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10 thoughts on “The Tyranny of the Meritocracy

  1. says:

    Lani Guinier, professor of law at Harvard University, has written a persuasive argument against the prevalence of high stakes testing particularly the SAT as the primary way of evaluating and predicting student achievement Her argument, however, is not only against the inaccuracy of the testing process but of the very purpose of education in general and colleges in particular Instead of merely a means of accessingpowerful and lucrative employment, Guinier focuses on the function of edu Lani Guinier, professor of law at Harvard University, has written a persuasive argument against the prevalence of high stakes testing particularly the SAT as the primary way of evaluating and predicting student achievement Her argument, however, is not only against the inaccuracy of the testing process but of the very purpose of education in general and colleges in particular Instead of merely a means of accessingpowerful and lucrative employment, Guinier focuses on the function of education as a means of creating thinking, participatory citizens who work collaboratively with others and leave school prepared and willing to contribute to society and to become leaders.I found the first part of the book the most interesting Guinier demonstrates how the current meritocracy or, as she also calls it, testocracy replicates current socio economic status and create individualists who compete with others at the expense of public policy and a healthy society Students who score well on the SATs are usually those who have been taught how to take a test successfully, not necessarily those who think most creatively or effectively and certainly not those who consider the welfare of others, or the group as a whole By focusing intensively on test success, we create a society of takers rather than givers We also exclude most of the society from access to institutions that, Guinier argues, should function as shapers of society not merely gateways to a narrowly defined success.But although many colleges consider factors outside of the SATs for admissions, most primary and secondary schools also fail to prepare students to work collaboratively with others or problem solve creatively, In the second part of the book, Guinier examines programs that have worked to turn this focus around at all levels Professors who have moved from lecture oriented to collaborative focused classes where students work in groups to both challenge and support each other have seen test scores rise across the board and discrepancies between students from minority groups and the traditionally high scoring white male students disappear.In the final section of the book, and, for me, the least interesting, Guinier reviews the well documented and publicized studies showing that students who believe that intelligence is malleable and success based on effort rather than innate qualities over which one has little or no control aresuccessful than students who view intelligence as a fixed quality I found the first section of the book the most successful and interesting The second section tended to focus on such specific examples that the flow of the book virtually halted However, the examples were interesting and did point the way for systemic changes that could change the course of American democracy.The book is brief but passionate and for me convincing in its arguments for ainclusive, democratic view of student potential and how to develop it.In the interest of transparency, I won this book through LibraryThing s Early Reviewer program in exchange for an honest review


  2. says:

