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The Brutal Truth About How Childhood Determines Your Economic Destiny

The British class system looks frighteningly rigid in "56 Up." But is America any better?

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When we see the upper-class tykes in the Up series taking rigorous courses and subjected to rigid discipline, the grainy black-and-white film tells us that we are looking into the past. But it’s hard not to think of the children of America’s present elite pushed toward academic success and trained relentlessly for tests that secure entrance into top private schools. As the government recedes into the background, as austerity-minded politicians work to erode public services, hierarchies based on mobile money will further calcify.

Maybe what we need is an Up series focused on the United States. Although for many folks, Down would be a more suitable title.

Lynn Parramore is an AlterNet senior editor. She is cofounder of Recessionwire, founding editor of New Deal 2.0, and author of "Reading the Sphinx: Ancient Egypt in Nineteenth-Century Literary Culture." She received her Ph.D. in English and cultural theory from NYU. She is the director of AlterNet's New Economic Dialogue Project. Follow her on Twitter @LynnParramore.