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“Globals” and the American Dream: A Survey of Student Aspirations in an American Studies Course

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AbstractThe American Dream is a powerful ideology that generates overwhelming support from our fairly typical group of American college students. In order to examine this phenomenon more carefully, we conducted a qualitative study of our team-taught, interdisciplinary undergraduate course, entitled “Chasing the American Dream.” Answers to an in-class student survey over two semesters confirmed and enlarged our understanding of the nature of The American Dream. We believe that the Dream seems to achieve its effect in part by its high level of abstraction and generality. Thus, the American Dream is, effectively, an empty basket into which any American can place his/her hopes and aspirations. One can, for example, conceive of an entirely traditional domestic American Dream or one can re-conceive of a twenty-first century globalist Dream. As one breaks down the level of abstraction, generality, and mystery regarding the Dream concept, the support for various features of the Dream—as well as one’s likely success in achieving the Dream—becomes less strong.

Affiliations: 1: Saint Martin’s; 2: Saint Martin’s


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