The American Dream

I was reading a post from someone a little while ago (and I’ve lost the link now, but if I find it again, I’ll link the post!)  She was talking about the American Dream.  In college, I had a whole history class devoted to the notion of the American Dream.

Dr. A was so great at what he did.  He was a fantastic professor.  I was in my senior year, my last semester of college.  I had already completed my Senior Thesis class the semester prior, in which I wrote about immigration in the United States–not an easy topic to be sure.  So, I thought I would take a 1000 level course with a professor that taught my Methods of Teaching History class.  He was tough, got me to think in new and creative ways about presenting the lessons of history.  My mind had never been so twisted in my life.  So naturally, I thought that he wouldn’t be too tough in a 1000 level course (read: I thought I was going to be taking an easy course)–not like he was in my 4000 level Methods class.  Boy, was I ever mistaken.  That history class was (and will remain) THE TOUGHEST college class that I’ve ever taken.

He was the only professor that taught current American History.  Most history classes start with Colonial history and it abruptly ends with WWII.  History stops for most people there.  I mean, we KNOW about Vietnam and the 70s and 80s…but too many teachers think that it’s too close in our American Memory and the wounds are too fresh to teach it.  It’s rather a shame, too, it’s interesting history!

So anyway, I decided that I wanted to have a definition of the American Dream.  I mean, I understand it–probably too well and I was kind of curious if the definition had changed much since I was in college (in what 8 years?)  It hasn’t.

I remember the first day of the class when Dr. A said, “Define the American Dream.”  He wrote on the white board (or was it chalk, I can’t recall)  And 44 students did not know what to expect.  So, I raised my hand.  I said, “A white picket fence, a dog a husband and a few kids running around playing in the precious Denver water”

That was *actually* not the correct answer, can you believe it?  I figured that most Americans WANT that (well, maybe not EXACTLY that, but something similar).  Dr. A started talking about the poor people in the US and how actually they were getting poorer and poorer, while the top 5% were getting richer…by means of places meant to steal from the poor and line the pockets of the rich: eg, Rent-a-Centers and Payday loan stores.  I could actually write a whole term paper on this thought, but I really don’t want to write someone’s paper today.

In the 1950s, the standard of living was set fourth by the types of items that you had in your home. (citation needed) Such lists included a refrigerator, washing machine and other various appliances.  Today, we look at whether someone has a computer and access to the Internet as a measure of some sort of wealth.  There is a technical way of determining wealth and the standard of living, but I’m not going to post that here.  That really isn’t the point of this.

I asked Rob on the way to the Class 6 what his American Dream was and he said that I was asking him to recite a 20 page essay to me.

My American dream is this: Husband (got it) master’s degree, own a home (I don’t need a white picket fence, but I do NEED a fence!)in a major metropolitan city (but near my husband’s family–I could totally agree with Cincinnati!), get a high powered journalism job, have at least one child (but I’d like 2 or 3), a cat and a dog (got it). 

What is your American Dream?