Is Meritocracy to Blame for Our Yawning Class Divide?

Thomas Frank in the NYT:

For affluent, white-collar Americans, higher learning is something close to sacred. We bask in the sunshine of enlightenment that prestige universities radiate and we speak of them in the language of dreams, of religious veneration. They are the foe of much that is evil and the source of a lot that is good. More and better education, we like to believe, will solve climate denialism, overcome bigotry and even mitigate our grotesque income inequality.

But now comes Daniel Markovits, a professor at Yale Law School, to tell us that far from solving economic inequality, higher education is one of the central forces driving our yawning class divide. In this ambitious and disturbing survey of the American upper class, he tells us that our elite universities’ sifting and sorting of human beings has helped to herd Americans into a system of rank and status and — yes — caste that is now so clearly passed from parent to child that its most privileged beneficiaries might as well be called an “aristocracy.” Indirectly and along the way, the hierarchy thus constructed has drained the promise from middle-class life and sparked a backlash from the vast presumed unexcellent whom our cult of white-collar achievement has left behind.

More here.