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    US Culture



    American culture is rich, complex, and unique. It emerged from the shortand rapid European conquest of an enormous landmass sparsely settled bydiverse indigenous peoples. Although European cultural patternspredominated, especially in language, the arts, and politicalinstitutions, peoples from Africa, Asia, and North America alsocontributed to American culture. All of these groups influenced populartastes in music, dress, entertainment, and cuisine. As a result, Americanculture possesses an unusual mixture of patterns and forms forged fromamong its diverse peoples. The many melodies of American culture have notalways been harmonious, but its complexity has created a society thatstruggles to achieve tolerance and produces a uniquely casual personalstyle that identifies Americans everywhere. The country is stronglycommitted to democracy, in which views of the majority prevail, andstrives for equality in law and institutions.

    Characteristics such as democracy and equality flourished in the Americanenvironment long before taking firm root in European societies, where theideals originated. As early as the 1780s, Michel Guillaume Jean de
    Crіvecoeur, a French writer living in Pennsylvania who wrote under thepseudonym J. Hector St. John, was impressed by the democratic nature ofearly American society. It was not until the 19th century that thesetendencies in America were most fully expressed. When French politicalwriter Alexis de Tocqueville, an acute social observer, traveled throughthe United States in the 1830s, he provided an unusually penetratingportrait of the nature of democracy in America and its culturalconsequences. He commented that in all areas of culture-family life, law,arts, philosophy, and dress-Americans were inclined to emphasize theordinary and easily accessible, rather than the unique and complex. Hisinsight is as relevant today as it was when de Tocqueville visited the
    United States. As a result, American culture is more often defined by itspopular and democratically inclusive features, such as blockbuster movies,television comedies, sports stars, and fast food, than by its morecultivated aspects as performed in theaters, published in books, or viewedin museums and galleries. Even the fine arts in modern America oftenpartake of the energy and forms of popular culture, and modern arts areoften a product of the fusion of fine and popular arts.

    While America is probably most well known for its popular arts, Americanspartake in an enormous range of cultural activities. Besides being avidreaders of a great variety of books and magazines catering to differingtastes and interests, Americans also attend museums, operas, and balletsin large numbers. They listen to country and classical music, jazz andfolk music, as well as classic rock-and-roll and new wave. Americansattend and participate in basketball, football, baseball, and soccergames. They enjoy food from a wide range of foreign cuisines, such as
    Chinese, Thai, Greek, French, Indian, Mexican, Italian, Ethiopian, and
    Cuban. They have also developed their own regional foods, such as
    California cuisine and Southwestern, Creole, and Southern cooking. Stillevolving and drawing upon its ever more diverse population, Americanculture has come to symbolize what is most up-to-date and modern. Americanculture has also become increasingly international and is imported bycountries around the world.


    Imported Traditions

    Today American culture often sets the pace in modern style. For much ofits early history, however, the United States was considered culturallyprovincial and its arts second-rate, especially in painting andliterature, where European artists defined quality and form. Americanartists often took their cues from European literary salons and artschools, and cultured Americans traveled to Europe to become educated. Inthe late 18th century, some American artists produced high-quality art,such as the paintings of John Singleton Copley and Gilbert Charles Stuartand the silver work of Paul Revere. However, wealthy Americans whocollected art in the 19th century still bought works by European mastersand acquired European decorative arts-porcelain, silver, and antiquefurniture-. They then ventured further afield seeking more exotic decor,especially items from China and Japan. By acquiring foreign works, wealthy
    Americans were able to obtain the status inherent in a long historicaltradition, which the United States lacked. Americans such as Isabella
    Stewart Gardner and Henry Clay Frick amassed extensive personalcollections, which overwhelmingly emphasized non-American arts.

    In literature, some 19th-century American writers believed that only therefined manners and perceptions associated with the European upper classescould produce truly great literary themes. These writers, notably Henry
    James and Edith Wharton, often set their novels in the crosswinds of
    European and American cultural contact. Britain especially served as thetouchstone for culture and quality because of its role in America'shistory and the links of language and political institutions. Throughoutthe 19th century, Americans read and imitated British poetry and novels,such as those written by Sir Walter Scott and Charles Dickens.

    The Emergence of an American Voice

    American culture first developed a unique American voice during the 19thcentury. This voice included a cultural identity that was stronglyconnected to nature and to a divine mission. The new American voice hadliberating effects on how the culture was perceived, by Americans and byothers. Writers Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau proposed thatthe American character was deeply individualistic and connected to naturaland spiritual sources rather than to the conventions of social life. Manyof the 19th century's most notable figures of American literature-Herman
    Melville, Emily Dickinson, and Mark Twain-also influenced this tradition.
    The poetry of Walt Whitman, perhaps above all, spoke in a distinctly
    American voice about people's relation to one another, and described
    American freedom, diversity, and equality with fervor.

    Landscape painting in the United States during the 19th century vividlycaptured the unique American cultural identity with its emphasis on thenatural environment. This was evident in the huge canvases set in the Westby Albert Bierstadt and the more intimate paintings of Thomas Cole. Thesepaintings, which were part of the Hudson River School, were oftenenveloped in a radiant light suggesting a special connection to spiritualsources. But very little of this American culture moved beyond the United
    States to influence art trends elsewhere. American popular culture,including craft traditions such as quilting or local folk music forged by
    Appalachian farmers or former African slaves, remained largely local.

    This sense of the special importance of nature for American identity led
    Americans in the late 19th century to become increasingly concerned thaturban life and industrial products were overwhelming the naturalenvironment. Their concern led for calls to preserve areas that had notbeen developed. Naturalists such as John Muir were pivotal in establishingthe first national parks and preserving scenic areas of the American West.
    By the early 20th century, many Americans supported the drive to preservewilderness and the desire to make the great outdoors available toeveryone.

    Immigration and Diversity

    By the early 20th century, as the United States became an internationalpower, its cultural self-identity became more complex. The United Stateswas becoming more diverse as immigrants streamed into the country,settling especially in America's growing urban areas. At this time,
    America's social diversity began to find significant expression in thearts and culture. American writers of German, Irish, Jewish, and
    Scandinavian ancestry began to find an audience, although some of thecultural elite resisted the works, considering them crude and unrefined.

