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By rewarding the most deserving, a social system based on this principle attracts the most ambitious talent. One learns how to achieve success. Gradually a self-sustaining system of knowledge, skills and institutions is created, ever more efficient and elitist with established points of comparison and progression.

The definition of what is meant by "merit" is the crucial element. By valuing the values that support the system as a whole, the foundation for its sustainability is established. If you promote profit, fame, or individual power, you attract a different kind of candidate and the system goes off course. Strangely enough, the more merit is counted, the more slippage occurs, hence the questioning of an education system that relies too heavily on quantitative assessments versus one that focuses more on the achievements or qualities of individuals as a whole.

In education we talk about the race for grades and degrees, scholarships, research credits, publications, discoveries, prestige, well-paying jobs. Who wouldn't be sensitive to this? An education system designed with this way of thinking claims that, to succeed, you have to excel... and it works! But not for those who don't have the conditions or abilities needed in this competitive environment. What do we do with them? Beware also of the disillusionment of the laureate if his "merit" is illusory outside his institution. Finally, beware of excesses if the objective is only to win or to be the best. Not all of life is a competition.

Involvement can be stimulated by many other less competitive sources of motivation, such as the pleasure of understanding, the satisfaction of contributing to the success of a project or group, by the pride of reaching one's own objectives and realizing oneself in all its facets. Even artificial intelligence is involved, with its more or less obvious biases. We can surpass ourselves to win the prize, to be the best, to be recognized, but we can also devote our whole life to the care of others, to an edifying work or to feed the planet. If we do our work well, there is at least one person who will recognize our merit: ourselves. No one else can give us that much confidence in ourselves. In the end, that's the only merit that counts.

Denys Lamontagne - [email protected]

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