GohannaEng 102-30810 September 2018Systems and the American DreamThe American dream is a popular concept of prosperity that any given citizen in the nation would hope to someday achieve. Traditionally, it has been common to achieve the dream and you would be looked down upon if you were not able to do so yourself. However, the economy and social climate of America has evolved drastically and with these changes it has become ever more difficult to succeed. The current systems in place undermine the American dream due to the lack of equal wealth distribution, a privileged majority, and the overall poor mindset of already disadvantaged people. One of the largest contributing factors to obtaining a well-paying job is some level of college degree.
This is a pivotal factor into whether or not the American dream is an achievable goal for any person. However, wealth distribution in America is unbalanced to the point where most Americans are unable to even afford a college education. According to Sara Goldrick-Rab in her article “Paying the Price, “Sixty percent of Americans aged twenty-five to sixty-four do not hold a college credential. But 22 percent of them . . .
have tried to get one. They left college frustrated, often saying it had something to do with money” (747). This is an example of how despite trying to afford an education, it is usually unobtainable. This issue spreads across economic status, proving that it is not just a problem for the minority but for the majority of American people. Specifically, when it comes to low-income families, Goldrick-Rab states that, “a year at community college equals 40% of their annual family income” (744). When it comes to middle-class families, “a year at a public institution ranges from 16% to 25% of their annual family income” (Goldrick-Rab 744).
From these statistics, we can deduce that even with financial support from family members, the costs of college cause significant damage to most students. Another factor to consider when determining if the American dream is realistic is the system of privilege. One aspect of this system is the advantage that white people have over people of color.
This is illustrated in a few different ways by Allan G. Johnson’s article “What Is a “System of Privilege”?” where he states that, “white people are generally assumed to be law-abiding until they show some sign that they are not, while people of color are routinely assumed to be criminals or potential criminals until they show they’re not” (455). This is an important point because if people of color are disproportionately incarcerated, they are at a disadvantage when it comes to achieving the American dream. Most white people ignore this argument because they are not aware of the advantage that life has allotted them. As Johnson points out, “Privilege is not something a person can have, like a possession.
. .it is a characteristic of the social system. . .” (456). This is why it undermines the American dream, because the American dream is skewed to accommodate privileged people.
Lastly, the mindset of people who are already at a disadvantage can undermine their efforts to achieve the American dream. Disadvantaged people usually do not have the best education because they come from a poor background. Carol Dweck explains in her article “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success” that there are two mindsets a person can have: a fixed mindset or a growth mindset. She describes a fixed mindset as, “Believing that your qualities are carved in stone. . .
you have only a certain amount of intelligence, a certain personality, and a certain moral character. . .
” (597). This type of mindset is common, and easy to have especially if you don’t have a lot given to you, and what is given to you is not very good quality. The growth mindset is described as, “the belief that your basic qualities are things you can cultivate through your efforts” (Dweck 598). This mindset can actually help people achieve the American dream, or at least get closer to achieving it.
Unfortunately, not everyone is capable of thinking this way and getting stuck in a fixed mindset is damaging to a person’s efforts to achieve the American dream. With a fixed mindset, it is easy to give up after any failure, or not attempt to chase any big opportunities for fear of not being good enough. While this would mostly affect people who come from disadvantaged backgrounds, it is possible to people of other socioeconomic statuses to be afflicted with a fixed mindset as well. Overall, the American dream is not realistically achievable for the majority of Americans in today’s society.
The systems in place, whether intentional or not, undermine the efforts of people who want to succeed. Most Americans are affected in some way, either financially or socially to the degree that it is just not possible for them to prosper. Works CitedDweck, Carol. “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success.” From Inquiry to Academic Writing, edited by Stuart Greene and April Lidinsky, Bedford St. Martin’s, 2018, pp. 595-603.
Goldrick-Rab, Sara. “Paying The Price.” From Inquiry to Academic Writing, edited by Stuart Greene and April Lidinsky, Bedford St. Martin’s, 2018, pp. 743-748.Johnson, Allan G. “What Is a “System of Privilege”?” From Inquiry to Academic Writing, edited by Stuart Greene and April Lidinsky, Bedford St.
Martin’s, 2018, pp. 455-457.