The Downside of the Academic Meritocracy

Quote: Zhuangzi, 286 BC

The sentiments of a current second-year college student attending a public flagship university in California when reflecting on the perils of the academic meritocracy:

Rewarding/punishing requires less effort [by faculty and students] though, making it the easier default [system for measuring academic performance]. Assigning expectations, whether positive or negative, is a low-effort path that leads to lots of power/authority [on the part of the school or college, as well as teachers or faculty over students.]

Sometimes rewards are almost as bad as punishment, if not worse. Punishments solidify this power imbalance [between students and teachers], while rewards keep the “subordinate(s)” [students] from rebelling/pushing against such a power dynamic in any substantial way.

We [students] give universities our money [in tuition and fees], yet also agree to play by their rules [the university standards to earn a degree] because of the educational system we’ve stuck ourselves in. We essentially submit ourselves to all sorts of (unnecessary) educational nightmares in order to be rewarded with a shiny diploma.

Yet, the university holds this diploma over our heads while collecting our money every step of the way and, many of these educational struggles [trying to meet standards by taking a requisite number of units per semester, as well as completing assignments] don’t even have anything to do with actual learning.

[Thus,] institutions benefit enormously from students when in reality the students’ interests should come first and foremost. That’s the whole purpose of higher education—to enrich students’ knowledge, skill sets, etc., especially when they are the ones paying for it.

It also appears that this kind of power dynamic isn’t sustainable over a long period of time…always seems to end.

As university systems continue being upended, necessitating a reordering of their entire educational process, how much longer will students extend their goodwill in anticipation of someday all “going back to normal”? As they publicly voice their dismay that the tuition paid isn’t concomitant to their educational experience and failing to realize their expectations about coming of age living away from their families, is sentiment about the value of a college education shifting?


For more information about how to both plan for and navigate complex educational issues, including the college admissions process, in order to minimize the risk of educational malinvestment, check out Creative Marbles Consultancy

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

About Jill Yoshikawa, Ed M, Partner of Creative Marbles Consultancy

Jill Yoshikawa, EdM, Harvard ’99, a seasoned, 25 year educator and consultant, is meticulous in helping clients navigate all aspects of the educational experience, no matter the level of complexity. She combines educational theory with experience to advise families, schools and educators. A UCSD and Harvard graduate, as well as a former high school teacher, Jill works tirelessly to help her clients succeed.
View all posts by Jill Yoshikawa, Ed M, Partner of Creative Marbles Consultancy →