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The American Dream

This topic guide will help you work with the American Dream. The guide is mainly intended for use in English class, but it may also be relevant for other school subjects such as Social Studies or History. 

We will give you an overview of the historical background of the American Dream, as well as the role this ideal plays in modern US society. You can also find specific suggestions for texts to use as reference points, as well as ideas for further thematic perspectives. 

Overview

The US was founded on an ideal of individual freedom and basic human rights, which among other elements include the idea that every person has the right to seek happiness in his or her own way. Along with other aspects of US history, this thought led to the ideal of the American Dream. The ideal exists in a variety of versions, but the basic concept is that an American who works hard will be able to achieve success, regardless of that person's background.

However, the ideal of the American Dream has also been criticized in various ways. For example, people point out that US society has relatively low social mobility in practice, despite the widespread belief that anyone can achieve success. Another criticism is that many social and ethnic groups have faced discrimination when attempting to live out the Dream - both historically and currently. A third criticism notes that the modern American Dream has become associated with a culture of consumerism which is very harmful to the environment. 

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The American Dream

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