    Many of these writers focused on 20th-century city life and themes, suchas poverty, efforts to assimilate into the United States, and family lifein the new country. These ethnically diverse writers included Theodore
    Dreiser, of German ancestry; Henry Roth, a Jewish writer; and Eugene
    O'Neill and James Farrell, of Irish background. European influence nowmeant something very different than it once had: Artists changed the coreof American experience by incorporating their various immigrant originsinto its cultural vision. During the 1920s and 1930s, a host of African
    American poets and novelists added their voices to this new Americanvision. Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, and Countee Cullen, amongothers, gathered in New York City's Harlem district. They began to writeabout their unique experiences, creating a movement called the Harlem

    Visual artists of the early 20th century also began incorporating the manynew sights and colors of the multiethnic America visible in these new citysettings. Painters associated with a group known as The Eight (also calledthe Ashcan school), such as Robert Henri and John Sloan, portrayed thepicturesque sights of the city. Later painters and photographers focusedon the city's squalid and seamier aspects. Although nature remained asignificant dimension of American cultural self-expression, as thepaintings of Georgia O'Keeffe demonstrated, it was no longer at the heartof American culture. By the 1920s and 1930s few artists or writersconsidered nature the singular basis of American cultural identity.

    In popular music too, the songs of many nations became American songs. Tin
    Pan Alley (Union Square in New York City, the center of music publishingat the turn of the 20th century) was full of immigrant talents who helpeddefine American music, especially in the form of the Broadway musical.
    Some songwriters, such as Irving Berlin and George M. Cohan, used theirmusic to help define American patriotic songs and holiday traditions.
    During the 1920s musical forms such as the blues and jazz began todominate the rhythms of American popular music. These forms had theirroots in Africa as adapted in the American South and then in cities suchas New Orleans, Louisiana; Kansas City, Missouri; Detroit, Michigan; and
    Chicago, Illinois. Black artists and musicians such as Louis Armstrong,
    Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, and Count Basie became the instruments ofa classic American sound. White composers such as George Gershwin andperformers such as Bix Beiderbecke also incorporated jazz rhythms intotheir music, while instrumentalists such as Benny Goodman adopted jazz'simprovisational style to forge a racially blended American form calledswing music.

    Development of Mass Media

    In the late 19th century, Americans who enjoyed the arts usually lived inbig cities or had the money to attend live performances. People who werepoor or distant from cultural centers settled for second-rate productionsmounted by local theater troupes or touring groups. New technologies, suchas the motion-picture camera and the phonograph, revolutionized the artsby making them available to the masses. The movies, the phonograph, and,somewhat later, the radio made entertainment available daily and allowed
    Americans to experience elaborately produced dramas and all types ofmusic.

    While mass media made entertainment available to more people, it alsobegan to homogenize tastes, styles, and points of view among differentgroups in the United States. Class and ethnic distinctions in Americanculture began to fade as mass media transmitted movies and music to peoplethroughout the United States. Some people criticized the growinguniformity of mass culture for lowering the general standard of taste,since mass media sought to please the largest number of people byappealing to simpler rather than more complex tastes. However, culturebecame more democratic as modern technology and mass media allowed it toreach more people.

    During the 20th century, mass entertainment extended the reach of Americanculture, reversing the direction of influence as Europe and the worldbecame consumers of American popular culture. America became the dominantcultural source for entertainment and popular fashion, from the jeans and
    T-shirts young people wear to the music groups and rock stars they listento and the movies they see. People all over the world view Americantelevision programs, often years after the program's popularity hasdeclined in the United States. American television has become such aninternational fixture that American news broadcasts help define whatpeople in other countries know about current events and politics. Americanentertainment is probably one of the strongest means by which Americanculture influences the world, although some countries, such as France,resist this influence because they see it as a threat to their uniquenational culture.

    The Impact of Consumerism

    Popular culture is linked to the growth of consumerism, the repeatedacquisition of an increasing variety of goods and services. The Americanlifestyle is often associated with clothing, houses, electronic gadgets,and other products, as well as with leisure time. As advertisingstimulates the desire for updated or improved products, peopleincreasingly equate their well-being with owning certain things andacquiring the latest model. Television and other mass media broadcast aportrayal of a privileged American lifestyle that many Americans hope toimitate.

    Americans often seek self-fulfillment and status through gaining materialitems. Indeed, products consumed and owned, rather than professionalaccomplishments or personal ideals, are often the standard of success in
    American society. The media exemplify this success with the most glamorousmodels of consumption: Hollywood actors, sports figures, or musiccelebrities. This dependence on products and on constant consumptiondefines modern consumer society everywhere. Americans have set the pacefor this consumer ideal, especially young people, who have helped fuelthis consumer culture in the United States and the world. Like the massmedia with which it is so closely linked, consumption has been extensivelycriticized. Portrayed as a dizzy cycle of induced desire, consumerismseems to erode older values of personal taste and economy. Despite this,the mass production of goods has also allowed more people to live morecomfortably and made it possible for anyone to attain a sense of style,blurring the most obvious forms of class distinction.


    Living Patterns

    A fundamental element in the life of the American people was the enormousexpanse of land available. During the colonial period, the access to openland helped scatter settlements. One effect was to make it difficult toenforce traditional European social conventions, such as primogeniture, inwhich the eldest son inherited the parents 'estate. Because the United
    States had so much land, sons became less dependent on inheriting thefamily estate. Religious institutions were also affected, as the widelyspread settlements created space for newer religious sects and revivalistpractices.

    In the 19th century, Americans used their land to grow crops, which helpedcreate the dynamic agricultural economy that defined American society.
    Many Americans were lured westward to obtain more land. Immigrants soughtland to settle, cattle ranchers wanted land for their herds, Southernerslooked to expand their slave economy into Western lands, and railroadcompanies acquired huge tracts of land as they bound a loose society intoa coherent economic union. Although Native Americans had inhabited most ofthe continent, Europeans and American settlers often viewed it as empty,virgin land that they were destined to occupy. Even before the late 19thcentury, when the last bloody battles between US troops and Native
    Americans completed the white conquest of the West, the idea of possessingland was deeply etched into American cultural patterns and nationalconsciousness.

