''A great virtue of this book - really a stunning notion - is that there are such things as a history of merit and a history of the idea of merit and its associated institutions in America. No one has ever written this book or anything close to it.'' - Michael Schudson, Columbia Journalism School, author of The Good Citizen: A History of American Civic Life''In this brilliant book, Joseph F. Kett traces the history of merit in the United States as its meaning shifted from a personal quality to an institutionally certified warrant for allocating social rewards. As he shows, this evolution made schooling the central mechanism for distributing opportunity while at the same time subjecting schools to continual criticism for failing to distribute merit fairly.'' - David Labaree, Stanford University, author of Someone Has to Fail: The Zero-Sum Game of Public Schooling''What is it you've earned and think you deserve but haven't got? Joseph F. Kett takes this question all the way back to the Founding era, tracing meritocracy and its discontents up to the present. This is a tough-minded, contrarian book that takes a stand: the Founding ideal of the United States was not equality but rather merit. Kett's historical insights on the origins of report cards, legacy admissions, the civil service, and intelligence testing add up to a challenging and bold argument that although life in these United States has never been fair, on the whole this nation is the fairest of them all.'' - Scott A. Sandage, author of Born Losers: A History of Failure in America
About the Author
Joseph F. Kett is James Madison Professor of History at the University of Virginia. He is the author of books including The Pursuit of Knowledge Under Difficulties: From Self-Improvement to Adult Education in America, 1750-1990 and coauthor of The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy.
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