meritocracy At an in

meritocracy? At an intuitive level we understand that America is extraordinarily open to talentfrom wherever it comes But it is not a meritocracy in the classic sense Its powerful institutions of access to education and other forms of power never have and still do not rely exclusively on what we would classically define as criteria of merit Its institutions have vast discretion to use a range of considerationsincluding a candidates wealthin determining admissions What is striking about the American system is how much discretion is built into it at all levels In factthe more radical question the American experiment poses is this: why do we assume that for a society to be able to nurture a vast array of relevant talent it has to be a meritocracy all the way down There is one sense in which it has to be meritocraticnamely that people are not excluded from participating because of who they are based on characteristics like raceethnicity or gender But beyond that it is an open question what principles nurture talent It is no accident that societies that are closer to being meritocracieslike Singapore and possibly Chinaare based on exams Pure meritocracies require objective measures of selection Although this is not a necessary consequencemeritocracies usually are suspicious of what we might call judgment and discretion In Indiawe signal meritocracy by largely removing all those criteria of judging talent that might be open to judgment and discretion Pure meritocratic societies will likely be exam-based But meritocracies have other paradoxical effects Kapil Sibals efforts to reduce the stress levels on our students are salutary But here is the bad news It is very likely that stress levels related to seeking your place in a meritocratic society will increasenot decrease The sheer pressure of numbers suggests this outcome We often forget that so far our education system has had limited reach Once millions more students start competing to find their place in the objective distribution curve of talent the pressures will only intensify If you think pressures in India are greatjust read accounts of what Chinas national exam system that determines places to universities entails In theoryyou could arguethat stress will not rise with numbers if you have a vast array of institutionswhere supply keeps up with demand But this will not be sufficient For the stress associated with exams depends upon the consequences attached to not coming out on top This in turn will depend upon the structure of economic opportunities on offer The more egalitarian an occupation structurethe less severe are the perceived penalties for not coming out on top Europe has in part escaped the neuroses meritocratic competition can induce because there is greater background equality In shortstress is not primarily about education It is about the economy And the real debate we need is on the kind of occupational structure we see emerging And: what is the relationship between education and that occupational structure But the relationship between meritocracy and equality also turns out to be more complicated As many in the IIT debate sensedthe character of admissions criteria determines who will do well Some think a single exam favours the privilegedbecause they can invest in coaching; others think a Board plus exam criteria will favour the privileged doubly over But all agree that a meritocracy must act as a counterweight to privileges of wealth But here the comparative evidence turns out to be more complicated For the instruments we use to pick out talentexams and so forthseem to vastly give advantage to those with access to a wide range of goods and privileges How to design principles of meritocracywhich genuinely aid social mobilityis not as easy a question to answer as we suppose Meritocracy also has two peculiar psychic consequences One of its unintended consequences is that it inculcates the idea that those who are left behind are somehow less worthy; and it creates a new form of inequality in turn There is also an argument to be made that over the last twenty years or so it is precisely meritocracy that has ideologically underpinned an ideology of great inequality As some social observers have notedpeople who rise through the system based on an idea of merit also have a greater sense of entitlement to all the fruits of their effort What is interesting about income inequality in places ranging from the US to China is not the fact that it exists It is that people at the top in particular and society more generally also came to the view that those at the top deserved what they have They deserved it in part because they rose on the dint of their own talent There is an odd sense in which privilege has to justify itselfbut merit does not But the consequences can be more paradoxical than we think Perhaps Aristotle was right in thinking that societies need mixed constitutions to function well They require an array of competing and diverse principlesrather than a single architectonic principle like merit There is a frustrating simple-mindedness to our debates over education The excessive focus we have put on IITs and IIMs is a manifestation of this While we tinker we themseveral actions underway in our systemincluding the way new universities are being builtcontinue to weaken our prospects as a society But debates over education are so narrow and short-sighted because we are not placing them in the right frame These debates are fundamentally about the character of modernity we are about to create The writer is presidentCentre for Policy ResearchDelhi [email protected] For all the latest Opinion News download Indian Express App More Related News things would move more swiftly, when two goldsmiths from a Zaveri Bazaar-based jewellery shop had gone to Nanded to sell jewellery. 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But Lahiri’s feat was as unexpected as it was spectacular. Sunday looked no different. ?s misreading of the situation was ? Ajit Balaji Joshi, in 13. They are glad to get a warm-up, no matter the wicket. He was dismissed against West Indies in 2002. IE Online Media Services Pvt Ltd More Top NewsWritten by Andrew Amsan | New Delhi | Updated: February 23.

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