The Judgment of High School

“For that, Major, I will accept the judgment of posterity.

-Karl Stromberg, “The Spy Who Loved Me” (1977)

Modern American cultures, even the otherwise heterodox sub-cultures, generally hold to at least some variant of the major three controlling ideologies of the regime, Egalitarianism, Individualism, and Meritocracy.  Oddly enough, even the most heterodox among them cling to a particular variant of meritocracy, despite some of these same sub-cultures overtly denouncing almost every other element of the modern culture.

Meritocracy, at least in it’s modern usage, can be reasonably broken down as “People reach their position on their own merits”.  In it’s more applied version, pre-selection, it is an extremely powerful force that works in ways that often defy common understanding or even official codified policy.  It might not be overstating the case to indicate that an understanding of Meritocracy and Pre-Selection, as they actually function, accounts for the majority of the otherwise questionable decisions made by large organizations.

To use an example that is fairly non-controversial, nearly the entire active roster of the NFL comes from the ranks of collegiate football programs of the so-called Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS), previously known as “Division I-A”, generally the football programs of the major 5 conferences.  These programs, in turn, each have their own recruiting programs, many of which end up chasing the same pool of prospective students.  This pool, despite the most sincere beliefs found on ESPN, is not comprised of the most genetically gifted and/or hard working students available, it is a pool selected by a number of other programs, be they existing “scout” programs, a University’s own “scouting” program, or the tradition method of High School coaches sending in video.  With modern social media, one presumes highlight tapes are even easier to provide than in prior years.

In any event, the High School, either Public or Private (which creates other issues) coach has already been subject to the same “recruiting pool” issues, only on a much smaller scale.  He will have had to filter out candidates that didn’t meet his standards for whatever reason, presumably had to remove students who had academic or disciplinary issues, and, presumably, only made decisions made on the basis of his coaching position for the best interests of his players in accordance with his local School’s policies*, not by any undue influence from other stakeholders.

This “pool”, which is already limited by geography, policy, and age limitations, was already sorted by yet another set of prior forces.  In short, if someone is not playing at some sort of age-appropriate or age-accelerated level by age 14 (sources vary) at the latest, then they would not be selected for the high school pool without stakeholder intervention.

The author uses this example, which is fairly well understood, if not always appreciated by the relevant parties, as the introduction to the concept of “pre-selection”, as applied in the modern regime.  Where the understanding occasionally fails, even in the most heterodox of sub-cultures, is that versions of this pre-selection occur in almost every conceivable facet of modern society.

Contrary to what elements of the educational elite profess to believe, even the so-called “Public Ivies” aren’t even doing admissions by impartial academic standards, they are doing them based on the SAT/ACT score, which is at least reasonably impartial, but they are using various combinations of weighted GPA, “extra-curriculars”, and whatever “Holistic” measurement the admissions department uses to keep their jobs another year.  Higher on the education food chain, the weighting is such that even children of the near-elite are unlikely to be looked at without extraordinary fact patterns.

However, large portions of our society, even the heterodox sub-cultures, at some level, are willing to accept “The Judgment of High School”.  Be it fitness advocates who would splinter over scholastic athletic careers, political partisans who talk about “X party supporters got picked on in high school”, or even the self-selected followers of the “Red Pill Movement” who fairly openly consider the acquisition of social skills at the secondary education level to be a fundamental prerequisite(2) for successfully navigating their world of competitive social circles.  Even some of the most radical elements of the most radical sub-cultures, some of which otherwise reject the legitimacy of modern educational institutions, can be found comparing themselves to other parties based on their self-reported scholastic achievements (3), be they academic, social, sexual, or athletic.

To briefly discuss a possible, but not exclusive counter-argument, this argument is not saying that there is no such of thing as differences in talents and achievements, this argument is pointing out that many people, including those that would otherwise reject the legitimacy and/or existence of the modern secondary education system, actually accept it’s “Judgments”, and treat them as final.

(1) The author will assume that the reader can understand sarcasm and some knowledge of how this field really works.

(2) Judging from commentary over the years, it appears some individuals involved in that field do not mention this before accepting payment for their instruction.

(3) No names in the comments.

4 thoughts on “The Judgment of High School”

  1. I’ve had a saying for some years “A meritocracy is only as good as what it selects for.”
    The Chinese had a meritocratic system for a thousand years but it focused on rote memorization over critical thinking.
    The Harvard kids are as much selected for their personality and temperament as much as accomplishments and capabilities.

    I’ve asked: what groups have high quality of life, high creativity, and can outcompete other groups rather than obsess over individual striving. If you have a civilization of smart, conscientious people, even the most useless of them have a lot of passive influence just by existing. Even if they are couch potatoes watching TV all day, they increase the ratings and demand for high quality programming. Simply by not screaming their lungs out on the subway or becoming morbidly obese on junkfood, they save society endless money and misery. This is a principle meritocrats never get even as the society of virtuous competition crumbles.

    On the occasion I’ve mentioned some of my thoughts to those with normie sentiments they always point out “Who are you to say that when X 12 year old blind-deaf lesbian Afghani girl already made millions of dollars from endorsements from 1 legged speed skating in the special olympics.”
    My counterargument is I may not be a millionaire but a community of people with certain traits on average manifests certain qualities.
    That’s the point people’s eyes glaze over.
    I then point to the example of the difference 5-10 IQ points on average makes on the island of Hispaniola and most are not persuaded. They just argue about IQ “not being everything.”(I don’t bother with this tiresome process most of the time.)

    People like to think anyone can be sorted into house Gryffindor if they “put their hearts into it.” By extension, anyone who falls short of elite level success at meritocratic striving can be safely dismissed as sore losers if they venture a criticism. Any anecdotal example of a rightward extreme outlier hacks the Dunbar group module for good measure. It combines to make it a pretty resilient ideology, actually.

    One of the core problems of a meritocracy is you have to be kind of a conformist herd creature to uncritically submit to the judgments of one. The really sharp ones find a way to outflank the rulers’ position and ambush them rather than spend a lifetime playing the ladder game.


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