This Fourth of July, Reflect on the American Dream


It’s the Fourth of July, that patriotic holiday when we fire up the barbecue, get together with family and friends, wave American flags and set off fireworks. As a teacher, it is also that perfect mid-point of the summer where I can look back on all the relaxation and sleep I’ve caught up on and look forward to completing all of those summer projects I’ve put off.

As a teacher, though, I can’t help but take some time on this day to reflect on the American Dream and what it means to me and my students. When I ask them what the American Dream is, they often say something vague about being successful and then launch into a discussion of their specific dreams. For some, their version of the American Dream is to become a famous NBA player or rap star. For others, it is to get a better education and have a better chance at life than their parents did. For all, it seems to be a very specific and individual manifestation of the concept.

My students are correct; the American Dream itself is hard to define, and that’s because, for centuries, it has been just what they describe: to be successful and happy, whatever that means to you. For me, it is having the ability to pursue both my teaching and writing careers while living in a beautiful house with a great husband and our adopted dog. For anyone else, it is something different. That is what makes the American Dream so elusive and so special; it can be anything to anyone.

I have to believe that the tie that binds everyone’s individual ideas of the American Dream together is education. We live in a great country where education is standardized and, for the most part, free. In this country, a good education is a basic human right. Education is the way our country and our society progresses. It’s not just about formal education in schools, either. Without learning, our society comes to a standstill. Without education in any form, we no longer have progressive thinkers. We no longer have social activism. We no longer have fantastic sites that facilitate that activism. It is because this is a country in which free speech is championed and defended that our education can lead us to social progress and activism. It is because this is a country in which we have been taught that we can make a difference that we are able to change this world for the better.

Education, if it’s done right, is not about teaching students things they didn’t know before. It’s a little bit about that, but that isn’t the ultimate goal. The end goal of education is to help students be successful and realize their version of the American Dream, to teach students how to think and how to be activists in their own ways.

As a country, we have a long way to go, to be sure, but this Fourth of July, I think we also have a lot to be grateful for, and it’s OK to celebrate that at your barbecues this week.

What is your version of the American Dream?


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Photo Credit: mrsdkrebs


Robby C.
Past Member 5 years ago

Jamie C- well put, my friend!

Steve R & Joe V - RE?: "American Nightmare!"
- Sadly, this is becoming the truth. Complacency is ruling the day & is allowing the best of our society to rot, w/help from corrupt politicians (some from both sides). I just hope that it's not already too late to repair our once great nation. Else we'll go down, just like all the other once-great empires, in the 250-300yr range.

Ron B.
Ron B5 years ago

The American Dream? As George Carlin has said, "You've got to be asleep to believe it".

Carl Oerke
Carl O5 years ago

I must admit that it is hard to reflect on the American Dream as we celebrate this 236th anniversary of the birth of our nation. It seems that we are divided as a country and that the American Dream is slipping away from so many. We have seen many loose their jobs and their homes and require help for support and to feed their families. We have seen the cost of education and healthcare sky rocket making it impossible to afford for so many. Our government is deadlocked and we cannot seem to work together to accomplish our goals. To quote the old Charlie Daniels song "The eagle has been flying slow and the flags been flying low." As we reflect on the birth and life of our country it is time to put the hatred, intolerance and division behind us and start pulling together as a country once more. I am reminded of a youtube video I was sent about the 9/11/2001 boat lift of survivors from Manhattan after the attack. More thasn 500,000 people were rescued in less than a day. In comparison it took nine days to rescue 338,226 British and French soldiers from Dunkirk. There is nothing that this country cannot accomplish if we work together. What other country has landed men on the moon. We have been an amazing country. It is to bad we are not one now. Hopefully, we will learn how to pull together once more and become one once again. I wish, hope and pray that our best days are not behind us.

Steve R.
Steve R5 years ago

This "fourth of July"?????

Surely you mean this "Independence Day"?

Do you call Christmas the "25th of December" holiday?

Do you call "New Year" the "1st of January" holiday?

Will you call "Labor Day" the "third of September" holiday in 2012?

Reflect on the celebration of our "Independence" - not the "fourth of July".

And by the way - the American Dream is now the American Nightmare!

Apollo Environmental Arti

God Bless the USA

God Bless the USA
I pray for her every day...
What more can I say,
it wasn’t suppose to be this way!
What happened to the American Dream?
It turned into a corporate scheme......

And what about our Liberty?
It’s sinking into the sea....
So what more can I say?
It wasn’t suppose to be this way...
God Bless the USA...
I’ll pray for you every day.....

So can we get our country back,
from this corporate attack?
And will miss Liberty,
sink further into the sea?

I have something more to say...
I’d like to be proud to say,
I believe in the American Way.

As serious as a heart attack!!!
We want our country back..
We want our liberty......
Our Constitution says we’re free.

So what more can I say.....
God bless the USA...
You know what I mean,
bring back the American Dream!


Magdalen B.
Magdalen B5 years ago

Half way through the Summer? I'm envious! Schools in Britain don't break up until about 20th July. Already those cruel shop keepers are advertising "Back to school" stuff.

Adam S.
Adam S5 years ago

Nice article except for the part promoting standardized education. That's the weakness of todays public schools. Get rid of the worthless Dept. of Education and leave it to the states!

Rose L.
Rose L5 years ago

part cut off from below:

Infiltrate! And start today! Once the conservative-minded person gets hired, he or she will need to remain incognito until they get tenure. Then & only then can they can come out of the closet! Education certainly IS the way.

Rose L.
Rose L5 years ago

Unfortunately for conservatives, Republicans & Tea Partiers, our nation's institutions of higher education are liberal strongholds! Conservative ideologies & points of view are downplayed & most certainly denigrated. It's true that out public educational institutions are becoming filled with drone socialistic workers that support the liberal agenda whether you want to admit it or not.

For starters, check out the Democracy Commitment, a project that the left-leaning New York Times is involved in, partnering with institutions of higher learning across the country. It looks good at first glance, but there IS an agenda. There is a concerted effort by the progressive haters of our republican form of government, to "get them while they're young." They seek to turn our young people against the belief systems of their more conservative parents and weave their precious minds into clones of themselves.

I encourage conservatives to seek positions in higher education, but they will need to keep their political leanings a secret & even act like they buy into Political Correctness, a Global Society & the "Republicans-Are-Bad" lies in order to get hired. Oh, you won't be asked directly about these things, but the questions asked will tell the screening committees what they want to know (do not wear a cross to the interview & under your list of organizations you might want to leave out anything that appears patriotic or Christian).

Infiltrate! And start toda

Jamie Clemons
Jamie Clemons5 years ago

What does the 4th of July mean when our freedoms, our rights and our liberties are being taken away from us as never before? What does it mean when American citizens are being targeted for assassination with no trial? What does it mean when its ok to spy on all citizens with no warrant? When American citizens are held indefinitely and tortured with no representation and no innocent until proven guilty? Where have our values as a country gone and how can they be restored? Is it a war on terror, or is it a police state power grab started by Bush and expended by Obama. What do you do when neither side represents the will of the people any longer and the lesser of two evils starts to look like the greater of two evils. I don't want my children's children to grow up in a country where they are afraid of the bogey man coming to get them in the night because they spoke or did the wrong thing.