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Playing the 'Color Game' and Pursuing the American Dream

December 12, 1987

In response to the story on the lawsuit filed by Gabrielle Sanchez-Goyen against her parochial school (Metro, Dec. 2): Gabrielle was expelled when she refused to participate in a "color game." According to the article, the game, developed at Occidental College, is designed to "dispel the naive beliefs" of students in the "American Dream idea that if you're poor, you could make it to the top." You reported that the teacher wanted to teach his students that "the people on the bottom stay on the bottom".

I have no comment on the legal aspects of the case. I have no opinion as to whether it was appropriate for her to file suit or what the outcome should be. However, as a dreamer of the American Dream, I want to express my distress at parochial or public schools which feel it appropriate to discourage their students from dreaming the American Dream and thus preventing their aspiring to its realization.

I believe in the American Dream because I have lived it and I see people every day who are its beneficiaries. I did not start learning to speak English until I was 12. When my family came to the U.S. in 1953, we started out by picking peaches in the San Joaquin Valley. Ten years later, I had graduated from law school and have had a successful career as a lawyer and now as a Superior Court judge. Some of us did better than others, but all of us have benefited from this country's many opportunities.

If you were to survey a random sample of professional persons, you would find that the bulk of them came from families with considerably lower financial resources than they now enjoy. If you look around our immigrant communities, you see success story after success story. In my court, I continue to be impressed by people who, because of their belief in the American Dream, were willing to invest their energies in bettering their status and that of their families and found that their efforts were rewarded.

The American Dream is worth dreaming because it is worth living; it is worth living because it is worth working for; it is worth working for because there is a payoff. This society still abounds in opportunities for those willing to pay the price of admission. The lesson against which Gabrielle rebelled--that it is naive to believe in the American Dream--is a lesson against which we should all rebel. To teach our children that "the people on the bottom stay on the bottom" is to destroy the very incentives they need and to preach the most destructive of self-fulfilling prophecies.

WILLIAM F. RYLAARSDAM

Judge of the Superior Court

Santa Ana

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