Meritocracy is one of many systems in the United States that is built around maintaining order by prioritizing the appearance that everything is functioning as it should while actively excluding those in marginalized or oppressed groups who are perceived as disrupting societal order. Meritocracy intersects with other American values, particularly individual freedom and whiteness, to create the illusion that people succeed or fail based on their own individual merit and effort. This essay surveys examples of exclusion in higher education to show that the ideals of meritocracy are frequently abandoned in order to preserve the existing order of the institution.

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