Presentation on theme: "Chapter 2: Traditional American Values and Beliefs"— Presentation transcript:
1 Chapter 2: Traditional American Values and Beliefs American CultureChapter 2: Traditional American Values and Beliefs
2 The Context of Traditional American Values: Racial, Ethnic, Religious, and Cultural Diversity Today, the US is the most diverse country in the worldRacially, ethnically, culturally, religouslyThe US has always had some diversityNative AmericansSpanish settlersFrench missionariesBlack slavesBritish colonists
4 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 itMany Americans see their diversity as their strengthPluralism is recognized more today than it was in the past
5 The Context of Traditional American Values: Racial, Ethnic, Religious, and Cultural Diversity Question:How did the American national identity develop with so much diversity?
6 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
7 “The land of opportunity” 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 freedomEquality of opportunityMaterial wealthSelf-relianceCompetitionHard work
8 Individual Freedom and Self-Reliance Early colonists came to America to escape oppression at home (Europe) by kings, governments, churches etcBritish colonists declared independence in 1776In 1789 the constitution was written which separated church from stateTitles (Lord, Duke, Sir) were forbidden to prevent an aristocratic society from developing
9 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.
10 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 America
11 Individual Freedom and Self-Reliance However, to achieve “individual freedom” they needed to be “self-reliant”Financial / emotional independence from parentsAmericans believe they should take care of themselves and solve their own problemsThey 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
12 Individual Freedom and Self-Reliance Most Americans believe they must be self-reliant to keep their individual freedomi.e. if you rely on someone else, you don’t have any freedom
13 Individual Freedom and Self-Reliance Sometimes, people are forced to rely on othersThis is generally not a long term arrangementBeing too reliant on others means a loss of freedom, and sometimes a loss of respectEven when dependent on others, people must ‘appear’ to be self reliant
14 Individual Freedom and Self-Reliance Financial support (charities, welfare) to those in need is generally for a short time onlyIt is expected that people will take care of themselvesFinancial support is common, but not admiredMany believe it is a bad example that will weaken the American character.
15 Equality of Opportunity and Competition Immigrants to the US believe that everyone has the chance to succeedPeople are free from excessive political, religious, and social controlOne reason is the lack of a hereditary aristocracy
16 Equality of Opportunity and Competition No formal class system exists in the USMany people believed that in their native countries, their social class would determine how successful they could beIn America, they would not have to compete with rich and powerful noble families
17 Equality of Opportunity and Competition Many immigrants were very successful in the US – regardless of their backgroundThis lead to the idea of equality of opportunityThe 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
18 Equality of Opportunity and Competition Each individual has an equal opportunity for success“Success” is the main goal of American life – everyone should have the same chance to be successfulAn “ethical” rule (similar to “fair play”)
19 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
20 Equality of Opportunity and Competition The downside of equality of opportunity is competitionAmericans see life as a race to succeed – with winners and losersAmericans believe that since they all have the same opportunity to succeed, they have a duty to try
21 Equality of Opportunity and Competition Pressure of competition is part of all Americans’ livesCompetition is encouraged at an early age (especially in sports)
22 Equality of Opportunity and Competition Americans are under a lot of pressure to compete throughout their working livesWhen they retire, many lose their prestige and respectPeople who don’t compete well are seen as misfits
23 Material Wealth and Hard Work People came to the US to raise their standard of livingAmerica has very abundant natural resources – and was seen as a “land of plenty”Many improved their own lives or the lives of their childrenMaterial wealth became important to Americans
24 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?
25 Material Wealth and Hard Work Answer:Material wealth dictates social status in the absence of hereditary aristocracy or titles of nobility.Quality and quantity of possessions became a measure of success.
26 Material Wealth and Hard Work However, to achieve material wealth Americans must work hardIt 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 someone’s ability
27 Material Wealth and Hard Work Today, it is more difficult for an average American to become very wealthy because of changes in the economyTo compete internationally, many people must now work longer for lessThey have become the “working poor” workers with a low standard of living
28 Material Wealth and Hard Work Most Americans still value hard work, but it is becoming more common for people to receive welfareFamilies are limited to how much welfare they can receiveMany employers no longer provide benefits (health insurance etc) to their workers
29 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 dream.”