    Lani Guinier s new book The Tyranny of the Meritocracy will be of interest to many in the connectivist circles where I run We believe that individual knowledge is created in social contexts and through social interaction We prize collaboration skills We ve heard it all, and buy it that this is an increasingly connected age, that good jobs will involve work in teams, that globalization and demographic change will require the abilities to negotiate diversity, that the problems of the twenty Lani Guinier s new book The Tyranny of the Meritocracy will be of interest to many in the connectivist circles where I run We believe that individual knowledge is created in social contexts and through social interaction We prize collaboration skills We ve heard it all, and buy it that this is an increasingly connected age, that good jobs will involve work in teams, that globalization and demographic change will require the abilities to negotiate diversity, that the problems of the twenty first century are only solvable by multidisciplinary teams, that in fact many of those social and political problems have roots in people who can t communicate outside themselves or their home group We want to work for an America for a world where all people have equal prospects regardless of the color of their skin and circumstances of their birth.Then we exist in an educational system which mostly rewards people for individual accomplishment, and trains them accordingly in individualistic methods which are remarkably vulnerable to the privileges of class and race.Guinier points out that this is out of step She uses Amartya Sen s definition that merit is the incentive system which rewards the actions a society values and points out the stunning disconnect between the skills we claim to value for democracy, and the testocratic skills of the K Ph.D system This focus on individualized tests and grades actually serves to reinforce power relationships in society first, because those with the means to impact curricula or hire tutors have a massive incentive to do so, and perhapsominously, because students who succeed in the testocracy are allowed to believe that they have achieved success alone, without noting the assistance of their teachers, parents, and classmates More democratic education would do a better job of reinforcing the importance of working together across difference and provide that benefitequitably to those locked out of our current system.The argument against the SAT is iron clad It predicts family income and race much better than grades in the first year of college, and was never designed to assess anything further out than the first year Yet I found Guinier s hope for a system like the Posse Foundation s Dynamic Assessment Process a bit optimistic Surely, if elite colleges shifted admissions to some form of behavioral interview, it would create a market for coaching Such tutoring might besocially valuable than classes on SAT words and how to answer a multiple choice question, but it would still be unevenly distributed We can already see this in admissions processes which do value extracurricular and community involvement Anyone can take such opportunities, and it makes the admissions process better to consider them Kids whose families don t need them to work, or whose parents can shuttle them from school to club to volunteer site, can take advantage ofof them It might still be better than the system we ve got, but not quite as diverse as Guinier argues.Guinier goes on to suggest alternatives in college preparation, recruitment, and pedagogy As someone who works with college professors on teaching issues, it s easy for me to hear the argument that we need to make changes in K 12 schools and the college admissions office It s always easier when someone else has to change Then she points out that it wouldn t be fair to bring students into college for their collaborative skills, and demand of them the same individualized pedagogy we tend to use now Students selected for democratic skills will prosper most in a democratic classroom Oh That s a challenge.It struck me as interesting that the models here weren t particularly new to me It seems impossible to read 5 articles on improving college teaching without someone bringing up the peer instruction work of Eric Mazur, as Guinier does Yet most of the work in the blended learning sphere focuses simply on how group work and class discussion is better for retention and transfer of domain knowledge That s an easy sell it s harder to talk about the idea that you might actually shift your learning goals in a collaborative classroom Guinier s frames these potentially fractious issues within the purpose of higher education in a democracy, and if you ve accepted the assertion through the first half of the book,Of course, the assertion that college exists to develop good citizens is not universally accepted Even among those who accept the general idea, we debate exactly what the proper components of a liberal education are Guinier asserts that colleges exist to fill a democratic need, without much considering the counter arguments, and other than skills related to diversity and teamwork, she doesn t have specific recommendations for a curriculum Given how much we hear about colleges as paths to good jobs , though, or how much student development can be taken for granted within the academy, Guinier provides a clear argument, crisply stated and well worth the read


  3. says:

    This one is a puzzle to review because while it contains tons of good tidbits and ideas, it nevertheless misses the main point Here is Guinier s thesis Currently, merit is measured by an individual s test scores and grades The higher the test scores and the better the grades, theentitlements are granted to an individual by teachers, parents, administrators, other students, and even the general public But this need not be the case Instead, I ve found that what is urgent for our world a This one is a puzzle to review because while it contains tons of good tidbits and ideas, it nevertheless misses the main point Here is Guinier s thesis Currently, merit is measured by an individual s test scores and grades The higher the test scores and the better the grades, theentitlements are granted to an individual by teachers, parents, administrators, other students, and even the general public But this need not be the case Instead, I ve found that what is urgent for our world and thus what we should consider most closely in education is a student s capacity to collaborate and to think creatively 2 Or in other words, as she continues to reiterate throughout the book Aptitude tests do not predict leadership, emotional intelligence, or the capacity to work with others to contribute to society 26 The problem with this thesis is that it is nothing revolutionary, and college admissions have already been trying to make up for their limited information That s why we have college essays, and interviews, and teacher recs, and examination of extracurricular leadership positions community service The problem lies not in having too few of these kinds of subjective character measures, but rather in the fact that these measures in addition to the SAT also happen to be heavily correlated to wealth and class in a myriad of subtle ways comic Our focus should not be on proving the value of collaboration and genuine problem solving in education which has already been proven and is common sense , but addressing the core question of how and whether adcoms can truthfully measure merit at all.ALL THIS ASIDE, the bits on growth mindset and grit in Chapter 7 are really important for anyone who is interested in what makes for a good learner in general I also liked the part in Chapter 2 where Guinier points out what makes the new elite so dangerous it legitimately thinks it deserves its success, while the old elite had been able to recognise that it had been privileged by the accident of birth, and so had felt obligated to give back to the community and send the elevator back down 24 This is a concept that I keep coming back to when talking on this topic with my friends We can t ask that the new elite step down we only ask that they recognise how they got there.Overall, a well researched book on an extremely important topic, but won t tell you much that you don t already instinctively understand


