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A number of self-help writers were clergymen. Among them were Henry Ward Beecher, Lyman Abbott, and Horatio Alger. Most were Page 16 Protestants, as relatively few Catholics were among the business elite before 1900, and Catholic spokesmen opposed the movement's materialism. The doctrine of a secular calling provided a religious defense for worldly success. Such success could demonstrate that man might conquer his own base nature and overcome the limitations of his social environment. The wealthy man was expected to live simply and observe moderation.
Some perceive that the Dream is at stake, as reflected in public education and the rhetoric of equality of opportunity in current national reports on education. 8 Others, in viewing the concept of equality of opportunity, find it to be equivocal, serving the interests of the powerful while placating the powerless. Thus, education can be equitable in Page 6 offering beginnings to diverse individuals only if just principles first govern society. 9 William Proefiedt notes two types of inequalities: per-pupil expenditures; and family income, which predicts school and career success.
Yet the ideology of American education extolled the American Dream and sought to promote talent and foster social mobility (while often minimizing opportunity for women and other underrepresented groups). Also explored is the influence of such types of informal education as public libraries, correspondence courses, Chautauqua, vocabulary development, and brainstorming. The next three chapters provide a penetrating evaluation of the success ethics and the American Dream from psychological, philosophical, and social perspectives.