    Throughout the 19th century, agricultural settlements existed on large,separate plots of land, often occupying hundreds of acres. The Homestead
    Act of 1862 promised up to 65 hectares (160 acres) of free land to anyonewith enough fortitude and vision to live on or cultivate the land. As aresult, many settlements in the West contained vast areas of sparselysettled land, where neighbors lived great distances from one another. Thedesire for residential privacy has remained a significant feature of
    American culture.

    This heritage continues to define patterns of life in the United States.
    More than any other Western society, Americans are committed to living inprivate dwellings set apart from neighbors. Despite the rapid urbanizationthat began in the late 19th century, Americans insisted that each nuclearfamily (parents and their children) be privately housed and that as manyfamilies as possible own their own homes. This strong cultural standardsometimes seemed unusual to new immigrants who were used to the morecrowded living conditions of Europe, but they quickly adopted this aspectof American culture.

    As cities became more densely populated, Americans moved to the suburbs.
    Streetcars, first used during the 1830s, opened suburban rings around citycenters, where congestion was greatest. Banks offered long-term loans thatallowed individuals to invest in a home. Above all, the automobile in the
    1920s was instrumental in furthering the move to the suburbs.

    After World War II (1939-1945), developers carved out rural tracts tobuild millions of single-family homes, and more Americans than ever beforemoved to large suburban areas that were zoned to prevent commercial andindustrial activities. The federal government directly fueled this processby providing loans to war veterans as part of the Servicemen's
    Readjustment Act of 1944, known as the GI Bill of Rights, which provided awide range of benefits to U.S. military personnel. In many of the newhousing developments, builders constructed homes according to a singlemodel, a process first established in Levittown, New York. Theseidentical, partially prefabricated units were rapidly assembled, makingsuburban life and private land ownership available to millions ofreturning soldiers in search of housing for their families.

    American families still choose to live in either suburbs or the sprawlingsuburban cities that have grown up in newer regions of the country. Vastareas of the West, such as the Los Angeles metropolitan region in
    California, the area around Phoenix, Arizona, and the Puget Sound area of
    Washington state, became rapidly populated with new housing because of the
    American desire to own a home on a private plot of land. In much of thissuburban sprawl, the central city has become largely indistinct. Thesesuburban areas almost invariably reflect Americans 'dependence onautomobiles and on government-supported highway systems.

    As a result of Americans choosing to live in the suburbs, a distinctly
    American phenomenon developed in the form of the shopping mall. Theshopping mall has increasingly replaced the old-fashioned urban downtown,where local shops, restaurants, and cultural attractions were located.
    Modern malls emphasize consumption as an exclusive activity. The shoppingmall, filled with department stores, specialty shops, fast-foodfranchises, and movie multiplexes, has come to dominate retailing, makingsuburban areas across America more and more alike. In malls, Americanspurchase food, clothing, and entertainment in an isolated environmentsurrounded by parking lots.

    The American preference for living in the suburbs has also affected otherliving experiences. Because suburbs emphasize family life, suburban areasalso place a greater emphasis on school and other family-orientedpolitical issues than more demographically diverse cities. At their mostintense levels, desire for privacy and fear of crime have led to thedevelopment of gated suburban communities that keep out those who are notwanted.

    Despite the growth of suburbs, American cities have maintained theirstatus as cultural centers for theaters, museums, concert halls, artgalleries, and more upscale restaurants, shops, and bookstores. In thepast several decades, city populations grew as young and trendyprofessionals with few or no children sought out the culturalpossibilities and the diversity not available in the suburbs. Housing canbe expensive and difficult to find in older cities such as New York;
    Boston, Massachusetts; and San Francisco, California. To cope, many citydwellers restored older apartment buildings and houses. This process,called gentrification, combines the American desire for the latesttechnology with a newer appreciation for the classic and vintage.

    Many poorer Americans cannot afford homes in the suburbs or apartments inthe gentrified areas of cities. They often rely upon federal housingsubsidies to pay for apartments in less-desirable areas of the city or inpublic housing projects. Poorer people often live crowded together inlarge apartment complexes in congested inner-city areas. Federal publichousing began when President Franklin Roosevelt sought to relieve theworst conditions associated with poverty in the 1930s. It acceleratedduring the 1950s and 1960s, as the government subsidized the renewal ofurban areas by replacing slums with either new or refurbished housing. Inthe late 20th century, many people criticized public housing because itwas often the site for crime, drug deals, gangs, and other social ills.
    Nevertheless, given the expensive nature of rental housing in cities,public housing is often the only option available to those who cannotafford to buy their own home. Private efforts, such as Habitat for
    Humanity, have been organized to help the urban poor move from crowded,high-rise apartments. These organizations help construct low-cost homes inplaces such as the South Bronx in New York City, and they emphasize thepride and autonomy of home ownership.

    In recent years, the importance of home ownership has increased as higherreal estate prices have made the house a valuable investment. The newesthome construction has made standard the comforts of large kitchens,luxurious bathrooms, and small gardens. In line with the rising cost ofland, these houses often stand on smaller lots than those constructed inthe period following World War II, when one-story ranch houses and largelawns were the predominant style. At the same time, many suburban areashave added other kinds of housing in response to the needs of singlepeople and people without children. As a result, apartments andtownhouses-available as rentals and as condominiums-have become familiarparts of suburban life. For more information on urbanization andsuburbanization.

    Food and Cuisine

    The United States has rich and productive land that has provided Americanswith plentiful resources for a healthy diet. Despite this, Americans didnot begin to pay close attention to the variety and quality of the foodthey ate until the 20th century, when they became concerned about eatingtoo much and becoming overweight. American food also grew more similararound the country as American malls and fast-food outlets tended tostandardize eating patterns throughout the nation, especially among youngpeople. Nevertheless, American food has become more complex as it drawsfrom the diverse cuisines that immigrants have brought with them.