  4. says:

    One of the purposes of a public education system in a democratic society is to prepare citizens to participate effectively and meaningfully in the processes that govern us A healthy democracy depends on everyone having equal opportunity to understand and shape public action When our education system produces a culture of competition instead of collaboration, or when it produces citizens who cannot work together to solve problems or incorporate diverse voices, this has important consequences f One of the purposes of a public education system in a democratic society is to prepare citizens to participate effectively and meaningfully in the processes that govern us A healthy democracy depends on everyone having equal opportunity to understand and shape public action When our education system produces a culture of competition instead of collaboration, or when it produces citizens who cannot work together to solve problems or incorporate diverse voices, this has important consequences for democracy The Tyranny of the Meritocracy Democratizing Higher Education in America, by Lani Guinier, discusses crucial and disconcerting issues in America s higher education system, particularly the reliance on standardized testing for college admissions I found Part I, which addresses the problem as a whole, extremely insightful and well researched and written.Part II, which discusses potential solutions, is lacking While the author eventually gets to the point and lays out some ideas and successful examples, the first couple chapters of Part II simply read as case studies divorced from the main narrative Rather than seeing the case studies as practical solutions to the testocracy problem, the reader is forced to infer the connection to the thesis Sadly, the solution proposals seem like common sense, but educators and schools that successfully address the problem of inequality in education are few and far between.The final chapter ends abruptly and the Conclusion does a poor job of tying everything together and and back to Guinier s thesis In fact, the conclusion reads asof a mini autobiography with some inspirational quotes thrown in.However, as an educator, I am fascinated by the data and examples used to discuss the problem This is an issue that is constantly on my mind, and the statistics and anecdotes regarding the American higher education system puts a lot of my day to day experiences in education into aglobal perspective democracy, elitism, etc Finally, Part II makes me feel very lucky to have worked in a school that so closely resembles the successful case studies I received this book for free through Goodreads First Reads Giveaways


  5. says:

    This book was ok but said the same thing over and over again without really going into depth to explain it The fact that the SATs are not the best indicator of aptitude is a very solid point But Guinier did not go into any explanation as to HOW these types of standardized tests are culturally biased, or what other socioeconomic advantages are often mistaken for merit I didn t disagree with her, but often I read these books as if I were a person who totally believes in the meritocracy of the U This book was ok but said the same thing over and over again without really going into depth to explain it The fact that the SATs are not the best indicator of aptitude is a very solid point But Guinier did not go into any explanation as to HOW these types of standardized tests are culturally biased, or what other socioeconomic advantages are often mistaken for merit I didn t disagree with her, but often I read these books as if I were a person who totally believes in the meritocracy of the US and doesn t understand the concept of cultural and socioeconomic bias She would not have convinced me of much if I were that person, because she just said the same thing over and over again instead of delving in The POSSE program and KIPP and Park Campus school were interesting to learn about, but certainly barely scratched the surface of the wide range of innovation going on in education KIPP especially is running into problems for not being all that different from the traditional schools that challenge the concept of meritocracy


  6. says:

    The American school system is messed up On some level, everyone knows this We see the bad schools and the good schools We see the tracking system failing We see the mad rush to ace the SAT, hinging all your college dreams on a single okay, maybeif you retake it Saturday morning But rarely does anyone point out how deeply the issue of testocratic merit is connected to the power elite and the widening rich poor gap I think that this book explains the problem in a clear and conc The American school system is messed up On some level, everyone knows this We see the bad schools and the good schools We see the tracking system failing We see the mad rush to ace the SAT, hinging all your college dreams on a single okay, maybeif you retake it Saturday morning But rarely does anyone point out how deeply the issue of testocratic merit is connected to the power elite and the widening rich poor gap I think that this book explains the problem in a clear and concise way Now I m VERY biased, as taking a class on educational inequality was exactly what got me interested in my major sociology So half of this information is not new to me, yet the way it was presented felt fresh Democratic merit rather than testocratic merit is an intriguing concept The author s argument is easy to follow and I, the reader, am convinced that educational strategies need to change and collaborative learning is benificial for everyone Successful programs like the USPCS or the Posse are inspiring examples, as well as the classroom teaching techniques mentioned later on However, when I finished this book I am left with questions The second half of the book addresses the individualist culture on like a micro level These strategies are helpful and all, but it doesn t really cover the question at the beginning how can we get standardized testing to have less influence It s embedded in our system Colleges use numerical measures to narrow down the thousands of applicants they get every year So, how do you measure democratic merit Are you telling me they d have to evaulate every single applicant holistically , considering their background and judging them subjectively Instead of judging them based on numbers, judge their entire character Yeah, I m sure that wouldn t go wrong at all Would BDI scores replace SAT scores as a measure of one s worth as a human being How is a test based on observers making subjective judgements of who collaborates wellfair than a theoreticaly objective test You can t study for a BDI And in my humble opinion, failing a test of character isdamaging to one s self esteem than failing a series of multiple choice questions So you have a whole class of people barred from college and thus not allowed to progress in society because of some vague measure of character like some kind of bad dystopian novel The assertion in this book, that democratic merit will be an oval to replace testocratic merit s pyramid, is false Where you have merit, you have a pyramid It doesn t matter if it s based on numbers or based on percieved grit and social skils But okay, I suppose there has to be an underclass somewhere After all, the leadery, resilient, wonderful college educated folks need some masses to control Okay then Or maybe the author doesn t suggest to change the conventional college admissions process But is that not the natural consequence of a culture shift away from testocracy I don t know I m overthinking it probably Nevertheless this is a good book that raises several points about privelege and social problems in our system, and provides valuable suggestions towards ademocratic future


  7. says:

    I had wanted to read this book since it first appeared many years ago I like Ms Guinier s style of writing and think that she is a sharp intellectual While I do not agree with everything in this book I like her depth of research, citations and references, contextualization, and strength of argument As a scientist and STEM scholar with experience in several academic institutions both HBCU and PWI , some of the generalizations on how African Americans ring hollow and far too theoretical part I had wanted to read this book since it first appeared many years ago I like Ms Guinier s style of writing and think that she is a sharp intellectual While I do not agree with everything in this book I like her depth of research, citations and references, contextualization, and strength of argument As a scientist and STEM scholar with experience in several academic institutions both HBCU and PWI , some of the generalizations on how African Americans ring hollow and far too theoretical particularly from the Ivy League perspective Fortunately, this is not the majority of the book It is an insightful and worthwhile look at how the elite and the favorite dark child elite view the future and potential solutions for higher education


  8. says:

    Just okay it s interesting seeing that SAT scores are not good predictors of success in college high school GPA is better, independent of the rating of the school The rest of the book is kind of mediocre I agree with the principle our so called meritocracy is not really a meritocracy The bulk of the book is anecdotal, albeit interesting anecdotes.


