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The Myth Of Meritocracy

The United States has always ironically embraced meritocracy—a term used to signify that success is granted to those who earned it based on their ability. This asserts that race, gender, and other discriminatory factors do not infringe on someone’s potential.

This myth has been embraced and is used to deflect issues that predominantly affect marginalized communities.

Meritocracy is ideal; yet when juxtaposed with the realities of the current system and American’s history of bigotry, it is simply far-fetched.

To become a meritocracy, America needs to do much more than simply declare that they are one. America needs to instead work towards this system by embracing equal opportunity and resources for all despite socioeconomic status.

In American society, there are certain core values that are supposed to represent what America is. To many, individualism and success are essential values accepted by all.

In the United States, people are responsible for their own success or failure. Furthermore, individuals are encouraged to work harder and be better than others, as this will eventually lead to wealth and power in the future.

When people either reject the culturally defined goals of success or they are unable to achieve this “success”, they are forced to blame themselves.

They are blamed for their “lack of ability” and laziness, and there is tunnel vision focus on their “character defects”. Yet, blaming a person for their lack of success ignores the structural issues that hold people back, starting from education.

Meritocracy rewards people that are already ahead. How education is funded proves it.

Public school funded in the United States comes from federal, state, and local sources. Yet, nearly half the funds received comes from property taxes.

A property tax is a real-estate tax that is calculated by the local government and paid for by the property owner. To determine property taxes, a municipality would hire a tax assessor.  The tax assessor assigns property taxes by multiplying tax rates by the market value of the land.

Since funding for education is through local taxes, the system generates massive funding disparities between affluent and low-income communities.

The national average spent per student is around $11,841. Depending on whether the community is impoverished or wealthy, the amount spent per student is vastly different.

In communities that need funding the most, they are forced to battle structural inequalities with a lack of monetary resources. Districts that lack adequate funding have lower-paid teachers, neglected facilities, bigger class sizes, and are unable to fully prepare students for college or the real world.

How can we be so self-confident that people are responsible for their own success or failure when inequalities such as this blatantly exist? As a society, there is this expectation that everyone should be able to achieve success.

While American embraces this belief, students across the country are being left behind. Students deserve much more than what they get, and it is time to radically change how this country views and funds education.

By: Trevor Falsey

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