A prominent city leader recently described the life cycle of citizens from a certain part of town this way, "...they are born into poverty, they live their lives in poverty and they die in poverty." I don't mention that person's name here because it's not necessary to make my point, which is this - I call BS. In America, society doesn't, at any point, pre-ordain your life's path. As this post's title indicates, here, we are free to choose our own.
That said, I do agree there are places in the world where that city leader would be making an undeniably true statement. We're probably all familiar with the caste system in India. Though there have been efforts in recent times to lessen its effects, the 3,000 year old system of social hierarchy that has essentially hard-coded the notion that your station at birth will be your station until death remains largely intact.
Another place that is surprisingly on the list for predetermining people's life paths is Germany. See a part of a letter below from a parent living in Niedernhausen, Germany for some interesting (and alarming) context:
"...Before first grade, students are evaluated by a doctor to see whether they are able to start school. If they are deemed unfit, they go into a “pre-first grade” or Vorklasse. Again, in the fifth grade, children are individually evaluated and are set on the track that will eventually determine their future careers. In other words, the teachers and administration will label a 10-year-old child as a future doctor or a future bus driver. There are ways of switching career paths, but it is difficult. If children don’t perform in school or have behavioral problems, they are held back. This starts in the first grade. Parents don’t have much say..."
Our American system has problems for sure, but I'd still choose it over any other that's been formulated anywhere in the world.
How about you?