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Culture of the United States

 

Science and technology

 

Further information: Science and technology in the United States

 

There is a regard for scientific advancement and technological innovation in American culture, resulting in the flow of many modern innovations. The great American inventors include Robert Fulton (the steamboat); Samuel Morse (the telegraph); Eli Whitney (the cotton gin, interchangeable parts); Cyrus McCormick (the reaper); and Thomas Edison (with more than a thousand inventions credited to his name). Most of the new technological innovations over the 20th and 21st centuries were either first invented in the United States and/or first widely adopted by Americans. Examples include the lightbulb, the airplane, the transistor, the atomic bomb, nuclear power, the personal computer, the iPod, video games and online shopping, as well as the development of the Internet.

 

This propensity for application of scientific ideas continued throughout the 20th century with innovations that held strong international benefits. The twentieth century saw the arrival of the Space Age, the Information Age, and a renaissance in the health sciences. This culminated in cultural milestones such as the Apollo moon landings, the creation of the Personal Computer, and the sequencing effort called the Human Genome Project.

 

Throughout its history, American culture has made significant gains through the open immigration of accomplished scientists. Accomplished scientists include: Scottish-American scientist Alexander Graham Bell, who developed and patented the telephone and other devices; German scientist Charles Steinmetz, who developed new alternating-current electrical systems in 1889; Russian scientist Vladimir Zworykin, who invented the motion camera in 1919; Serb scientist Nikola Tesla who patented a brushless electrical induction motor based on rotating magnetic fields in 1888. With the rise of the Nazi party in Germany, a large number of Jewish scientists fled Germany and immigrated to the country, one of them being a Jewish theoretical physicist Albert Einstein in the year 1933.

 

In the years during and following WWII, several innovative scientists immigrated to the U.S. from Europe, such as Enrico Fermi, who came from Italy in 1938 and led the work that produced the world's first self-sustaining nuclear chain reaction. Post-war Europe saw many of its scientists, such as rocket scientist Wernher von Braun, recruited by the United States as part of Operation Paperclip.[relevant?discuss]

 

Education

 

Main articles: Education in the United States and Educational attainment in the United States

 

Education in the United States is and has historically been provided mainly by government, with control and funding coming from three levels: federal, state, and local. School attendance is mandatory and nearly universal at the elementary and high school levels (often known outside the United States as the primary and secondary levels).

 

Students have the options of having their education held in public schools, private schools, or home school. In most public and private schools, education is divided into three levels: elementary school, junior high school (also often called middle school), and high school. In almost all schools at these levels, children are divided by age groups into grades. Post-secondary education, better known as "college" in the United States, is generally governed separately from the elementary and high school system.

 

In the year 2000, there were 76.6 million students enrolled in schools from kindergarten through graduate schools. Of these, 72 percent aged 12 to 17 were judged academically "on track" for their age (enrolled in school at or above grade level). Of those enrolled in compulsory education, 5.2 million (10.4 percent) were attending private schools. Among the country's adult population, over 85 percent have completed high school and 27 percent have received a bachelor's degree or higher.[citation needed]

 

Religion

 

Main article: Religion in the United States

 

See also: Protestant work ethic

 

Completed in 1716, San Antonio Missions National Historical Park is one of numerous surviving colonial Spanish missions in the United States. These were primarily used to convert the Native Americans to Roman Catholicism.

