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Meritocracy Illusion: A Monetary Conspiracy

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posted on Jul, 10 2008 @ 08:04 AM
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It's probably best to start with the definitions before the details.



Main Entry: mer·i·toc·ra·cy
1 : a system in which the talented are chosen and moved ahead on the basis of their achievement
2 : leadership selected on the basis of intellectual criteria

www.merriam-webster.com...

For those who are new to hearing the term "Meritocracy" I can testify in saying that when you work for an employer, many times this is the crutch they use to explain why people are in the positions that they are. They then proceed to account for all your time and work explaining why it is inadequate for advancement, then explain an 'action plan' necessary for you to achieve more.

Our system of work and education is set up with the promotion of "if you work hard and do the right things, you'll really go places!" Let us examine this statement and the reasons why this isn't the case in a side-by-side comparison:

A.) If you've never lived life as a Janitor, Fast Food worker, Construction worker, Miner, or Factory worker (or similar jobs), I would recommend spending one day side-by-side with them. More often than not, you'll physically see just how feverishly hard they work either with speed, strength or both. Why is this? Because they know this is the only job they have, that it's rough finding a new one, and their supervisors demand it on a daily basis by threat either subtlely or overtly.

B.) If you've ever sat next to a Director of a bank and see what it is they do, We can see a lack of things such as speed and strength. It's a different job. It has stresses, surely, but comparatively speaking when we pull up the old adage "if you work hard and do the right things, you'll really go places!" we realize just how disjointed this statement truly is.

Is A not working hard? Is B working harder than A? Is A achieving less than B? Is B more intelligent? Is A less 'talented'? How are you basing these answers?

The 'truth' of the whole matter dates back to a modern variation of what Plato had set up merged with a capitalistic view of 'how things ought to be'. The revelation comes when examining jobs and their payscale:



Management
Office Manager: $31,000
Manufacturing Supervisor: $47,000
Human Resource Manager: $63,000
Plant Manager: $85,000
Managing Consultant: $104,000

www.deltastate.edu...

The above are all managers. Are we saying all Management Consultants achieve more than Office Managers? Are we also saying a Human Resources Manager deserves twice the annual salary because they are more talented or have a greater intelligence?

Other interesting demographic:
www.payscale.com...=United_States/Salary

Back to Plato then. In my readings, it seemed for his ideal republic, those of the greatest power would be those who are the most learned of men (or women in our more equalized society). Here's where his idea comes into the picture:



General
Average salary earned by a Bachelor's degree graduate (all fields included): $56,000
Average salary earned by a Master's degree graduate (all fields included): $60,000
Average salary earned by a Master's of Business Administration graduate: $76,000


Aha! A fraction of the pie is now revealed. Educational degree has a play in annual salary. Increasing order, just as Plato has discussed how long one spends in education versus what role in society they hold. In our country (and many capitalist ones) money is power. Please do not misunderstand, I'm not advocating any different form of government, merely examining pseudo-principles that need to be discarded so that we can 'get real' with what's really going on here.

Education is not merely staying in school and going to college, it's just not that simple. I wish it were. To get the educations listed above, one must do one or more of a number of things: 1.) Have parents pay for it 2.) Get scholarships (essentially being top in your graduating class to have 1/2 or 3/4 of it paid for) 3.) Apply for government and bank loans to go to be placed into a great deal of debt for a number of years. Hmm.... interesting. Although I can attest to the 3rd to be a worthwhile investment, it's isn't the easiest route to get things done and must be willing to accept this life-long responsibility of re-paying.

Your annual salary, however, is not all there is in determining your position in your job and/or how you're treated. There's a myriad of others that complicate the issue. These can include: who you know, your race/gender, sociological affinity/compatibility. Although these wedges may not be as great as the carte blanc "here's you're education, therefore here's your salary" mode of thinking, it would be a great injustice to reality to pretend they do not exist. Since my statement probably powder-kegged the discussion, I'll try to sum up more precisely what I mean.

