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MeritThe History of a Founding Ideal from the American Revolution to the Twenty-First Century$
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Joseph F. Kett

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780801451225

Published to Cornell Scholarship Online: August 2016

DOI: 10.7591/cornell/9780801451225.001.0001

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Making the Grade

Making the Grade

Managed Competition and Schooling

(p.93) 4 Making the Grade

Joseph F. Kett

Cornell University Press

This chapter considers the Founders' ideal of a hierarchical society in which American abundance would permit the multitude to achieve a “competency.” It first takes up the challenges to this assumption that arose from an economy permeated by financial speculation, risk, and the alarming juxtaposition of wealth and ruin, and from the egalitarian thrust of mass politics. The chapter then turns to the impact of these changes on public schools and their regimens of managed competition. The second half of this chapter then identifies a key component of this transition: the dawning recognition that divisions of rank and class in American society were increasingly based on the kind of work people did rather than on gradations in the merit of individuals.

Keywords:   competency, financial speculation, financial risk, mass politics, public schools, managed competition, American society, social structures

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