The American Sham: An Essay on the False Belief that the American Dream is Universally Attainable In 1939, James Adams defined the American Dream as, “the dream of land where life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement.” This definition motivated people from all over the world to strive for this dream, whether in the US or trying to get here. Although the idea of the American Dream is tantalizing, the American Dream is not attainable for everyone. There are obstacles that many people have to try to overcome. Some succeed and some fail. Although the American Dream seems to be an opportunity for greater things, America does not provide this dream to everyone. It is only attainable through hard work determination, and to some even through the people you know. There are determining factors to achieving the American Dream: class, race, family life, and unequal education. These factors are what make achieving the American Dream such a hard goal. Since the inception of the American Dream, the middle class has always believed in the opportunity to move up in society and standing.
They work hard to provide for their families and to seek greater heights. However, that standard has now changed dramatically. In today’s economy, the middle class has lost hope to move forward. Since the economic downturn, middle class families have struggled to make ends meet and hold onto what they already have, leaving no room to hope for improvement. The gap between wealthy Americans and the middle class has grown in recent years. The wealthiest Americans have only gotten richer, and the inverse is true for those less fortunate. How can poorer Americans hope to push forward and strive for the American Dream? The rich can afford the best schools for their children, good homes in safe neighborhoods, and still have extra money for luxuries. The middle class has been pushed to the wayside. Their priorities have been shifted to concentrate on keeping their mortgages in good standing and keeping food on the table. That is not the American Dream of opportunity and prosperity; it is merely subsisting on meager income and praying for better lives for their children. Today’s society and economy do not provide room for improvement. In the days of our grandparents, children could surpass their parents in achievement. Today, however, there is an increasing trend of adults flocking back to the nest. Jobs have dried up, and even those with doctorate degrees struggle to find even manual labor jobs. The middle class is flooded with the disenfranchised and unemployed. Unequal education stems from the inability to afford quality education. Oftentimes, the education you can receive depends on who you know or how big your bank account is. With that said, no education, or low-quality education doesn’t allow people to achieve their American dream as easily. Part of the American dream is to be well educated enough to have a good paying job and be financially stable. Without an education, acquiring a good paying job is almost impossible. To be anything near successful, you have to have an education. The high cost of a good college or university is impossible to pay in full for most families without a scholarship. Even with financial aid and government grants, most students will have to take out a student loan to pay for a good school. While this helps students to pay for an education, it sets graduates on a path of debt as soon as they get out of school.
Student loans can often take years to pay back, taking much needed money away from those fresh out of school looking to start their lives. All people should have the right to the same amount and same quality of education, but America does not provide that to all people, therefore proving that America does not provide the American dream to all people. Many people who seek the American Dream are faced with obstacles completely out of their control, the first and foremost of these being race. Hispanics are faced with a language barrier. Those who flee Mexico or South America for the purpose of achieving a better life flock to America with little or no knowledge of the English language. This creates huge hurdles to jump. How can you get a rewarding job without even speaking the language? Hispanics who don’t speak English struggle every day to understand the new world around them, considerably limiting their available opportunities to advance. African Americans face an entirely different set of obstacles. After the ban of segregation and the disposal of Jim Crow laws, the number of African American families in the middle class skyrocketed, as did the number of African American owned businesses. Although these statistics show clear signs of leaps forward in equality, the divide in education between blacks and whites is still a gaping chasm.
The mostly-black, inner city schools of America are plagued with children who struggle to read even at a basic level. According to the article “Unequal Education”, black children are much more likely to make fun of classmates who do not understand the material, which leads to anxiety, a detriment to concentration. Instead of admitting they do not know the material, urban schoolchildren act aloof and uninterested in their studies to avoid ridicule. Those black children who wish to learn and strive for academic excellence are made fun of for “acting white.” Not all of the blame can be placed upon the schools. The way African Americans raise their children differs from the way whites raise their children. Blacks trust in the American school system to teach their children what is expected of them. Whites do not often take this approach, preferring to instead begin teaching their children basic reading, writing, and math skills even before kindergarten. With African American children starting school so far behind their white classmates, a gap has been created that is difficult, if not impossible, to breach. Without basic academic skills, blacks are faced with a unique challenge.
Even if they are willing to learn, how can such a huge difference in family life and school settings be righted in the school systems? Schools have a duty to students that is not being fulfilled, robbing their students of a solid foundation to build upon. Without good test scores, students do not have the chance to enter good colleges, without which there is no hope for fulfilling careers. This rips away the chance for the American Dream to be reached. Without wealth, a good education, and a decent foundation early in life, the American Dream is nearly unattainable. Most of America does not fall into this category. The majority of America is stuck on the edge of either poverty or comfort, a purgatory that is almost inescapable. If you haven’t the money or education to build a better life for yourself, the American Dream is just that: a dream, floating just on the edge of consciousness but ever out of reach.
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