Lately, Patti and I have been teaching a unit on Of Mice & Men. Because we wanted students not to put their focus on [spoiler alert] George shooting Lennie at the end or on Lennie’s obvious mental retardation, we came at teaching the book a different way. We chose not to actually read the book, but instead teach the background historical information about the Great Depression and migrant workers and have a class discussion on whether the American Dream is still a viability in our nation. We wanted students to then watch the film (the 1992 version, starring Gary Sinise and John Malkovich) through the lens of the attainability (0r lack thereof) of the American Dream. Then, they needed to take the information they found in watching the movie and write about their own ideas of the American Dream, and whether it’s something they can ever expect to attain themselves.
For some reason, I have been hearing and reading a lot of information about the American Dream. I heard Suze Orman talking about her views on it on NPR, and I have been thinking about it a lot in light of my own situation as an educator. Thinking about whether the American Dream is a viability hits home for me as well.
Even just a couple of generations ago, it was possible to find a good, stable job that supports you until you retire, live off of your retirement savings and/or pension, and not have to worry about money after retirement (at least, not every day). But that is not something that is within reach of most Americans anymore. There are many reasons for the shift, but the fact is that there is one. I’m not sure I have any answers about it. But I am sure that it worries me some and it makes me wonder what kind of hope will be left for the generations that follow mine.