This brilliant book shows us for the first time the ideas, the people, and the politics behind a fifty-year-old utopian social experiment that changed modern America. The idea was to use the new science of intelligence testing to assess and sort American students in order to create a truly democratic elite that would lead postwar America to progress, strength, and prosperity. No writer before Nicholas Lemann has understood the significance of this extraordinary drama, and in this remarkable synthesis of vibrant storytelling, vivid portraiture, and thematic analysis, he reveals it for the first time. Predictably, the utopian experiment did not turn out as planned. It created a new elite, but it generated conflict and tension. Lemann shows that this new American meritocracy, however well-educated and privileged, is neither natural nor inevitable, nor does it apportion opportunity fairly. He concludes with his own keen assessment of what the future may and should hold.