Monday, March 31, 2014

Why We're Starting With the Ivies - My Q & A With Nicole

by Dr. Ellen Brandt

I've gotten at least fifty questions already about why we've decided to make the initial focus of the Bring Back the Meritocracy! project the Ivy League and other top-tier universities in the U.S. and abroad.

The short answer is: We think it's the correct thing to do in terms of tactics, the right place to launch the project before approaching other concerned constituencies.

This is what I told a lovely lady named Nicole, an intelligent Baby Boomer with a Masters degree from a non-Ivy school, in the Q & A Comments stream of one of the Destitute Ivy Leaguer blogs.

(Most readers of the blog, let alone those interested or already involved in the Bring Back the Meritocracy! project, will not have read this exchange, particularly because Google's "More/Less" toggle switch added to all Comments streams effectively lops off anything longer than two sentences, unless you specifically click on the "More.")

Current and future proponents of Bring Back the Meritocracy! certainly should understand why we are focusing on the Ivies first - thus, this blog post.

So here is Nicole's comment and question to me:

(Ellen, this is) clever and very well articulated . . . (but) as a non-Ivy Leaguer, I find myself left out of the discussion, and I imagine my non-Ivy League colleagues will as well. Who is this Proletariat Ivy League Meritocracy - a rare breed, I assume - and why is it only them you are addressing, with some of the best points made about the tragic influences of Western media and the growing imbalance of wealth and power in the U.S. that I have read in a long time?

And here is my subsequent reply:

Nicole, (the decision is) tactical, and I hope it will not discourage you from connecting with me and participating in this important effort.

First, to address one point you made: Far from being a small group,  Ivy Leaguers on the verge of financial disaster are an extremely large group, particularly among those of us over age 50. That's because we were more, not less, apt to belong to the (various) groups which have been hit very hard by the economic events of the past several decades: investors, homeowners, small business owners, (and) managers.

Since writing my Baby Boomers - The Angriest Generation blog in the wake of the Great Crash, I have personally heard from thousands of my peers in similar situations. And as I (have) pointed out, as Gen-X'ers approach 50 - the current cut-off point (in the developed economies) for being financially eradicated - they are bound to feel threatened, too. Nor are the brash Millennials getting off scot-free, since all those Happy Retirees whose jobs they were counting on taking will now fight hard to push their retirements to 95 or so - since most Boomers are anything but happy.

But back to tactics: I am starting with the Ivies (and other top-tier schools), because they have the most to lose and now truly need to save face. We've all read about those Armies of the Displaced and Discarded who went to Washington or state capitals in the 1930's, living in tents and reminding the nation how unjust and impossible things had become.

Well, those Armies of Unfortunates were primarily farmers or factory workers or blue collar laborers back then. Today, they'd be crowded with displaced lawyers and accountants and engineers and journalists and teachers and entrepreneurs whose small businesses went under . . .  You get the picture.

So universities as a group have an immense stake in staving off their alumni's financial devastation, with the Ivies (and other top universities), one hopes, more sensitive to the rout of their reputations than other institutions of higher learning.

And tactical reason number two: (Those) Ivy (and other prestigious-school) graduates who have been more fortunate than many of their peers are well-represented among the executive ranks of venture funds, top-tier foundations, and other institutions which will need to be persuaded to participate in this grand (broad-based and ambitious) effort.

(Many) in my own network have already expressed keen interest in participating. Others will follow, not only because it's the right thing to do, but because their participation can be potentially quite lucrative. Supporting Boomer entrepreneurs, for instance, may turn out to be a spectacularly smart move in terms of investment return.

What an idea! 60-year-olds may actually be better-educated, more sophisticated, far more skilled, and - I dunno, wiser??? - than 16-year-olds. 

So that's the Q & A. If Bring Back the Meritocracy! supporters are confronted with "But Why the Ivies?" questions, please feel free to send them this post by way of explanation. 

The next post in the series will explicate the term Meritocracy and explain why some irresponsible groups and publications are distorting its meaning to support (very bad) political agendas.    

Saturday, March 22, 2014

The Series Agenda and a Call for Guest Contributors

by Dr. Ellen Brandt

I've held back on this posting - and have several in reserve - because I wanted readers to focus on the last post, "As We Go, So Goes the Meritocracy," which is a distillation of many of the major themes around which this series will revolve. Here is a link to that post:

We've now set up a long and informative landing page for the "Bring Back the Meritocracy!" project at Google+:

As you will see, from this landing page, you can proceed to six discussion-into-action Communities at Google+ related to parts of the overall agenda:  Research, Venture Capital, Foundations, Job Creation, Political Action, and Media.

You can also travel to an experimental Google+ Community, Friends of Ellen, whose purpose is to persuade my large and wonderful Linked In network, almost none of whom use Google+, to experience it and see if they like it, while connecting with each other and feeling out potential collaborators for their own projects. (No, I do not work for Google. Would I be destitute if I did?)

On the other side of the coin, I've formed a Bring Back the Meritocracy! Group at Linked In, for people who prefer to use Linked In primarily. And there's a new semi-related Linked In Group for Boomers, called Boomer Political Action.

