© 2015 Taylor & Francis. Based on research in Karratha, a remote resource town in Western Australia, this paper explores the ways in which blue-collar affluence disturbs the meritocratic mythology of formal education. In the opening decade of the twenty-first century Karratha was one of Australia's most affluent towns, yet its adult population was characterised by a level of formal qualifications that was well below the national average. These demographic realities test fundamental beliefs about the functions of education in industrial modernity in ways that help illuminate the importance of Corbett's challenge for educational sociologists to strengthen their commitment to posthumanist studies focused on building sustainable human spaces, particularly in rural areas. Further to this we need to stretch the possibilities of humanist education beyond the successes linked to financial security. Comprehending alternatives to the structurating influence of the myth of an education-based meritocracy offers an important strategy for doing so.