[Paleopsych] NYT: Class Staircase: Up, Down, Sideways (7 Letters)

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Class Staircase: Up, Down, Sideways (7 Letters)
New York Times, 5.6.5

    To the Editor:

    Re "The Five-Bedroom, Six-Figure Rootless Life" ("Class Matters"
    series, front page, June 1):

    I just left the "relo," or relocation, class, having lived in
    Alpharetta, Ga.-like variations with absent fathers and overscheduled
    kids. A place where a second grader with a few rough Little League
    outings gets a personal trainer to play catch and help his

    Like the Links described in the article, we decided that for our
    children's high school years, we needed roots. As a family, we had
    tried to opt out of the hyperparenting, but unstructured kid time is
    no fun if everyone else in the cul-de-sac is fully booked. We moved
    one last time to a rooted place.

    We have family dinners now where we argue for our ideas. We play
    town-level sports with neighbors. We see poets at our awesome library.
    This feels like a better childhood for our kids where we can ignore

    But there are two small glitches: high school sports and college
    applications. Both seem to require a childhood enclosed in S.U.V.
    armor, driving the mean streets to daily practice-tutors-lessons in
    order to make the cut.

    I have my fingers crossed for the underscheduled slackers.

    Lisa Braden-Harder
    Ridgefield, Conn., June 1, 2005

    To the Editor:

    It's as if I knew what the next line of your June 1 article about
    class would be - from the anomie and rootlessness to the conspicuous
    consumption of country clubs, cars and clothes, to the furtive moving
    to a cheaper neighborhood in the middle of the night after the
    breadwinner was downsized.

    That's why this 1980's child of Plano, Tex., another of the suburbs
    mentioned in the article, opted out of corporate life and the
    possibility of relocation and into living and working first in
    Washington and now New York.

    These are cities with abundant mass transit and bountiful
    opportunities for community, where I can't help but interact with
    people of different races, religions and classes.

    Lisa Magnino
    Brooklyn, June 1, 2005

    To the Editor:

    Kathy Link, the mother of three girls in the article's
    upper-middle-class family, has a goal for their college education:
    that, like her, they not have to work to attend school.

    But her life is ruled by a color-coded planner, too much volunteering,
    three or four tennis leagues and endless soccer commuting. In fact,
    she is working very hard, albeit not at a paid job and on a schedule
    that is grinding her down.

    Helen Feit
    Villanova, Pa., June 1, 2005

    To the Editor:

    Some people think that Bob Dylan's "Like a Rolling Stone" is the best
    rock song ever written. "How does it feel to be on your own, with no
    direction home?"

    No one in America understands that song better than the "relos" of the
    new exurban diaspora.

    That's why megachurches are growing. That's why Kathy Link is in a
    Bible study group.

    At its best, religion offers two things that the relos desperately
    need: community and meaning.

    (Rabbi) Jeffrey K. Salkin
    Atlanta, June 1, 2005

    To the Editor:

    Re "Class and the American Dream" (editorial, May 30):

    You asked if the American dream of people rising from rags to riches
    with a little grit and imagination is mostly a myth.

    You suggest that "there is a full-fire way to mitigate the
    deep-seated, multifaceted impact of class," offering remedies like
    stronger affirmative action, anti-poverty and early-education

    But national programs in health, child care and college tuition would
    certainly help level the playing field.

    Such programs are routine in every economically advanced country
    throughout the world except here.

    Cyril D. Robinson
    Carbondale, Ill., May 30, 2005

    To the Editor:

    Your May 30 editorial "Class and the American Dream" falls into the
    "meritocracy" trap.

    A free country is one where everyone has the opportunity for success.
    As used to be true in this country, a man could be a success without
    graduating from high school, and a man could fail having graduated
    with honors from an Ivy League school.

    Freedom is freedom, not a guarantee of success for the high achievers.
    I would hate to live in a country where some measure of achievement
    whose standards are never really stated (but the government usually
    administers the test) determines my course of action.

    The cure you suggest - more government programs aimed at the middle
    and lower classes - simply cements the class concept into the American
    mind by way of government enforcement.

    How about getting the government out of the way so that each
    individual can try to live a fulfilling life by whatever nonviolent
    means he or she chooses?

    William J. Decker
    San Diego, May 30, 2005

    To the Editor:

    I appreciate your "Class Matters" series, highlighting the pervasive
    effects of social class on individual lives - whether through poverty,
    stunted aspirations, poor education, lack of access to health care or
    inadequate housing.

    It is a stain on our society - and a mockery of the American Dream -
    that class origin has come to function more and more as caste, as a
    fixed and unequal condition, with less and less contact and flow
    between the worlds of the haves and the have-nots.

    More than 40 years ago, I was the child of poor and uneducated
    parents. But I was lucky - and I had help from, and formed social ties
    with, others who were more fortunate than I was. But as the worlds of
    the rich and the poor grow more remote from one another, such help and
    ties are less in evidence. More to the point, class is an artifact of
    society and not of nature.

    We owe our fellow citizens something better than an institutional
    structure that allows their fates to depend so deeply on the brute
    luck of class origin.

    Debra Satz
    Stanford, Calif., May 26, 2005
    The writer is the chairwoman of the philosophy department at Stanford

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