Rebecca Penrod ’18

Project Title: The Dangers of Meritocracy and Education
Mentor: Paula White

The idea that Americans live in a society where one’s success or achievement is determined by their ability and work ethic alone is known as meritocracy. Meritocracy provides every American with the hope that they might someday advance from the poorest of social classes to the richest. Historically, the education system, once known as the Great Equalizer, was believed to provide all who worked hard the opportunity for a better life. However, today’s education system might actually be one of the most compelling pieces of evidence as to why meritocracy is a myth.

The interaction of the school and the social class of the surrounding community often produces students that retain the same social class standing as their community. For students of low income communities this leads to less social mobility. For example, students born into lower-class families, which earn less than fifteen thousand dollars annually, have less than a ten percent chance to reach the top of the social ladder. In addition, statistics show that seventy four percent of students performing at the highest level in upper-class schools will go on to graduate from college while under thirty percent of students performing at the same high level in lower-class schools will go on to graduate from college.

These findings are in part attributed to the inequity of opportunities and resources provided to students of different social classes. Curriculums targeted towards specific social classes and different expectations for students of different social classes are just two factors related to the education system that contribute to this problem. Due to factors such as these and their often unrecognized effects, students are often prevented from having their full potential recognized. The hidden danger of meritocracy is believing that the educational outcomes are valid and not merely based on socioeconomic differences.

Contact Info


Schimmel/Conrades Science Center Atrium
P 740-368-3075

OWU Connection Programs
Merrick Hall