The word “meritocracy” has come into vogue lately. It seems that our societal ideals that promote ability and equality of opportunity are more so being questioned—not necessarily on principle, but in practice. Bringing these ideals to fruition in a tangible manner will always result in some controversy, because by definition meritocracy creates inequality. But how that inequality perpetuates itself into dynasties is being exposed, for example, in college admissions, among others.

More and more, a college degree is becoming a prerequisite to jobs, not because of the skills or education that it supposedly provides, but because of the cultural capital that it does.

On the tyranny of meritocracy, Michael Sandel summarizes:

We should focus less on arming people for meritocratic combat, and focus more on making life better for people who lack a diploma but who make essential contributions to our society.

We should renew the dignity of work and . . . We should remember that work is not only about making a living, it’s also about contributing to the common good.

Michael Sandel

This is made more true each day that the COVID pandemic drags on. It is increasingly clear that society is completely dependent on people that we would otherwise like to sweep under the rug. Instead, let’s take this opportunity to reward them with more than just recognition as “heroes” that keep our world turning.

Dossier

“The Tyranny of Merit,” by Michael Sandel, September 15, 2020. https://www.ted.com/talks/michael_sandel_the_tyranny_of_merit

“Rising Education Levels Provide Diminishing Economic Boost,” by Josh Mitchell, September 6, 2020. https://www.wsj.com/articles/rising-education-levels-provide-diminishing-economic-boost-11599400800