What Makes America America?

By Janet Pinto, Chief Academic Officer & Chief Marketing Officer, Curriki

What makes America America? This would be a fascinating theme explore in a social studies class at every grade level. How is this country different than the rest of the world?

Putting aside cheerleaders, beach bodies, reality TV and American football, here are a few ideas:

The U.S. Constitution

The U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights give Americans freedoms many countries can only dream of — speech, religion, equal justice under the law and more. The United States Declaration of Independence

 

says, “We hold these truths to be sacred & undeniable; that all men are created equal & independent, that from that equal creation they derive rights inherent & inalienable, among which are the preservation of life, & liberty, & the pursuit of happiness.”

Those who don’t feel this is being granted them have the right to use the branches of government to pursue their rights.

Unlike many nations, U.S. citizens can disagree with the government without being thrown in jail. They can rally in the streets without fear of repercussions.  The press can publish stories critical of the government without being shut down.

Curriki has two partners that will help history teachers guide students on a journey through their Constitutional rights:

  • The National Constitution Center is an independent non-profit organization dedicated to increasing public understanding of, and appreciation for, the Constitution, its history, and its contemporary relevance.
  • The Bill of Rights Institute is an educational nonprofit dedicated to helping high school history teachers enhance their students’ understanding of their rights and responsibilities as citizens, as well as providing an awareness of the historical and intellectual origins of the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

Wealth

Even poor Americans are wealthy compared to the rest of the world.

On a global scale, the vast majority of Americans are considered either upper-middle income or high income. And many Americans classified as “poor” by the U.S. government would be middle income globally, according to the latest Pew Research Center data, while 56% of Americans are considered high income. Is that the reality your students see? High income is defined as more than $50 a day (based on 2011 purchasing power parities in 2011 prices). It might be interesting to discuss America’s wealth with your students to help them put their lifestyles in perspective.

Or use this stat to examine world economy, covering technology, trade, interdependence and more.

Generosity

You could follow up the income exploration with a discussion about giving. According to the 2017 CAF World Giving Index, America is the world’s fifth most charitable nation, with 56% of its population giving to charity by donating money, volunteering time or helping strangers.

On Curriki, Project Amigo Volunteer, from NextVista.org, reminds us of the power of giving one’s time for others, and the potential we have to see the best side of ourselves.

DiversityDiversity

The United States is diverse in every sense, a mashup of every world culture, climate and landscape. From the frenetic pace of New York City to the most remote snow-capped mountain in Colorado, from hot Florida beaches to sandstone arches in Utah, the United States provides every type of weather, geology and eco-system to explore.

The people are even more diverse, creating the melting pot that is the hallmark of America, a nation of immigrants from its birth. Examine immigration, from immigration history, to immigration policies as they evolved in the U.S., to the push and pull factors of immigration, to immigration case studies, on Curriki.

Business and Entrepreneurship

Pres. Calvin Coolidge said in a speech in 1925, “The chief business of the American people is business.”  And Americans have taken it to heart. The United States is home to 12 of the world’s 20 largest companies, according to Forbes.

America also has a deep-seated culture of entrepreneurship. In 2017, the country had a record-high 27 million entrepreneurs — nearly 14 percent of working-age Americans — according to a report from the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM), sponsored by Babson College and Baruch College.

Curriki’s resources about Entrepreneurship include:

And those are just a few ideas about what makes America America. We’d love to hear any other ideas your students have!


Janet PintoJanet Pinto, Chief Academic Officer & Chief Marketing Officer, leads and manages all of Curriki’s content development, user experience and academic direction. Learn more at Curriki.org.

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