Who you know: As a parent, I can say that I want the best for my child when s/he grows up. It is a family and friends kind of thinking to do all in our ability to put them into a comfortable position. Whatever advantage or edge we can use to get someone into it, we will use. Is that right? I don't know for certain. It's a battle between wanting to help and straight principle of being awarded for efforts.

Race/gender: It is an unfortunate reality that there are laws in place that require companies to fulfill certain demographics or quotas in regards to race and gender. EEO (Equal Employment Opportunity) Act was a great idea to ensure people of all races and genders were included, but turned into a mere 'meet the quota' game. Companies have to account for how many males versus females they have in various positions, how many minorities are in each level, and ensuring the company is racially meeting the template of the community they're physically located. What came from a good idea turned into a severe imbalace of hiring 'the right person for the job' it seems.

Social affinity and compatibility: Going back to the old 'teacher's pet' idea, it's not difficult to witness those who butter the toast of their supervisor are those who are most trusted and mobile in the workforce. One cannot merely walk into a workplace and begin to show a little corporate schmoozing to get ahead though. This supervisor goes through a process of selecting who they like and the reasons why. If the reasons are justified, then perhaps we have what many describe as a 'fair boss'. If it isn't justified however (or even perceived as justified) then of course there's favoritism. But, is favoritism bad? I suppose it depends on the qualities the supervisor is looking for in their 'favorite pick'. In one interview, I'd gotten a 'heads up' before walking into a director's office. When I sat down and said hello, I asked, "Do you already have your pick for the job?" The candid supervisor answered, "We do have someone in mind". After that we had an excellent relaxed conversation knowing full well I wouldn't be seriously considered. Although many may point fingers and say how wrong that director was, I appreciated the straight-forward, honest answer instead of an hour discussion of "things I need to achieve" in order to "earn" the position.

I've talked about a lot here and hope this presentation isn't misunderstood/misconstrued. I'm a person who bought into the idea of "meritocracy" but to say that is the truth of daily life is simply not the case. It would be nice to have the right person for the right job, our salary based upon merit, and equal opportunity for all, but that's not the way it works.

What's the cure?
1.) Work as hard as you can to have a clean conscious at the end of the day (not to chase after an invisible carrot your company is trying to wave in front of you). Know that personal satisfaction means more.
2.) Try all you can get the greatest degree possible. A degree gives salary justification without those other biased funky wedges of advancement.
3.) Do all you can to simply be happy with the job that you do. We spend a good portion of the day at work. It'll make time go by faster and life more rewarding.
4.) Try to get with a good working group of people. People can make all the difference. A relaxed, easy-going, and fun work environment reduces a great amount of stress a corporate driven society can yield.
5.) Look for upgrades and apply, apply, apply. Be sure you have something better before leaving one job for another. Don't get discouraged for being turned down, don't take it personal. If the company needs people, they'll figure out the details on your training/education. If they don't like you after an interview, you probably don't want to work for them anyway.

Always interested in meaningful feedback, questions and opinions, so the floor is open to the forum. What do you think?

[edit on 10-7-2008 by saint4God]




posted on Jul, 18 2008 @ 12:36 PM
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In addition, some parents here may have noticed a change in grading system for elementary school students. My child no longer gets an "A" for excellent, "C" for average, or "F" for failing. This shift away from a merit system has been exchanged for the business-type model of "Exceeds Expectations", "Slightly Above Expectatation", "Meets Expectations", "Slightly Below Expectations", and "Needs Improvement". We still have 'levels' so what is the difference? The difference is spin. Bascially we don't want to harm anyone's fragile ego by telling them they have failed. I'm not exactly sure why. Reason why this baffles me so is because my greatest moments in learning have been when I have failed. If you tell a failing child "needs improvement", is there really any incentive to get better? There is no penalty for doing poorly, no reward for exceeding expecations. This middle-road makes everyone...the...same. Very well then. Perhaps everyone should be given a college degree whether they've worked for it or not. Perhaps we should have the same pay despite effort. Maybe we need to ration out food, homes and cars equally. Is any of this sounding familiar?