 

Among developed countries, the U.S. is one of the most religious in terms of its demographics. According to a 2002 study by the Pew Global Attitudes Project, the U.S. was the only developed nation in the survey where a majority of citizens reported that religion played a "very important" role in their lives, an opinion similar to that found in Latin America.[18] Today, governments at the national, state, and local levels are a secular institution, with what is often called the "separation of church and state". But like federal politics, the topic of religion in the United States can cause an emotionally heated debate over moral, ethical and legal issues affecting Americans of all faiths in everyday life, such as polarizing issues of abortion, gay marriage and obscenity.[citation needed]

 

Although participation in organized religion has been diminishing, the public life and popular culture of the United States incorporates many Christian ideals specifically about redemption, salvation, conscience, and morality. Examples are popular culture obsessions with confession and forgiveness, which extends from reality television to twelve-step meetings. Americans expect public figures to confess and have public penitence for any sins, or moral wrongdoings they may have caused. According to Salon, examples of inadequate public penitence may include the scandals and fallout regarding Tiger Woods, Alex Rodriguez, Mel Gibson, Larry Craig, and Lance Armstrong.[19]

 

Several of the original Thirteen Colonies were established by English and Irish settlers who wished to practice their own religion without discrimination or persecution: Pennsylvania was established by Quakers, Maryland by Roman Catholics, and the Massachusetts Bay Colony by Puritans. Separatist Congregationalists (Pilgrim Fathers) founded Plymouth Colony in 1620. They were convinced that the democratic form of government was the will of God.[20] They and the other Protestant groups applied the representative democratic organisation of their congregations also to the administration of their communities in wordly matters.[21][22] Rhode Island, Connecticut, and Pennsylvania added religious freedom to their democratic constitutions, becoming safe havens for persecuted religious minorities.[23][24][25] The first Bible printed in a European language in the Colonies was by German immigrant Christopher Sauer.[26] Nine of the thirteen colonies had official public religions. By the time of the Philadelphia Convention of 1787, the United States became one of the first countries in the world to codify freedom of religion into law, although this originally applied only to the federal government, and not to state governments or their political subdivisions.[citation needed]

 

Modeling the provisions concerning religion within the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, the framers of the United States Constitution rejected any religious test for office, and the First Amendment specifically denied the central government any power to enact any law respecting either an establishment of religion, or prohibiting its free exercise. In following decades, the animating spirit behind the constitution's Establishment Clause led to the disestablishment of the official religions within the member states. The framers were mainly influenced by secular, Enlightenment ideals, but they also considered the pragmatic concerns of minority religious groups who did not want to be under the power or influence of a state religion that did not represent them.[27] Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration of Independence said: "The priest has been hostile to liberty. He is always in alliance with the despot."[28]

 

Sports

 

Main article: Sports in the United States

 

A typical Baseball diamond as seen from the stadium. Traditionally the game is played for nine innings, but can be prolonged if there is a tie.

 

The opening of College football season is a major part of American pastime. Massive marching bands accompanied by cheerleaders and colorguard are almost universal at American football games, especially during halftime. Although high school bands tend to be much smaller, it is rare for a game not to feature a marching band at halftime.

 

Baseball is the oldest of the major American team sports. Professional baseball dates from 1869 and had no close rivals in popularity until the 1960s. Though baseball is no longer the most popular sport,[38] it is still referred to as "the national sport". Also unlike the professional levels of the other popular spectator sports in the U.S., Major League Baseball teams play almost every day. The Major League Baseball regular season consists of each of the 30 teams playing 162 games from April to September. The season ends with the postseason and World Series in October.

 

American football, known in the United States as simply "football", now attracts more television viewers than any other sport and is considered to be the most popular sport in the United States.[39] The 32-team National Football League (NFL) is the most popular professional American football league. The National Football League differs from the other three major pro sports leagues in that each of its 32 teams plays one game a week over 17 weeks, for a total of 16 games with one bye week for each team. The NFL season lasts from September to December, ending with the playoffs and Super Bowl in January and February. Its championship game, the Super Bowl, has often been the highest rated television show, with an audience of over 100 million viewers annually.[citation needed]

 

College football also attracts audiences of millions. Some communities, particularly in rural areas, place great emphasis on their local high school football team. American football games usually include cheerleaders and marching bands, which aim to raise school spirit and entertain the crowd at half-time.

 

Basketball is another major sport, represented professionally by the National Basketball Association. It was invented in Springfield, Massachusetts in 1891, by Canadian-born physical education teacher James Naismith. College basketball is also popular, due in large part to the NCAA men's Division I basketball tournament in March, also known as March Madness.

