Lost in the Meritocracy

Lost in the Meritocracy

The Undereducation of An Overachiever

Book - 2009
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Random House, Inc.

"Percentile is destiny in America."

So says Walter Kirn, one of our best observers and interpreters of American life, in this whip-smart memoir of his own long strange trip through American education. Working his way up the ladder of standardized tests, extracurricular activities, and class rankings, Kirn launched himself eastward from his rural Minnesota hometown to the ivy-covered campus of Princeton University. There he found himself not in a temple of higher learning so much as an arena for gamesmanship, snobbery, social climbing, ass-kissing, and recreational drug use, where the point of literature classes was to mirror the instructor's critical theories and actual reading of the books under consideration was optional. Just on the other side of "the bell curve's leading edge" loomed a complete psychic collapse.

LOST IN THE MERITOCRACY reckons up the costs of a system where the point is simply to keep accumulating points and never to look back—or within. It's a remarkable book that suggests the first step toward intellectual fulfillment is getting off the treadmill that is the American meritocracy.



Baker & Taylor
Chronicles a long, strange trip through America's ivy-covered temples of higher learning where standardized tests, class rankings and gamesmanship stand in the way of true intellectual fulfillment, and reveals the psychic costs of our advance-or-else educational system.

Blackwell North Amer
"Percentile is destiny in America."
So says Walter Kirn, a peerless observer and interpreter of American life, in this whip-smart memoir of his own long strange trip through American education. Working his way up the ladder of standardized tests, extracurricular activities, and class rankings, Kirn launched himself eastward from his rural Minnesota hometown to the ivy-covered campus of Princeton University. There he found himself not in a temple of higher learning so much as an arena for gamesmanship, snobbery, social climbing, ass-kissing, and recreational drug use, where the point of literature classes was to mirror the instructor's critical theories and actual reading of the books under consideration was optional. Just on the other side of the "bell curve's leading edge" loomed a complete psychic collapse.
Lost In The Meritocracy reckons up the costs of a system where the point is simply to keep accumulating points and never to look back - or within. It's a remarkable book that suggests the first step toward intellectual fulfillment is getting off the treadmill that is the American meritocracy. Every American who has spent years of his or her life there will experience many shocks of recognition while reading Walter Kirn;s sharp, rueful, and often funny book - and likely a sense of liberation at its end.

Baker
& Taylor

Chronicles the author's trip through American higher education, where standardized tests, class rankings and gamesmanship stand in the way of true intellectual fulfillment, revealing the psychic costs of the American educational system.

Publisher: New York : Doubleday, c2009
Edition: 1st ed
ISBN: 9780385521284
0385521286
Characteristics: 211 p. ; 21 cm

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bulldog21
Feb 18, 2014

I read all the way through it, and wish I had spent my time on something else. Indeed, Mr. Kirn was lost at Princeton, and I have to wonder why he bothered to write the book.

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