I cannot blame schools really, they're trying to model businesses because that's where a lot of people who become adults are headed. The problem is in the business model, but is magnified with the future mal-investment of our children.

We are afraid to honestly tell people what we think...thus we drift away from the American Dream of meritocrisy.


[edit on 18-7-2008 by saint4God]



posted on Jul, 19 2008 @ 12:52 AM
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reply to post by saint4God
 


2 points:




2.) Try all you can get the greatest degree possible. A degree gives salary justification without those other biased funky wedges of advancement.


A degree doesn't mean anything other than a person sat through classes and passed some tests. Unless it's a Ph. D. it is not at all a reflection of how intelligent/resourceful/insightful/hardworking a person is. Even those with Ph. D.s are on shaky ground in my book, because by the time you're a grad student you know the profs in your department so well that if you put in the time they're not going to fail you.



Social affinity and compatibility...


Another name for this is people skills. Being sociable is an important skill to have in any business. People don't get to the top by being disliked. If the choice for a promotion is between two equal candidates and one is a fun/nice/funny/affable person and the other is a shy, geeky introvert who never says anything the choice is obvious. In a business setting you can't send in someone who can't close the deal, and the ability to BS with someone is the best compliment to a groundwork of knowledge.


Basically, in this hypothetical meritocracy, the skill of being a people person, which is very important for bringing in sales and clients should not be overlooked and the achievement of having a degree should not be overhyped.



posted on Jul, 22 2008 @ 07:14 AM
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Originally posted by sc2099
A degree doesn't mean anything other than a person sat through classes and passed some tests. Unless it's a Ph. D. it is not at all a reflection of how intelligent/resourceful/insightful/hardworking a person is. Even those with Ph. D.s are on shaky ground in my book, because by the time you're a grad student you know the profs in your department so well that if you put in the time they're not going to fail you.


Although on the whole I agree, a degree means 1 thing more. It means how much you can get paid $$$.

I see how a PhD reflects mental hardwork, insightfulness and resourcefulness, but not exactly sure how intelligence plays a role. I haven't gone for it yet, but am curious if you wanted to expand on the point.

Regarding the last sentence, it makes sense but didn't know that. I appreciate the heads-up.


Originally posted by sc2099
Another name for this is people skills.


Ya...which unfortunately does not mean the same as "being nice to others".


Originally posted by sc2099
Being sociable is an important skill to have in any business. People don't get to the top by being disliked. If the choice for a promotion is between two equal candidates and one is a fun/nice/funny/affable person and the other is a shy, geeky introvert who never says anything the choice is obvious. In a business setting you can't send in someone who can't close the deal, and the ability to BS with someone is the best compliment to a groundwork of knowledge.


Ah yes, but often there are those who are "fun/nice/funny/affable" because it is in their theatrical nature to manipulate their audience as well as surpress rival candidates. Rather than people skills, I'd call it "social manipulation". There are some the "good guys/gals" that get ahead I'm sure, but I've not seen many of them...and typically it's not based on mere social interaction.


Originally posted by sc2099
Basically, in this hypothetical meritocracy, the skill of being a people person, which is very important for bringing in sales and clients should not be overlooked


True, though not all jobs involve sales or client acquisition. I've been one to say "the right person for the right job" which often got laughs in business. I'd get the patronizing pat on the shoulder and a smile, "some day you'll 'get it' ". Social aptitude has little bearing on aeronautical engineering or football...or at least it shouldn't.


Originally posted by sc2099
and the achievement of having a degree should not be overhyped.


I don't know if it's overhyped per say, just perhaps not fair or candidly represented. Getting a degress is often financially based, as in, it's easier to get one if mom and day pay your way through. Secondly, a person is treated differently whether or not they have a degree by a great deal so this isn't exactly fair either. Meritocrisy is supposed to be about fairness. Rewards based on effort.

Thanks for these perspectives sc, it gave me good pause in considering why things are as such.



posted on Jul, 22 2008 @ 07:41 AM
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Anyone can do what a janitor does, so the market value of his skills is low.

