But if the meritocracy is working, why does it still feel as if the system is not? The tensions surfacing in the SFFA lawsuit are merely part of a larger frustration with the role of college admissions in our society. To many people, the justice proclaimed in the verdict feels illusory.
It was at this time that the famous economist John Maynard Keynes published his essay “Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren” in which he imagined Western societies a hundred years later continuing along this trajectory and escaping the “economic problem” once and for all. He envisioned four to eight fold increases in standards of living accompanied by 15 hour workweeks. More importantly, he envisioned freedom from capitalistic principles that make a virtue of greed. We would cast off the pretensions of capitalism that we only adopted to get us over the subsistence hump, and finally reach a world where we might fully realize our human potential.
We are also a society that has embraced this tool with passion. In elementary school I remember memorizing the scientific method, admiring the genius of Isaac Newton and Marie Curie, and watching with awe my first science experiment, a baking soda and vinegar volcano. STEM education is the stated center of U.S. education policy. News outlets, responding to public demand, now regularly utilize the statistics and studies that their forebears once flippantly labeled nerd-stuff. And wherever we go, we encounter technology, each device quietly advertising to us the power of this tool we call science.
Thinking about these photographs made me reflect on my relationship with the past. I interact with it everyday, whether it’s by reading old books about old characters, or hearing about my older relatives, or studying the ancient empires of the world. But in my mind these lives led and cherished and ended were merely like old black and white photographs. They were faded and stripped of the color that filled their lives, reduced to the simplest dimensions and expressed in shallow generalizations.
First, it abandons the simple decision-making framework of cost and benefit in favor of panicked alarmism, leading to its own misguided mission. Listen to any divest protest or mainstream environmentalist messaging, and it is impossible to avoid the common idea that climate change is the “single most important issue” of today, and a future catastrophe waiting to destroy us.