The Success Ethic, Education, and the American Dream

By Joseph L. DeVitis & John Martin Rich

Subjects: Anthropology
Series: SUNY series, Education and Culture: Critical Factors in the Formation of Character and Community in American Life
Paperback : 9780791429945, 227 pages, July 1996
Hardcover : 9780791429938, 227 pages, July 1996

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Table of contents



1 The Pursuit of the American Dream

2 The Character Ethic

3 The Mind Power Ethic

4 The Personality Ethic

5 The Service Ethic

6 Education, the Success Ethic, and the American Dream

7 Psychological Perspectives

8 Philosophical Perspectives

9 Social Perspectives

10 The Future Success Ethic in American Culture



Explores, interprets, and critically analyzes various success ethics that have shaped American culture and education. It also formulates new forms of the success ethic in order to uncover overlooked models and to overcome the shortcomings of previous genres.


The Success Ethic, Education, and the American Dream analyzes, interprets, and critically evaluates various success ethics and their impact on American culture and education. It also formulates new models of the success ethic for the future. The quest for success propels persons down diverse life paths as they seek the American Dream. In this quest, informal education follows the blandishments of self-improvement formulas that promise wealth, mobility, status, and respect.

Self-improvement literature, which began in America with Benjamin Franklin, proliferated in the nineteenth century and has since developed a number of different genres. Earlier studies provided nineteenth- and early twentieth-century embodiments of the success ethic and biographical material, but neglected many important figures and offered largely uncritical presentations. This book identifies and explores the contributions of these neglected figures and critically assesses the different success ethics from three perspectives: psychological, philosophical, and social.

Joseph L. DeVitis is Professor of Education and Human Development at the State University of New York at Binghamton. He is the author of Theories of Moral Development; Helping and Intervention; and Competition in Education (with John Martin Rich); and editor of Women, Culture and Morality; Building Bridges for Educational Reform: New Approaches to Teacher Education (with Peter A. Sola); and School Reform in the Deep South: A Critical Appraisal (with David J. Vold). John Martin Rich is Professor of Cultural Foundations of Education at the University of Texas at Austin. He is the editor of Readings in Philosophy of Education; Conflict and Decision: Analyzing Educational Issues; and Innovations in Education: Reformers and Their Critics and is the author of Education and Human Values; Humanistic Foundations of Education; Challenge and Response: Education in American Culture; New Directions in Educational Policy; Discipline and Authority in School and Family; Professional Ethics in Education; Innovative School Discipline; and Foundations of Education.


"This book offers an intriguing approach for understanding and studying education and the development of the American Dream from the viewpoint of success ethics. I think this is a very interesting and important way of conceptualizing these three strands in the historical fabric of our society." -- Joan K. Smith, University of Oklahoma