One of the most enduring and damaging myths is that wealth denotes competence. The wealthy are often beneficiaries of systematic privilege, familial resources, and pure luck. Believing them capable, and punishing the poor for perceived faults, has hurt this country immeasurably.
— Jared Yates Sexton (@JYSexton) April 5, 2019
I recently addressed the topic of meritocracy in the wake of the college admissions scandal. Based on my title—”The Rich Are No Smarter Than You”—it’s pretty clear how I feel as the product of a lower-middle class family whose mother worked her way through college and became the first member of my immediate family to achieve a Bachelor’s degree.
I was lucky to have gone to good public schools that prepared me for college, and I was also lucky to have grown up an only child, which meant that my (single) mother could afford to pay part of my (in-state) tuition on a teacher’s salary. The government, by way of grants and loans, covered a large portion as well, and I also received about $10,000 in merit-based scholarships for my work as a student journalist. I was not “punished” as a result of my financial status (unless you include the student loan debt I took several years to pay off)—as Mr. Sexton puts it in his tweet—but I did have to work hard.
Is it fair that some people have privileges that others do not? Moreover, is there a way for the government or private sector to address these disparities of opportunity? Should job applications ask about social class along with questions about race, disability, and veteran status?
Are we—as a nation—punishing competent, law-abiding citizens merely for growing up in the wrong neighborhood, with the wrong parents, at the wrong time?
What did you learn from it all that you can share with other readers? (Be sure to include your “AHA!” moment!)
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