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The Secular and the Sacred in American Life
a list of 44 titles
What role does religion play in shaping attitudes about America? How does it come into conflict with the secular institutions of American democracy? Is America "one nation under God"? Who gets to decide what morality is in this country? How does religion come into conflict with the independent American spirit? Why? Are there any ways in which this spirit has influenced religious practice and belief in America? What role does our Puritan history play in our religiosity? Has our national attitude about religion changed with the many immigrants this country has? What is the difference—if any—between religion and spirituality? Must religion be organized to be effective? How much do we adhere to "separation of church and state"? Can religion and a secular state ever coexist peacefully in America? Should they?
The Power of Place in American Life
a list of 48 titles
How does the power of place shape personal identity and American identity? To what extent does place shape the people who live there and to what extent do the people shape the place? How permanent is the sense of place in American lives? Can one ever really transcend their place of origin? Should they? What really defines the sense of place? Is it more regional (Texas, California, the South, New England, the Midwest)? Is place based on the nature of the community (city, suburb, small town, rural)? Is place defined in a cultural way, based on the values of a place? Or is it something different or a combination of all of these?
The Nature and Power of the American Family
a list of 44 titles
Consider the components of family in contemporary American life. What really defines an American family? Have those factors changed over the course of history? What have been the consequences of those changes? What is the power‐‐if any‐‐of family in today's society? What is your definition of family? Would other people easily agree with you? Why? Is the American family important to our future national well‐being? What is the "nuclear family"? How do political parties use the family to reflect their values? How does the entertainment industry reinforce or challenge prevailing values about the family?
The Frontier, the Natural World & American Life
a list of 40 titles
America has always loved the frontier—and conquering it. What exactly is the frontier? What role does the frontier play in shaping modern American life? What are today’s frontiers and how will they be conquered— or will they be? What are the American and global implications and after‐effects of conquering them? How has our attitude toward the natural world changed in the last 100 years? How do different segments of society prioritize the needs people with the protection of the natural world?
The Defining Power of Class in America
a list of 31 titles
A persistent belief (or many would say, myth) in American culture is that America is a classless society. As such, issues of poverty, wealth, taxation, and free markets are particularly divisive. Originally, the belief of American exceptionalism argued that everyone was a member of the middle class, ignoring the history of slavery and hereditary wealth. Now, critics argue that the middle class is disappearing, while others view some government programs as “class warfare.” Politicians argue over which party best serves the middle class. How do issues of class define us as Americans? How does work define who we are? Is poverty an effect of a biased economic system? What role do labor unions play in the history of work in America? What exactly is class in a democracy? Is class mobility a reality or a kind of idealism? How does class identification overlap, reinforce or contradict other ways we identify ourselves (race, geography, job, etc.)?
The Legacy of Race in America
a list of 51 titles
The Individual in Contemporary American Democracy
a list of 53 titles
America has been called the great experiment of democracy. How successful have we been? We value the autonomy of the individual, yet we have a very mixed record on accommodating people who seem too “outside” the mainstream. How much does the role of majority rule impact the life of the individual in society? What is the proper balance between individualism and democracy? What is the individual's responsibility to conform to or rebel against the decisions of society? When is conformity a useful response and when is it merely capitulation? What is the line between individual rights and dangerous radicalism?
America's Role in the World
a list of 39 titles
How does America define its role in the world? This is a very large category. One word of caution: don't limit yourself in this initial stage. Allow yourself to think about many elements of the world stage and America's place on it. Consider America's role in the world. How has our position influenced our decisions in foreign policy? What factors of our modern world have kept us from entering wars? What have been the consequences of our involvement in wars? How have wars shaped our national conscience? What role have women played in our military‐‐past and present? How is biological warfare affecting the military today? How much do individual Americans actually view the world? What is America's place in this century as opposed to the last? What influences do we exert in the world and how?
The Implications of Gender in Modern American Life
a list of 30 titles
How have the changes in gender roles impacted American life? What does it mean to “act like a woman” in America today? What does it mean to say that a man “acts like a woman”? What does it mean to say that a woman “acts like a man”? Do men and women have equal access to forms of power? Is sexual power “real” power? How does youth culture (film stars, websites, musicians, etc.) shape or change our ideas about gender roles? Is equality between the genders possible—or even desirable? How do gender roles differ among Americans from different racial, religious, cultural or other backgrounds? Is there even a common definition of a ideal woman or ideal man in our current society? How does the lack of a definition have a positive or a negative impact on society?
Health in Modern Day America
a list of 44 titles
From who pays for health care to what gets defined as an illness, health in modern day America is undergoing radical rethinking. What is the optimal health care system? Who defines what boundaries separate illness from health and who determines these boundaries? What is the ethical role of the physician in a patient's treatment? What is the role of the patient in her/his own treatment? How much does America rely on drugs as treatment for illness (think about the number of Prozac‐type drugs on the market)? Are Americans too interested in the "easy way out" with drug treatment? According to statistics from CBS News and the Pew Research Center, America is 4.6% of the world population yet we consume 42% of the world's prescription medicines. The average American sees ten pharmaceutical ads each day. 20% of the work done by ad agencies is in naming syndromes for pharmaceutical companies and every dollar spent on advertising by those companies results in four dollars for the pharmaceutical company. In light of these facts, how much is health care driven by pharmaceutical companies? By insurance companies? Are people who don't easily fit in with society's dictates treated differently by mainstream America?
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