A. P. Carnevale

Jul 2, 2020

The Merit Myth

How Our Colleges Favor the Rich and Divide America

The New Press 2020

purchase at bookshop.org Colleges fiercely defend America’s higher education system, arguing that it rewards bright kids who have worked hard. But it doesn’t actually work this way. As the recent bribery scandal demonstrates, social inequalities and colleges’ pursuit of wealth and prestige stack the deck in favor of the children of privilege. For education scholars and critics Anthony P. Carnevale, Peter Schmidt, and Jeff Strohl, it’s clear that colleges are not the places of aspiration and equal opportunity they should (and claim to) be. The Merit Myth: How Our Colleges Favor the Rich and Divide America (The New Press) delves deeply into the rampant dysfunction of higher education today and critiques a system that pays lip service to social mobility and meritocracy, while offering little of either. Through policies that exacerbate inequality, including generously funding so-called merit-based aid rather than expanding opportunity for those who need it most, U.S. universities—the presumed pathway to a better financial future—are woefully (and in some cases criminally) complicit in reproducing racial and class privilege across generations. This timely and incisive book argues for unrigging the game by dramatically reducing the weight of the SAT/ACT; measuring colleges by their outcomes, not their inputs; designing affirmative action plans that honor the relationship between race and class; and making 14 the new 12—guaranteeing every American a public K–14 education. The Merit Myth shows the way to higher education becoming the beacon of opportunity it was intended to be. Anthony P. Carnevale, a chairman under President Clinton of the National Commission on Employment Policy, is the director of the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce. He lives in Washington, DC. Peter Schmidt, the author of Color and Money, is an award-winning writer and editor who has worked for Education Week and the Chronicle of Higher Education. He lives in Washington, DC. Jeff Strohl is the director of research at the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce. He lives in Washington, DC.
Stephen Pimpare is Senior Lecturer in the Politics & Society Program and Faculty Fellow at the Carsey School of Public Policy at the University of New Hampshire. He is the author of The New Victorians (New Press, 2004), A People’s History of Poverty in America (New Press, 2008), winner of the Michael Harrington Award, and Ghettos, Tramps and Welfare Queens: Down and Out on the Silver Screen (Oxford, 2017).

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