    Historically, the rest of the world has envied the good, wholesome foodavailable in the United States. In the 18th and 19th centuries, fertilesoil and widespread land ownership made grains, meats, and vegetableswidely available, and famine that was common elsewhere was unknown in the
    United States. Some immigrants, such as the Irish, moved to the United
    States to escape famine, while others saw the bounty of food as one of theadvantages of immigration. By the late 19th century, America's foodsurplus was beginning to feed the world. After World War I (1914-1918) and
    World War II, the United States distributed food in Europe to helpcountries severely damaged by the wars. Throughout the 20th century,
    American food exports have helped compensate for inadequate harvests inother parts of the world. Although hunger does exist in the United States,it results more from food being poorly distributed rather than from foodbeing unavailable.

    Traditional American cuisine has included conventional European foodstuffssuch as wheat, dairy products, pork, beef, and poultry. It has alsoincorporated products that were either known only in the New World or thatwere grown there first and then introduced to Europe. Such foods includepotatoes, corn, codfish, molasses, pumpkin and other squashes, sweetpotatoes, and peanuts. American cuisine also varies by region. Southerncooking was often different from cooking in New England and its upper
    Midwest offshoots. Doughnuts, for example, were a New England staple,while Southerners preferred corn bread. The availability of foods alsoaffected regional diets, such as the different kinds of fish eaten in New
    England and the Gulf Coast. For instance, Boston clam chowder and
    Louisiana gumbo are widely different versions of fish soup. Othervariations often depended on the contributions of indigenous peoples. Inthe Southwest, for example, Mexican and Native Americans made hot peppersa staple and helped define the spicy hot barbecues and chili dishes of thearea. In Louisiana, Cajun influence similarly created spicy dishes as alocal variation of Southern cuisine, and African slaves throughout the
    South introduced foods such as okra and yams

    By the late 19th century, immigrants from Europe and Asia were introducingeven more variations into the American diet. American cuisine began toreflect these foreign cuisines, not only in their original forms but in
    Americanized versions as well. Immigrants from Japan and Italy introduceda range of fresh vegetables that added important nutrients as well asvariety to the protein-heavy American diet. Germans and Italianscontributed new skills and refinements to the production of alcoholicbeverages, especially beer and wine, which supplemented the more customaryhard cider and indigenous corn-mash whiskeys. Some imports becamedistinctly American products, such as hot dogs, which are descended from
    German wurst, or sausage. Spaghetti and pizza from Italy, especially, grewincreasingly more American and developed many regional spin-offs.
    Americans even adapted chow mein from China into a simple American dish.
    Not until the late 20th century did Americans rediscover these cuisines,and many others, paying far more attention to their original forms andcooking styles.

    Until the early 20th century, the federal government did not regulate foodfor consumers, and food was sometimes dangerous and impure. During the
    Progressive period in the early 20th century, the federal governmentintervened to protect consumers against the worst kinds of foodadulterations and diseases by passing legislation such as the Pure Foodand Drug Acts. As a result, American food became safer. By the early 20thcentury, Americans began to consume convenient, packaged foods such asbreads and cookies, preserved fruits, and pickles. By the mid-20thcentury, packaged products had expanded greatly to include canned soups,noodles, processed breakfast cereals, preserved meats, frozen vegetables,instant puddings, and gelatins. These prepackaged foods became staplesused in recipes contained in popular cookbooks, while peanut buttersandwiches and packaged cupcakes became standard lunchbox fare. As aresult, the American diet became noteworthy for its blandness rather thanits flavors, and for its wholesomeness rather than its subtlety.

    Americans were proud of their technology in food production andprocessing. They used fertilizers, hybridization (genetically combiningtwo varieties), and other technologies to increase crop yields andconsumer selection, making foods cheaper if not always better tasting.
    Additionally, by the 1950s, the refrigerator had replaced the old -fashioned icebox and the cold cellar as a place to store food.
    Refrigeration, because it allowed food to last longer, made the Americankitchen a convenient place to maintain readily available food stocks.
    However, plentiful wholesome food, when combined with the sedentary 20th -century lifestyle and work habits, brought its own unpleasantconsequences-overeating and excess weight. During the 1970s, 25 percent of
    Americans were overweight; by the 1990s that had increased to 35 percent.

    America's foods began to affect the rest of the world-not only raw staplessuch as wheat and corn, but a new American cuisine that spread throughoutthe world. American emphasis on convenience and rapid consumption is bestrepresented in fast foods such as hamburgers, french fries, and softdrinks, which almost all Americans have eaten. By the 1960s and 1970s fastfoods became one of America's strongest exports as franchises for
    McDonald's and Burger King spread through Europe and other parts of theworld, including the former Soviet Union and Communist China. Traditionalmeals cooked at home and consumed at a leisurely pace-common in the restof the world, and once common in the United States-gave way to quicklunches and dinners eaten on the run as other countries mimicked Americancultural patterns.

    By the late 20th century, Americans had become more conscious of theirdiets, eating more poultry, fish, and fresh fruits and vegetables andfewer eggs and less beef. They also began appreciating fresh ingredientsand livelier flavors, and cooks began to rediscover many world cuisines informs closer to their original. In California, chefs combined the freshfruits and vegetables available year-round with ingredients and spicessometimes borrowed from immigrant kitchens to create an innovative cookingstyle that was lighter than traditional French, but more interesting andvaried than typical American cuisine. Along with the state's wines,
    California cuisine eventually took its place among the acknowledged formsof fine dining.

    As Americans became more concerned about their diets, they also becamemore ecologically conscious. This consciousness often included anantitechnology aspect that led some Americans to switch to a partially orwholly vegetarian diet, or to emphasize products produced organically
    (without chemical fertilizers and pesticides). Many considered these foodsmore wholesome and socially responsible because their production was lesstaxing to the environment. In the latter 20th century, Americans alsoworried about the effects of newly introduced genetically altered foodsand irradiation processes for killing bacteria. They feared that these newprocesses made their food less natural and therefore harmful.

    These concerns and the emphasis on variety were by no means universal,since food habits in the late 20th century often reflected society'sethnic and class differences. Not all Americans appreciated Californiacuisine or vegetarian food, and many recent immigrants, like theirimmigrant predecessors, often continued eating the foods they knew best.

