By Mia Garza McCord, President. August 20, 2021
During the first called session of the 87th Texas Legislature, I recall that a witness providing testimony in a hearing on Senate Bill 3 used the term “meritocracy.” In doing so, she told the Senators at the table that her parents “worked harder than many of you in this room ever have or ever will,” her point being that meritocracy as we think of it is a fallacy.
I empathize with her feeling that despite how hard her parents worked, they did not see the monetary success that she hoped or expected. However, I also understand that meritocracy, as presented in the 1958 satirical novel The Rise of Meritocracy, does lay out the pitfall of education becoming the ultimate dividing factor between the haves and have nots, and I respectfully disagree with her assessment that the ’pull yourself up by your bootstraps’ mentality, or as we often call it, achieving the American Dream, is a fallacy.
The American Dream is the idea that each generation can do better for itself than the one that preceded it; that with each passing generation, our quality of life can improve. The American Dream can happen overnight, but for most of us, it is a gradual and generational improvement.
My great-grandparents provided a better life for their children than the one they lived. My grandparents then improved the lives of their children with home ownership and the ability to send their children to college. My mother was a first-generation college student. Her experience not only improved her financial standing, but also showed her the value of education. She and my father were able to provide a better quality of life for me and my siblings, and they kept us focused on education so that we could do the same in the future for own children. And while my parents could not afford to send us to college without the assistance of student loans, they instilled a focus and work ethic that has helped me aggressively pay off my student loans (without the forgiveness programs so many others seem to insist are needed).
Even in retirement, my parents work hard. They get up before the sun rises and they work late. My father spends a long, hard day at TxDOT doing manual labor, and then he spends his time fixing machinery and working ranchland in the evenings and throughout the weekend. He is a shining example of the American dream.
Now that my siblings and I have families of our own, we are providing our own families with the tools they will need to continue this generational improvement. We have achieved great things like home and vehicle ownership, and strive not merely to provide, but to open new doors for our children so that they can have quality experiences and opportunities that we never had.
My husband and I work hard. We volunteer in the community. Most importantly, we teach our children the value of hard work. The American Dream is alive and well in our country, if you are willing to work for it! My children will never think they “deserve” something and will be taught to earn their success. And, while the satirical dystopian society described by the book that introduced the word “meritocracy” is supposed to serve as a warning of the pitfalls of such a society, the idea of effort affording a better life should not be abandoned for the lack of an immediate attainment of monetary wealth.