Meritocratic tendencies in contemporary society are influencing diverse spheres, including education. Meritocracy presupposes the acquisition of statuses and rewards not due to higher social position and wealth but because of personal achievements. This tendency moves to private schools and alters the formation of an adolescent elite. Thus, according to Khan, who investigated the issue of privilege on the example of St. Paul’s School, “the new elite, though, tends to “deemphasize refined tastes and ‘who you know’ and instead highlight how you act in and approach the world” (14). As a result, the new elite is grounded on merit and hard work, which are expected to lead to better results in the future. This tendency is observed in many schools, but its perception may differ.
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A young woman, Stephanie Jimenez, tells the story of her school life and attempts to analyze the causes of her success. Until the age of 12, the girl studied at a local public school like other immigrant children in the neighborhood. It was not a place for good education due to poor discipline and depreciation of knowledge. Thus, winning a scholarship to an elite private school was a chance for the girl. There were some issues that surprised her in the new school.
The first thing was that the students were not afraid to answer during lessons because it was normal and was not considered to be “showing off” (Jimenez). Another difference was in students attending school. Unlike her previous school, with the majority of students of color, the private school was mostly white. Nevertheless, belonging to a racial minority and the fact that her family was poor did not influence the attitude to the girl.
The case of Stephanie Jimenez and her experience can be discussed in the context of an argument provided by Khan (14). The argument that the new elite is no more than a group of entitled students from wealthy families but believe in the significance of hard work to achieve something meaningful is valid in contemporary schools as well. The belief that hard work is a chance to change lives and the idea of her father that “anyone from anywhere had a fair chance at success” made Stephanie try something new (Jimenez). At her new school, she was not treated as a person of lower social status or discriminated against because of skin color. The focus was on her achievements, which were not common in her previous public school.
On the whole, the tendency to minimize the impact of family wealth and position on the status of children is a positive one. It is one of the steps necessary to reduce discrimination by race or income in society. The creation of the “new elite” at schools can have a positive impact on the development of society on the whole because students with new values that are grounded in hard work and personal achievements rather than prosperity and family high status go to work and will spread their values.
Currently, the situation with discrimination is rather complicated. Despite the development of the new elite at schools, talented and gifted students of color who go to colleges and even graduate with high achievements face problems with employment. Therefore, more change is needed in the society on the whole, but the adoption of meritocratic values instead of aristocratic can take a long time.
Jimenez, Stephanie. “My Elite, Segregated Education Changed Me – But Not In the Way You’d Think.” The Guardian, 2017. Web.
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Khan, Shamus Rahman. Privilege: The Making of an Adolescent Elite at St. Paul’s School. Princeton University Press, 2011.