Crimson opinion writer
Gordon J. Ebanks
Throughout my column, I’ve set out to tell the story of meritocracy from the unique vantage point of Harvard students. I wanted to find out what it means to be successful in an economic reality that revolves around perpetual competition in a school that is the epitome of competitive. But, more importantly, I wanted to see to what extent the individuality of each student and the sum of their experiences conform to this ecosystem of endurance.
Though every applicant is more than just a collection of letters and numbers — that thousands of high school students like myself spend endless hours obsessing over — it can be perhaps more unsettling to know some of the most intimate aspects of our identities are being judged by other human beings that may not like what they see.
The omnipresent culture of competition that permeates nearly every aspect of life today has undoubtedly shaped the mental world that young people move through. Yet perfectionism is so potent because perfection, on a societal level, is meant to feel attainable. If only we could improve our grades, get into our dream college, or look the way influencers look on Instagram, we could be a little bit closer to perfect. But we must introduce an expression of reality into the cold calculus of perfectionism because “perfect” is not a concept that exists in real life, nor is it ever meant to be attainable.
For Harvard, or any other school for that matter, to be “race-neutral” would not mean that race would not impact admissions, but that in place of an aspirational vision of an equitable society, the current racial status quo would select future incoming classes before admissions officers ever have a chance to read over applications.
When all is said and done, being a person who treats others with respect and decency is actually more important than acing the SATs or other accomplishments that many view athletes as lacking. The student-athletes who put in lifetimes of work into training, practice, and games deserve (at minimum) the respect of their peers and teachers.
For all our talk of merit and egalitarianism, our schools betray the deeply hierarchical and unforgiving character of not only our educational infrastructure but our society at large. And while our economy self-corrects when it outpaces its limits, students suffer the consequences of schools that push them beyond their limits.
What is becoming more and more clear is that committing the party to fight a neverending “culture war” is not only a recipe for electoral rebuke from an increasingly socially liberal electorate, but a decision that will condemn the nation to a no-holds-barred race to the bottom of moral and intellectual desolation.