Diego.

    I went to UC San Diego on spring break as a junior.  Place had so much well-nurtured chi, I actually thought about quitting USMA.  Really, really.

    I didn’t.  And when I got back to Woo Poo, I got disciplinary hours (walking tours, rifle on the shoulder, on a Saturday afternoon/evening) for wearing the “UC San Diego Bong Team” tee shirt I’d picked up on spring break.

    • #14
  15. The Scarecrow Thatcher
    The Scarecrow
    @TheScarecrow

    DocJay (View Comment):
    The best thing that ever happened to me was not making it in to Yale and instead going to UC San Diego.

    I was accepted to Cornell (and Harvard) back in ’74, out of high school.  I had put together a deal that involved some scholarships, some work programs, and some ROTC that would have paid for everything; I could have graduated Class of ’78 with no debt.

    Chickened out at the last minute, deferred my scholarships and went to Colorado to take a year off and think about things. Sold waterbeds and cars in Denver. Came back to New York after three years, Ivy possibilities finished. Took a few courses at local community college, put my tool belt back on and took up again with my Dad’s electrical contracting business.  He closed it down a few years later and I path-of-least-resistanced myself into taking over what I wanted and starting up on my own. No formal training, just working with him Saturdays and summers since I was ten. (All the time knowing that whatever I wound up doing with my life, it would NEVER be the construction business.)

    Now it’s 35 years later. Had a pretty successful career as an electrician – self-employed of course. But I always regretted not getting a degree, being an Ivy-leaguer, walking around Cornell like an alum instead of a townie.

    But I’m getting over it. I have always been pretty smart, or thought I was.  But it’s NYT crossword smart, Monty Python quoting smart (?), auto-didact kind of smart.  No degree to wave around though.

    Funny that my geocaching handle is Captain Scarecrow – the Scarecrow from a pathetic identification with the Wizard of Oz character – had everything but a degree.

    Now I look at all the craziness going on at elite colleges. I think about how much I might have learned there back in the ’70s, but would probably not learn now.

    I realize that I did just short of $1,000,000 worth of business last year, am on a 122-day streak at the NYT crossword, can quote most of The Life of Brian, but in spite of that am still smart enough to be a member of Ricochet. ;-)

    I have a son at Boulder, playing hockey and living the college dream I gave up.  He is doing much better at it than I would have. We both have the same lack of financial concern, which is good.  Mine was through scholarships and planning, his is through his old man cutting the check for $60,000.  So glad to have it for him.

     

    • #15
  16. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    Very good!

    Any virtue by itself, apart from the other virtues, becomes a vice.  (My first published scholarly article was on that topic.)

    • #16
  17. Boss Mongo Member
    Boss Mongo
    @BossMongo

    The Scarecrow (View Comment):

     

     

    Had a pretty successful career as an electrician – self-employed of course. But I always regretted not getting a degree, being an Ivy-leaguer, walking around Cornell like an alum instead of a townie.

    Yeah, but you were able to cut the check for your son.  To my mind, that’s what matters.  Sure, it’s really cool if you can talk about the people in caves looking at shadows on the walls, or the sublimity of Yeats, or whatever.  But, you earn, you provide, and there’s nothing better than that.

    • #17
  18. Seawriter Contributor
    Seawriter
    @Seawriter

    Three more “likes” and this will be recommended for the main feed.

    Seawriter

    • #18
  19. skipsul Member
    skipsul
    @skipsul

    RightAngles (View Comment):
    A boy at my high school got 100% on the SAT.

    I went to school with several who did likewise (it was a college prep school).

    At the time I took it, it was still just 2 tests, math and verbal.  I bowled a split and scored evenly in both.

    • #19
  20. skipsul Member
    skipsul
    @skipsul

    The Scarecrow (View Comment):
    Now it’s 35 years later. Had a pretty successful career as an electrician – self-employed of course. But I always regretted not getting a degree, being an Ivy-leaguer, walking around Cornell like an alum instead of a townie.

    I like to say that the one good thing that came out of college for me was meeting my wife.  Beyond that, while I did learn a lot of things, in retrospect I never should have gone.  I did not have a plan and wasted a lot of time (and my parents’ money).  I directly use none of what I learned there, and while I do appreciate having a broad and eclectic education, I’m not sure I’d go back if given the choice.

    My eldest is 16.  In a scant 2 years she’ll have to decide where she’s going, and if she’s going.  I keep wondering if it would be worth it for her.

    • #20
  21. skipsul Member
    skipsul
    @skipsul

    Seawriter (View Comment):
    Since I am the most successful of the three of us, it has bred in me a great cynicism about IQ and SAT scores. Not that I think intelligence is unimportant to success. It is. But so is physical strength, good health, perseverance, and appearance. Exaggerating the importance of any one trait at the expense of the others is a self-made trap, in my opinion.

