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American Culture


American Culture Chapter 2: Traditional American Values and Beliefs The Context of Traditional American Values: Racial, Ethnic, Religious, and Cultural Diversity The ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: American Culture

American Culture
  • Chapter 2 Traditional American Values and Beliefs

The Context of Traditional American Values
Racial, Ethnic, Religious, and Cultural Diversity
  • Today, the US is the most diverse country in the
  • Racially, ethnically, culturally, religously
  • The US has always had some diversity
  • Native Americans
  • Spanish settlers
  • French missionaries
  • Black slaves
  • British colonists

(No Transcript)
The Context of Traditional American Values
Racial, Ethnic, Religious, and Cultural Diversity
  • Diversity Pluralism (more than one)
  • The high diversity in the US meant that people
    had no choice but to accept it
  • Many Americans see their diversity as their
  • Pluralism is recognized more today than it was in
    the past

The Context of Traditional American Values
Racial, Ethnic, Religious, and Cultural Diversity
  • Question
  • How did the American national identity develop
    with so much diversity?

The Context of Traditional American Values
Racial, Ethnic, Religious, and Cultural Diversity
  • Answer???
  • we share a common set of values that make us
    American. We are defined by the rights we have.
    Our rights are our history, why the first
    European settlers came here and why millions more
    have come here since.
  • John Zogby

The Context of Traditional American Values
Racial, Ethnic, Religious, and Cultural Diversity
  • The land of opportunity
  • The values of the people who went to America for
    a new life developed into the traditional values
    of American today
  • Individual freedom
  • Equality of opportunity
  • Material wealth
  • Self-reliance
  • Competition
  • Hard work

Individual Freedom and Self-Reliance
  • Early colonists came to America to escape
    oppression at home (Europe) by kings,
    governments, churches etc
  • British colonists declared independence in 1776
  • In 1789 the constitution was written which
    separated church from state
  • Titles (Lord, Duke, Sir) were forbidden to
    prevent an aristocratic society from developing

Individual Freedom and Self-Reliance
  • This created a climate of freedom where the
    individual was most important.
  • Individual freedom (i.e. you can do anything you
    want to do) is the most basic American value.

Individual Freedom and Self-Reliance
  • Freedom the desire and the right of all
    individuals to control their own destiny without
    outside interference from the government, a
    ruling noble class, the church, or any other
    organized authority.
  • This freedom has attracted many immigrants to

Individual Freedom and Self-Reliance
  • However, to achieve individual freedom they
    needed to be self-reliant
  • Financial / emotional independence from parents
  • Americans believe they should take care of
    themselves and solve their own problems
  • They owe nothing to any man, they expect nothing
    from any man they acquire the habit of always
    considering themselves as standing alone, and
    they are apt to imagine that their whole destiny
    is in their own hands.
  • -Tocqueville

Individual Freedom and Self-Reliance
  • Most Americans believe they must be self-reliant
    to keep their individual freedom
  • i.e. if you rely on someone else, you dont have
    any freedom

Individual Freedom and Self-Reliance
  • Sometimes, people are forced to rely on others
  • This is generally not a long term arrangement
  • Being too reliant on others means a loss of
    freedom, and sometimes a loss of respect
  • Even when dependent on others, people must
    appear to be self reliant

Individual Freedom and Self-Reliance
  • Financial support (charities, welfare) to those
    in need is generally for a short time only
  • It is expected that people will take care of
  • Financial support is common, but not admired
  • Many believe it is a bad example that will weaken
    the American character.

Equality of Opportunity and Competition
  • Immigrants to the US believe that everyone has
    the chance to succeed
  • People are free from excessive political,
    religious, and social control
  • One reason is the lack of a hereditary aristocracy

Equality of Opportunity and Competition
  • No formal class system exists in the US
  • Many people believed that in their native
    countries, their social class would determine how
    successful they could be
  • In America, they would not have to compete with
    rich and powerful noble families

Equality of Opportunity and Competition
  • Many immigrants were very successful in the US
    regardless of their background
  • This lead to the idea of equality of opportunity
  • The more I advanced in the study of American
    society, the more I perceived that equality of
    condition id the fundamental fact from which all
    others seem to be derived.
  • -Tocqueville

Equality of Opportunity and Competition
  • Equality of opportunity
  • Each individual has an equal opportunity for
  • Success is the main goal of American life
    everyone should have the same chance to be
  • An ethical rule (similar to fair play)

Equality of Opportunity and Competition
  • We wish to allow the humblest man an equal
    chance to get rich with everybody else. When one
    starts poor, as most do in the race of life, free
    society is such that he knows he can better his
    condition he knows that there is no fixed
    condition of labor for his whole life.
  • -Abraham Lincoln

Equality of Opportunity and Competition
  • The downside of equality of opportunity is
  • Americans see life as a race to succeed with
    winners and losers
  • Americans believe that since they all have the
    same opportunity to succeed, they have a duty to

Equality of Opportunity and Competition
  • Pressure of competition is part of all Americans
  • Competition is encouraged at an early age
    (especially in sports)

Equality of Opportunity and Competition
  • Americans are under a lot of pressure to compete
    throughout their working lives
  • When they retire, many lose their prestige and
  • People who dont compete well are seen as misfits

Material Wealth and Hard Work
  • People came to the US to raise their standard of
  • America has very abundant natural resources and
    was seen as a land of plenty
  • Many improved their own lives or the lives of
    their children
  • Material wealth became important to Americans

Material Wealth and Hard Work
  • Materialism to place a high value on material
    possessions (cars, jewelry, etc)
  • Americans are perceived to be very materialistic
    even though they may value other things more
    highly (family, faith etc)
  • Why are Americans materialistic?

Material Wealth and Hard Work
  • Answer
  • Material wealth dictates social status in the
    absence of hereditary aristocracy or titles of
  • Quality and quantity of possessions became a
    measure of success.

Material Wealth and Hard Work
  • However, to achieve material wealth Americans
    must work hard
  • It took a lot of hard work to develop and profit
    from the abundant natural resources of the US.
  • Material possessions were seen as a natural
    reward for hard work, and as an indicator of
    someones ability

Material Wealth and Hard Work
  • Today, it is more difficult for an average
    American to become very wealthy because of
    changes in the economy
  • To compete internationally, many people must now
    work longer for less
  • They have become the working poor workers with
    a low standard of living

Material Wealth and Hard Work
  • Most Americans still value hard work, but it is
    becoming more common for people to receive
  • Families are limited to how much welfare they can
  • Many employers no longer provide benefits (health
    insurance etc) to their workers

The American Dream
  • The behavior and values have remained constant
  • Americans still love their country and believe
    that they can accomplish almost anything. A
    recent poll found 91 percent who agreed with the
    statement, Being an American is a big part of
    who I am. Only 11 percent said they would like
    to emigrate elsewhere. Frenchman Clotaire
    Rapaille captured this unique aspect of American
    patriotism America is not a place. It is a