    At the end of the 20th century, American eating habits and food productionwere increasingly taking place outside the home. Many people relied onrestaurants and on new types of fully prepared meals to help busy familiesin which both adults worked full-time. Another sign of the public'schanging food habits was the microwave oven, probably the most widely usednew kitchen appliance, since it can quickly cook foods and reheat preparedfoods and leftovers. Since Americans are generally cooking less of theirown food, they are more aware than at any time since the early 20thcentury of the quality and health standards applied to food. Recentattention to cases in which children have died from contaminated andpoorly prepared food has once again directed the public's attention to thegovernment's role in monitoring food safety.

    In some ways, American food developments are contradictory. Americans aremore aware of food quality despite, and maybe because of, their increasingdependence on convenience. They eat a more varied diet, drawing on thecuisines of immigrant groups (Thai, Vietnamese, Greek, Indian, Cuban,
    Mexican, and Ethiopian), but they also regularly eat fast foods found inevery shopping mall and along every highway. They are more suspicious oftechnology, although they rely heavily on it for their daily meals. Inmany ways, these contradictions reflect the many influences on Americanlife in the late 20th century-immigration, double-income households,genetic technologies, domestic and foreign travel-and food has become aneven deeper expression of the complex culture of which it is part.


    In many regions of the world, people wear traditional costumes atfestivals or holidays, and sometimes more regularly. Americans, however,do not have distinctive folk attire with a long tradition. Except for thevaried and characteristic clothing of Native American peoples, dress inthe United States has rarely been specific to a certain region or based onthe careful preservation of decorative patterns and crafts. American dressis derived from the fabrics and fashions of the Europeans who begancolonizing the country in the 17th century. Early settlers incorporatedsome of the forms worn by indigenous peoples, such as moccasins andgarments made from animal skins (Benjamin Franklin is famous for flauntinga raccoon cap when he traveled to Europe), but in general, fashion in the
    United States adapted and modified European styles. Despite the number andvariety of immigrants in the United States, American clothing has tendedto be homogeneous, and attire from an immigrant's homeland was oftenrapidly exchanged for American apparel.

    American dress is distinctive because of its casualness. American style inthe 20th century is recognizably more informal than in Europe, and for itsfashion sources it is more dependent on what people on the streets arewearing. European fashions take their cues from the top of the fashionhierarchy, dictated by the world-famous haute couture (high fashion)houses of Paris, France, and recently those of Milan, Italy, and London,
    England. Paris designers, both today and in the past, have also dressedwealthy and fashionable Americans, who copied French styles. Although
    European designs remain a significant influence on American tastes,
    American fashions more often come from popular sources, such as the schooland the street, as well as television and movies. In the last quarter ofthe 20th century, American designers often found inspiration in theimaginative attire worn by young people in cities and ballparks, and thatworn by workers in factories and fields.

    Blue jeans are probably the single most representative article of Americanclothing. They were originally invented by tailor Jacob Davis, whotogether with dry-goods salesman Levi Strauss patented the idea in 1873 asdurable clothing for miners. Blue jeans (also known as dungarees) spreadamong workers of all kinds in the late 19th and early 20th centuries,especially among cowboys, farmers, loggers, and railroad workers. Duringthe 1950s, actors Marlon Brando and James Dean made blue jeans fashionableby wearing them in movies, and jeans became part of the image of teenagerebelliousness. This fashion statement exploded in the 1960s and 1970s as
    Levi's became a fundamental part of the youth culture focused on civilrights and antiwar protests. By the late 1970s, almost everyone in the
    United States wore blue jeans, and youths around the world sought them. Asdesigners began to create more sophisticated styles of blue jeans and toadjust their fit, jeans began to express the American emphasis oninformality and the importance of subtlety of detail. By highlighting theright label and achieving the right look, blue jeans, despite their workerorigins, ironically embodied the status consciousness of American fashionand the eagerness to approximate the latest fad.

    American informality in dress is such a strong part of American culturethat many workplaces have adopted the idea of "casual Friday," a day whenworkers are encouraged to dress down from their usual professional attire.
    For many high-tech industries located along the West Coast, as well asamong faculty at colleges and universities, this emphasis on casual attireis a daily occurrence, not just reserved for Fridays.

    The fashion industry in the United States, along with its companioncosmetics industry, grew enormously in the second half of the 20th centuryand became a major source of competition for French fashion. Especiallynotable during the late 20th century was the incorporation of sports logosand styles, from athletic shoes to tennis shirts and baseball caps, intostandard American wardrobes. American informality is enshrined in thewardrobes created by world-famous U.S. designers such as Calvin Klein, Liz
    Claiborne, and Ralph Lauren. Lauren especially adopted the American look,based in part on the tradition of the old West (cowboy hats, boots, andjeans) and in part on the clean-cut sportiness of suburban style (blazers,loafers, and khakis).

    Sports and Recreation

    Large numbers of Americans watch and participate in sports activities,which are a deeply ingrained part of American life. Americans use sportsto express interest in health and fitness and to occupy their leisuretime. Sports also allow Americans to connect and identify with massculture. Americans pour billions of dollars into sports and their relatedenterprises, affecting the economy, family habits, school life, andclothing styles. Americans of all classes, races, sexes, and agesparticipate in sports activities-from toddlers in infant swimming groupsand teenagers participating in school athletics to middle-aged adultsbowling or golfing and older persons practicing t'ai chi.

    Public subsidies and private sponsorships support the immense network ofoutdoor and indoor sports, recreation, and athletic competitions. Exceptfor those sponsored by public schools, most sports activities areprivately funded, and even American Olympic athletes receive no directnational sponsorship. Little League baseball teams, for example, areusually sponsored by local businesses. Many commercial football,basketball, baseball, and hockey teams reflect large private investments.
    Although sports teams are privately owned, they play in stadiums that areusually financed by taxpayer-provided subsidies such as bond measures.
    State taxes provide some money for state university sporting events.
    Taxpayer dollars also support state parks, the National Park Service, andthe Forest Service, which provide places for Americans to enjoy camping,fishing, hiking, and rafting. Public money also funds the Coast Guard,whose crews protect those enjoying boating around the nation's shores.