Few people can do what a managing director does (properly, I mean), so the market value of her skills is high.

That's meritocracy in a capitalist environment; better learn to live with it.



posted on Jul, 22 2008 @ 12:23 PM
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Originally posted by saint4God

Although on the whole I agree, a degree means 1 thing more. It means how much you can get paid $$$.

I see how a PhD reflects mental hardwork, insightfulness and resourcefulness, but not exactly sure how intelligence plays a role. I haven't gone for it yet, but am curious if you wanted to expand on the point.

Regarding the last sentence, it makes sense but didn't know that. I appreciate the heads-up.


No problem. I agree with you that possession of a degree does have a large influence on how much the holder gets paid. Of course, this is more true in some fields than others. It seems like one needs a bachelor's as the bare minimum to even get a grunt level office job. (I'm speaking in regards to the US, btw. A degree is a lot less necessary in Canada in my experience, though no less prestigious.)

The reason I say that a doctorate doesn't represent the holder's intelligence is that I believe it more aptly represents a willingness to put one's nose to the grindstone for 6-7 years, and kiss up in the proper channels. I feel the same way about high school valedictorians. The whole time I was in high school (class of 02), the smartest person was never the top of the class because they didn't care about doing extra credit to improve their gpa .003%.

I suppose getting a doctorate is hard work as there is lots of research and writing involved. But when a student is hanging around a particular department for 7 years, they get to know the professors and department heads intimately. The student has had them for many classes and put in many hours of work for them. So basically what I'm saying is that a person would have to be an idiot to be enrolled in the doctorate program at a university and fail to obtain it. And clearly if they've made it that far in school they're not dumb enough to stop showing up which is basically the only way they would fail.

It seems that if you just put forth the effort to write a dissertation, they give you the degree, regardless of the content. It's mostly chopped up bits of previous papers written anyway. After all, you did just spend 7 years and hundreds of thousands of dollars to get it.

This I have found to be true in liberal arts fields, but it is probably more meritbased in scientific fields. Haha, those profs don't seem to care if you pass/fail, live/die. I don't have any experience in those departments so I can't really say.





Ah yes, but often there are those who are "fun/nice/funny/affable" because it is in their theatrical nature to manipulate their audience as well as surpress rival candidates. Rather than people skills, I'd call it "social manipulation". There are some the "good guys/gals" that get ahead I'm sure, but I've not seen many of them...and typically it's not based on mere social interaction.


I would never have pegged the class clown as a social manipulator, haha. But you have definitely given me a new way to look at him. What I term 'people skills' are necessary in the workplace not just to woo clients or in sales type jobs. It is also necessary to prove one can get along with other employees. The person who is always rubbing people the wrong way or is percieved as gauche is never going to get promoted very far.

If someone doesn't know how to handle themselves at a fancy dinner, or in the office breakroom, or when the boss is around, they are not management material regardless of skill because they could prove to be an embarassment to the company if they make a huge gaffe in front of higher ups or competitors. The higher someone rises in a company, the more time they spend with others in the field, wheeling and dealing if you will. This is why social skills are important.



Getting a degress is often financially based, as in, it's easier to get one if mom and day pay your way through.


You can say that again!

Secondly, a person is treated differently whether or not they have a degree by a great deal so this isn't exactly fair either. Meritocrisy is supposed to be about fairness. Rewards based on effort.


In some people's opinions it took a large effort to get a degree and they believe this effort needs to be recognized. I disagree as getting a degree is pretty easy, IMO, depending on the field and one's natural abilities. If you went to a state school and partied for 4 years and came out the other side with a piece of paper, what does that really mean anyway? Nothing to me.

However, you are correct in that a degree has a prestige which is hard to replicate, regardless of the effort that went into obtaining it. Personally, I am much more impressed by people who made something of themselves without the crutch of a degree, like Bill Gates and Richard Branson.



posted on Jul, 22 2008 @ 12:27 PM
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More to the core of this thread, I think the reason that today's society fails to be a meritocracy, even though it is supposed to be one, is that people are judged by their percieved merits rather than their actual ones.

