The American Dream, Education, and Poverty

The ideology of meritocracy is key to the American Dream. The word “America” immediately conjures up thoughts of equal opportunity for all. According to Johnson, “the American Dream promises that our system functions as a meritocracy…[where] people get ahead or behind based on what they earn and deserve rather than what circumstances they were born into” (20). This idea permeates everything from the government, to schools, to family homes, to conversations, to core beliefs. Though we may not realize it, we accept this idea of the American Dream functioning as a meritocracy without question.

Though the American Dream would like to pretend that it perpetuates a system of meritocracy, in reality, self-serving desires—while not necessarily wrong or bad—keep the dream of a meritocratic society from being realized. Because an upper-class existed prior to the implementation of a meritocratic/democratic system in America, there are those who entered the so called “meritocratic” system at an extreme advantage as well as those an extreme disadvantage. In the face of the rising value and standards of merit in America, those who had access to the power of wealth used it, and are still using it, to put themselves and their children ahead. This is seen in the interviews discussed in “The American Dream and the Power of Wealth.” These interviews provide two points that directly oppose the idea of America as a meritocracy: parents want the best education for their children in order to give them the best opportunities to succeed, and, the higher a family is on the economic ladder, the more power they wield in order to secure the best education for their children. Though parents often admitted to the inequality inherent in the education system, that did not stop them from doing everything they could, using every resource—from their own income to the acquired wealth of those in their families—available to them to put their children ahead. Through a race, a competition of “meritocracy’s” own making, America has become a system of stratification.

In a “land of opportunity,” the very real variations in school quality creates a paradox that forces us to ask a very important question: if American is the land of opportunity, a meritocracy where one advances or falls on their merit alone, and education is the “great equalizer” that levels the playing field, giving all students the same tools, how can we justify the fact that overwhelmingly schools in poor neighborhoods and areas do not have the same funds, resources, quality teachers, etc. that more affluent neighborhoods do? How can we say that children in poverty have the same, equal opportunities to succeed as children from wealthy families when their access to quality education is not equal?


Johnson, HB. 2006. Chapters 2 and 3 in The American Dream and the Power of Wealth: Choosing Schools and Inheriting Inequality in the Land of Opportunity. New York: Routledge. Pp. 19-78.

More Than 40% of Low-Income Schools Don’t Get a Fair Share of State and Local Funds, Department of Education Research Finds–US Department of Education

More articles:

Very Rich Get Very Richer: Wealthiest 20% Holds 94.5% of World’s Money–Wall Street Journal

Low Income Students Now a Majority in the Nation’s Public Schools: “Mississippi led the nation with the highest rate: ­71 percent, almost three out of every four public school children in Mississippi, were low-income [in 2013].” –Southern Education Foundation


Teaching and Literature

Keep Your Mouth Half-Shut


This article is an interview with the poet laureate, Charles Wright, on his plans for his year as poet laureate, what poetry means to him, and how social media can affect poetry.

How does this apply to teaching?

Poetry is one of those topics that most people seem to avoid as too “artsy” or complicated for them to understand, and, while some students will get more out of poetry than others, teaching poetry in such a way that each student gets something out of it is an important thing to work on. Also, how can social media and poetry help each other?

Banned Books and the Power of the Written Word64776bdbdd3cac1ab6e7ce7a47577870


This article is a discussion of banned books, exploring not just the controversy surrounding these books, but also the power that these books have.

How does this apply to teaching?

Though “banning” books may seem harmless enough, freedom of expression and ideas is something that should be encouraged in children. As a future teacher, intolerance of other’s ideas and opinions is something that I want to discourage in my classroom, and banned books week is an excellent time to bring up this discussion.

Don’t forget to leave a comment! What do you think about poetry, banned books, and these articles?


Teaching and Current Events

Our professor for our MET seminar, Dr. Franz, has asked us to take a more serious interest in current events as they pertain to teaching by reading at least two articles a week, summarizing the articles, and writing a sentence or two about how they will affect the classroom. I’ve been personally making an effort to stay mostly informed about what’s going on in the world, but I haven’t been keeping up with current events as well as I’d like to, so I thought I would try to keep myself better accountable by using my blog to post links to interesting articles and keep a record of the articles I’ve been reading for our assignment. I’d love for this to generate some discussion in the comments, so feel free to leave your thoughts on the topics I link. Please remember to keep the discussion respectful!

Home-Cooked Dinner Isn’t All It’s Cracked Up to Be?


Home-cooked meals have been long held as a key way to promote family unity and have often been linked to higher GPAs and more dedicated students. However, new studies show that these home-cooked meals may not be as closely and exclusively linked to these attributes as previously thought, and the writer argues that putting stress on home-cooked dinners every night might actually be an impractical and stressful standard for families, especially mothers.

How does this relate to the classroom?

If home-cooked dinner time isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, teachers should be encouraging students and parents to pursue other forms of family time.

9c15c934ce626a4d65d5bc22664d22a6Low Income Schools See Big Benefits in Teaching Mindfulness


Long time teachers can probably give you a list of all of the students that consistently caused problems and disrupted the classroom. However, the teacher featured in this article, Jean-Gabrielle Larochette, has been implementing mindfulness, a form of meditation and breathing techniques, to teach children how to learn to control themselves instead of just telling them to quit acting up.

How does this relate to the classroom?

I’m not terribly familiar with meditation techniques, but the article raises an important point that instead of telling kids to stop being disruptive, it might be extremely beneficial for students to be taught HOW to control themselves.

What are your thoughts? Is a home-cooked meal really all it’s made out to be? Is teaching self-control instead of expecting self-control reasonable? Tell me in the comments!