For Educators

Activity 6:

Patriotism and American Identity

Explore the concepts of "patriotism" and "American identity."

Ask students to respond in their journals to the question, "What is patriotism?" Then, have students share headlines from their thinking and discuss where the thoughts of some agree or disagree with those of others. Point out that the term "patriotism" means different things to different people, and that in a multicultural society, a person's identity as an American may be built on a complex foundation.

To illustrate this point, introduce students to author and playwright Ariel Dorfman who is featured in the six-minute video, Patriotism. Help students follow Dorfman's path from the U.S., where his father's dissidence triggered the family's expulsion, to Chile where he became a rebel in the revolution there and says he felt like a true patriot as he struggled to bring about democracy. Then, a U.S.-backed coup forced him to leave Chile and move to several cities before he eventually returned to the U.S. and settled in North Carolina. Determined to not move anymore, he became a U.S. citizen, saying he'd rather go to jail than be deported. He now continues the democratic tradition by quietly casting his vote on election days.

Discuss with students the contradictions Dorfman has faced in his relationship with the U.S. How do students think these factors influence his patriotism and identity as an American? Have other immigrants faced similar contradictions? What makes a person "American?"

Additional Resources

American Shadows: Ariel Dorfman Reflects on His American Identity
This feature includes two other video pieces with Dorfman's reflections on American identity.

Related Standards

Civics, Standard 11: Understands the role of diversity in American life and the importance of shared values, political beliefs, and civic beliefs in an increasingly diverse American society.

Civics, Standard 28: Understands how participation in civic and political life can help citizens attain individual and public goals.

Geography, Standard 6: Understands that culture and experience influence people's perceptions of places and regions.

World History, Standard 44: Understands the search for community, stability, and peace in an interdependent world.

Source: "Content Knowledge" by McRel (Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning)



  1. USA in Three Words
Explore diverse perspectives of the United States
  2. The Internet's Impact on Political Participation
Investigate how Internet features and culture make political waves.
  3. A Slogan That Captures America's Best Identity
Explore the idea of "place branding" and develop a slogan that captures America's best identity.
  4. American Image Abroad
Develop strategies for improving world opinion of the United States.
  5. Cross-country Rhythms
Explore the relationship between music, history, and culture.
< 6. Patriotism and American Identity
Explore the concepts of "patriotism" and "American identity."
Download all activities as a PDF file (128KB, Acrobat Reader required)

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