    Sports in North America go back to the Native Americans, who played formsof lacrosse and field hockey. During colonial times, early Dutch settlersbowled on New York City's Bowling Green, still a small park in southern
    Manhattan. However, organized sports competitions and local participatorysports on a substantial scale go back only to the late 19th century.
    Schools and colleges began to encourage athletics as part of a balancedprogram emphasizing physical as well as mental vigor, and churches beganto loosen strictures against leisure and physical pleasures. As workbecame more mechanized, more clerical, and less physical during the late
    19th century, Americans became concerned with diet and exercise. Withsedentary urban activities replacing rural life, Americans used sports andoutdoor relaxation to balance lives that had become hurried and confined.
    Biking, tennis, and golf became popular for those who could afford them,while sandlot baseball and an early version of basketball became popularcity activities. At the same time, organizations such as the Boy Scoutsand the Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA) began to sponsor sportsas part of their efforts to counteract unruly behavior among young people.

    Baseball teams developed in Eastern cities during the 1850s and spread tothe rest of the nation during the Civil War in the 1860s. Baseball quicklybecame the national pastime and began to produce sports heroes such as Cy
    Young, Ty Cobb, and Babe Ruth in the first half of the 20th century. Withits city-based loyalties and all-American aura, baseball appealed to manyimmigrants, who as players and fans used the game as a way to fit into
    American culture.

    Starting in the latter part of the 19th century, football was played oncollege campuses, and intercollegiate games quickly followed. By the early
    20th century, football had become a feature of college life across thenation. In the 1920s football pep rallies were commonly held on collegecampuses, and football players were among the most admired campus leaders.
    That enthusiasm has now spilled way beyond college to Americans throughoutthe country. Spectators also watch the professional football teams of the
    National Football League (NFL) with enthusiasm.

    Basketball is another sport that is very popular as both a spectator andparticipant sport. The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA)hosts championships for men's and women's collegiate teams. Held annuallyin March, the men's NCAA national championship is one of the most popularsporting events in the United States. The top men's professionalbasketball league in the United States is the National Basketball
    Association; the top women's is Women's National Basketball Association.
    In addition, many people play basketball in amateur leagues andorganizations. It is also common to see people playing basketball in parksand local gymnasiums around the country.

    Another major sport played in the United States is ice hockey. Ice hockeybegan as an amateur sport played primarily in the Northeast. The first
    U.S. professional ice hockey team was founded in Boston in 1924. Icehockey's popularity has spread throughout the country since the 1960s. The
    NCAA holds a national collegiate ice hockey championship in April of eachyear. The country's top professional league is the National Hockey League
    (NHL). NHL teams play a regular schedule that culminates in thechampionship series. The winner is awarded the Stanley Cup, the league'stop prize.

    Television transformed sports in the second half of the 20th century. Asmore Americans watched sports on television, the sports industry grew intoan enormous business, and sports events became widely viewed among
    Americans as cultural experiences. Many Americans shared televised momentsof exaltation and triumph throughout the year: baseball during the springand summer and its World Series in the early fall, football throughout thefall crowned by the Super Bowl in January, and the National Basketball
    Association (NBA) championships in the spring. The Olympic Games, watchedby millions of people worldwide, similarly rivet Americans to theirtelevisions as they watch outstanding athletes compete on behalf of theirnations. Commercial sports are part of practically every home in Americaand have allowed sports heroes to gain prominence in the nationalimagination and to become fixtures of the consumer culture. As well-knownfaces and bodies, sports celebrities such as basketball player Michael
    Jordan and baseball player Mark McGwire are hired to endorse products.

    Although televised games remove the viewing public from direct contactwith events, they have neither diminished the fervor of teamidentification nor dampened the enthusiasm for athletic participation.
    Americans watch more sports on television than ever, and they personallyparticipate in more varied sporting activities and athletic clubs.
    Millions of young girls and boys across the country play soccer, baseball,tennis, and field hockey.

    At the end of the 20th century, Americans were taking part in individualsports of all kinds-jogging, bicycling, swimming, skiing, rock climbing,playing tennis, as well as more unusual sports such as bungee jumping,hang gliding, and wind surfing. As Americans enjoy more leisure time, andas Hollywood and advertising emphasize trim, well-developed bodies, sportshave become a significant component of many people's lives. Many Americansnow invest significant amounts of money in sports equipment, clothing, andgym memberships. As a result, more people are dressing in sporty styles ofclothing. Sports logos and athletic fashions have become common aspects ofpeople's wardrobes, as people need to look as though they participate insports to be in style. Sports have even influenced the cars Americansdrive, as sport utility vehicles accommodate the rugged terrain, elaborateequipment, and sporty lifestyles of their owners.

    Probably the most significant long-term development in 20th-century sportshas been the increased participation of minorities and women. Throughoutthe early 20th century, African Americans made outstanding contributionsto sports, despite being excluded from organized white teams. Theexclusion of black players from white baseball led to the creation of aseparate Negro National League in 1920. On the world stage, track-and -field star Jessie Owens became a national hero when he won four goldmedals and set world and Olympic records at the Berlin Olympics in 1936.
    The racial segregation that prevented African Americans from playingbaseball in the National League until 1947 has been replaced by theenormous successes of African Americans in all fields of sport.

    Before the 20th century women could not play in most organized sports.
    Soon, however, they began to enter the sports arena. Helen Wills Moody, atennis champion during the 1920s, and Babe Didrikson Zaharias, one of the
    20th century's greatest women athletes, were examples of physical graceand agility. In 1972 Title IX of the Education Amendments Act outlaweddiscrimination based on gender in education, including school sports.
    Schools then spent additional funding on women's athletics, which providedan enormous boost to women's sports of all kinds, especially basketball,which became very popular. Women's college basketball, part of the
    National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), is a popular focus ofinterest. By the end of the 20th century, this enthusiasm led to thecreation of a major professional women's basketball league. Women havebecome a large part of athletics, making their mark in a wide range ofsports.

    Sports have become one of the most visible expressions of the vastextension of democracy in 20th-century America. They have become moreinclusive, with many Americans both personally participating and enjoyingsports as spectators. Once readily available only to the well-to-do,sports and recreation attract many people, aided by the mass media, theschools and colleges, the federal and state highway and park systems, andincreased leisure time.

