The Meritocracy


I’ve had mixed feelings about the meritocracy lately. At the beginning of my college experience, I was squarely against it. The processes we use to develop and screen our future leaders produces morally stunted individuals who are incapable of fulfilling lives, the argument goes.

But, I can’t help noticing where these indictments of the meritocracy are coming from. They are all the “winners,” so to speak, of the competitions they decry. Ivy League professors, columnists at prestigious publications, lawyers turned-billionaires, the list goes on. What’s more, I actually like and personally admire these people. Not because of the fact they make these critiques, but because they seem to understand and value the types of things that make a human life go right.

These two facts conflict. I have immense respect for these people, so I’d like to heed their advice and reduce my participation in the system they call the meritocracy to the fullest extent. On the other hand, I cannot ignore that they are the product of it. What if the misery and aimlessness they describe going through is something of a prerequisite for the enlightened perspective they have now? Speaking pragmatically, they are only in their positions now because of the credentials they accumulated during their youth. Why should I not do the same?





Oregon Links

State of Oregon changes zoning laws to help increase supply of housing. Finally, they’re doing something right after the rent control bill.

Portland protests making the news.

A Portland startup is in the business of helping cities manage their e-scooters and other forms of “micromobility.”

By scoring operators based on their performance against rigorous data benchmarks, this new service will help cities with the difficult and error-prone process of knowing which operators are meeting their compliance requirements.

I find this funny. A startup that helps cities manage startups.


On a personal note, I’ve realized I would like nothing better to come back to Portland in my adulthood and give back to the city. Whether this be through volunteering in the school system (Lincoln, hopefully) or getting involved in local politics, I want to have a hand in allowing it to be the place it is.

UCLA Ed-Angst

I was thinking about the clear gap between institutional prestige and undergraduate educational experience that I’m seeing at UCLA. Yes, I know UCLA is a research university and the students tend to come second, but that shouldn’t stop me from thinking about it.

Because I have only experienced UCLA (and a little of Babson/USC,)I could go to other colleges and universities and take some classes there for a semester/quarter and come back to report on what the undergraduate experience is like but that’s impractical. I have asked some of my friends that do go to other universities how their education is shaping up and the results fall into two categories: If they go to a liberal arts or “elite” school, they generally love their experience so far and wouldn’t change it for the world. Otherwise (large public university/large private university), they either hate it, or don’t think about their educational experience that much (and to be fair, not everyone has to).

But I do think there is something ironic/tragic about one of the so-called “best” universities in the world (ranked #19 by US News and World Reports, whatever that means) giving the average student only a lackluster education. I would expect any university that’s good enough for Terence Tao is good enough for me, but I now know that’s bad thinking as Terence is one of the most brilliant mathematicians who have ever lived, and I am incapable of doing any type of academic research.

Personally, I think students (myself included) should stop falling for large universities. I understand they are a financial necessity for many and a great fit for some, but if you don’t want to spend the rest of your formal education sitting in lecture halls functionally taking MOOCs or having your papers read by TA’s, don’t come here. If you don’t want to have to apply to for nearly every undergraduate club, don’t come here. If you don’t want to go through entire classes never knowing the name of a single one of your classmates, don’t come here. If you really want to have to fight for the type of education that you want, do come here. I’ll do it with you.