Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The Myth of Meritocracy

School administrators, writes Senior, understand best of all that intelligence tests for young kids are "practically worthless as predictors of future intelligence....Rather than promoting a meritocracy, in other words, these tests instead retard one. They reflect the world as it's already stratified--and then perpetuate that same stratification."


Intelligence is a process, not a fixed, gene-determined, thing. This process begins very early on, before we can even really see it, and we therefore often confuse these early, invisible stages with some sort of innate giftedness. Then we test kids and report the results as innate differences--this one is gifted, this one is not. This one has extra promise; that one does not. We send the "gifted" ones to good schools with small class sizes, better-trained teachers, better infrastructure, better relationships with parents, and higher expectations. We send the apparently-unpromising kids to under-funded, teach-to-test schools with minimal expectations.

And then we tell ourselves that we live in an educational meritocracy.

- David Shenk

and more: The Junior Meritocracy (By Jennifer Senior)

Food for thought: How about Singapore's case of testing ten-and-twelve year olds and putting a select few into the Gifted program?