American society’s negative emphasis of meritism over multiculturalism

Prior to entering adulthood, attending college is likened to a symbol of prestige for adolescents to work toward. Emphasis is placed highly on a student’s overall GPA and on extracurricular work such as volunteering for a local non-profit. Perhaps because of this emphasis on tangible success markers, students end up being at a loss with what to do after entering college. The easily traceable guideline is now lost because all the traditional conventions of success are overturned. Instead of professors tracking you down if you miss your classes, like a high school teacher would, they only mark you down as missing, if they notice at all. The same goes for academic advisors, who oftentimes require students to remind them who they are, instead of remembering your name and interests like a high school counselor would. In other words, students are now placed in a situation where their support system, the local community, is not already established. Since students are not trained to have the networking skills required for creating that support system in K-12 education, this negatively impacts their overall college success.

The main fault, therefore, lies in preparing students prior to college. Although extracurriculars like volunteering and part-time jobs are supposed to be good character-building activities, high school students are particularly taught and raised to see these activities as merely extra lines to fluff up their college applications, instead of understanding how those activities challenged and improved them. In fact, volunteerism itself is oftentimes done out of selfish benefits (e.g., individual benefits for resume building and lifestyle changes) instead of altruistic ones. Since only 26 percent of Americans volunteer consistently, this hints that the “mandatory volunteerism” and short-term volunteer programs that students participate in are technically not good character-building activities. This mentality of seeking out the short-term benefits of career and character-building benefits explains why cases of “voluntourism” are allowed to happen and why extracurriculars result in students not recognizing their privilege. This in turn creates cases where teenagers like Jennifer Pan murdered her parents for their unrealistic career expectations and lawyers like Jill and Kent Easters attempt to ruin Kelli Peters’ reputation as a genuine, helpful community member.

Perhaps because extracurriculars fail to develop students for college, this explains why some colleges are trying to do away with standardized testing requirements to instead focus on personal statements and writing examples. In fact, once standards like testing score requirements are done away with, colleges end up with a more diverse student population. Considering that companies tend to focus highly on multiculturalism, it follows that colleges should match that standard. Companies like Apple and Google connect diversity with success — thereby challenging the stereotype that students can succeed based off of merit alone. In fact, a Harvard Business Review article found that the companies which failed in their diversity inclusion were the ones who focused on trying to turn it into a statistics-based test qualifier, instead of addressing their company’s inherent biases. Rather than focusing on “control tactics,” as the research found, the more successful companies highlighted communication, relevancy and engagement. In other words, these companies made diversity inclusion important to their company culture by making it tangible instead of abstracted and removed through methods such as race and gender qualifiers (e.g., job applications for Mexican-Americans or women only).

Since companies are increasingly valuing a multicultural and diverse workforce, then UCR is perhaps one of the best colleges actually leading to success. Because UCR’s student demographics tend to be more racially and economically mixed, UCR students are more prepared for life because they are more likely to be in touch with the local community in this way. They are not as disconnected with the local community because they interact with peers from all walks of life. Perhaps through highlighting the far-reaching community impact that UCR has as a leading diverse institution, it can be viewed as an example of how exposure to multiculturalism trumps the importance of meritism in regards to academic success.

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