 

Ice hockey is the fourth leading professional team sport. Always a mainstay of Great Lakes and New England-area culture, the sport gained tenuous footholds in regions like the American South since the early 1990s, as the National Hockey League pursued a policy of expansion.[40]

 

Lacrosse is a team sport of American and Canadian Native American origin, it's the fastest growing sport in the United States.[41] Lacrosse is most popular in the East Coast area. NLL and MLL are the national box and outdoor lacrosse leagues, respectively, and have increased their following in recent years. Also, many of the top Division I college lacrosse teams draw upwards of 7–10,000 for a game, especially in the Mid-Atlantic and New England areas.

 

The sport called "football" in many countries is typically called soccer in the United States. A nineteen-team professional league, Major League Soccer, plays from March to October, but its television audience and overall popularity lag behind other American professional sports.[42] However, soccer is very popular as a participation sport, particularly among youths, and the US national soccer teams are competitive internationally.

 

Boxing and horse racing were once[when?] the most watched individual sports, but they have been eclipsed by golf and auto racing, particularly NASCAR.[citation needed] Other popular sports are tennis, softball, rodeo, swimming, water polo, fencing, shooting sports, hunting, volleyball, skiing, snowboarding, skateboarding, cycling, MMA, wrestling, weightlifting and rugby.

 

The United States is unusually competitive in women's sports, a fact usually attributed to the Title IX antidiscrimination law, which requires most American colleges to give equal funding to men's and women's sports.[43] Despite that, however, women's sports are not nearly as popular among spectators as men's sports.

 

The United States enjoys a great deal of success both in the Summer Olympics and Winter Olympics, constantly being ranked in the top rankings.

 

Sports and community culture

 

Homecoming is an annual tradition of the United States. People, towns, high schools and colleges come together, usually in late September or early October, to welcome back former residents and alumni. It is built around a central event, such as a banquet, a parade, and most often, a game of American football, or, on occasion, basketball, wrestling or ice hockey. When celebrated by schools, the activities vary. However, they usually consist of a football game, played on the school's home football field, activities for students and alumni, a parade featuring the school's marching band and sports teams, and the coronation of a Homecoming Queen.

 

American high schools commonly field football, basketball, baseball, softball, volleyball, soccer, golf, swimming, track and field, and cross-country teams as well.

 

Cuisine

 

Main article: Cuisine of the United States

 

The cuisine of the United States is extremely diverse, owing to the vastness of the continent, the relatively large population (1/3 of a billion people) and the number of native and immigrant influences. Mainstream American culinary arts are similar to those in other Western countries. Wheat and corn are the primary cereal grains. Traditional American cuisine uses ingredients such as turkey, white-tailed deer venison, potatoes, sweet potatoes, corn, squash, and maple syrup, indigenous foods employed by American Indians and early European settlers. Slow-cooked pork and beef barbecue, crab cakes, potato chips, cotton candy and chocolate chip cookies are distinctively American styles.[citation needed]

 

The types of food served at home vary greatly and depend upon the region of the country and the family's own cultural heritage. Recent immigrants tend to eat food similar to that of their country of origin, and Americanized versions of these cultural foods, such as American Chinese cuisine, Tex-Mex (Mexican-American cuisine) or Italian-American cuisine often eventually appear; an example is Vietnamese cuisine, Korean cuisine and Thai cuisine. German cuisine has a profound impact on American cuisine, especially mid-western cuisine, with potatoes, noodles, roasts, stews and cakes/pastries being the most iconic ingredients in both cuisines.[7] Dishes such as the hamburger, pot roast, baked ham and hot dogs are examples of American dishes derived from German cuisine.[44][45]

 

