The Meritocracy Trap and Kinesiology

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Gregg Twietmeyer Department of Kinesiology, Mississippi State University, Mississippi State, MS, USA

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Tyler G. Johnson Department of Kinesiology, Boise State University, Boise, ID, USA

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Meritocracy continues to dominate conventional thinking in the postmodern West. Yet, recently, an increasing number of critics have highlighted how meritocracy has gone wrong. One such critic is Daniel Markovits, author of The Meritocracy Trap. In this article, we highlight the major themes of Markovits’s book, identify how the ideology of meritocracy has infiltrated kinesiology and sport, and then propose how to reconceptualize and redirect kinesiology toward a more humane and morally sound discipline, which can avoid the pitfalls of the meritocracy trap. Most notably, we propose that kinesiology should (a) recognize the frailty and temporality of humans, (b) embrace the wide middle of human skill performance capabilities, (c) value mid-level jobs and occupations such as physical education teaching and YMCA and/or city recreation department positions, and (d) redefine what counts as success.

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