The book is divided into 12 sections, each exploring a core theme that needs our commitment and action. Each section begins with graphically-presented facts and statistics that offer a sampling of information about the theme (citations are compiled at the end of the book). Then several essays by prominent leaders and changemakers delve into more detail, outlining the challenges, and some of the solutions. Interspersed throughout are examples of people and organizations who have taken action and have made a positive difference.
Here are the 12 sections addressed:
- people-centered & accountable government
- citizen stewardship
- creating a stable & equitable economy
- news media that informs & empowers
- aiming for the best in education
- re-powering America
- improving health & avoiding alarming trends
- ending poverty and building common wealth
- re-imagining business
- strengthening communities
- waging peace
- a nation that shines: realizing our full potential
The website includes sample essays and resources from the book, as well as free downloadable resources for secondary and higher education teachers. After free registration, teachers have access to a complete downloadable copy of the book, suggested lesson plans, relevant handouts, standards alignment information, and a variety of other resources.
It's great to see a focus on solutions, and Dream of a Nation does a good job of outlining many of the important issues we face. And the roster of changemakers who share their ideas here is inspiring. But of course, as with most any tool, there are large gaps in what isn't covered, and a certain bias in what is. For example, some of the ideas and organizations included don't consider the extended impact of what they do (e.g., a cooperative dairy is highlighted as great sustainable business model, but doesn't look further at the negative human and environmental impacts of animal agriculture or the enormous animal suffering on which such an industry is built). Additionally, the lens of the book and website are very human-centric, and thus continue to condone and promote the exploitation and oppression of nonhuman animals and, in some cases, the earth.
And, while there are useful explorations of some of the changes in systems needed, a lot of the "what you can do" suggestions are a bit anemic for a project of this stature. Even though the focus of the book is creating change in the U.S., a lot of the ideas are replicable for (and indeed often inspired by) other countries.
The bottom line is that Dream of a Nation is a terrific resource for helping start the conversation about important social justice and environmental issues, and humane educators should help their students dive deeply with a critical eye and also look elsewhere for additional, more comprehensive resources.
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