EDUC 391 Intelligence in Everyday Life


P/F Writing Assignment for Day 25

The tradeoff between equality and excellence


  • Gardner's Excellence, chaps. 1-3, 5-9.
  • Murray ("Brains, rather than...") 

Soundly repudiating the aristocracy of the Old World, inhabitants of the new United States attempted to create a "land of opportunity" where everyone could get ahead on the basis of their ability and effort -- not on the basis of who they were born. The aim was to establish a meritocracy. Gardner describes how many Americans are ambivalent about or even hostile to meritocracy the closer we come to achieving that aim.

1. According to Gardner, what is the "downside" (the negative side-effects) of meritocracy? Please explain. (Be sure you understand what "meritocracy" means--to get ahead on the basis of your ability and effort, not because of the circumstances of your birth--that is, not on the basis of race, sex, religion, family background, etc.)

2. Is it fair to reward people for their natural talents (including intelligence)? Is it fair not to?

3. Is it fair to compensate people for a lack of natural talent (intelligence)?

Note: the answers to the last two questions will be your opinion, but they should reflect knowledge of the reading.