How the Myth of the Meritocracy Ruins Students

The plight of the over-scheduled, over-tested, stressed out student has become the subject of much hand-wringing and several good educational policy prescriptions. ​But if youth are to escape the educational pressure cooker, we need to understand how the pervasive myth of the meritocracy traps them in it.

As the instant classic 2009 film, Race to Nowhere, and its 2015 sequel, Beyond Measure, expose, middle-class youth feel overwhelmed with pressure to achieve academically, artistically and athletically to gain admission to top colleges; poor students, meanwhile, worry that they won’t even be able to pass the culturally biased high school exit exam.

Both sets of youth are riddled with anxiety and depression. Their struggles to cope can lead to everything from perfectionistic over-striving to cheating, dropping out, substance abuse and suicide. And both sets of youth are suffering the tedium of curricula that teach to the test and marginalize art, music, physical education and any subject that can’t be tested on a Scantron.

Read more