American Dream

Many people feel that the American Dream theory introduced more almost thirty years ago is dated, and simply does not explain why people engage in some types of criminal behavior. However, it is very difficult to refute the numerous examples in the web link “Who Wants to be a Millionaire?”. Examine the excerpt from the conclusion of the “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” article:

The “rags to riches” legend has and continues to be a cornerstone of the American Dream. The traditional message taught that through hard work, frugality, and self-sacrifice one could achieve financial success and social mobility. Ben Franklin counseled industry, Abraham Lincoln sang the praises of the northern labor system, and Horatio Alger instilled hope in generations of Americans. All three helped to establish basic guidelines for success in a land of infinite possibility.

There are unquestionably many Americans who continue to abide by such tenets and in doing so are rewarded for their efforts. Yet there are also those who have come to believe that the American Dream’s promise of riches is just that, a promise, and as such they feel entitled to instant financial success. Nor has the socio-corporate climate in America disappointed such a belief. Savvy television producers and marketing executives have latched on to the core of the American Dream. They understand that Americans are enthralled with striking it rich. Thus millionaire game shows are designed to make winning seem easy. Lotteries are marketed in such a way that one thinks they have a real shot at cashing in. The reality in both instances is that achieving the American Dream through such means is a long shot at best. Too much chance exists. Too much luck is necessary.

What is the end effect on society? Do millionaire game shows and promises of lottery millions help to further erode the ethic of work and self-reliance that once embodied the American Dream, replacing it with an ethic of luck? Or are these sources of instant gratification merely products of an ethic already lost to some Americans? Perhaps the truth lies somewhere in the middle.

The even darker side to this cultural phenomenon is how the sense of entitlement has spilled over into a lack of responsibility. The fact that so many Americans are willing to utilize litigation to cash in on the American Dream is disheartening. Failing to take responsibility for their own mistakes, plaintiffs look to the legal system to make misfortune into fortune. Again, marketing and an avalanche of advertising by personal injury lawyers helps encourage would-be injury victims. Still, the readiness of people to sue is a key social factor.

Last year a student included this video as part of their answers for this assignment. It is less than 5 minutes long so take a break and see what you think.



(Read this before you answer the questions for the assignment)


Using appropriate discussion format  (not all in one paragraph) you are to answer the following questions:

1. What exactly is the American Dream as you understand it? Has it changed over time?

2. What is your American Dream? Why do you suppose that you came up with this concept?

3. What have you accomplished thus far in your life toward achieving your dream? What do you see as standing in your way for reaching your American Dream?

4. What role do you feel the media has played in creating an unrealistic American Dream for most people?

5. Do you think it is fair to teach young people the value of an education (part of the American Dream) when there is so little economic mobility available? Do you believe that an education will automatically or lets say pretty much leads to a good job and success in life? Does this “education to success” position (when it doesn’t happen) lead to frustration that can bring about deviant or criminal behavior? (THIS REALLY IS A KEY PART OF THIS ASSIGNMENT!!!)

6. Where would frustration and/or feelings of entitlement fit with crime causation in your opinion? You may wish to check out “institutional anomie in your text.For more information on American Dream check on this:

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