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How Millennials Became The Burnout Generation
[some follow-up notes here:
https://annehelen.substack.com/p/how-millennials-grew-up-and-burned
https://annehelen.substack.com/p/its-that-simple ]

[See also:

“Here’s What “Millennial Burnout” Is Like For 16 Different People: “My grandmother was a teacher and her mother was a slave. I was born burned out.””
https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/annehelenpetersen/millennial-burnout-perspectives

“This Is What Black Burnout Feels Like: If the American dream isn’t possible for upwardly mobile white people anymore, then what am I even striving for?”
https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/tianaclarkpoet/millennial-burnout-black-women-self-care-anxiety-depression

“Millennials Don’t Have a Monopoly on Burnout: This is a societal scourge, not a generational one. So how can we solve it?”
https://newrepublic.com/article/152872/millennials-dont-monopoly-burnout ]

"We didn’t try to break the system, since that’s not how we’d been raised. We tried to win it.

I never thought the system was equitable. I knew it was winnable for only a small few. I just believed I could continue to optimize myself to become one of them. And it’s taken me years to understand the true ramifications of that mindset. I’d worked hard in college, but as an old millennial, the expectations for labor were tempered. We liked to say we worked hard, played hard — and there were clear boundaries around each of those activities. Grad school, then, is where I learned to work like a millennial, which is to say, all the time. My new watchword was “Everything that’s good is bad, everything that’s bad is good”: Things that should’ve felt good (leisure, not working) felt bad because I felt guilty for not working; things that should’ve felt “bad” (working all the time) felt good because I was doing what I thought I should and needed to be doing in order to succeed."



"The social media feed — and Instagram in particular — is thus evidence of the fruits of hard, rewarding labor and the labor itself. The photos and videos that induce the most jealousy are those that suggest a perfect equilibrium (work hard, play hard!) has been reached. But of course, for most of us, it hasn’t. Posting on social media, after all, is a means of narrativizing our own lives: What we’re telling ourselves our lives are like. And when we don’t feel the satisfaction that we’ve been told we should receive from a good job that’s “fulfilling,” balanced with a personal life that’s equally so, the best way to convince yourself you’re feeling it is to illustrate it for others.

For many millennials, a social media presence — on LinkedIn, Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter — has also become an integral part of obtaining and maintaining a job. The “purest” example is the social media influencer, whose entire income source is performing and mediating the self online. But social media is also the means through which many “knowledge workers” — that is, workers who handle, process, or make meaning of information — market and brand themselves. Journalists use Twitter to learn about other stories, but they also use it to develop a personal brand and following that can be leveraged; people use LinkedIn not just for résumés and networking, but to post articles that attest to their personality (their brand!) as a manager or entrepreneur. Millennials aren’t the only ones who do this, but we’re the ones who perfected and thus set the standards for those who do.

“Branding” is a fitting word for this work, as it underlines what the millennial self becomes: a product. And as in childhood, the work of optimizing that brand blurs whatever boundaries remained between work and play. There is no “off the clock” when at all hours you could be documenting your on-brand experiences or tweeting your on-brand observations. The rise of smartphones makes these behaviors frictionless and thus more pervasive, more standardized. In the early days of Facebook, you had to take pictures with your digital camera, upload them to your computer, and post them in albums. Now, your phone is a sophisticated camera, always ready to document every component of your life — in easily manipulated photos, in short video bursts, in constant updates to Instagram Stories — and to facilitate the labor of performing the self for public consumption.

But the phone is also, and just as essentially, a tether to the “real” workplace. Email and Slack make it so that employees are always accessible, always able to labor, even after they’ve left the physical workplace and the traditional 9-to-5 boundaries of paid labor. Attempts to discourage working “off the clock” misfire, as millennials read them not as permission to stop working, but a means to further distinguish themselves by being available anyway.