    One of the people in my class who got a perfect SAT, and who was a very well rounded student overall, class valedictorian to boot, has worked a series of esoteric jobs ever since graduating near the top of his class at Harvard.  He should be teaching graduate level mathematics, but he isn’t.  Both of his parents were college profs, but I’m not sure I’d say he himself has been particularly successful.

    • #21
  22. RightAngles Member
    RightAngles
    @RightAngles

    skipsul (View Comment):

    Seawriter (View Comment):
    Since I am the most successful of the three of us, it has bred in me a great cynicism about IQ and SAT scores. Not that I think intelligence is unimportant to success. It is. But so is physical strength, good health, perseverance, and appearance. Exaggerating the importance of any one trait at the expense of the others is a self-made trap, in my opinion.

    One of the people in my class who got a perfect SAT, and who was a very well rounded student overall, class valedictorian to boot, has worked a series of esoteric jobs ever since graduating near the top of his class at Harvard. He should be teaching graduate level mathematics, but he isn’t. Both of his parents were college profs, but I’m not sure I’d say he himself has been particularly successful.

    I once got to talking with the guy who was laying tile in my bathroom. Turned out he had a Ph.D in microbiology from the University of Chicago.

    • #22
  23. Jules PA Member
    Jules PA
    @JulesPA

    Seawriter (View Comment):
    I may be the dumbest one in the room, yet all these folks who are smarter than me are looking to me for knowledge

    Maybe the thing that makes them most MENSA is that they know, deep down, others have something valuable to contribute.

    And you’re right, smarts is only one part of the success equation.

    • #23
  24. PHCheese Member
    PHCheese
    @PHCheese

    It has been my observation that if things come to easy very bright people aren’t use to trying times. They often aren’t used to hard work and competition in life’s struggles.

    • #24
  25. Roberto Member
    Roberto
    @Roberto

    Seawriter:

    “The SAT 50 years ago pulled a lot of smart people out of every little town in America and funneled them into a small number of elite institutions, where they married each other, had kids, and moved to an even smaller number of elite neighborhoods. We created the most effective meritocracy ever.”

    “The problem with the meritocracy, is that it leeches all the empathy out of your society … The second you think that all your good fortune is a product of your virtue, you become highly judgmental, lacking empathy, totally without self-awareness, arrogant, stupid—I mean all the stuff that our ruling class is.”

    Tucker Carlson

    I question the premise that this system should in any way be labeled a meritocracy. It is certainly funneling individuals of a certain intelligence and predisposition into certain fields of employment. That is true.

    But ability, merit, skill? That seems to be seriously lacking in many who appear quite credentialed and celebrated in this “class”.

    • #25
  26. RightAngles Member
    RightAngles
    @RightAngles

    A few years ago, I was at Loew’s pricing carpet. When I got home, the phone rang and it was the carpet guy. He said, “I just wanted you to know I’m not just a carpet guy. I have a master’s degree.” I didn’t know what to say, so we talked about the different turns life can take.

    • #26
  27. Seawriter Contributor
    Seawriter
    @Seawriter

    PHCheese (View Comment):
    It has been my observation that if things come to easy very bright people aren’t use to trying times. They often aren’t used to hard work and competition in life’s struggles.

    Which may be one reason I was lucky to be the “dumb” one. I had to work to keep up with my brothers.

    Seawriter

    • #27
  28. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    Roberto (View Comment):

    Seawriter:

    “The SAT 50 years ago pulled a lot of smart people out of every little town in America and funneled them into a small number of elite institutions, where they married each other, had kids, and moved to an even smaller number of elite neighborhoods. We created the most effective meritocracy ever.”

    “The problem with the meritocracy, is that it leeches all the empathy out of your society … The second you think that all your good fortune is a product of your virtue, you become highly judgmental, lacking empathy, totally without self-awareness, arrogant, stupid—I mean all the stuff that our ruling class is.”

    Tucker Carlson

    I question the premise that this system should in any way be labeled a meritocracy. It is certainly funneling individuals of a certain intelligence and predisposition into certain fields of employment. That is true.

    But ability, merit, skill? That seems to be seriously lacking in many who appear quite credentialed and celebrated in this “class”.

    Indeed.  “Merit” has more to do with virtue than with intellectual ability, doesn’t it?

    Hm.  My brain just went to Lewis Pearson’s and Deanna Smid’s essays in the new book.

    • #28
  29. CM Member
    CM
    @CM

    RightAngles (View Comment):
    A boy at my high school got 100% on the SAT.

    I had 2 at my high school.

    • #29
  30. MarciN Member
    MarciN
    @MarciN

    I think we take academic measurements way too seriously. Humanity needs a tremendously varied range of abilities and talents and experience and wisdom and, most of all, goodness. Schools measure only some of those. Furthermore, a person who loves someone and wants to help that person will find all kinds of mental resources in his or her mind to make it possible.

    • #30

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