American Democracy: Do We Need a Shared National Identity?

Grade Range: 3-12
Resource Type(s): Reference Materials
Date Posted: 3/26/2018

Following independence, citizens of the new nation sought to forge their own identity and create a unique history. They established holidays such as the Fourth of July and later Thanksgiving Day and chronicled the story of America from the landing at Plymouth Rock through the Founding Fathers and the Revolutionary War. In part Americans did so not only for themselves, but also to instill in future generations a shared ideal of citizenship. An ongoing debate resulted: if there were to be common beliefs and a national narrative that expressed the values of the nation, what should be included?

Teaching American History: Since the 1990s there have been many attempts to establish national standards for teaching American history. These efforts have sparked contentious debates over how much schools should focus on teaching patriotic values and the history of the nation through the Founding Fathers and aspirational figures, or teaching historical understanding and the stories of less famous and diverse people and groups. Schools throughout the nation have struggled to find the right balance appropriate for their communities.