To the Editor:
“Is Meritocracy Hurting Higher Education?” (The Chronicle Review, September 13) was weighted very heavily towards criticism of meritocracy as a goal of education. One particular article “The Case for Admissions Lotteries” by Anastasia Berg was particularly egregious. I can only hope Berg was writing in some misguided display of irony and not in actual seriousness when she suggests that universities hold admissions lotteries rather than selecting their incoming student body on student merit alone. Even in the worst heights of communism, the Soviet state had better sense than to impose such an arbitrary and frankly idiotic restriction. Let us think for a moment about how this might play out in actual everyday life. If you were in a car accident would you want the EMTs who arrive to have been chosen by lot or skill? A proper meritocracy is the only truly fair method of determining who should receive the limited placements at university. Meritocracy, after all, does not depend on identity politics, on race, gender, bank account, or the circumstances of one’s birth (over which one has no control, after all) be they fine or foul, but rather depends upon the excellence, intellectual curiosity, and aptitude of the student. It depends upon a student’s hard work as well because simply getting in the door of a university is not enough to thrive.
That there are still inequalities is not a question of whether or not meritocracy works. By all means let’s address these inequalities. Let’s address poverty and prejudice, malnutrition and the breakdown of the family and the impact all of these things have on the development of character, health, and intellectual capacity. Everyone should have equal opportunity in life and then it comes down to what each person is going to do with that opportunity. Elitism in this sense is not something to flee, but something to cultivate. Your elite are your best, not because of their wealth or birth, but because they have chosen to excel. It is our job to give them every opportunity by which to cultivate themselves that they may do that, for the betterment not only of the students themselves, but of society.
Ph.D. candidate in theology