Academy of Achievement Logo
Achiever Gallery
Keys to Success
Achievement Podcast Center
About the Academy
For Teachers
 Achievement TV
+[Achieve*Net Curriculum]
 Achievement Store

Search the site

Academy Careers

Achievement Curriculum: Module 1: Student Handout

Achieve*NET Home | Program Home | Program Resources


Johnnetta B. Cole, Ph.D.
Past President of Spelman College

I hope that what we have is just the beginning of what it is that we can become. Because what it is that we say and what it is that we do, must absolutely come into greater harmony. This is a nation whose spoken and written vision is chillingly beautiful. That each should have an opportunity. That work will get you where you need to be. That we need to respect each other, including our differences. That's a mighty vision, it's a precious way to talk about the American democracy.

[ Interview ] Johnnetta Cole

Doris Kearns Goodwin, Ph.D.
Pulitzer Prize for History

Doris Kearns Goodwin: I think what the American Dream means to me is the fact that -- what founded this country -- when I think about those posters that were put up in Europe which said, "Come to America and you'll have golden sidewalks. The land will be yours." There was something so inspirational about the fact that these immigrants from all over the world felt that here was a place of freedom, a place of opportunity. There is still something about Ellis Island, whenever I see it, that makes me realize that the root, in some ways, of this country was that people felt that this was a new land, without a class society, without an aristocratic background, where if you worked hard you could become what you want to become. It's only partly true. I mean, obviously there's racism in this society. There's economic benefits that go to people who are wealthy. There are some people who don't really have a chance. But on the other hand, there's always somebody who makes it through -- even from the worst ghetto -- that makes it through to the top of the society, and that's not true in a lot of other countries. I think that's still what the American Dream means: that with perseverance, with hard work, you can become something, that the classes won't prevent you from becoming, that there's a movement up that ladder with hard work.

[ Interview ] Doris Kearns Goodwin

David McCullough
Pulitzer Prize for Biography

David McCullough: I think the American dream is the good society. It's the city on the hill. It's what the Founding Fathers talked about, where justice is a way of life, where fundamental rights of citizenship are honored, where the individual counts, but where pulling together in the spirit of all being in the same boat can achieve more than any individual can in isolation or independently. I think it means education. This country was founded on the idea that education for all -- education at its best -- is not just good for the individual, it's essential to the system. The system won't work unless we have an educated population. Democracy demands it. It's the old line in Jefferson: "Any nation that expects to be ignorant and free, expects what never was and never will be."

[ Interview ] David McCullough

Elie Wiesel
Nobel Prize for Peace

Elie Wiesel: Equality in diversity. That no group should be superior in the American society than another. Second, generosity. The person who is fortunate --thanks to his or her talent or heritage, to have more than others -- that person should know that he or she owes something to others who are less fortunate. Third, that every minute can be the beginning or the end of an adventure.

[ Interview ] Elie Wiesel

Rosa Parks
Pioneer of Civil Rights

Rosa Parks: I think the American Dream should be to have a good life, and to live well, and to be a good citizen. I think that should apply to all of us. That it is the land of the free and the home of the brave, and I believe it should be just that for all people. Who can think of themselves as human beings and that they will enjoy the blessings of the freedom of this country.

[ Interview ] Rosa Parks

I Pledge Allegiance To...
How many times have you recited the Pledge of Allegiance? Most of us have repeated the words "with liberty and justice for all," hundreds of times, but how many times have we really considered what those words mean? Many might say that the concepts of "freedom" and "justice" are the foundations upon which America and the American dream are built. Of course, there is more then one interpretation of the "American Dream." In the video segments, Nobel Prize winner Elie Wiesel defines the American Dream as the possibility "that every minute can be the beginning or the end of an adventure." Take a moment to write out the words of the Pledge of Allegiance. Underline all of the important words, such as pledge, allegiance, republic, indivisible, liberty, justice, etc... Use a thesaurus and/or a dictionary (provided in Resource Links) to help you analyze what these words mean. Think carefully about the intent behind each sentence. What does it mean to pledge your allegiance to something? Then, compose your own pledge of allegiance, focusing on the things you believe and stand for.

Censorship and the Net
One of the primary freedoms safeguarded by the First Amendment is the freedom of speech and expression. Using the Resource Links, reread the First Amendment. Then, investigate the debates surrounding the Communications Decency Act of 1966, the Telecommunications Act of 1996 and the current controversy over censorship and the Internet. Use your research on the Communications Decency Act and the Telecommunications Act as background information for a position paper on today's Internet debate. Some questions to ponder are: Should certain types of information be censored? What types of information might be dangerous (i.e. bomb making instructions)? Should people be allowed to write whatever they want about each other, even if it isn't true? Should people be fined for using inappropriate language? Learn as much as you can about this issue, and be sure to carefully consider both sides before you come to your own decision.

Human Rights Project
"...We need to respect each other, including our difference," says past president of Spelman College Johnnetta B. Cole in the video segments. The preamble of the United Nations' Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that, "recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world." The US Constitution and the Bill of Rights were also created in order to protect individual rights. Yet, from slavery to World War II internment camps, groups of people in America have been denied access to these rights time and again. Using the Resource Links, investigate the status of human rights in a particular country or part of the world. Create an interactive online report, documenting the status of human rights in the area. Your report should include your summary of the situation, with an illustrated timeline covering events in the country or area over the last fifty years. Since it is an online report, it should also include links to organization that are involved with the issues, as well as links to geographical, cultural, economic and political information about the area.

The First Amendment and the NEA
One of the primary freedoms safeguarded by the First Amendment is the freedom of speech and expression. Using the Resource Links, reread the First Amendment. Then investigate the current controversy regarding the First Amendment and the National Endowment for the Arts. How is freedom of expression protected by the First Amendment, especially for artists? Is funding for the arts an appropriate government activity? How does freedom of expression apply in the context of federally funded activities? Are the executive and judiciary branches of the government qualified to determine aesthetic value? Research recent events in which an artist's controversial work brought the NEA's purpose into question. Create a timeline that documents these instances over the last ten years. Finally, write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper expression your opinions on this topic. Make sure you understand both sides of the argument before you take a stand.

Page: 1