The American Dream: Founding Principles Through a Social Justice Lens

Foursquare Schoolhouse
Grade Levels
7th - 12th
Formats Included
  • PDF
30 pages
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Foursquare Schoolhouse
Part of the Teach for Justice
This resource is part of a collection of educator-created, expert-vetted resources to help you create learning environments to support every student, challenge biases, and encourage discussions around race and social injustice. Explore the collection.


This mini-unit has a great combination of social justice and culturally relevant materials to get your students thinking critically. Students will take a deep dive into the founding ideals of equality, opportunity and democracy from the colonial era to today. With a social justice look at our government, students are asked to ponder, “Who has access? Who does not? and Why?" A teacher's guide with step-by-step procedures, discussion points, and tips for how to prepare your students for social justice conversations is included.

Lesson 1

Declaration of Independence - For this lesson, students analyze the Declaration of Independence to determine how it is connected to American values and the idea of the American Dream.

Lesson 2

Equality - In this lesson, students analyze how well the United States fulfills the promise of “all men are created equal” through the lens of policy, economy, law and social power.

Lesson 3

Opportunity - Students use current statistics on wealth and income to evaluate if opportunity is available to all people in the United States.

Lesson 4

Democracy - In this lesson, students analyze a voting rights timeline to summarize how voting rights have changed over time in the United States and describe the impact of a lack of voter registration and turnout. For the second half of the lesson, students analyze how well elected officials represent themselves and the U.S. population.

Extension Activity - Voter Suppression After Selma Documentary Viewing Guide

Students define modern voter suppression methods and analyze how voter suppression impacts minority voters and American elections.

Final Assessment - As a processing activity, students evaluate how well the United States has lived up to the ideals set forth in the Declaration of Independence. For each of the ideals presented in the unit, students give the United States a letter grade and explain their reasoning using evidence from the lessons.

Digital Compatibility - PDF’s for all student readings and handouts are linked as separate files in the Table of Contents to assign digitally. Discussion prompts can be posted into a digital discussion forum. Be careful not to put these resources on a public website. For copyright purposes, websites need to be password protected.

Total Pages
30 pages
Answer Key
Teaching Duration
2 Weeks
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