Thursday, 26 January 2017

Meritocracy, A Utopian Fantasy.

Work hard and you will succeed in life because after all you get out what you put in. This is a statement that I, as well as the majority of other young people have been told for as long as i can remember and at face value, the concept that school/university rewards you based on your work ethic and ability rather than your race, gender, ethnicity or background sounds legitimate and to an extent it is true because the opportunity is there for anyone to achieve success, especially if you live in a developed country however there are underlying issues within society which prevent this from being complete reality.

For starters, society is set up as a meritocracy, this means that everyone has equal opportunity and thus where you end up in life is down to you and the choices you make, for example choosing to study or not study for an exam will ultimately determine whether or not you are able to get good grades and in turn attend a good university and or get a good job. However, Meritocracy is in essence a myth because it ignores the covert variables than affect a students ability to perform and compete against his fellow pupils. an example of this would be 'culture capital', or the lack there of. Culture capital refers to practical skills or know-how that a person needs to gain advantage in a particular cultural setting. These skills include the ability to self monitor and self-motivate,  being able to sit still and follow directions; being able to read and digest abstract material – this being material that isn't immediately related to personal day to day life; and being able to judge when and how it’s okay to ask for help, to assert one’s opinion in an argument, or to exercise one’s personal creativity. These different skills and perspectives `all have an influence on pupils performance during all stages of education, from primary school up until university. Unfortunately however, these skills are learnt primarily through primary socialisation, that being the norms and values you are exposed to within your immediate household, specifically from your parent(s). This exposes the fallacy of meritocracy because in order for everyone to have equal opportunity for success, we must first all have access to the same resources and due to the vast wealth inequality that exists in society today, this is an assumption that is by default incorrect. While an upper middle class household is capable of providing the necessary mental stimulation as well as material resources which are conducive to academic success, a lower working class household is not. This doesn't mean if your're raised in a working class household you cannot be successful, it just means you have to work a lot harder in order to do so. 

Meritocracy by definition is actually a very nice concept, the notion that one should be rewarded based on work ethic, ambition and skill rather than background simply makes sense and is the system i believe would be most conducive to a truly equal society. However in  order for this to become a reality, we must first establish wealth equality, and by this I mean implementing a living wage rather than a minimum wage .Some people work full-time on minimum wage and still don't make enough money to survive and thus are disadvantaged n regards to their ability to adequately provide the environment best suited for academic success, Establishing a minimum wage would bridge the gap between the working class and the vastly wealthy, therefore allowing for a more meritocratic society.

However the pessimist in me realises that this is near fantasy because it'll be a long time and take a lot of work to convince corporations to actually put people before profit margins, so for now, a truly meritocratic society is but a Utopian fantasy.