The test of a meritocracy
Q: Elena Kagan's nomination has raised the prospect of an "all-Ivy" Supreme Court. Is it a good idea for any institution, or any sector of society, to rely so heavily on a handful of elite universities to educate and train its leaders?
I question the premise that suggests we draw too many of our leaders from the best universities. Our university system should be a point of pride for us. It's the envy of the world, attracting students and professors from all over the globe. We shouldn't be surprised, then, that these schools produce so many of our society's leading figures.
The American system works because we believe in merit. This isn't an aristocracy, it's a meritocracy. By and large, talent and hard work are rewarded, whatever one's background happens to be. Are you the right person for the job? Do you have the necessary qualifications? The skill, the knowledge, the passion? Those should be the criteria when judging whether a person is suited to a position. Usually our concern is whether someone is smart enough to lead.
Raising this issue for political reasons does not help the court or the American people. Sad to say, anti-intellectualism is a persistent strain in American discourse. It has never served us well, and certainly not now as we embark on a century in which those nations with knowledge-based, high-tech economies will probably dominate. Our society is already too divided. We should avoid entering into dubious debates that only make us more polarized.
The Supreme Court might indeed be Ivy-heavy at this time in our history, but in other ways the court has become more diverse than ever. Let's worry more about the nominees' degree of merit than about the sources of their academic degrees.
Posted by: tcement | May 18, 2010 11:44 AM
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