Identify and explain historical and contemporary efforts to narrow discrepancies between foundational ideas and values of American democracy and realities of American political and civic life.

Focus Question: What are times when American realities conflicted with American ideals?

Topics on the Page
The Constitution
  • Amendments to the Constitution
  • The Supreme Court and the Court System
  • Slavery
Civil Rights Movement
Suppression of Native Americans
Labor Movement
LGBTQ Rights Movement
American Foreign Policy
external image Constitution_Pg1of4_AC_icon_cut.png

The Constitution

Multimedia.pngReading Between the Lines of the Constitution: An Annotated Guide from The New York Times in 2011 offers a guide to some of the most contested clauses in the Constitution by groups from all sides of the political spectrum.

For more information on the Constitution, see USI.7, USI.8, Grade 5.24 and Grade 5.25

A blog post from the Progressive Cynic on American Reality vs. American Ideals.

Amendments to the Constitution

1870  Print Celebrating Passage of the 15th Amendment
1870 Print Celebrating Passage of the 15th Amendment

9000 amendments have been proposed; 27 have been passed.

Click here for an overview of Amendments 11-27

For more on the amendment process, see Article V: Amending the Constitution from the Exploring Constitutional Conflicts website from the University of Missouri Kansas City.

The Supreme Court & Court Systems
The Supreme Court is the final interpreter of federal constitutional law in the U.S. legal system.

When a person feels their constitutional rights have been violated, they can file litigation and go to court. If their case gets appealed up to the Supreme Court, it is there that the case is decided to be constitutional or not.
Many issues of conflicted ideals have been resolved or further complicated by the court system.

timeline2_rus.svg.pngTimeline of Supreme Court cases

Some examples of when our nation's ideals conflicted with its reality can be seen with the following examples:


The Civil Rights Movement

Female_Rose.pngThe Women's Rights Movement

  • See United States History II.27
    • Before the Women's Rights Movement of the 1960's came the Women's Suffrage Movement in the previous century. It culminated in 1920 with the passage of the 19th amendment, which prohibited denying people the right to vote because of their sex.
      • For a timeline of the whole movement, photos, and cartoons, click here.

lesson_plan_icon.jpgFor a lesson plan from the Library of Congress on women's suffrage, click here.

Screen Shot 2016-04-21 at 9.41.22 AM.pngThe suppression of Native Americans

Image result for suppression of native americans timeline
Image result for suppression of native americans timeline

Trail of Tears Documentary

Labor Movement

See pages for

Screen Shot 2016-02-09 at 12.56.56 PM.pngLGBT Rights Movement

timeline2_rus.svg.pngTimeline of LGBT Rights

LGBT Rights Milestones Fast Facts

Video on Obergefell v. Hodges, the case that legalized same-sex marriage

See also LGBTQ Histories and Change Makers

Like Walking Through a Hailstorm: Discrimination Against LGBT Youth in US Schools, Human Rights Watch (December 2017)

  • 8 states have laws restricting teachers from talking about LGBTQ issues in schools
    • 20 states have laws prohibiting the bullying of students based on sexual orientation and gender identity
      • 23 states have laws prohibiting workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity

American Foreign Policy

See also American Government 4.5 for more on American foreign policy

Throughout the twentieth century, and especially during the Cold War, the United States intervened in the politics of many countries.
  • The reasons for these interventions are complex, but often it had to do with business interests and preventing the spread of Communism. Oftentimes, these interventions involved behavior that was contradictory to classic American ideals.
    • A good example of this occurred in Chile with the overthrow of democratically elected leader Salvador Allende in 1973.
      • To learn about the overthrow and the involvement of the US, click here.
Monroe Doctrine:
President James Monroe first stated the doctrine during his seventh annual State of the Union Address to Congress.
The Monroe Doctrine was a United States policy of opposing European colonialism in the Americas beginning in 1823. European countries were to stay out of the Western Hemisphere, which meant that they were not allowed to intervene in the affairs of territories in the western hemisphere.

American Foreign Wars
US Mexico War 1846
US Spanish War (1898-1901), Cuba, Hawaii, Philippines, Guatemala, Panama
Vietnam War (1958-60)
Korean War (1950)
Image result for american expansion in the caribbean
Image result for american expansion in the caribbean

Multimedia.pngTo learn about a similar event that occurred in Guatemala in 1954, watch this short video.

lesson_plan_icon.jpgCheck out this lesson plan on thinkfinity that aims to show students the different social injustices forced upon peoples abroad and at home on American soil, including Native Americans and Japanese Americans.

See also pages for: