Toppling the myth of meritocracy

first_img Will coronavirus change college admissions? Harvard releases statement from 300 admissions deans about what they expect from applicants during pandemic Anthony A. Jack sees the ability to reach out as just another tool in a successful professional’s kit If Harvard were to reopen today, who should be allowed to return? Paradoxically, this is the gift the cheating parents wanted to give their kids. If all they really cared about was enabling their children to live in affluence, they could have given them trust funds. But they wanted something else — the meritocratic cachet that admission to elite colleges confers, one that is itself illusory.As we discussed, it cannot really be said that even students who win admission through the front door did so solely on their own. What about the parents and teachers who helped them on their way? What about talents and gifts not wholly of their making? What about the good fortune to live in a society that cultivates and rewards the talents they happen to have?Those who prevail in a competitive meritocracy are indebted in ways the competition obscures. As the meritocracy intensifies, the striving so absorbs us that our indebtedness recedes from view. In this way, even a fair meritocracy, one without cheating or bribery or special privileges for the wealthy, induces the mistaken impression that we have made it on our own.Besides being self-deluding, such thinking is also corrosive of civic sensibilities. For the more we think of ourselves as self-made and self-sufficient, the harder it is to learn gratitude and humility. And without these sentiments, it is hard to care for the common good.College admission is not the only occasion for arguments about merit.Debates about who deserves what abound in contemporary politics. On the surface, these debates are about fairness: Does everyone have a truly equal opportunity to compete for desirable goods and social positions? Excerpted from “Tyranny of Merit: What’s Become of the Common Good?” by Michael J. Sandel (Farrar, Straus and Giroux) In March 2019, as high school students awaited the results of their college applications, federal prosecutors made a stunning announcement. They charged 33 wealthy parents with engaging in an elaborate cheating scheme to get their children admitted to elite universities including Yale, Stanford, Georgetown, and the University of Southern California.At the heart of the scam was an unscrupulous consultant named William Singer, who ran a business that catered to anxious, affluent parents. Singer’s company specialized in gaming the intensely competitive college admissions system that had in recent decades become the primary gateway to prosperity and prestige. For students lacking the stellar academic credentials top colleges required, Singer devised corrupt workarounds.For instance, the chairman of a prestigious law firm paid $75,000 for his daughter to take a college entrance exam at a test center supervised by a proctor paid by Singer to ensure the student received the score she needed. Television actress Lori Loughlin and her husband, fashion designer Mossimo Giannulli, paid Singer $500,000 to get their two daughters admitted to USC as bogus recruits to the crew team. Another celebrity, the actress Felicity Huffman, known for her role in the television series “Desperate Housewives,” somehow got a bargain rate; for only $15,000, Singer put in the fix for her daughter’s SAT. In all, Singer took in $25 million over eight years.The scandal provoked universal outrage. In a polarized time, when Americans could scarcely agree on anything, it drew massive coverage and condemnation across the political spectrum — on Fox News and MSNBC, in The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times. Everyone agreed that bribing and cheating to gain admission to elite colleges was reprehensible. But the outrage expressed something deeper. In ways that people struggled to articulate, it was an emblematic scandal, one that raised larger questions about who gets ahead, and why.In describing his scam, Singer noted that some try to ensure entrance for marginally qualified applicants through the “back door,” giving a college a major gift. But he noted that strategy offered no guarantee of admission. He referred to his own technique of bribes and faked test scores as a surer “side door” approach.From the standpoint of fairness, however, it is hard to distinguish between the “back door” and the “side door.” Both give an edge to children of wealthy parents who are admitted instead of better-qualified applicants. Both allow money to override merit. Admission based on merit defines entry through the “front door.” As Singer put it, the front door “means you get in on your own.” It represents what most people consider fair.In practice, of course, it is not that simple. Money hovers over the front door as well as the back. Measures of merit are hard to disentangle from economic advantage. Standardized tests such as the SAT purport to measure merit. In practice, however, SAT scores closely track family income. The richer a student’s family, the higher the score he or she is likely to receive.Not only do wealthy parents enroll their children in SAT prep courses, they hire private admissions counselors to burnish their applications, enroll them in dance and music lessons, train them in elite sports such as fencing, squash, golf, tennis, crew, lacrosse, and sailing, the better to qualify for recruitment to college teams, and send them off to perform good works in distant places to demonstrate concern for the downtrodden. And don’t forget the potential benefits of legacy admission and donor appreciation.Then there is tuition. At all but the handful of colleges wealthy enough to admit students without regard for their ability to pay, those who do not need financial aid are more likely than their needy counterparts to get in.Critics point to these inequalities as evidence that higher education is not the meritocracy it claims to be. From this point of view, the admissions scandal is an egregious instance of the broader, pervasive unfairness that prevents higher education from living up to the meritocratic principle it professes.Despite their disagreements, those who consider the cheating scandal a shocking departure from standard admissions practices and those who consider it an extreme example of tendencies already prevalent in college admissions share a common premise: Students should be admitted to college based on merit. They also agree, implicitly at least, that those who get in based on merit have earned their admission and deserve the benefits that flow from it.If this familiar view is right, then the problem with meritocracy is not with the principle but with our failure to live up to it. Political argument between conservatives and liberals bears this out. Our public debates are not about meritocracy itself but about how to achieve it. Conservatives argue, for example, that affirmative action policies that consider race and ethnicity as factors in admission amount to a betrayal of merit-based admission; liberals defend affirmative action as a way of remedying persisting unfairness and argue that a true meritocracy can be achieved only by leveling the playing field between the privileged and the disadvantaged.But this debate overlooks the possibility that the problem with meritocracy runs deeper.Consider again the admissions scandal. Most of the outrage focused on the cheating and the unfairness. Equally troubling, however, are the attitudes that fueled the cheating. Lying in the background was the assumption, now so familiar that it is scarcely noticed, that admission to an elite university is a highly sought prize. The scandal was attention-grabbing not only because it implicated celebrities and the wealthy but also because the access they tried to buy was so widely and ardently desired.Why is this so? Why has admission to prestigious universities become so fiercely sought that privileged parents commit fraud to get their kids in? Or turn their high school years into a stress-strewn gantlet of AP classes, résumé building, and pressure-packed striving? Why has admission to elite colleges come to loom so large in our society that the FBI would devote massive law enforcement resources to ferreting out the scam, and that news of the scandal would command headlines and public attention for months?The obsession has its origins in the growing inequality of recent decades. It reflects the fact that more is at stake in who gets in where. As the wealthiest 10 percent pulled away from the rest, the stakes of attending a prestigious college increased. Fifty years ago, applying to college was less fraught. Fewer than one in five Americans went to a four-year college, and those who did tended to enroll in places close to home. College rankings mattered less than they do today.But economic anxiety is not the whole story. More than a hedge against downward mobility, Singer’s clients were buying something else, something less tangible but more valuable. They were, in fact, buying the borrowed luster of merit. In an unequal society, those who land on top want to believe their success is morally justified. In a meritocratic society, this means the winners must believe they have earned their success through their talent and hard work. “As the meritocracy intensifies, the striving so absorbs us that our indebtedness recedes from view. In this way, even a fair meritocracy, one without cheating or bribery or special privileges for the wealthy, induces the mistaken impression that we have made it on our own.”center_img Advice to students: Don’t be afraid to ask for help Related Michael Sandel poses a series of questions at a community event on ethics and the pandemic response But our disagreements about merit are not only about fairness. They are also about how we define success and failure, winning and losing — and about the attitudes the winners should hold toward those less successful than themselves. These are highly charged questions, and we try to avoid them until they force themselves upon us.Finding our way beyond the polarized politics of our time requires a reckoning with merit. How has its meaning been recast in recent decades, in ways that erode the dignity of work and leave many people feeling that elites look down on them? Are the winners of globalization justified in the belief that they have earned and therefore deserve their success, or is this a matter of meritocratic hubris?At a time when anger against elites has brought democracy to the brink, the question of merit takes on a special urgency. We need to ask whether the solution to our fractious politics is to live more faithfully by the principle of merit, or to seek a common good beyond the sorting and the striving.Copyright © 2020 by Michael J. Sandel. All rights reserved.last_img read more