    Celebrations and Holidays

    Americans celebrate an enormous variety of festivals and holidays becausethey come from around the globe and practice many religions. They alsocelebrate holidays specific to the United States that commemoratehistorical events or encourage a common national memory. Holidays in
    America are often family or community events. Many Americans travel longdistances for family gatherings or take vacations during holidays. Infact, by the end of the 20th century, many national holidays in the United
    States had become three-day weekends, which many people used as minivacations. Except for the Fourth of July and Veterans Day, mostcommemorative federal holidays, including Memorial Day, Labor Day,
    Columbus Day, and Presidents 'Day, are celebrated on Mondays so that
    Americans can enjoy a long weekend. Because many Americans tend to createvacations out of these holiday weekends rather than celebrate a particularevent, some people believe the original significance of many of theseoccasions has been eroded.

    Because the United States is a secular society founded on the separationof church and state, many of the most meaningful religiously basedfestivals and rituals, such as Easter, Rosh Hashanah, and Ramadan, are notenshrined as national events, with one major exception. Christmas, and theholiday season surrounding it, is an enormous commercial enterprise, afixture of the American social calendar, and deeply embedded in thepopular imagination. Not until the 19th century did Christmas in the
    United States begin to take on aspects of the modern holiday celebration,such as exchanging gifts, cooking and eating traditional foods, andputting up often-elaborate Christmas decorations. The holiday has grown inpopularity and significance ever since. Santa Claus; brightly decorated
    Christmas trees; and plenty of wreathes, holly, and ribbons help definethe season for most children. Indeed, because some religious faiths do notcelebrate Christmas, the Christmas season has expanded in recent years tobecome the "holiday season," embracing Hanukkah, the Jewish Festival of
    Lights, and Kwanzaa, a celebration of African heritage. Thus, the
    Christmas season has become the closest thing to a true national festivalin the United States.

    The expansion of Christmas has even begun to encroach on the mostindigenous of American festivals, Thanksgiving. Celebrated on the last
    Thursday in November, Thanksgiving has largely shed its original religiousmeaning (as a feast of giving thanks to God) to become a celebration ofthe bounty of food and the warmth of family life in America. Americanchildren usually commemorate the holiday's origins at school, where theyre-create the original event: Pilgrims sharing a harvest feast with Native
    Americans. Both the historical and the religious origins of the event havelargely given way to a secular celebration centered on the traditional
    Thanksgiving meal: turkey-an indigenous American bird-accompanied by foodscommon in early New England settlements, such as pumpkins, squashes, andcranberries. Since many Americans enjoy a four-day holiday at
    Thanksgiving, the occasion encourages family reunions and travel. Some
    Americans also contribute time and food to the needy and the homelessduring the Thanksgiving holiday.

    Another holiday that has lost its older, religious meaning in the United
    States is Halloween, the eve of All Saints 'Day. Halloween has become acelebration of witches, ghosts, goblins, and candy that is especiallyattractive to children. On this day and night, October 31, many homes aredecorated and lit by jack-o'-lanterns, pumpkins that have been hollowedout and carved. Children dress up and go trick-or-treating, during whichthey receive treats from neighbors. An array of orange-colored candies hasevolved from this event, and most trick-or-treat bags usually brim withchocolate bars and other confections.

    The Fourth of July, or Independence Day, is the premier American nationalcelebration because it commemorates the day the United States proclaimedits freedom from Britain with the Declaration of Independence. Very earlyin its development, the holiday was an occasion for fanfare, parades, andspeeches celebrating American freedom and the uniqueness of American life.
    Since at least the 19th century, Americans have commemorated theirindependence with fireworks and patriotic music. Because the holiday marksthe founding of the republic in 1776, flying the flag of the United States
    (sometimes with the original 13 stars) is common, as are festivebarbecues, picnics, fireworks, and summer outings.

    Most other national holidays have become less significant over time andreceded in importance as ways in which Americans define themselves andtheir history. For example, Columbus Day was formerly celebrated on
    October 12, the day explorer Christopher Columbus first landed in the West
    Indies, but it is now celebrated on the second Monday of October to allowfor a three-day weekend. The holiday originally served as a traditionalreminder of the "discovery" of America in 1492, but as Americans becamemore sensitive to their multicultural population, celebrating the conquestof Native Americans became more controversial.

    Holidays honoring wars have also lost much of their original significance.
    Memorial Day, first called Decoration Day and celebrated on May 30, wasestablished to honor those who died during the American Civil War (1861 -
    1865), then subsequently those who died in all American wars. Similarly,
    Veterans Day was first named Armistice Day and marked the end of World War
    I (1914-1918). During the 1950s the name of the holiday was changed in the
    United States, and its significance expanded to honor armed forcespersonnel who served in any American war.

    The memory of America's first president, George Washington, was oncecelebrated on his birthday, February 22nd. The date was changed to thethird Monday in February to create a three-day weekend, as well as toincorporate the birthday of another president, Abraham Lincoln, who wasborn on February 12th. The holiday is now popularly called Presidents 'Dayand is less likely to be remembered as honoring the first and 16th
    American presidents than as a school and work holiday. Americans alsomemorialize Martin Luther King, Jr., the great African American civilrights leader who was assassinated in 1968. King's birthday is celebratedas a national holiday in mid-January. The celebration of King's birthdayhas become a sign of greater inclusiveness in 20th-century Americansociety.


    Role of Education

    The United States has one of the most extensive and diverse educationalsystems in the world. Educational institutions exist at all learninglevels, from nursery schools for the very young to higher education forolder youths and adults of all ages. Education in the United States isnotable for the many goals it aspires to accomplish-promoting democracy,assimilation, nationalism, equality of opportunity, and personaldevelopment. Because Americans have historically insisted that theirschools work toward these sometimes conflicting goals, education has oftenbeen the focus of social conflict.

    While schools are expected to achieve many social objectives, education in
    America is neither centrally administered nor supported directly by thefederal government, unlike education in other industrialized countries. Inthe United States, each state is responsible for providing schooling,which is funded through local taxes and governed by local school boards.
    In addition to these government-funded public schools, the United Stateshas many schools that are privately financed and maintained. More than 10percent of all elementary and secondary students in the United Statesattend private schools. Religious groups, especially the Roman Catholic
    Church, run many of these. Many of America's most renowned universitiesand colleges are also privately endowed and run. As a result, although
    American education is expected to provide equality of opportunity, it isnot easily directed toward these goals. This complex enterprise, once oneof the proudest achievements of American democracy because of itsdiversity and inclusiveness, became the subject of intense debate andcriticism during the second half of the 20th century. People debated thegoals of schools as well as whether schools were educating students wellenough.