“We are encouraged to strategize and scheme to find places, times, and roles where we can be effectively put to work,” Harris, the Kids These Days author, writes. “Efficiency is our existential purpose, and we are a generation of finely honed tools, crafted from embryos to be lean, mean production machines.”

But as sociologist Arne L. Kalleberg points out, that efficiency was supposed to give us more job security, more pay, perhaps even more leisure. In short, better jobs.

Yet the more work we do, the more efficient we’ve proven ourselves to be, the worse our jobs become: lower pay, worse benefits, less job security. Our efficiency hasn’t bucked wage stagnation; our steadfastness hasn’t made us more valuable. If anything, our commitment to work, no matter how exploitative, has simply encouraged and facilitated our exploitation. We put up with companies treating us poorly because we don’t see another option. We don’t quit. We internalize that we’re not striving hard enough. And we get a second gig."



"That’s one of the most ineffable and frustrating expressions of burnout: It takes things that should be enjoyable and flattens them into a list of tasks, intermingled with other obligations that should either be easily or dutifully completed. The end result is that everything, from wedding celebrations to registering to vote, becomes tinged with resentment and anxiety and avoidance. Maybe my inability to get the knives sharpened is less about being lazy and more about being too good, for too long, at being a millennial.

That’s one of the most ineffable and frustrating expressions of burnout: It takes things that should be enjoyable and flattens them into a list of tasks, intermingled with other obligations that should either be easily or dutifully completed. The end result is that everything, from wedding celebrations to registering to vote, becomes tinged with resentment and anxiety and avoidance. Maybe my inability to get the knives sharpened is less about being lazy and more about being too good, for too long, at being a millennial."



"In his writing about burnout, the psychoanalyst Cohen describes a client who came to him with extreme burnout: He was the quintessential millennial child, optimized for perfect performance, which paid off when he got his job as a high-powered finance banker. He’d done everything right, and was continuing to do everything right in his job. One morning, he woke up, turned off his alarm, rolled over, and refused to go to work. He never went to work again. He was “intrigued to find the termination of his employment didn’t bother him.”

In the movie version of this story, this man moves to an island to rediscover the good life, or figures out he loves woodworking and opens a shop. But that’s the sort of fantasy solution that makes millennial burnout so pervasive. You don’t fix burnout by going on vacation. You don’t fix it through “life hacks,” like inbox zero, or by using a meditation app for five minutes in the morning, or doing Sunday meal prep for the entire family, or starting a bullet journal. You don’t fix it by reading a book on how to “unfu*k yourself.” You don’t fix it with vacation, or an adult coloring book, or “anxiety baking,” or the Pomodoro Technique, or overnight fucking oats.

The problem with holistic, all-consuming burnout is that there’s no solution to it. You can’t optimize it to make it end faster. You can’t see it coming like a cold and start taking the burnout-prevention version of Airborne. The best way to treat it is to first acknowledge it for what it is — not a passing ailment, but a chronic disease — and to understand its roots and its parameters. That’s why people I talked to felt such relief reading the “mental load” cartoon, and why reading Harris’s book felt so cathartic for me: They don’t excuse why we behave and feel the way we do. They just describe those feelings and behaviors — and the larger systems of capitalism and patriarchy that contribute to them — accurately.

To describe millennial burnout accurately is to acknowledge the multiplicity of our lived reality — that we’re not just high school graduates, or parents, or knowledge workers, but all of the above — while recognizing our status quo. We’re deeply in debt, working more hours and more jobs for less pay and less security, struggling to achieve the same standards of living as our parents, operating in psychological and physical precariousness, all while being told that if we just work harder, meritocracy will prevail, and we’ll begin thriving. The carrot dangling in front of us is the dream that the to-do list will end, or at least become far more manageable.

But individual action isn’t enough. Personal choices alone won’t keep the planet from dying, or get Facebook to quit violating our privacy. To do that, you need paradigm-shifting change. Which helps explain why so many millennials increasingly identify with democratic socialism and are embracing unions: We are beginning to understand what ails us, and it’s not something an oxygen facial or a treadmill desk can fix.

