During any political season, like the current, the American Dream is a popular topic. Just the idea of the American Dream causes one to think of prosperity, safety, security and success. It is a part of the American culture and it would seem like a natural assumption for education to promote its ideals. Instead, Glen Schultz (2011) in Kingdom Education for the 21st Century contends that the American Dream is actually in conflict with the great purpose of education. As unpatriotic as this thesis may appear, it is true that the positive ideals of the American Dream easily become counter-productive to what the Christian school is called to teach and train in the lives of America’s youth.
“The modern American dream has always been a simple promise of opportunity: Hard work can earn a good life, a good job with decent pay and security, a secure retirement, and an affordable education for the kids” (vanden Heuvel, 2011). Martin Luther King Jr. described that American Dream as, “This will be the day when we bring into full realization the American dream -- a dream yet unfulfilled. A dream of equality of opportunity, of privilege and property widely distributed” (http://thinkexist.com/quotes/with/keyword/american_dream
). On the surface this description sounds good. What could be wrong with hard work, a good job, secure future, and education? Parents and educators have always told students that they could do anything they wanted if they simply worked hard enough. Coaches tell their players that every spot on the team is open and those that work the hardest will get a starting position. Student activities are available to any student who wants to participate. This promise of success in education is based on what Schultz (2011) identifies as the characteristics of the American Dream: self- advancement, self-esteem, self- sufficiency, individualism, and materialism. All of these are the keys to success and prosperity.
Yet, regardless of what is said to students, they know that at the end of the day there are students who never study and get “A’s”, the physically gifted athlete starts the game, and the same “popular kid” gets elected to all the offices and opportunities. When educators promote the foundations of the American Dream they falsely lead students to believe that they control their own success. One problem with this is expressed by Florence King when she said, “People are so busy dreaming the American Dream, fantasizing about what they could be or have a right to be, that they're all asleep at the switch. Consequently we are living in the Age of Human Error” (http://thinkexist.com/quotes/with/keyword/american_dream
). Goals are not realistic and students are set up for failure. Students are not taught to appreciate the value of doing their best, instead they are taught that only success and achievement matter.
For the Christian educator, the dangers of promoting the American Dream are even greater. As Dr. Schultz (2011) points out, the fundamental assumption of the American Dream is that one is in control of their own destiny and can self-make anything possible. This belief removes God from the equation of life. If, as 1 Corinthians 10:31 says, the purpose of all things in life is to glorify God, then He must be at the center of everything communicated, both in word and deed, in the educational setting. This makes it impossible for the Christian school to teach both the sovereignty of God and the American Dream. C. S. Lewis puts it this way, “God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there. There is no such thing” (http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/c/c_s_lewis.html#3jY5t7Gp...
Christian educators must focus students' attention on the sovereignty of God and how this truth defines the American Dream. The Almighty’s sovereign plan determines what prosperity and success really are. Man is not to give their best effort to bring success to self, but to bring glory to God. Finally, Christian educators need to teach students the facts of humanity’s reliance and position before God that Lewis referred to when he wrote, “There are two kinds of people: those who say to God, ‘Thy will be done,’ and those to whom God says, ‘All right, then, have it your way’" (http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/c/c_s_lewis.html#3jY5t7Gp...
). In the end, man’s ways will never work out.
John M. Furrow
Westminster Catawba Christian School
Presented in Partial Fulfillment of
Kingdom Education FDS
EDU 9950 (FDS)
Dr. Milt Uecker
Columbia International University
Posted with author's permission
King, L. http://thinkexist.com/quotes/with/keyword/american_dream
. Retrieved: October 11, 2012
King, M.L. http://thinkexist.com/quotes/with/keyword/american_dream
Retrieved: October 11, 2012
Lewis, CS. http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/c/c_s_lewis.html#3jY5t7Gp...
Retrieved: October 11, 2012
Schultz, G. (2011). Kingdom Education for the 21st Century. DVD Series
vanden Heuvel, K. (2011). A Movement to Reclaim the American Dream. Washington Post. September