Once more, you can get to any of these brand-new Communities and Groups from the Google+ landing page. I have also set up a separate Google+ landing page for the Destitute Ivy Leaguer blog:

This new blog landing page is there for a specific purpose: as an Index to new posts when they appear, with dedicated addresses, allowing readers to click on and proceed to individual posts that interest them most.

On to the subject of Guest Contributors. There seems - suddenly - to be a Google-made glitch in this area, but we will either try to get an exemption or proceed as planned, until we are told we can't do so.

I am 100 percent in favor in allowing those interested not only in the Bring Back the Meritocracy! project, but also in the general topic of the "Highly-Educated But Under-Employed," to post on this blog as Guest Commentators.

We would not be seeking scholarly papers or overly-long articles, just 5-15 paragraph heartfelt opinion pieces from those themselves part of this target group or researchers, politicians, venture angels, and others with a true interest in how to help this very large, very angry, and very deserving group of U.S. and world citizens.

Alas, Google is cracking down on shady SEO practitioners, who are said to be "stuffing" blogs - mostly short-post, heavy-on-photos-and-videos blogs - with Guest posts that help them do whatever it is that they do. That is as far from our purposes with this blog or the Bring Back the Meritocracy! project as one can possibly be. (We are not "monetized," and we will not become "monetized." We believe good journalists - and good collaborative project managers - need "SEO" like we need a hole in the head. In fact, we're pretty much against the whole concept of "SEO." Our motto is "Write well, and Readers will come.")

In any case, we are now calling for and accepting Guest Commentators, as Google continues to figure out what they're going to do. At worst, we'll keep Guest blog posts on hold, until the situation shakes out. So if you are passionate about the topic of the "Highly-Educated But Under-Employed" and want to tell the world about it, let us know.

Finally, before this post becomes unwieldy, a word about how my own posts for this series will proceed.

Now that the administrative structure of the Bring Back the Meritocracy! project has been decided upon, I hope to contribute new blog posts almost daily, barring other contingencies that prevent me from doing so.

There will be several different major themes on which I'd like to focus:

*** News about the Bring Back the Meritocracy! project: I'll only include major news in the blog - breakthroughs in the agendas of the working discussion-into-action Communities, such as a new venture fund being established; a major new research project coming from a university or think tank; or progress forming new non-profit foundations or entities matching our target talent pool with those "unmet need" development projects around the world.

*** Posts on the concept of "Meritocracy" per se: how Meritocracy is a central concept in the American vision and the vision of progressive democracies; how we've strayed so badly from this vision; how higher education and universities should fit into this vision; and why the future of the Baby Boom generation is so central a focus point in debates about Meritocracy right now.

*** Posts on the excessive concentration of power in the U.S. and other developed countries: how and why concentration of power has accelerated in the past three decades;  how we can stop it from accelerating further for the good of our country and our world; and how this relates to the problem - which should be turned into an opportunity - of "Highly-Educated But Under-Employed" people, particularly those over age 50.

*** Posts on media concentration and how extremely dangerous to Democracy - and Meritocracy - it has now become: how media concentration causes excessive financial concentration and political concentration, not the other way around; how the push to promote a tiny cadre of "thought leaders" is dangerous, retroactive, and thoroughly anti-Democratic; and how Through-the-Looking-Glass definitions of what is and is not "spam" is destroying free press principles on-line and killing independent thought and expression.

*** Posts that are peripheral to these major themes, but have a bearing on some part of their overall message: For instance, I want to do a story very soon on age-targeted television advertising, which has become so extraordinarily harassing - if not downright sadistic - it has many Baby Boomers up in arms.

*** Satirical posts, for which I have become known, and which many in my audience expect from me.

*** Posts about the kinds of new enterprises, products, and services I think many Boomers would appreciate, rather than what misguided marketers are trying to foist on us against our will. (I stress that I will talk about product or service categories in a completely generic sense. Specific products, services, or companies will never be mentioned in this series.)

Since venture funds supporting over-age 50 entrepreneurs and their start-ups will be one focus of the Bring Back the Meritocracy! project, these posts may give venture people some idea of the kinds of start-ups worth backing via such new funds.

I happily and openly admit that I would love to be tapped to administer one or more such funds and/or be backed in my own future entrepreneurial ventures. So, "Hey, potential Angels, here are some ideas about enterprises those 'of a certain age' may be better qualified to run than sophomores in high school."

***  But one kind of post I do not wish to include in this blog, because it is so closely linked with the Bring Back the Meritocracy! project, is anything pertaining exclusively to my own experience. I understand that my audience wants to hear why I abandoned the Baby Boomers-The Angriest Generation series in 2010, along with all the valuable conversations which had started to arise from this series.

I will write one post by way of explanation, also touching on related issues. But I don't want the Bring Back the Meritocracy! project to be impeded by a focus on my own situation or that of any other person or small group of people. I want Bring Back the Meritocracy! to become a major, inclusive movement, gaining the cooperation of all eight Ivies and many other top-tier universities, at home and abroad, as well as many other prestigious adherents from the worlds of foundations, venture capital, research, and international project management.

I have decided to talk about my own distressing situation in a separate blog, which can be read by those who are interested, including fellow media people who want to write about the Meritocracy movement and need to hear what inspired me to start it. When I set up that separate blog, I will mention it once, then never again.