Friday, May 18, 2007

Quote of the Week

Sometimes "Quote of the Week" is the accumulated wisdom of the ages, and sometimes it's someone who's put into words a thought that hadn't quite coalesced in my own head. This week, it's the latter:
Meritocratic systems are democratic (since, in theory, everyone gets a place at the starting line) and efficient (since resources are not wasted on the unqualified), but they are huge engines of anxiety. The more purely meritocratic the system -- the more open, the more efficient, the fairer -- the more anxiety it produces, because there is no haven from competition. Your mother can't come over and help you out -- that would be cheating! You're on your own. Everything you do in a meritocratic society is some kind of test, and there is never a final exam. There is only another test.

- Louis Menand, "The Graduates," New Yorker, 5/21/07 issue

ObSF: "Fast Times at Fairmont High," Vernor Vinge

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