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American Identity and Pluralism

Following this Pathway, participants seek answers to questions, such as "What does it mean to be an American?" "What does it mean to be a citizen?" "How is American identity forged in the context of a complex pluralistic society?" They examine how the legal standards and political ideals enshrined in America’s founding documents and symbols help form that identity.They also explore the ways the diverse values and beliefs Americans hold influence our sense of national identity and the core norms of civil society.

Concepts and Topics

  • defining U.S. citizenship under law/14th Amendment
  • use of law and legal system to address changing values of American  identity and pluralism
  • law and popular culture
  • relationship of law to custom, norms, and values
  • history of immigration law and policy
  • fundamental values and principles of constitutional democracy
  • law and symbols of American identity (flags, pledge of allegiance, Constitution, official motto,
  • citizenship oath, loyalty oaths, passports, Liberty Bell)

Suggested Cases

Amistad trials, Dred Scott v. Sandford, John Brown trial, Chew Heong Chinese exclusion trial, Sacco-
Vanzetti trial, West Virginia v. Barnette, Loving v. Virginia, Chicago 7 conspiracy trial, Texas v. Johnson