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American Society's Meritocracy Remains a Myth: Persuasive Essay

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We live in a society where meritocracy has become a myth. Meritocracy is a believed society where discrimination based on race, nationality, gender, age, and other irrelevant characteristics is completely absent. Meritocracy is giving everyone respect on basis of their ability, not the amount of power they have or the amount of money they have. Everything in the USA can be achieved through money. It is believed that everyone in the States is treated equally, but this is not true, because the United States of America is also a corrupt country, just like many other countries. It is believed that the brightest and most conscientious individuals are accurately and efficiently assigned to occupy the most important positions based on their talent and achievements. The rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer. One of the biggest flaws of meritocracy comes in the education field. Even if a student gets a 35 on the ACT, he has less chance of getting into an elite institute, compared to a rich student who only got a 24 on the ACT. There are colleges out there that only accept students if they can donate to the college. People in the United States suffer from poverty, unemployment, discrimination, poor education, and poor access to information and new technologies, but all of this is ignored because everyone can’t speak up.

The term ‘meritocracy’ was first invented in 1956 by Michael Young. Young argued that meritocracy would only perpetuate inequalities, and to some extent his predictions were correct. The term ‘meritocracy’ was invented in the nineteen-fifties with a satirical intent that has now mostly been lost. Americans are more likely to believe that people are rewarded for their intelligence and skills, and are less likely to believe that family wealth plays a key role in getting ahead. The support of American citizens for meritocratic principles has remained the same over the last two decades, despite growing economic inequality, recessions, and the fact that there is less mobility in the United States than in most other industrialized countries. Meritocracy was first invented in the 10th BC by a Chinese resident who believed that the ruler who rules China should be chosen by his ability and talent. Young believed that everyone should be given the same opportunity no matter what their race, gender, or ethnic background is.

There could rise problems if meritocracy would be practiced. It can lead to inequality in education. For example, in Britain, class, gender, and ethnicity can affect the opportunities students have, even if they have good grades. Meritocracy is actually dividing the country. The country is now divided between the top 1% and the top 20%, and then the rest of the middle class (Markovits). The employees working high-paying jobs are working longer hours than ever before. Meanwhile, the middle class is falling behind, as employers demand more qualifications from employees. Right now, the middle class is suffering the most with the concept of a meritocratic society. We live in a society that divides people based on specific unchangeable metrics. There are a few groups that are rich that are continuously privileged, while the rest are continuously discriminated against. By doing this we are encouraging a meritocratic society that increases inequality wherever it is applied. In today’s world, the biggest downside of meritocracy is that it is an equality of outcomes, not equality of opportunities. It rewards one group of people who promise good outcomes and continuously keeps rewarding them whenever the expected outcome is realized. These rewards come at the expense of not providing equal opportunities to the group that got left behind at the start of the cycle. All the inequality in the world – race, caste, gender – is rooted in this false concept of merit.

It is believed that meritocracy is practiced everywhere, including in politics and schools. There are many scandals that prove this wrong for example the Varsity Blues scandal. The FBI and federal prosecutors announced that 50 people had been charged in, as Sports Illustrated put it, a nationwide college admissions scheme that used bribes to help potential students cheat on college entrance exams or to pose as potential athletic recruits to get admitted to high-profile universities. Corruption is supported not only by college officials but also by rich parents. Hardworking students get left out and rich students make their way up using money. In today’s world, anything can be achieved with money, including elite university degrees. There are many other cases where meritocracy is failing, for example, getting into private education. Private schools and colleges earn endowment income tax-free. The private schools also earn alumni donations, which is beneficial to them because those donations help with the tax deductible. The 10 biggest university endowments total more than $200 billion (Nguyen). This means that the public and the government are supporting the rich students who are able to afford all private education. The richest school districts in the United States are spending more than twice as much money per student each year as middle-class schools and elite private schools are spending as much as six times the middle class. What this does is it helps yield higher scores on standardized tests and admissions to more elite universities.

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However, education is not the only place where meritocracy is showing its weakness. Technological innovations are making things difficult for less educated workers. In today’s world, technology depends on social and economic forces. The Industrial Revolution started with a wave of unskilled workers. The innovations of industrial production targeted new labor sources that helped make unskilled workers more productive and thus more valuable. But in present times innovations are overwhelmingly biased in favor of skilled workers, reflecting the same mechanism. This is decreasing the need for unskilled and less educated workers. This is not the meritocratic society that is described by politicians. Politicians describe the United States as a meritocratic country, which is not correct according to the lower-class citizens of the USA.

However, there are also benefits of meritocracy present throughout the states. There are many companies that use the meritocratic system. By using meritocracy, they are giving all the middle-class, uneducated equal opportunity. This is also helping in the removal of discrimination. The biggest online shopping hub in the world is Amazon; they are believed to be one of the first companies to start a meritocratic system in their working community. Amazon hires employees from all around the world, no matter how rich they are or how poor they are, they all start from the bottom and make their way up. By doing this, Amazon is making all employees equal.

The US is the country where we believe meritocracy exists but in reality, it does not. In the world, there are only a handful of countries that support the idea of a meritocratic community, one of those countries is Singapore. Meritocracy is a deeply held value in Singaporean culture. It survives on the idea that talent and hard work will be rewarded. One of the main groups focused on is students, scholarships and funds are given out to achieving individuals to reward them for hard work. By doing this the students are practicing the mindset that with hard work, there is always a possibility of success. Throughout the education system in Singapore, students are awarded funds and certificates which praise them for their efforts and motivate them to strive harder for even better results. Meritocracy exists not only academically, but also ethically. Students who outperform others in displaying ethics and morals are awarded the EAGLES Award, and the Ministry of Education has set in place the NYAA (National Youth Achievement Award) to spur youngsters to be more motivated to serve their community and help others in need. If we compare this to the USA, we are the complete opposite of Singapore. In the US parents pay the schools to make their kids successful. The rich kids get private education, while the middle-class students have to rely on the schools. The kids with money can get into Harvard with an ACT of 22, and the middle students can’t get in with an ACT score of 35, but still, the USA is seen as a meritocratic country.

The term ‘meritocracy’ was found in the 10th BC, but still, it is not practiced. Everything is corrupt in the United States, including the people, the politicians, and the education system. This is causing the middle class a big damage, for example, their kids can’t get into high-end schools or they cannot access technology as the upper class can. In 1958, Michael Young coined the term ‘meritocracy’ in his book, ‘The Rise of the Meritocracy’. Young used the term satirically to depict a United Kingdom ruled by a system that favored intelligence and merit above all else, including past personal achievements. It now refers to organizations where the best people and ideas win. To make meritocracy successful, we must take some crucial steps. One of the first steps we have to take is to clean up our corrupt education system. Our education system is one of the most corrupt fields. For example, the Varsity Blues scandal, where they caught 50 people, including college officials and parents, who paid the college officials to change the standardized test scores by taking huge amounts of donations. One of the biggest flaws of meritocracy is politics. The ex-presidents are still earning millions of dollars despite retirement. We discriminate against people on basis of their education level and their race. The employees who are not familiar with technology get paid less than the people who are a little advanced in technology, but the employee with less technological knowledge do more work but still get paid less. Meritocracy will still remain a myth. To change that everyone has to change.

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American Society’s Meritocracy Remains a Myth: Persuasive Essay. (2023, October 11). Edubirdie. Retrieved December 5, 2023, from
“American Society’s Meritocracy Remains a Myth: Persuasive Essay.” Edubirdie, 11 Oct. 2023,
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