Are the National Merit Awards Still Valuable?

Are the National Merit Awards Still Valuable?

Editor’s note: In this Future View, students discuss merit. Next week we’ll ask, “With recent comparisons of health—smoking, obesity, participation in sports, nutrition, mental health and drinking—do you think this generation of students is sicklier than previous generations? Why or why not? Students should click here to submit opinions of fewer than 250 words before Jan. 31. The best responses will be published that night. Click here to submit a video to our Future View Snapchat show.

When I was in high school, winning a National Merit award opened so many new doors for me. Beyond the $2,500 award itself, I received a full-tuition scholarship offer to Fordham and a $30,000 annual scholarship offer to Northeastern specifically as a result of my National Merit Scholar status. I have no doubt that the award—among the most prestigious that a high-school student can receive—helped me gain admission to highly selective universities including Princeton, Yale and the University of Pennsylvania.

As a graduate of a public high school in Loudoun County, Va., I am all too familiar with the demanding and high-achieving environments that characterize the schools under scrutiny. High schools—like all educational institutions—have a responsibility to support all their students, including those who are struggling academically. But seeking to conceal high-performing students’ achievements to create the illusion of equity is wrong and represents an embarrassing contradiction of a school’s mandate to equip its students with the tools they need to attain their post-graduation goals. By robbing students of hard-earned achievements such as National Merit awards in the name of inclusion, these schools have inflicted a grave injustice that could cause financial and academic deprivations for the very individuals they exist to support.

—Matthew Wilson, Princeton University, politics

Grade Inflation Is Not Equity

Equality of opportunity necessarily leads to inequality of outcomes. We are not born equal, and we use our individual liberty in different ways. Some students may decide to work hard to win National Merit awards, while others would rather engage in sports or invest in their social lives. These decisions lead to different outcomes.

At my college the opposite has been true compared with high schools, where instead of withholding merit from…

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