Until or in lieu of a … [more]
capitalism  neoliberalism  millennials  burnout  chores  work  parenting  2019  annehelenpetersen  cv  society  us  performance  meritocracy  inequality  competition  labor  leisure  perfectionism  success  schooliness  helicopterparenting  children  academia  economics  genx  genz  generations  generationx  socialmedia  instagram  balance  life  living  gigeconomy  passion  self-care  self-optimization  exhaustion  anxiety  decisionmaking  congnitiveload  insecurity  precarity  poverty  steadiness  laziness  procrastination  helicopterparents  work-lifebalance  canon  malcolmharris  joshcohen  hustling  hustle  overwork  arnekalleberg  efficiency  productivity  workplace  email  adulting  personalbranding  linkedin  facebook  consumption  homelessness  context  behavior 
17 days ago by robertogreco
The Educational Tyranny of the Neurotypicals | WIRED
"Ben Draper, who runs the Macomber Center for Self Directed Learning, says that while the center is designed for all types of children, kids whose parents identify them as on the autism spectrum often thrive at the center when they’ve had difficulty in conventional schools. Ben is part of the so-called unschooling movement, which believes that not only should learning be self-directed, in fact we shouldn't even focus on guiding learning. Children will learn in the process of pursuing their passions, the reasoning goes, and so we just need to get out of their way, providing support as needed.

Many, of course, argue that such an approach is much too unstructured and verges on irresponsibility. In retrospect, though, I feel I certainly would have thrived on “unschooling.” In a recent paper, Ben and my colleague Andre Uhl, who first introduced me to unschooling, argue that it not only works for everyone, but that the current educational system, in addition to providing poor learning outcomes, impinges on the rights of children as individuals.

MIT is among a small number of institutions that, in the pre-internet era, provided a place for non-neurotypical types with extraordinary skills to gather and form community and culture. Even MIT, however, is still trying to improve to give these kids the diversity and flexibility they need, especially in our undergraduate program.

I'm not sure how I'd be diagnosed, but I was completely incapable of being traditionally educated. I love to learn, but I go about it almost exclusively through conversations and while working on projects. I somehow kludged together a world view and life with plenty of struggle, but also with many rewards. I recently wrote a PhD dissertation about my theory of the world and how I developed it. Not that anyone should generalize from my experience—one reader of my dissertation said that I’m so unusual, I should be considered a "human sub-species." While I take that as a compliment, I think there are others like me who weren’t as lucky and ended up going through the traditional system and mostly suffering rather than flourishing. In fact, most kids probably aren’t as lucky as me and while some types are more suited for success in the current configuration of society, a huge percentage of kids who fail in the current system have a tremendous amount to contribute that we aren’t tapping into.

In addition to equipping kids for basic literacy and civic engagement, industrial age schools were primarily focused on preparing kids to work in factories or perform repetitive white-collar jobs. It may have made sense to try to convert kids into (smart) robotlike individuals who could solve problems on standardized tests alone with no smartphone or the internet and just a No. 2 pencil. Sifting out non-neurotypical types or trying to remediate them with drugs or institutionalization may have seemed important for our industrial competitiveness. Also, the tools for instruction were also limited by the technology of the times. In a world where real robots are taking over many of those tasks, perhaps we need to embrace neurodiversity and encourage collaborative learning through passion, play, and projects, in other words, to start teaching kids to learn in ways that machines can’t. We can also use modern technology for connected learning that supports diverse interests and abilities and is integrated into our lives and communities of interest.

At the Media Lab, we have a research group called Lifelong Kindergarten, and the head of the group, Mitchel Resnick, recently wrote a book by the same name. The book is about the group’s research on creative learning and the four Ps—Passion, Peers, Projects, and Play. The group believes, as I do, that we learn best when we are pursuing our passion and working with others in a project-based environment with a playful approach. My memory of school was "no cheating,” “do your own work,” "focus on the textbook, not on your hobbies or your projects," and "there’s time to play at recess, be serious and study or you'll be shamed"—exactly the opposite of the four Ps.