Different regions of the United States have their own cuisine and styles of cooking. The state of Louisiana, for example, is known for its Cajun and Creole cooking. Cajun and Creole cooking are influenced by French, Acadian, and Haitian cooking, although the dishes themselves are original and unique. Examples include Crawfish Etouffee, Red Beans and Rice, Seafood or Chicken Gumbo, Jambalaya, and Boudin. Italian, German, Hungarian and Chinese influences, traditional Native American, Caribbean, Mexican and Greek dishes have also diffused into the general American repertoire. It is not uncommon for a "middle-class" family from "middle America" to eat, for example, restaurant pizza, home-made pizza, enchiladas con carne, chicken paprikas, beef stroganof and bratwurst with sauerkraut for dinner throughout a single week.

 

Soul food, developed by African slaves, is popular around the South and among many African Americans elsewhere. Syncretic cuisines such as Louisiana creole, Cajun, Pennsylvania Dutch, and Tex-Mex are regionally important. Iconic American dishes such as apple pie, fried chicken, pizza, hamburgers, and hot dogs derive from the recipes of various immigrants and domestic innovations. French fries, Mexican dishes such as burritos and tacos, and pasta dishes freely adapted from Italian sources are consumed.[46]

 

Americans generally prefer coffee to tea, with more than half the adult population drinking at least one cup a day.[47] Marketing by U.S. industries is largely responsible for making orange juice and milk (now often fat-reduced) ubiquitous breakfast beverages.[48] During the 1980s and 1990s, Americans' caloric intake rose 24%;[46] frequent dining at fast food outlets is associated with what health officials call the American "obesity epidemic." Highly sweetened soft drinks are popular; sugared beverages account for 9% of the average American's daily caloric intake.[49]

 

Hamburgers and fries, as well as doughnuts are considered American foods.[50][51]

 

Family structure

 

Further information: Family structure in the United States

 

Family arrangements in the United States reflect the nature of contemporary American society, as they always have. Although the nuclear family concept (two-married adults with biological children) holds a special place in the mindset of Americans, it is single-parent families, childless/childfree couples, and fused families which now constitute the majority of families.[citation needed] A person may grow up in a single-parent family, go on to marry and live in childless couple arrangement, then get divorced, live as a single for a couple of years, re-marry, have children and live in a nuclear family arrangement.[1][52]

 

"The nuclear family... is the idealized version of what most people think when they think of "family..." The old definition of what a family is... the nuclear family- no longer seems adequate to cover the wide diversity of household arrangements we see today, according to many social scientists (Edwards 1991; Stacey 1996). Thus has arisen the term postmodern family, which is meant to describe the great variability in family forms, including single-parent families and child-free couples."- Brian K. Williams, Stacey C. Sawyer, Carl M. Wahlstrom, Marriages, Families & Intinamte Relationships, 2005.[52]

 

Year

Families (69.7%)

Non-families (31.2%)

Married couples (52.5%)

Single Parents

Other blood relatives

Singles (25.5%)

Other non-family

Nuclear family

Without children

Male

Female

2000

24.1%

28.7%

9.9%

7%

10.7%

14.8%

5.7%

1970

40.3%

30.3%

5.2%

5.5%

5.6%

11.5%

1.7%

 

Single-parent households are households consisting of a single adult (most often a woman) and one or more children. In the single-parent household, one parent typically raises the children with little to no help from the other. This parent is the sole "breadwinner" of the family and thus these households are particularly vulnerable economically. They have higher rates of poverty, and children of these households are more likely to have educational problems.[citation needed]

 

Youth Dependence

 

Other changes to the landscape of American family arrangements include dual-income earner households and delayed independence among American youths. Whereas most families in the 1950s and 1960s relied on one income earner, most commonly the husband, the vast majority of family households now have two-income earners.[citation needed][clarification needed]

 

Another change is the increasing age at which young Americans leave their parental home. Traditionally, a person past "college age" who lived with their parent(s) was viewed negatively, but today it is not uncommon for children to live with their parents until their mid-twenties. This trend can be mostly attributed to rising living costs that far exceed those in decades past. Thus, many young adults now remain with their parents well past their mid-20s. This topic was a cover article of TIME magazine in 2005.[citation needed]

 

Exceptions to the custom of leaving home in one's mid-20s can occur especially among Italian and Hispanic Americans, and in expensive urban real estate markets such as New York City,[53] California,[54] and Honolulu,[55] where monthly rents commonly exceed $1000 a month.