  9. says:

    Lani Guinier takes a strong stand in The Tyranny of the Meritocracy against one of the sacred cows of higher education in the U.S the college admissions process That takes guts To Guinier, the current admissions process, which assesses merit largely on standardized testing a testocracy creates a feeder system that spits out graduates who are individualistic and entitled and sorely misses the greater mission of higher education to educate young minds toward civic mindedness and leadership Lani Guinier takes a strong stand in The Tyranny of the Meritocracy against one of the sacred cows of higher education in the U.S the college admissions process That takes guts To Guinier, the current admissions process, which assesses merit largely on standardized testing a testocracy creates a feeder system that spits out graduates who are individualistic and entitled and sorely misses the greater mission of higher education to educate young minds toward civic mindedness and leadership The first half of the book is dedicated to describing the flaws in the current system To this, Guinier largely blames the weight the admissions process gives to the SAT and ACT She cites credible research that shows the tests actas predictors of socioeconomic status than of potential or performance in college Wealthy families can afford test prep and tutoring they can afford to send their kids to Nicaragua to volunteer at orphanages, or to attend some other summer program to pad their resumes And a stellar college application, including high test scores, doesn t necessarily reflect an applicant who is going to contribute to society Whether or not you buy into the SATs as a wealth test argument and the author does make plenty of assumptions e.g., what about the variations of scores within income brackets , Guinier does make a compelling case nonetheless calling into question the usefulness of these tests as be all end all metrics for admissions Money matters to a point the correlation between socioeconomic status and SAT scores is around.40 fairly high, statistically speaking One counterargument to Guinier s claims is that admissions tests like the SAT don t really perpetuate disparities, they merely reflect them Even before students take those admission tests in high school they have already been treated to an upbringing of benefits and advantages associated with family socioeconomic status from better childhood nutrition and healthcare and access to cultural amenities and travel, to extended social networks and rigorous high school coursework, AP classes, and supportive teachers Better school districts means wealthier school districts that can draw from a better tax base In other words, the test is a straw man the reason for those higher test scores isn t the fault of the test but everything else that makes up a very stratified K 12 system Maybe Guinier s obsession with the bogey man of college admissions is all wrong Maybe we should be looking at a bigger picture And besides the SAT is just one part of the application package being evaluated The fuzzy stuff extracurriculars, resumes they can be gamed, too.For Guinier, what is troublesome is how merit in the current system is largely intrinsic, individualistic merit Society needs people who have three skills collaborative problem solving, independent thinking, and creative leadership In other words the soft skills, the abstract qualities that don t come through in a multiple choice exam like character, integrity, grit According to Guinier, Our colleges and universities have to take pride not in compiling an individualistic group of very high scoring students but in nurturing a diverse group of thinkers and facilitating how they solve complex problems creatively Farcompelling is the second half of the book, where Guinier outlines the solutions for fixing our current meritocracy Strangely, she glosses over how to retool the admissions process in favor of changing how learning takes place in the lecture halls of colleges and universities Two ideas she explores are collaborative learning and peer learning She illustrates these concepts by delving into various case studies and examples, as well as discussing psychology research delving into teamwork based learning modalities Bottom line Change the instructional format from a passive, lecture based one into one where students work in pairs or small groups to discuss and solve problems Like in the real world The Tyranny of the Meritocracy advocates for a cultural shift in education and a much needed one It was a thought provoking read If anything it made me think back to junior and senior year of high school and the high stakes of applying to universities and schools Was the admissions process fair Did the various schools I applied to make the right decision in choosing me Did my school teach me to be Guinier s ideal of the creative leader, independent thinker, and collaborative problem solver This is a worthy book to read, especially for its policy message about how we need to change the way students are taught, how we need to train students to be people who value the learning process over the right answer, and who value effort over ability Disclaimer I received an ARC of this book from the publisher for an honest and candid review This review was originally written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers


  10. says:

