2012-2013 Project: The Search for an American Dream
What is the American Dream? Responses to this question are often varied and contentious, and across time, the "American Dream" has had many meanings. For some, the American Dream represents the pursuit of a positive, aspirational goal. For others, it represents an "opportunity" that has never been universally accessible due to barriers that exist for many.
A society with social justice refers one in which people have basic human rights and equal access to the benefits of that society. Some of the topics related to the "American Dream" that concern the idea of social justice include: Whose dream is it anyway?; immigrants seeking opportunity; refugees seeking safety; people of color seeking equality and respect; women seeking equal pay and control of their own body; or maybe someone else entirely? Whoever's dream it might be, our society's approach to social justice affects an individual's ability to pursue the "American Dream."
Many have long assumed America's and Iowa's education (K-12 school and higher education) to be one of the best in the world and a path to the "American Dream." Current challenges to that assumption are evidenced by decreased government support for education at all levels; educational gaps across racial and socio-economic groups; and low comparative scores in standardized testing and international rankings, including the STEM fields. America appears to be at an educational crossroad and education as a point of access to the "American Dream" is being challenged as never before.
Driven by global economic challenges, rising international competition and the increasing concentration of wealth in American society, citizens face an economic future that seems uncertain. Current conditions have college students and recent graduates facing the possibility they may not have the same employment opportunities and quality of life as their parents. As a capitalist nation we have believed that hard work, creativity and dedication will provide opportunity. What if that isn't true?