Many mental health issues, I believe, are caused by trying to “fix” some type of neurodiversity or by simply being insensitive or inappropriate for the person. Many mental “illnesses” can be “cured” by providing the appropriate interface to learning, living, or interacting for that person focusing on the four Ps. My experience with the educational system, both as its subject and, now, as part of it, is not so unique. I believe, in fact, that at least the one-quarter of people who are diagnosed as somehow non-neurotypical struggle with the structure and the method of modern education. People who are wired differently should be able to think of themselves as the rule, not as an exception."
neurotypicals  neurodiversity  education  schools  schooling  learning  inequality  elitism  meritocracy  power  bias  diversity  autism  psychology  stevesilberman  schooliness  unschooling  deschooling  ronsuskind  mentalhealth  mitchresnick  mit  mitemedialab  medialab  lifelongkindergarten  teaching  howweteach  howwelearn  pedagogy  tyranny  2018  economics  labor  bendraper  flexibility  admissions  colleges  universities  joiito 
9 weeks ago by robertogreco
Societies | Free Full-Text | Inequality Is a Problem of Inference: How People Solve the Social Puzzle of Unequal Outcomes
"A new wave of scholarship recognizes the importance of people’s understanding of inequality that underlies their political convictions, civic values, and policy views. Much less is known, however, about the sources of people’s different beliefs. I argue that scholarship is hampered by a lack of consensus regarding the conceptualization and measurement of inequality beliefs, in the absence of an organizing theory. To fill this gap, in this paper, I develop a framework for studying the social basis of people’s explanations for inequality. I propose that people observe unequal outcomes and must infer the invisible forces that brought these about, be they meritocratic or structural in nature. In making inferences about the causes of inequality, people draw on lessons from past experience and information about the world, both of which are biased and limited by their background, social networks, and the environments they have been exposed to. Looking at inequality beliefs through this lens allows for an investigation into the kinds of experiences and environments that are particularly salient in shaping people’s inferential accounts of inequality. Specifically, I make a case for investigating how socializing institutions such as schools and neighborhoods are “inferential spaces” that shape how children and young adults come to learn about their unequal society and their own place in it. I conclude by proposing testable hypotheses and implications for research."
inequality  meritocracy  2018  schooling  schools  education  unschooling  deschooling  democracy  neighborhoods  society  institutions  jonathanmijs 
9 weeks ago by robertogreco
Visualizing Belief in Meritocracy, 1930–2010 - Jonathan J. B. Mijs, 2018
"In this figure I describe the long trend in popular belief in meritocracy across the Western world between 1930 and 2010. Studying trends in attitudes is limited by the paucity of survey data that can be compared across countries and over time. Here, I show how to complement survey waves with cohort-level data. Repeated surveys draw on a representative sample of the population to describe the typical beliefs held by citizens in a given country and period. Leveraging the fact that citizens surveyed in a given year were born in different time-periods allows for a comparison of beliefs across birth cohorts. The latter overlaps with the former, but considerably extends the time period covered by the data. Taken together, the two measures give a “triangulated” longitudinal record of popular belief in meritocracy. I find that in most countries, popular belief in meritocracy is (much) stronger for more recent periods and cohorts."

