North Pointe Now

The Meritocratic Myth: Why working hard in high school doesn’t always mean success

Photo credit: Clker

Photo credit: Clker

By Sophie Kehrig, Intern

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Throughout my life I’ve been regularly reassured that if I work hard, I will ultimately go on to be successful. (success here meaning a stable job that secures a person in the middle class) I think it’s safe to say that most students at North share that experience. What many people here might not realize, though, is what a privilege that is. It sounds strange to say, that having one’s efforts pay off is a concession rather than a right, but hear me out.

For other students at numerous high schools in Michigan, hard work or high marks didn’t matter nearly as much as wealth when applying to college. After analyzing new data from the Michigan Center for Educational Performance and Information, Bridge Magazine concluded that “Not all high schools are created equal in preparing students for future success. In some districts, nearly every graduate enrolled in college. And in others, very few did.”

According to the data, money is directly correlated to quality of education and student success. This means that in order for students to perform well, a school must be well funded and prepared for those students. It’s easy to see what happens when a school isn’t, and it’s never pretty. There’s evidence of this in our own backyard.

This means that in order for students to perform well, a school must be well funded and prepared for those students”

According to the Detroit Free Press as of 2016, “One third of failing schools in Michigan are in DPS.” Coincidentally, those are some of the worst funded schools, in the poorest areas of Detroit. Insufficient education leads to poor job prospects, which almost inevitably leads to poverty. In this country it’s difficult for impoverished peoples to obtain the level of education they need because schooling is typically subpar in low income areas. This perpetuates a cycle of poverty that can likely only be broken with an increase in the allocation of money and resources toward those schools.

I’ve heard family members, strangers, and fellow students alike assert that low income schools perform inadequately because of a certain “mindset”, where hard work just isn’t a priority. If only they were more diligent, more industrious, those students would be successful. But how are students supposed to get where they need to be without the capital to get them there? Schools exist because kids cannot educate themselves on their own.

North is the 12th best public high school in Michigan. Although it might be nice to say that students here are simply special, it would also be horribly myopic. We have better teachers and more resources at a public school than most people could dream of. North’s test scores are so far above the national average not because everyone attending is some inherent genius, but our ample budget that ensures the quality of our education.

As Norsemen, we’re called to “protect this house”, but we must also understand what living in this house means. We’re just like any other students in the US, beside the fact that we happen to attend a particularly exceptional school, not the other way around. It’s imperative that we check our privilege and maintain awareness of how fortunate we really are, lest we acquire the entitlement or arrogance that would discredit the achievements of our home.


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