A Note for Teachers

The Manifest Destiny doctrine was responsible for the slaughter and forced relocation of American Indians and — even today, in the 21st century — the doctrine is still the driving force in U.S. foreign affairs. The central tenets of Manifest Destiny — divine providence, freedom, democracy, and free enterprise — have been and are still used to justify our actions both at home and abroad.

As the world’s population climbs and supplies of natural resources dwindle, human society will one day be forced into abandoning the Manifest Destiny doctrine in favor of sustainable, communal lifestyles. Communal living was a way of life for Native Americans long before Columbus arrived in the Western Hemisphere. The Indians produced and traded for the common good, treated the land, air and water with respect, and they provided shelter and health care for their people and education for their children. Tribal decisions were made by consensus in councils, with the Chief — usually one of the best orators — in charge of keeping the council discussion moving forward toward a solution that could be agreed upon by group consensus. The tribal council may well become a model for future decision-making in the United States.

I have chosen essays for this compilation that teachers may find useful in history and social studies classes to promote independent thought and enhance classroom discussions. The following discussion questions may help you focus student attention upon particular areas.


What was life like for the Arawak before Columbus? How did this change after Columbus?

Is Columbus a hero? Should we be celebrating a Columbus Day holiday?

Why did Tecumseh call for the Indians to unite?

Explain “divine providence.” Why is it a central tenet of the Manifest Destiny doctrine?

Although the term “Manifest Destiny” was not coined until 1845, when do you think the philosophy behind it actually started in North America?

What is the difference between national and international Manifest Destiny? Is international destiny the same thing as imperialism?


William O. Douglas asserts that “the philosophy of strength through free speech is being forsaken for the philosophy of fear through repression.” What does he mean by this statement? Has anything changed in the 50 years since he said this?

Societal trends seem to affect the youth first. In the 1950s, youth responded to the media-driven fear and hysteria over communism. In the 1960s, youth responded to the war in Southeast Asia. Is it possible that the youth are responding to the Manifest Destiny doctrine? Explain your position.

Do you see any trends or issues that today’s youth may be responding to? If so, what are the issues and how are they responding?

Why might countries that present themselves as good examples, as models for other nations to follow, ever have to be “crushed” by the United States? Why would good examples ever be considered a threat? To whom would they be perceived as a threat?

The “Bush Doctrine” refers to pre-emptive military strikes against nations that pose a threat of biological, chemical, and nuclear attacks. In 2003, The Bush administration made a very specific, detailed case for pre-emptive war and regime change in Iraq that later turned out to be based on false information. The central tenets of the Manifest Destiny doctrine (divine providence, freedom, democracy, and free enterprise) were also used by the Bush administration to justify the war. Do you think the war been a success, a failure, or some of both? Explain you answers.

What does Jamie York mean when he says that Cuba has been a “thorn in the side” for U.S. Manifest Destiny?


What is a rainbow warrior? Are you a rainbow warrior? Why or why not?

How does decision-making through consensus differ from representative government? Which better supports the common good?

Communal, sustainable living has been practiced by Native Americans for hundreds of years? What advantage, if any, does this have over free enterprise?

Why do you think that some early American experimentation with communal living failed? Do you think that Manifest Destiny affected these experiments in any way? Explain.

As the world’s population climbs and supplies of natural resources dwindle, human society will be forced into adapting to sustainable lifestyles. How does the Humanist philosophy fit in with this?

Humanists believe in maximum individual freedom within the framework of social and planetary responsibility. Humanists also believe in the separation of church and state. Is Humanism compatible with religion? Explain.


Ninio speaks of changing “the system.” What does he mean by this? How does this tie in with the doctrine of Manifest Destiny? How does it tie in with decision-making by consensus?