[via: https://twitter.com/kimmaicutler/status/1063450153217077249
""I hope people know that when the idea of “meritocracy” was initially popularized by Michael Dunlop Young in his 1958 book, it was meant to be a satirical and dystopian critique of the UK educational system. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Rise_of_the_Meritocracy "]
meritocracy  inequality  2018  society  jonathanmijs 
9 weeks ago by robertogreco
Education That's Just for the "So-called Talented Young People" is "Sort of a Bullshit Construct" | | Eye on Design
"I’m conscious of how personal liberty has been co-opted by a really aggressive, neoliberal, capitalist model. Education is shifting—we’re moving towards mass education systems—and I personally don’t have an issue with it. I’m happy to move away from the highly selective notion of education for the so-called talented young people, because it’s sort of a bullshit construct. It has to do with access, privileges, and the implicit and explicit biases of people who are making the selection. We need to rethink our approach: What does it mean to effectively operate a diverse, contradictory, and ambiguous education program? I think it’s feasible if we’re able to countenance the idea of not being experts, not in the sense of “let’s punish the experts,” but in terms of reconsidering our sense of where authority and knowledge lies.

Are we able to support the handing over of the education to the students? It’s a fight, because this is a generation of students who’ve been brought through an incredibly instrumental, formal education system, particularly in the UK, which is driven by grades and outcomes. We aim to offer scaffolding and support, which can be easily removed when students are developing their own mode of learning. They have every capacity, they just need the affordance to do it. To flourish and be agents of change, they need to hold on to the controls."



"We’re moving towards a point of revalidation [at Camberwell], we’re re-writing courses and talking about this a lot. I’m interested in pre-existing educational models, like that at the Willem de Kooning Academy in Rotterdam, where there’s a focus on thinking about how you contextualize your practice, how you flavor or inflect it with an understanding of a context. At Camberwell we’re thinking about introducing these “flavors,” which students will be able to align themselves with. We call it ‘Illustrator as…’ and then the inflections will be ‘as activist,’ ‘as author,’ ‘as educator,’ and ‘in industry.’

My aspiration would be that we’d be able to take inspiration from dynamic groups like Artist Placement Group [a London-based, artist-run organization formed in 1965, which sought to refocus art outside the gallery]. The organization announced itself as an artist consultant for big business. It seemed ridiculous, but in reality there’s massive potential—through the type of education and the organization that goes on just in terms of running your own project—to do that. I like the idea of breeding a bunch of sort-of saboteurs, who are able to go and change things from the inside, and be convincing and persuasive."
education  meritocracy  unschooling  2018  design  graphidesign  learning  howwelearn  elitism  deschooling  darrylclifton  lcproject  openstudioproject 
9 weeks ago by robertogreco
Income Inequality Explains the Decline of Youth Sports - The Atlantic
Expensive travel leagues siphon off talented young athletes from well-off families—and leave everyone else behind.
newswire  sports  meritocracy 
9 weeks ago by kejadlen
Meritocracy | Geek Feminism Wiki | FANDOM powered by Wikia
Meritocracy is government by those who have "merit", usually described as having the necessary ability or experience to do the job. It is commonly used in FLOSS and other technical communities. However, meritocracies tend to promote those who not only have the skills/experience, but are also...
meritocracy  tech  culture  women  feminism  software 
10 weeks ago by sjmarshy
We can’t educate our kids out of inequality
"Those who tout the advantages of a good education like to conjure an image of some future society full of educated professionals all working stable, fulfilling, and salaried jobs. But even the worst students can look around the world and see through this. They can see the economic instability facing most people, and they know that a good education won’t undo the vagaries of the gig economy, or replace the protections of a union. But, they’re told, if you do well enough in school, then hopefully you won’t have to worry about that stuff.

This false promise was more disheartening that any other realization I had while working with students. Unfair tests, confusing admissions policies, unequal schools — all that is bad but sadly unsurprising, so you can prepare yourself for it. On the other hand, I was not prepared to lie to students about how, if they just figured out trig functions, then everything would be OK.

Education fetishism gives the illusion of fairness to society’s inequalities. Grades and test scores and college rankings mirror the stratification of the economy, and apply a thin veneer of meritocracy to that hierarchy. What students internalize about school is that it is primarily about ranking people. So attempts to improve education are really attempts to make those rankings more accurate, instead of making them less determinative. As long as this is true, then education is not really the solution to society’s problems. Even bold steps to improve schools and bring down college costs will not fix the problem of inequality, since status and sorting are also the results of education in America.

