2020 Virtual Lecture

The Myth of Meritocracy

From satire to social inequality

Friday, September 18, 2020 at 11:00 am

Jo Littler


Carl James


Rupa Banerjee


Wayne Lewchuk


Trish Hennessy


Learn more about the panelists »

Watch the entire 2020 Worldviews Lecture and panel discussion:

The 2020 Worldviews lecture brought together over 180 academics, students, higher education leaders, communications professionals, and journalists from around the globe for a virtual discussion on the lecture’s theme: The myth of meritocracy.

Jo Littler from City, University of London, opened the event with a historical and contemporary analysis of the ways by which meritocracy permeates social institutions, including the academy. Professor Littler’s lecture was followed by a panel discussion featuring scholars from across Ontario, which was facilitated by Trish Hennessy from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.

Ryerson University professor Rupa Banerjee spoke to the ways meritocracy informs discrimination within Canada’s immigration system; York University professor Carl James spoke to the ways in which meritocracy disadvantages Black, Indigenous, and racialized students and educators at every stage of their educational journeys; and McMaster University professor emeritus Wayne Lewchuk highlighted the myth of meritocracy as it relates to climbing the economic ladder, and who benefits from this myth.

After their remarks, the panelists discussed the ways COVID-19 has illuminated the myth of meritocracy and how the pandemic may dislodge the myth or potentially entrench it further. The panelists also discussed the ways that higher education might be upholding and legitimizing the notion of meritocracy within the neoliberal context, and answered other questions regarding the harmful pervasiveness of meritocracy within our social institutions.

We invite you to view the entire Worldviews lecture for yourself above. Below you will find specific portions of the event timestamped for ease of access.

  • Professor Littler’s lecture begins at 6:14
  • The panelists’ are introduced at 27:45
  • Rupa Banerjee remarks begin at 30:20
  • Carl James’ remarks begin at 36:00
  • Wayne Lewchuk’s remarks begin at 45:20
  • The question-and-answer portion begins at 51:00

For a full written overview of Professor Littler’s lecture, please read the Time to make the myth of meritocracy satire again by University World News reporter Nic Mitchell.


About the Worldviews Lecture

The Worldviews Lecture is a spinoff of the popular Worldviews Conferences, which were organized by the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations, the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education of the University of Toronto, the Washington-based Inside Higher Ed, and the London-based University World News.

Held each year in Toronto, these lectures explore issues of concern in higher education, locally, and around the globe.

The Worldviews Lecture is intended to provide a lively forum to advance mutual understanding of the relationships, challenges, and potential of higher education and the media.

  • Ocufa
  • Academic Matters
  • University World News
  • Inside Higher Ed
  • Academia Group
  • University of Toronto
  • Goldblatt Partners