Giving Compass’ Take:
• Mary Jo Madda explains that the meritocracy myth leads students and educators to ignore a valuable asset divorced from ability: social capital.
• How can funders help to build social capital or disadvantaged students? How can schools better prepare students for the reality of the working world?
• Mentoring is a great way to build social capital for students.
Let’s just debunk a big ol’ myth right now: No one, and I repeat, no one makes it entirely based on their own merit. The concept of “meritocracy” as a path to success is misguided, because so many external factors shape the privileges, opportunities, and challenges that people experience in life.
As educators, when we tell students that they can do anything, we sometimes neglect something important, which is this—success doesn’t just boil down to one’s own skillsets or intrinsic abilities. It’s so much bigger and more networked than that. Alongside reading and writing, math, sciences and STEM, there’s an equally important subject deserving of attention and resources: social capital.
Social capital, as argued by sociologist James Coleman, is defined as those intangible resources that come embedded within interpersonal relationships or social institutions. They can be as strong as that of family members, friends, colleagues or fellow students, or as weak as distant LinkedIn connections. But when push comes to shove, a connection can mean the difference between a job and unemployment, between a college acceptance and rejection—even between sticking with high school and dropping out.
For many students, getting an internship or a job—arguably what education is preparing them for—is so deeply connected to their social capital. Every student, and every human, for that matter, has social capital inherently.
But how are schools supporting that development? I’ve noticed over the past year that while more and more schools are focusing on social-emotional learning, they still dedicate a majority of time to developing hard and soft skills—and oftentimes forget the social capital piece.
Read the full article about social capital by Mary Jo Madda at EdSurge.