Inequality in future dreams

Inequality in future dreams
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By Jenny Enos

“What do you want to grow up with?”

For many children and adolescents, this question is often asked by benevolent parents, teachers, and friends. They are often told that anything is possible and that they can be absolutely anyone they want to be.

Some may dream of becoming another Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg, or just some vague “celebrity”; others may dream of becoming a doctor, veterinarian, or zoo overseer. “Dream big! This is a mantra shared by many parents who, knowing often about the low probability of a result, still feel pressured to promote their children’s dreams. Parent leaders even tell parents to fight the desire to verify the facts or reality of what their children dream of.

Of course, most of these dreams never come true. This is partly because dreams rarely provide real or strategic planning for how a dream will come true. As a child, for example, I never dreamed of becoming a dolphin trainer – although I really could.

In this sense, dreams are different from aspirations, which often represent real and strategic steps towards implementation. Rather, dreams are directed toward the ultimate goal; suddenly waking up and being that dolphin trainer or new Elon Musku, not thinking about the work to be done until the final goal is reached. The dream of being something (or something) has less to do with what we ultimately think could to do with our lives and more about who we are at our core and what kind of life we ​​think we deserve.

As sociologists, we need to consider another – perhaps more important – reason why most dreams do not come true: inequality of opportunity. For example, a white upper-class child is more likely to realize their dream of becoming a doctor than their black working-class peers will do. We know that race and class limit opportunities throughout life, especially because of educational inequalities, which are a major means of moving up.

From the outset, poor and minority students are excluded from the least funded school districts, which lack resources, quality teachers and security. If the college can even benefit these students, the application process to the college (including the SAT) is very unfavorable for poor and colorful students. Then, after graduating from college, increasingly unaffordable education and class-oriented financial aid can get students stuck in insurmountable debts or force them to drop out. Saying to these students:dream a lot! not very helpful.

So in this sense, we see that the achievement of dreams can be inhibited by stratification. But what about our dreams? Are all dreams “created equal”?

No, write Karen A. Cerulo and Janet M. Ruane in their recent article Sociological Forum entitled “Imaginations of the Future: Public and Personal Culture, Social Place and Dream Formation”. Using data from target groups and interviews with a variety of people, they find that a person’s ‘social status’ – an experience based on characteristics such as race, class and gender – shapes dreams about the future.

In general, they claim that people in privileged social places, such as whites and the upper class, create their dreams. positive ‘Cultural scenarios’ or common assumptions such as ‘Everything is possible“Or”dream a lot! At the same time, people in less privileged social areas tend to shape their dreams according to negative cultural scenarios, such as believing that the social structure is “misled” and directed against those who already have less.

It is quite astonishing to think that even our future dreams, which are so deeply personal and imaginable, can be affected and shaped by inequality and social forces. In many ways, however, this study illustrates the promise of sociology to reveal the patterned social structures beyond us as believed in individual and personal experiences, thoughts, and desires. It’s really sociological the future imagination.

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