A New York Times Notable Book
A Daily Beast Best Book of the Year
A Huffington Post Best Book of the Year
From elementary school on, Walter Kirn knew how to stay at the top of his class: He clapped erasers, memorized answer keys, and parroted his teachers’ pet theories. But when he launched himself eastward to an Ivy League university, Kirn discovered that the temple of higher learning he had expected was instead just another arena for more gamesmanship, snobbery, and social climbing. In this whip-smart memoir of kissing-up, cramming, and competition, Lost in the Meritocracy reckons the costs of an educational system where the point is simply to keep accumulating points and never to look back—or within.
From the Trade Paperback edition.
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|Title of eBook: Lost in the Meritocracy|
|Release Date: 05-19-2009|
|Allowed Countries (hover)|
|Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group|
This eBook download is available in the following formats:
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Lost in the Meritocracy
On the bus ride down to St. Paul to take the test that will help determine who will get ahead in life, who will stay put, and who will fall behind, a few of my closest buddies seal their fates by opening pint bottles of cherry schnapps the moment we leave the high-school parking lot. My pals hide the liquor under their varsity jackets and monitor the driver's overhead mirror for opportune moments to duck their heads and swig. A girl sees what they're up to, mutters "Morons," and goes back to shading in the tiny ovals in her Scholastic Aptitude Test review book. She dated one of the guys awhile back and seemed amused by his clowning for a time, but lately she's grown serious, ambitious; I've heard she's decided to practice law someday and prosecute companies that pollute the air. When she notices one of the bottles coming my way, she shoots me a look of horror.
"No thanks," I say.
My friends seem wounded by this--aren't we teammates? We play football and baseball together. We hang out. In our high-school class there are only fifteen boys, and every summer before the bugs get bad a bunch of us pitch tents beside the river and cannonball from the cliffs into the current, sometimes splashing down in twos and threes. In the winters some of us work at the same ski hill, selling lift tickets and running chairlifts, and during haying season we form crews to help out the guys who live on farms. We talk as though we'll be together forever, but I've always known better: someday we'll be ranked. We'll be screened and scored and separated. I've known this, it seems, since my first few years in grade school, not in this town, Taylors Falls, but in Marine, a few miles down the valley, when I ra...