None of this is to say that education is bad or that schools should not be improved for their own sake. Learning things, after all, is fun. Education is great when it’s about teaching people stuff they want to know. But because school has to serve this burden of fixing social problems it is not equipped to fix, it cannot simply teach students interesting things they want to learn. Students should learn trig functions because they are an elegant solution to a complicated problem. They should read Hamlet because it’s a good play. They should learn things because there is value in learning them.

Instead, educators have to rend these subjects apart, breaking them into supposedly marketable skills like “reading comprehension” and “analytical reasoning” so that they can be used to demonstrate a student’s market value and justify patently unjust economic outcomes. As long as this is the case, then not only will inequality fail to get better, but education will continue to get worse. Instead of insisting we can educate ourselves out of the social problems capitalism creates, we should learn something new."



"This false promise was more disheartening that any other realization I had while working with students. Unfair tests, confusing admissions policies, unequal schools — all that is bad but sadly unsurprising, so you can prepare yourself for it. On the other hand, I was not prepared to lie to students about how, if they just figured out trig functions, then everything would be OK.

Education fetishism gives the illusion of fairness to society’s inequalities. Grades and test scores and college rankings mirror the stratification of the economy, and apply a thin veneer of meritocracy to that hierarchy. What students internalize about school is that it is primarily about ranking people. So attempts to improve education are really attempts to make those rankings more accurate, instead of making them less determinative. As long as this is true, then education is not really the solution to society’s problems. Even bold steps to improve schools and bring down college costs will not fix the problem of inequality, since status and sorting are also the results of education in America.

None of this is to say that education is bad or that schools should not be improved for their own sake. Learning things, after all, is fun. Education is great when it’s about teaching people stuff they want to know. But because school has to serve this burden of fixing social problems it is not equipped to fix, it cannot simply teach students interesting things they want to learn. Students should learn trig functions because they are an elegant solution to a complicated problem. They should read Hamlet because it’s a good play. They should learn things because there is value in learning them.

Instead, educators have to rend these subjects apart, breaking them into supposedly marketable skills like “reading comprehension” and “analytical reasoning” so that they can be used to demonstrate a student’s market value and justify patently unjust economic outcomes. As long as this is the case, then not only will inequality fail to get better, but education will continue to get worse. Instead of insisting we can educate ourselves out of the social problems capitalism creates, we should learn something new."
education  inequality  tutoring  schools  2018  hierarchy  economics  admissions  class  meritocracy  sorting  johnschneider  schooling  society  capitalism  gigeconomy  colleges  universities  grades  grading  learning  deschooling  unions  socialsafetynet  testing  bias 
10 weeks ago by robertogreco
The False Promise of Meritocracy - The Atlantic
When a company’s core values emphasized meritocratic values, those in managerial positions awarded a larger monetary reward to the male employee than to an equally performing female employee. Castilla and Bernard termed their counter intuitive result “the paradox of meritocracy.”

The paradox of meritocracy builds on other research showing that those who think they are the most objective can actually exhibit the most bias in their evaluations. When people think they are objective and unbiased then they don’t monitor and scrutinize their own behavior. They just assume that they are right and that their assessments are accurate. Yet, studies repeatedly show that stereotypes of all kinds (gender, ethnicity, age, disability etc.) are filters through which we evaluate others, often in ways that advantage dominant groups and disadvantage lower-status groups. For example, studies repeatedly find that the resumes of whites and men are evaluated more positively than are the identical resumes of minorities and women.

This dynamic is precisely why meritocracy can exacerbate inequality—because being committed to meritocratic principles makes people think that they actually are making correct evaluations and behaving fairly. Organizations that emphasize meritocratic ideals serve to reinforce an employee’s belief that they are impartial, which creates the exact conditions under which implicit and explicit biases are unleashed.
meritocracy  study  mythopsychology 
10 weeks ago by bdwc

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