Things that preceed their actions, such as race or sex to fill a quota, a university degree, a family name make it so content of character and ability are not first and foremost when dealing with people, which is obviously a problem that needs to be overcome. Though, it has always been this way in our history. To overcome such things would be to overcome human nature.



posted on Jul, 23 2008 @ 01:20 AM
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reply to post by sc2099
 


More to the core of this thread, I think the reason that today's society fails to be a meritocracy, even though it is supposed to be one, is that people are judged by their percieved merits rather than their actual ones.

My emphasis.

This is precisely what I meant by 'meritocracy in a capitalist society'.

What gives something value? A Marxist would say the value of a good is the value of the labour that went into making it. But markets don't work that way. In a market economy (actually, in any economy), the value of a good is the value that someone is willing to pay for it -- the so-called 'market value'.

But market value is always perceived value. Even money itself only has value because people perceive it as valuable.

It isn't that society fails to be a meritocracy. It is that people have different perceptions of what constitutes merit - what are its attributes - and value those attributes accordingly.



posted on Jul, 23 2008 @ 07:37 AM
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Originally posted by Astyanax
Anyone can do what a janitor does, so the market value of his skills is low.

Few people can do what a managing director does (properly, I mean), so the market value of her skills is high.


And this is where I have to disagree. In fact, it really illustrates my point quite well. Janitors have to deal with biohazardous substances (did you know urine is an infectious agent?) as well as toxic chemcals. One has to know what not to mix (ammonia + bleach = lethal chlorine gas). They put up with a lot of crap both in the bathrooms and from their bosses. From being one step away from a managing director, I can say that perhaps there are 'woes' from time to time, but from a labor standpoint, one is not graded upon according how hard they work. By mere effort within a company, a janitor cannot become a managing director and by failing efforts would a managing director become a janitor.


Originally posted by Astyanax
That's meritocracy in a capitalist environment; better learn to live with it.


It isn't meritocracy at all and it is exactly what I'm trying to say. It is a reformed classist society but with different barriers created.

[edit on 23-7-2008 by saint4God]



posted on Jul, 23 2008 @ 11:21 AM
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Whereas I am a perennial objector to the concept. You have very cogently described what I believe to be the 'paradigm' involved in the 'degreed' system of meritocracy.

I feel however, that an element of the argument that bears comment is "faith."

In what way has the higher education system earned the trust and faith of the community to actually see to it that those 'conferred' degrees are actually deserving of it? As of now, my bias is towards the notion that a degree is an indication of how much debt you have incurred in the higher education machinery. Not much more.

The level of 'merit' associated with a degree is HIGHLY questionable. I have seen the process in motion. From the beginning to the very end; and I have found that the degrees conferred are either a result of mechanistic student processing, at the lower levels, or fluid and questionable 'relationship' models between mentor professors and prospective 'doctorates'.

I feel that the ability to interface with a University is more important than the material you learn. And I have found that many 'degreed' folks border on the 'barely' competent. Often, by the time you enter your third or fourth year of study, the subject has undergone revision and change such that, if you were to repeat the early years of schooling they would find much of the material either new, or more challenging than before.

Then there is the profit-based operation of MOST universities (private or otherwise). In essence, Universities want two things, money, and political relevance. The rest is all PR.



posted on Jul, 23 2008 @ 12:31 PM
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reply to post by Astyanax
 


I do understand what you're saying. People might think Britney Spears has any merit whatsoever - she can't sing, and she's not a great dancer or songwriter. But she and the record executives who made millions off her would disagree. Her merit isn't her talent, it's her ability to look sexy and generate revenue.

By your definition a capitalist society is definitely a meritocracy and I do agree with this. However I think the wrong merits are emphasized because on the whole our society has become rich yet morally bankrupt. If the merit is cash then we definitely know what we're doing. But if the merit we want to base society on is happiness outside of money then we're not doing it right.



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