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The Tyranny of the Meritocracy:…

The Tyranny of the Meritocracy: Democratizing Higher Education in America

by Lani Guinier

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4718396,329 (3.84)None
"Standing on the foundations of America's promise of equal opportunity, our universities purport to "serve as engines of social mobility" and "practitioners of democracy." But as acclaimed scholar and pioneering civil rights advocate Lani Guinier argues, the merit systems that dictate the admissions practices of these institutions are functioning to select and privilege elite individuals rather than create learning communities geared to advance democratic societies. Having studied and taught at schools such as Harvard University, Yale Law School, and the University of Pennsylvania Law School, Guinier has spent years examining the experiences of ethnic minorities at the nation's top institutions of higher education, and here she lays bare the practices that impede the stated missions of these schools. Guinier argues for reformation, not only of the very premises of admissions practices but of the shape of higher education itself, and she offers many examples of new collaborative initiatives that prepare students for engaged citizenship in our increasingly multicultural society"--… (more)



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This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I was pleased to win a copy of " The Tyranny of the Meritocracy: Demoralizing Higher Education in America" by Lori Guinier through the Library Thing Early Reviewers giveaway. I work in public education. I work in inner city schools where the issues of immigration, poor education levels, poverty and teen pregnancy are challenges to obtaining higher education. Graduation from high school is a challenge, as most parents have not. Rather than setting up education as a competition where the prize is getting into the best colleges, cooperative learning can help level the playing fields where all students learn together and achieve. I totally related to the part of the book where Biel talked about the Posse Foundation, i.e." I could do it if I had my posse with me". this is especially true when a parent may not view the merits of higher education for their children, or not understand the means of attaining higher education. My own three daughters attended and graduated from private colleges in the Midwest due to grants, scholarships and a posse of dedicated professors. Our country was founded on a democratic model, but this is hard to maintain sometimes.
  DianneBottinelli | Mar 7, 2017 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
This book has changed my life. Guinier offers a brilliant, detailed criticism of our test-reliant education system. As she shows, the word "meritocracy" is a bit dishonest. Our system doesn't actually reward "merit"; it rewards test-taking success. None of our education "reforms" try to measure how students use and retain information, how they figure things out, how much they've actually learned. The result is short-term, rote memorization but very little actual education.

I'm a teacher and so these problems with testing are familiar to me. But after two chapters Guinier goes on to look at how some teachers have adapted their teaching in response to cognitive research. The result is a more student-centered classroom in which students are a vital part of the experience, rather than passive watchers/listeners. I've never been a lecturer and have always tried to make my classes as interactive as possible, but Guinier's book has inspired me to completely change how I teach. Next semester my students will be leading a lot more discussions, making more presentations, doing more group projects, getting their voices heard more frequently. As Guinier shows, this sort of activity and authority makes students remember concepts more clearly than if they were only reading/listening/test-taking.

I'm so grateful to Guinier for writing this, to Beacon Press for publishing it, and for LibraryThing for allowing me to read it through Early Reviewers. I'm excited for next semester! ( )
  susanbooks | Jun 21, 2016 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
An incredibly well researched report on the state of Standardized Testing in America, if not a little repetitive. Guinier brings to light startling in depth information about how and what popular (and many times, required) standardized tests like the SAT and ACT are actually indicating...and more troubling what they are not. Along the way she also exposes solutions already in place on small scales in individual classrooms and schools that have had dramatic effects on often neglected College retention and degree completion rates. ( )
  Afazchas | Apr 5, 2016 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
This book is great for those who are researching the depths of how lost, mislead, and profitable our education system is today. The language is not too bad for those who want something they can relate to and understand. Its appaling to still continue watching debates about education after reading this book and what our leaders are saying. ( )
  iowabooker | Apr 3, 2016 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Lani Guinier offers a thoughtful critique of the current failed "meritocracy" of American higher education and asks us to reconsider the purpose of college. Is it for individual sorting and advancement? Or for the good of our national community? Guinier clearly comes down on the latter side and offers a plan for a more democratic higher education and a more democratic society.

A strength of the book is in Guinier's focus on "democratic merit" as a new way of organizing higher education to better educate citizens for our democracy. She contends that colleges should focus on leadership, collaboration ability, resiliency, a drive to learn, and other aptitudes rather than test-taking skills when they select, educate, and measure students. Graduates with these characteristics will be better citizens than those who can simply score well on a standardized test. ( )
  zhejw | Feb 26, 2016 |
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