On Merit and the Meritocracy (January 11, 2010)

. . .

D          “She was the premier applicant.  Primus inter pares.  But she did not say what they wanted her to say.”

U          “She could tutor the teachers.”

D          “I know.  Her talent is a threat.  That is another challenge but not the biggest one.  She informed us what she intended to say in the interview.  She was forthright, honest and candid.  That was the problem.  She was probably too blunt.  The other kids were tutored and grilled by their parents to say precisely what they wanted the kids to say.”

U          “Life sometimes seems to be a script of lies.”

D          “I know she is beyond devastated.  And I feel worse.  We deliberated giving her a lecture on life and encouraging her to play along.  We could have told her that she is acting out a character in one of the plays she sits down and writes without any prompting.  Mouth the lines and the lies and act your role.  Say what needs to be said.  Do what needs to be done.  It is just a game.  Play the game.  There is no truth.  I will always feel that I failed her as a parent.”

. . .


. . .

A          “They rejected him.  Not even on the wait list.  He was precisely what they claimed they seek in the brochure, yet they took only kids who are well-connected and one underprivileged youngster.  He told them that the program was sound but could be improved and noted some virtues of other programs.  He told them that success and power are not the most important things in life even though he could accept wearing the blazer emblazoned with ”Success and Power” on the crest.  He was probably too blunt and honest about everything, but that is who he is.  That was his undoing.”

F          “He is a delight to talk to, sort of an adolescent Oxford don donning a tee shirt.  What struck me is his insouciant recognition and acceptance of his genius as something of a faithful friend.  Mathematics is effortless for him and its cousin, music, is effortless.”

A          “My concern is that he will quit practicing.  He intuits without effort what others have to be told three times.  He may not work at anything.”

F          “Words are musical notes for him; he can make the language sing.  He is left brained and right brained and front brained and back brained in one big brain.  He combines five rare traits I rarely find in pairs:  courage, intellect, integrity, humanity, and curiosity.  I know what they want.  My recommendation would not have meant squat.  I could have finessed a letter for him, but I don’t have any stroke.”

A          “He knows what he’s got and now he gets it.  Now he has rejected any involvement because he says that ‘participation is ratification’ of a corrupt system or something like that.  He’ll stencil it on a tee shirt.  He is threatening to get a tattoo.”

F          “The school seeks to maximize long-run profits.  Each admission decision is a business decision.  Character is set by this age.  He is likely to challenge the system not coddle it.  That is not good for business or for the business of a profit-maximizing school.”

A          “The grand irony is that the program needs someone, if only one person, who can think independently and challenge orthodoxy.  Everyone else is moving in lock step.”

F          “When do the experts suggest informing a kid that the rewards in America go to those who lie and deceive.”

. . .

[See the “e-ssay” dated Feb. 20, 2006 titled “Perjury, The American Way” and other “e-ssays.”]

Bumper stickers of the week:

“When the truth is found to be lies    And all the joy within you dies.”

“Don’t You Want Somebody To Love” Darby Slick/Jefferson Airplane (1966)

“I would vote for you, but you know sometime you are going to be in a situation where you will say something that you think you have to say that will set someone off and then you will lose your job or something.  Larry is going to be a doctor.  He will succeed.”

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