CDC says new virus spreading beyond travelers

first_imgApr 28, 2009 (CIDRAP News) – As the official count of US swine influenza cases rose to 64 today, top federal health officials said it’s becoming increasingly clear that the virus is spreading beyond people who recently traveled to Mexico, the epicenter of the outbreak.”The information we’re seeing from states and locals . . . is that this appears to be acting like a normal flu virus, which has a fairly high rate of transmission in families,” Dr. Richard Besser, acting director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), said at a news briefing this afternoon. He said investigators are finding respiratory and flu-like illnesses in family members of case-patients.Besser said the only confirmed case of person-to-person transmission in the United States so far is in the two Kansas cases, which officials have said involved a husband and wife. But he said that probably only reflects the limited extent of testing, adding, “I expect we are seeing transmission within families.”Later he commented that while travel history is an important diagnostic clue in people who have a flu-like illness, “I wouldn’t limit it to that, because it’s really [in] a minority of cases to date that we’ve identified that travel history.”The signs of ongoing transmission seem to fit with the World Health Organization’s (WHO’s) move yesterday to raise the pandemic alert level to phase 4, which means a new flu virus can spread efficiently enough to cause sustained community outbreaks.This morning the CDC raised its case count to 64, from 40 as of yesterday, including 45 cases in New York, 10 in California, 6 in Texas, 2 in Kansas, and 1 in Ohio. Besser said five patients have been hospitalized—three in California and two in New York—but provided no details on their illnesses.The Associated Press reported this afternoon that “several hundred” students who attend a New York City Catholic school that has been hit by swine flu are sick.Besser reported that the latest illness onset date in a confirmed swine flu case is Apr 24, but that doesn’t mean there has been no transmission since then.”We’re asking that if you are a confirmed case not only that you stay home, but that the rest of your family stay home as well,” to limit the virus’s spread, he said.States all want suppliesIn other comments, Besser reported that all states have now requested their shares of antiviral drugs and personal protective equipment from the Strategic National Stockpile, and the CDC is working to fulfill the requests. He called the requests “a forward-leaning step,” since most states don’t have any cases yet.In response to a question, he said the CDC has not yet identified anything that distinguishes swine flu from seasonal flu, aside from the possible clue of a travel history. He said it was an advantage that the new virus did not emerge in the middle of the regular flu season.”If this outbreak had occurred in January or February it would’ve been very difficult to detect because of all the flu activity going on,” he said.On vaccine issues, Besser called the possibility of adding a swine flu antigen to the seasonal flu vaccine “an attractive approach” in that one vaccine could protect against seasonal and swine flu infections. “We do know that seasonal flu vaccine production is moving forward, and we don’t want to delay that, but that is under consideration,” he added.The other possibility is to make a monovalent vaccine, containing just the swine flu strain, he noted.The CDC previously said it was developing a seed strain of swine flu virus for companies to use in making a vaccine. Besser said the seed strain has not yet been sent to the manufacturers.He also reported that the incubation period in US swine flu cases appears to range from 2 to 7 days, which he termed typical for flu.Earlier in the day, Dr. Keiji Fukuda of the WHO emphasized—as he did yesterday—that the swine flu represents “a serious situation” but that a pandemic is not yet inevitable. “We really are in a period in which countries should take this opportunity to really prepare themselves for the possibility of a pandemic,” especially countries not yet dealing with cases, he said.He said that as of today the WHO officially counted 79 cases, including 40 in the United States (the number reported yesterday), 26 in Mexico, 6 in Canada, 3 in New Zealand, 2 in Spain, and 2 in the United Kingdom.Later today, the WHO in an online statement reported that Israel has confirmed 2 cases. The numbers are confirmed cases reported by governments.Fukuda, the WHO’s assistant director-general for health security and the environment, stressed how much remains unknown about the new virus, including where it originated and why severe cases seem to be confined to Mexico.”We still do not have a good explanation for why the pattern of cases in other countries appears relatively mild while the pattern in Mexico appears to be much more severe,” he said. Besser said much the same in the CDC briefing.When asked about reports that the virus might have originated in Mexico’s Vera Cruz state, Fukuda said, “I think right now it’s not possible to really know where this virus originated.” He added that the swine flu isolates that have been analyzed have been very similar, suggesting that the virus emerged recently and has not been around long enough to branch into many variants.Fukuda cautioned that even if swine flu activity subsides sometime soon, it will be at least several months before experts can conclude that a pandemic won’t happen. “It’s very hard to know when something like this disappears. I don’t think we’ll be able to conclude that in the next few weeks.”He also warned not to forget how the great pandemic of 1918-19 unfolded. “It also started out as a relatively mild spread of illness that really wasn’t much noted in most places, but then it became a very severe pandemic in the fall,” he said.See also: CDC swine flu pagehttp://www.cdc.gov/swineflu/Apr 28 WHO updatehttp://www.who.int/csr/don/2009_04_28/en/index.htmlWHO swine flu pagehttp://www.who.int/csr/disease/swineflu/en/index.htmllast_img read more

Jakarta seeks to protect poor as COVID-19 outbreak leaves many homeless

first_imgThe Jakarta administration has set up a number of homeless shelters across the city as the economic slowdown caused by the COVID-19 outbreak forces some hard-hit residents to live on the sidewalk as they are no longer able to afford to pay their rent.A recent KompasTV report showed dozens of Jakartans, some of whom were small traders, resting on the sidewalks in the Tanah Abang area of Central Jakarta at nightfall, awaiting aid from volunteers who usually come during the fasting month.“I had a small stall in Kota Tua [in West Jakarta]. Because of the coronavirus outbreak, I lost my customers and the government’s regulations prohibited me from opening my place. Meanwhile, we must eat and pay for housing,” Reza, one of the homeless people, said in an interview. The Jakarta administration has said that it plans to turn all city-owned sports halls (GOR) across the capital into temporary homeless shelters for those who have lost their jobs and homes because of the pandemic.“The important thing is that no one is abandoned,” Governor Anies Baswedan said recently, adding that the sports halls would also be equipped with public kitchens.[RA::Hunger hits as many Indonesians struggle during COVID-19 pandemichttps://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2020/04/21/hunger-hits-as-many-indonesians-struggle-during-covid-19-pandemic.html]The Jakarta Public Order Agency (Satpol PP) relocated 92 homeless people, who were found on the streets in Central Jakarta and South Jakarta on Friday and Saturday, to the Karet Tengsin GOR in Tanah Abang. Central Jakarta Social Agency head Ngapuli Peranginangin said, however, that the majority of those relocated had relatives in the areas surrounding Jakarta who picked them up shortly after relocation.“We conducted an assessment so that the homeless people’s backgrounds were clear. We have given them and their family a statement of warning to prevent them from returning to the streets,” Ngapuli told The Jakarta Post on Monday.He said there were nine people left in the GOR, who had no relatives living nearby and who could not go back to their hometowns in Papua and Riau due to the government’s mudik (exodus) ban.“Our targets are the victims of the pandemic, including those who suffer because of policies like the mudik ban, or medical workers kicked out of their rooming houses. But we haven’t found that many of them,” Ngapuli said. (syk)Topics :last_img read more

Just In: Ronaldo quarantined after Rugani’s positive coronavirus test

first_img That game is due to be played behind closed doors but is now widely expected to be postponed by UEFA. Rugani is the second professional football to test positive, with Hannover 96 defender Timo Hubers currently in quarantine. He took to Twitter and wrote: ‘You will have read the news and that’s why I want to reassure all those who are worrying about me, I’m fine. ‘I urge everyone to respect the rules, because this virus makes no distinctions! Let’s do it for ourselves, for our loved ones and for those around us.’ Italy is by far the worst affected European nation where more than 800 people have died of the illness. Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said supermarkets and pharmacies will be the only retailers to remain open in Italy. Juventus defender Rugani posted on Twitter, writing that the ‘virus makes not distinctions’ The Portuguese star flew to his homeland to visit his mother, who recently suffered a stroke, before the news broke and must stay put rather than fly back to northern Italy where the outbreak is at its most rampant. Both Ronaldo and Rugani shared a dressing room on Sunday when Juventus beat Inter Milan 2-0 behind closed doors. A picture posted on Instagram by Miralem Pjanic after the game show Ronaldo and Rugani celebrating the victory in a close huddle with their team-mates. Everyone who came into contact with Rugani on both sides has now required to be in isolation. It is hoped that the spread is limited as Rugani remained an unused substitute for Maurizio Sarri on the Juventus bench. Ronaldo is not flying back to Turin and must stay in quarantine in his family home in Portugal Loading… Cristiano Ronaldo is to remain in quarantine in his Madeira home after Juventus team-mate Daniele Rugani tested positive for coronavirus. Cristiano Ronaldo (left) and Daniele Rugani (circled) shared a dressing room on Sunday The Portuguese press plastered the story over their front pages with Quotidiano Sportivo and Abola both running headlines about Ronaldo being in quarantine. All sporting events in Italy have been cancelled until at least April 3 but Juventus are scheduled to face Lyon in the Champions League next Tuesday. Read Also: Tension as Juventus star tests positive for coronavirus Conte has allowed public services such as transport and industrial production to remain as long as there are adequate safety measures in place to stop the virus spreading. Sport is another sphere of public life that has ground to a halt. The Italian football federation said after a meeting on Tuesday that the Serie A season may not finish because of the outbreak. FacebookTwitterWhatsAppEmail分享 Promoted ContentCouples Who Celebrated Their Union In A Unique, Unforgettable Way2020 Tattoo Trends: Here’s What You’ll See This YearCan Playing Too Many Video Games Hurt Your Body?Insane 3D Spraying Skills Turn In Incredible Street ArtWhy Go Veg? 7 Reasons To Do This5 Of The World’s Most Unique Theme ParksTop 10 Most Populated Cities In The World18 Beautiful Cities That Are Tourist MagnetsThe Very Last Bitcoin Will Be Mined Around 2140. Read More10 Characters Who Deserve To Be Official Disney PrincessesTop 7 Best Car Manufacturers Of All TimeThe 18 Most Visited Cities In The Worldlast_img read more

Sachin Tendulkar, Laxman Served Notice For Conflict of Interest

first_imgNew Delhi: Mumbai Indians (MI) mentor Sachin Tendulkar and his Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH) counterpart V.V.S. Laxman have been issued notices by BCCI Ombudsman D.K. Jain for alleged ‘conflict of interest’ in their involvement with the Indian Premier League teams as well as being a part of the still existing Cricket Advisory Committee (CAC) of the BCCI.Jain has asked both Tendulkar and Laxman to send their responses by April 28. It also asked the BCCI to file its response in the matter.In the notice, Jain wrote: “A complaint has been received by the Ethics Officer of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) under Article 39 of the Rules and Regulations of the BCCI, regarding certain acts, allegedly constituting as ‘conflict of interest’ on your part.“You may file your written response to the accompanying complaint, supported by duly executed affidavit, on or before 28th April 2019, with the office of the Ethics Officer, BCCI, Mumbai, for further proceedings in the matter.”Delhi Capitals advisor Sourav Ganguly had earlier been asked to submit his role in the IPL outfit by Jain for the same reason as he is the third member of the CAC. The CAC had last picked Ravi Shastri as the coach of the national team. Tendulkar and Laxman have been served the notices after Sanjeev Gupta, a life member of the Madhya Pradesh Cricket Association, filed a complaint alleging that like Ganguly, the other two members of the CAC were also violating the BCCI’s conflict of interest rules. In his email to Jain, Gupta had alleged that Tendulkar and Laxman breached Rule 38 of the BCCI Constitution.“Nobody can evade by blatantly violating the Lodha reforms/Honorable Supreme Court verdict and the BCCI Constitution Rule 38 on the plea of being ‘advisor’ and ‘honorary’. In Rule 38 (4), there are many posts which are honorary [but] that does not mean that those post holders can hold more than one post at a time on the plea of being ‘honorary’,” Gupta had written. (IANS)Also Read: SPORTS NEWSlast_img read more