    History of Education in America

    Until the 1830s, most American children attended school irregularly, andmost schools were either run privately or by charities. This irregularsystem was replaced in the Northeast and Midwest by publicly financedelementary schools, known as common schools. Common schools providedrudimentary instruction in literacy and trained students in citizenship.
    This democratic ideal expanded after the Civil War to all parts of thenation. By the 1880s and 1890s, schools began to expand attendancerequirements so that more children and older children attended schoolregularly. These more rigorous requirements were intended to ensure thatall students, including those whose families had immigrated fromelsewhere, were integrated into society. In addition, the schools tried toequip children with the more complex skills required in an industrializedurban society.

    Education became increasingly important during the 20th century, as
    America's sophisticated industrial society demanded a more literate andskilled workforce. In addition, school degrees provided a sought-aftermeans to obtain better-paying and higher-status jobs. Schools were the one
    American institution that could provide the literate skills and workhabits necessary for Americans of all backgrounds to compete inindustries. As a result, education expanded rapidly. In the first decadesof the 20th century, mandatory education laws required children tocomplete grade school. By the end of the 20th century, many statesrequired children to attend school until they were at least 16. In 1960,
    45 percent of high school graduates enrolled in college; by 1996 thatenrollment rate had risen to 65 percent. By the late 20th century, anadvanced education was necessary for success in the globally competitiveand technologically advanced modern economy. According to the U.S. Census
    Bureau, workers with a bachelor's degree in 1997 earned an average of
    $ 40,000 annually, while those with a high school degree earned about
    $ 23,000. Those who did not complete high school earned about $ 16,000.

    In the United States, higher education is widely available and obtainablethrough thousands of private, religious, and state-run institutions, whichoffer advanced professional, scientific, and other training programs thatenable students to become proficient in diverse subjects. Colleges vary incost and level of prestige. Many of the oldest and most famous colleges onthe East Coast are expensive and set extremely high admissions standards.
    Large state universities are less difficult to enter, and their fees aresubstantially lower. Other types of institutions include stateuniversities that provide engineering, teaching, and agriculture degrees;private universities and small privately endowed colleges; religiouscolleges and universities; and community and junior colleges that offerpart-time and two-year degree programs. This complex and diverse range ofschools has made American higher education the envy of other countries andone of the nation's greatest assets in creating and maintaining atechnologically advanced society.

    When more people began to attend college, there were a number ofrepercussions. Going to college delayed maturity and independence for many
    Americans, extending many of the stresses of adolescence into a person's
    20s and postponing the rites of adulthood, such as marriage andchildbearing. As society paid more attention to education, it also devoteda greater proportion of its resources to it. Local communities wererequired to spend more money on schools and teachers, while colleges anduniversities were driven to expand their facilities and course offeringsto accommodate an ever-growing student body. Parents were also expected tosupport their children longer and to forgo their children's contributionto the household.


    Education is an enormous investment that requires contributions from manysources. American higher education is especially expensive, with its heavyinvestment in laboratory space and research equipment. It receives fundingfrom private individuals, foundations, and corporations. Many privateuniversities have large endowments, or funds, that sustain theinstitutions beyond what students pay in tuition and fees. Many, such as
    Harvard University in Massachusetts and Stanford University in California,raise large sums of money through fund drives. Even many state-fundeduniversities seek funds from private sources to augment their budgets.
    Most major state universities, such as those in Michigan and California,now rely on a mixture of state and private resources.

    Before World War II, the federal government generally played a minor rolein financing education, with the exception of the Morrill Acts of 1862 and
    1890. These acts granted the states public lands that could be sold forthe purpose of establishing and maintaining institutions of highereducation. Many so-called land-grant state universities were foundedduring the 19th century as a result of this funding. Today, land-grantcolleges include some of the nation's premier state universities. Thegovernment also provided some funding for basic research at universities.

    The American experience in World War II (especially the success of the
    Manhattan Project, which created the atomic bomb) made clear thatscientific and technical advances, as well as human resources, wereessential to national security. As a result, the federal government becameincreasingly involved in education at all levels and substantiallyexpanded funding for universities. The federal government began to providesubstantial amounts of money for university research programs throughagencies such as the National Science Foundation, and later through the
    National Institutes of Health and the departments of Energy and Defense.
    At the same time, the government began to focus on providing equaleducational opportunities for all Americans. Beginning with the GI Bill,which financed educational programs for veterans, and later in the form offellowships and direct student loans in the 1960s, more and more Americanswere able to attend colleges and universities.

    During the 1960s the federal government also began to play more of a rolein education at lower levels. The Great Society programs of President
    Lyndon Johnson developed many new educational initiatives to assist poorchildren and to compensate for disadvantage. Federal money was funneledthrough educational institutions to establish programs such as Head Start,which provides early childhood education to disadvantaged children. Some
    Americans, however, resisted the federal government's increased presencein education, which they believed contradicted the long tradition of state -sponsored public schooling.

    By the 1980s many public schools were receiving federal subsidies fortextbooks, transportation, breakfast and lunch programs, and services forstudents with disabilities. This funding enriched schools across thecountry, especially inner-city schools, and affected the lives of millionsof schoolchildren. Although federal funding increased, as did federalsupervision, to guarantee an equitable distribution of funds, thegovernment did not exercise direct control over the academic programsschools offered or over decisions about academic issues. During the 1990s,the administration of President Bill Clinton urged the federal governmentto move further in exercising leadership by establishing academicstandards for public schools across the country and to evaluate schoolsthrough testing.

    Concerns in Elementary Education

    The United States has historically contended with the challenges that comewith being a nation of immigrants. Schools are often responsible formodifying educational offerings to accommodate immigrants. Early schoolsreflected many differences among students and their families but were alsoa mechanism by which to overcome these differences and to forge a sense of
    American commonality. Common schools, or publicly financed elementaryschools, were first introduced in the mid-19th century in the hopes ofcreating a common bond among a diverse citizenship. By the ear

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