Happiness, Advertising, and The American Dream

The American Dream is the belief that, through hard work and determination, a person can achieve wealth, favor, or eminence.  If we work hard enough, we can make a happy life for ourselves through achieving success in many ways. Each step of the way, we will make our lives easier while gaining friends and influence.

My 8th graders didn’t really buy that idea. One said that her mom would say that that flies against “something called reality”. Even though people are believing less in this dream, it is still alive to many people searching for hope.

Advertisers base their message on many of the tenants of the American Dream, especially;

  • Concealing weakness,
  • Having eternal youth,
  • Avoiding manual labor,
  • Being a success,
  • Happiness in material goods,
  • Being well-liked, and
  • Financial security.

Today in Quest English 8, the students took a look at their own definition of success. After that, students looked at information about the American Dream. You can see the lesson plan below.

After that, we took a look through a huge stack of magazines and looked for examples of how advertisers use the American Dream to sell products. They worked together to create collages on posterboard that focus on each message behind the American Dream. It was a fun, eye-opening, and interesting day.

This weekend, they are reading excerpts I put together from Walden by Henry David Thoreau. On Monday, well contrast his message with the images on the posters the students created today and look for some common ground and a way to redefine the idea of happiness and success.

I’m excited to see where this takes us.

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  1. I look forward to reading your entry about how your students attempt to redefine happiness and success. Is spirituality totally out of the picture or are you not able to discuss that aspect in a school setting? Just wondering.

  2. The students will bring in their own ideas about the source of happiness, so many will bring in their spirituality. It is fun to see how it gets brought up on its own in these discussions.

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