Neal Urwitz tells us that “when we tell our kids that they can grow up to be anything, we’re just lying to them.” And that “Social mobility — the idea you can erase class lines, move up in the world, do better than your parents did — has all but disappeared.” Part of his evidence is that only six percent of people in the bottom fifth of household incomes will ever make it to the top fifth (“What happened to the American Dream?” Aug. 28).
My paternal grandfather in the early 1900s had to drop out of school in the second grade to get a job in a factory. His son (my father) earned a college degree thanks to the G.I. Bill when he was 40 years old. Most of my generation in our family got their college degrees when they were in their early 20s. The younger generation is academically exceeding my generation. The American Dream is ongoing.
Mr. Urwitz cites Wes Moore as typical of of the American Dream. He then states stories like that are vanishingly rare. Having had the fortune of teaching at Western High School in Baltimore for 22 years (retiring 10 years ago), I can attest that there are countless examples of former students still living the American Dream. In an all-female school that’s about 80-to-85 percent African-American — most from single-parent families and many “born poor” from rather rough neighborhoods — many Western graduates achieved success as doctors, lawyers, engineers, accountants, nurses, politicians, journalists, teachers, artists, etc. They are living the dream every day. And Poly, City, and other schools can boast similar success stories.
The one thing all of those students had in common is when they were in school, they took academics seriously. They had excellent attendance. They did their homework every night. They took pride in their work and in their school. And they continued those behaviors in college and in their professional careers.
Today’s students need to know that the American Dream is not a lie. It is attainable. But achieving the dream can only be done by taking their education seriously and working hard.
Paul Ludger Evans, Baltimore
The writer is a retired Baltimore City Public Schools teacher.