Carolina Day School

Honors Papers 2021-22

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Hovendon 1 Erin Hovendon Ms. Evans AP Language and Composition 3 October 2020 Failings of Meritocracy: Academics and Athletics "Do you think it is still possible to start out poor in this country, work hard, and become rich?" (Hayes 62). Christopher Hayes quotes this loaded poll question in his book Twilight of the Elites, and it wonders at the modern-day popularity of the American Dream. Despite growing inequality, "72 percent still hold on to this singular faith" (Hayes 63). The American Dream preserves misplaced trust in the country's failing systems of meritocracy, which in turn blinds many to the warped success of the elites. Academics and athletics employ the idea of merit — innate talent and hard work — to identify talented individuals, and they value physical ability and measured intelligence respectively. Though they appear to support the ideals of the American Dream, both also impede success from natural talent alone and instead favor youth athletes and students with an elite background. Sports complicate the educational meritocracy, because athletic scholarships create a different pathway for acceptance to elite universities and therefore eliminate the possibility of a universal standard of application. While neither system builds an equal playing field, athletic and academic meritocracies counteract one another and promote only small amounts of social mobility. A perfect meritocracy in education means a level field for admissions and opportunities based solely on demonstrated merit, but socioeconomic inequality makes this impossible. High schools and universities alike have aimed for equality and implemented inclusive forms of

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