I. Introduction: The Classless Society?
That America was founded as a classless society is one of the foundational myths of theUnited States.
The reasons for this belief in classlessness are varied and are in many ways tiedup with the idea of America as a refuge from the hidebound class systems of Europe.
America,as traditionally held, is a place where birth and background are almost irrelevant to a person's place in life.
Others argue that even if classes existed at one point in American history, they nolonger do today.
For many Americans though, the idea of a classless society seems far fetched. Todayindicators of social mobility show an ever increasing amount of stagnation surpassing even theheights of the 1920s.
Education has always been considered the gatekeeper to higher socio-economic status in the United States.
A person holding a doctoral degree has an expectedlifetime income of $3.25 million while a person holding a high school diploma can expect toearn $1.3 million in their life.
Education has only increased in importance during the 20
century. For instanceonly one President of the the 20
century-Harry Truman-lacked a college education compared to8 who lacked collegiate education during the 18
But as the importance of
The Classless Society
1(2000).2Paul Le Blanc,
A Short History of the U.S. Working Class
56 (1999).3Benjamin Franklin,
Information to Those Who Would Remove To America,
available athttp://nationalhumanitiescenter.org/pds/makingrev/independence/text8/franklininfoamerica.pdf.4Jan Pakulski & Malcolm Waters,
The Death of Class
5 (1996).5The Economist (Apr. 15, 2010), http://www.economist.com/node/15908469.6The Economist (Apr. 15, 2010), http://www.economist.com/node/15911314.7Brian Burnsed,
How Higher Education Affects Lifetime Salary
, US News & World Report (Aug. 5, 2011),http://www.usnews.com/education/best-colleges/articles/2011/08/05/how-higher-education-affects-lifetime-salary.8Truman was also the only 20
century President who experienced actual poverty post-Presidency. Thismemorably led to the establishment of a Presidential pension in the late 1950s. (David McCullough,
928(1992))9James McMurty Longo,
From Classroom to White House