Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Defining the American Dream

I am excited to announce that I've succeeded in my quest to get a course proposal accepted! It will be offered this February, and I'm busy collecting all kinds of good things to share and discuss.

Here's a peek at the basic idea, subject to minor alterations.
As always, I welcome your suggestions.

The American Dream: How Has It Changed?

We'll engage in a bit of "dream analysis" as we examine this question. David Kamp's essay, Rethinking the American Dream, suggests there's been a shift in our national aspirations from “a set of deeply held ideals rather than a checklist of goals or entitlements.” Kamp, an editor at
Vanity Fair, noted in April:
As a people, we Americans are unique in having such a thing, a more or less Official National Dream. (There is no correspondingly stirring Canadian Dream or Slovakian Dream.) It is part of our charter—as articulated in the second sentence of the Declaration of Independence, in the famous bit about “certain unalienable Rights” that include “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness”—and it is what makes our country and our way of life attractive and magnetic to people in other lands.

We'll use several short readings to stimulate discussion about The American Dream, including passages from John Kenneth Galbraith's 1958 book The Affluent Society and Henry Luce's 1941 essay “The American Century” in Life. The class will also watch the Academy Award-winning documentary American Dream, and some popular culture films which depict the issue such as the classic Depression tale Grapes of Wrath, to The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet and The Honeymooners to Hollywood documentary Frank Capra's American Dream to the contemporary The Namesake about immigrants from India seeking a better life in the US.


lisleman said...

new American dream - be on a reality TV show (balloon boy, White House crashers)
This sounds very interesting. I think the diversity of immigrants that came here and still come here makes for a very dynamic but yet mostly common American dream.
My definition was to own your own home but I guess it's more general than that.

secret agent woman said...

Sounds like an interesting course. I absolutely loved the Namesake.

phd in yogurtry said...

The American Dream -- I have two competing associations. One relates to immigrants who can succeed here, who couldn't otherwise, in their home country. Where one's ability can surmount birth class.

The other relates to a more modern, suburban, materialistic twist. The big car, the gold credit card, the big rock diamond, so many signs of shallow accomplishments.

Lisa Wheeler Milton said...

Mrs. PhD nailed it for me.

And I loved the Namesake, every bit.