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Lost in the Meritocracy: The Undereducation of an Overachieverby Walter Kirn
Synopses & Reviews
"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.
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.
A New York Times Notable Book
A Daily Beast Best Book of the Year
A Huffington Post Best Book of the Year
Fromelementary school on, Walter Kirn knew how to stay at the top of his class: He clapped erasers, memorized answer keys, and parroted his teachers' pet theories. But when he launched himself eastward to an IvyLeague university, Kirn discovered that the temple of higher learning he had expected was instead just another arena for more gamesmanship, snobbery, and social climbing. In this whip-smart memoir of kissing-up, cramming, and competition, Lost in the Meritocracy reckons the costs of an educational system where the point is simply to keep accumulating points and never to look back--orwithin.
From the Trade Paperback edition.
About the Author
WALTER KIRN is a contributing editor to Time and GQ and a regular reviewer for The New York Times Book Review. His work has appeared in The New York Times Magazine, Vogue, New York, and Esquire. He is the author of five previous works of fiction: My Hard Bargain: Stories, She Needed Me, Thumbsucker, Up in the Air, and Mission to America. Kirn is a graduate of Princeton University and a former Rhodes scholar. He lives in Livingston, Montana.
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