 

Housing

 

Historically, Americans mainly lived rural lives, with a few important cities of moderate size. Following World War II, however, Americans began living in increasing numbers in the suburbs, belts around major cities with higher density than rural areas, but much lower than urban areas. This move has been attributed to many factors such as the automobile, the availability of large tracts of land, the convenience of more and longer paved roads, increasing violence in urban centers (see white flight), and the lower expense of housing.[citation needed]

 

These new single-family houses were usually one or two stories tall, and often were part of large contracts of homes built by a single developer and often with little variation (sometimes referred to as cookie cutter houses or homes). Houses were separated. The resulting low-density development was given the pejorative label urban sprawl.[citation needed]

 

This has changed;[how?][when?] white flight has reversed, with Yuppies and upper-middle-class, empty nest Baby Boomers returning to urban living, usually in condominia, such as in New York City's Lower East Side, Chicago's South Loop and Miami's Brickell Neighborhood. The result has been the displacement of many poorer, inner-city residents.[citation needed]

 

American cities with housing prices near the national median have also been losing the middle income neighborhoods, those with median income between 80% and 120% of the metropolitan area's median household income. Here, the more affluent members of the middle class, who are also often referred to as being professional or upper middle class, have left in search of larger homes in more exclusive suburbs. This trend is largely attributed to the Middle-class squeeze, which has caused a starker distinction between the statistical middle class and the more privileged members of the middle class.[56] In more expensive areas such as California, however, another trend has been taking place where an influx of more affluent middle-class households has displaced those in the actual middle of society and converted former middle-middle-class neighborhoods into upper-middle-class neighborhoods.[57]

 

Tract housing in Kentucky near Cincinnati, Ohio

 

The population of rural areas has been declining over time as more and more people migrate to cities for work and entertainment. The great exodus from the farms came in the 1940s; in recent years fewer than 2% of the population lives on farms (though others live in the countryside and commute to work). Electricity and telephone, and sometimes cable and Internet services are available to all but the most remote regions.

 

About half of Americans now live in what is known as the suburbs. The suburban nuclear family has been identified as part of the "American Dream": a married couple with children owning a house in the suburbs. This archetype is reinforced by mass media, religious practices, and government policies and is based on traditions from Anglo-Saxon cultures. One of the biggest differences in suburban living as compared to urban living is the housing occupied by the families. The suburbs are filled with single-family homes separated from retail districts, industrial areas, and sometimes even public schools. However, many American suburbs are incorporating these districts on smaller scales, attracting more people to these communities.[citation needed]

 

Housing in urban areas may include more apartments and semi-attached homes than in the suburbs or small towns. Aside from housing, the major difference from suburban living is the density and diversity of many different subcultures, as well as retail and manufacturing buildings mixed with housing in urban areas.[citation needed]

 

Automobiles and commuting

 

Further information: United States technological and industrial history and Passenger vehicles in the United States

 

Due to the low overall population density as well as urban sprawl, the United States is one of the few developed nations where most people commute by car.

 

The rise of suburbs and the need for workers to commute to cities brought about the popularization of automobiles. In 2001, 90% of Americans drove to work in cars.[58] Lower energy and land costs favor the production of relatively large, powerful cars. The culture in the 1950s and 1960s often catered to the automobile with motels and drive-in restaurants. Americans tend to view obtaining a driver's license as a rite of passage.[citation needed] Outside of relatively few urban areas, it is considered a necessity for most Americans to own and drive cars. New York City is the only locality in the United States where more than half of all households do not own a car.[58]