    The transformation of higher education in America In this book, Harvard University Law Professor Lani Guinier presents a simple argument in favor of collaborative models that strengthen higher educational systems She calls for overhaul of the standards of merit based admission policies adapted by colleges and universities The merit systems dictate the admissions practices that favor the select few mainly the economically privileged, leaving behind the underprivileged families The testocracy The transformation of higher education in America In this book, Harvard University Law Professor Lani Guinier presents a simple argument in favor of collaborative models that strengthen higher educational systems She calls for overhaul of the standards of merit based admission policies adapted by colleges and universities The merit systems dictate the admissions practices that favor the select few mainly the economically privileged, leaving behind the underprivileged families The testocracy is a standardized quantifiable merit that values perfect scores but ignores character, says the author In her law class, Professor Guinier gives the option of writing an exam in a group two or three The upside of this task is that it tests one s ability to implement ideas and commit to communicating one s perspectives in a problem solving exercise She offers many examples of new collaborative initiatives that prepare students for engaged citizenship in our increasingly multicultural society In the inner city neighborhoods of Chicago, residents participated at the community meetings because they saw that their participation made better schools and safer neighborhoods The city also developed a curriculum for them to learn problem solving and collaboration skills Archon Fung s work in Chicago with police, community leaders, schools and city officials is a positive example Several other examples include Rail side and other public urban schools in San Francisco, Seattle and New York.Lani Guinier is well known as President Bill Clinton s nominee for Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights in April 1993, but later he withdrew his nomination, following a wave of negative press which distorted political and academic views of Professor Guinier This work is certainly worth reading since it examines the responsibility of higher educational institutions in creating learning communities for tomorrow s leaders


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The Tyranny of the Meritocracy summary pdf The Tyranny of the Meritocracy , summary chapter 2 The Tyranny of the Meritocracy , sparknotes The Tyranny of the Meritocracy , The Tyranny of the Meritocracy 9179bea A Fresh And Bold Argument For Revamping Our Standards Of Merit And A Clear Blueprint For Creating Collaborative Education Models That Strengthen Our Democracy Rather Than Privileging Individual ElitesStanding On The Foundations Of America S Promise Of Equal Opportunity, Our Universities Purport To Serve As Engines Of Social Mobility And Practitioners Of Democracy But As Acclaimed Scholar And Pioneering Civil Rights Advocate Lani Guinier Argues, The Merit Systems That Dictate The Admissions Practices Of These Institutions Are Functioning To Select And Privilege Elite Individuals Rather Than Create Learning Communities Geared To Advance Democratic Societies Having Studied And Taught At Schools Such As Harvard University, Yale Law School, And The University Of Pennsylvania Law School, Guinier Has Spent Years Examining The Experiences Of Ethnic Minorities And Of Women At The Nation S Top Institutions Of Higher Education, And Here She Lays Bare The Practices That Impede The Stated Missions Of These Schools Goaded On By A Contemporary Culture That Establishes Value Through Ranking And Sorting, Universities Assess Applicants Using The Vocabulary Of Private, Highly Individualized Merit As A Result Of Private Merit Standards And Ever Increasing Tuitions, Our Colleges And Universities Increasingly Are Failing In Their Mission To Provide Educational Opportunity And To Prepare Students For Productive And Engaged Citizenship To Reclaim Higher Education As A Cornerstone Of Democracy, Guinier Argues That Institutions Of Higher Learning Must Focus On Admitting And Educating A Class Of Students Who Will Be Critical Thinkers, Active Citizens, And Publicly Spirited Leaders Guinier Presents A Plan For Considering Democratic Merit, A System That Measures The Success Of Higher Education Not By The Personal Qualities Of The Students Who Enter But By The Work And Service Performed By The Graduates Who Leave Guinier Goes On To Offer Vivid Examples Of Communities That Have Developed Effective Learning Strategies Based Not On An Individual S Merit But On The Collaborative Strength Of A Group, Learning And Working Together, Supporting Members, And Evolving Into Powerful Collectives Examples Are Taken From Across The Country And Include A Wide Range Of Approaches, Each Innovative And Effective Guinier Argues For Reformation, Not Only Of The Very Premises Of Admissions Practices But Of The Shape Of Higher Education Itself

  • Hardcover
  • 176 pages
  • The Tyranny of the Meritocracy
  • Lani Guinier
  • 15 April 2017
  • 0807006270

About the Author: Lani Guinier

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