At a Glance


The U.S. was formed on ideals, but how do these ideals manifest in reality? Are they ever at odds?

Colonial Williamsburg | Institute of Museum and Library Services

Idea of America

Photo, 2007 Powwow, Ken Rahaim, Smithsonian Institution, Flickr Commons

The Idea of America invites student discussion concerning the historical and present day manifestations of ideals such as unity and diversity, equality and freedom, common wealth and private wealth, and law and ethics. Note that high school students and educators comprise the intended audience.

The website is divided into two major portions—Current Events and the Virtual Republic. Current Events offers more than 80 case studies, each of which includes an introduction, key questions (ex: "What makes the nation decide it is the right time to expand the promise of freedom and equality?"), questions connecting these broader key questions to the specific current event, and links to news columns and videos. Recently added topics include women in the military; the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell; and the line between hate speech and First Amendment rights protection.

The Virtual Republic is the place for debate. Here, students are encouraged to write and publish statements on their opinions, beginning with "We believe. . . " These statements can form the basis for debate or support among schools and student groups across the country. Participation requires free student and teacher registration. Students engage as active citizens, and essentially form a microcosm of the Great Debate which has existed throughout the history of the United States.