A few weeks ago I asked my students to define what American Culture is to them…
Responsibly, they first said that they needed to define what Culture is exactly. So, here is a technical definition by a credible source.
The Roshan Cultural Heritage Institute describes “Culture” as…
Culture is a definition highly misunderstood and misused, thus the need for an explanation:
Culture refers to the following Ways of Life, including but not limited to:
- Language : the oldest human institution and the most sophisticated medium of expression.
- Arts & Sciences : the most advanced and refined forms of human expression.
- Thought : the ways in which people perceive, interpret, and understand the world around them.
- Spirituality : the value system transmitted through generations for the inner well-being of human beings, expressed through language and actions.
- Social activity : the shared pursuits within a cultural community, demonstrated in a variety of festivities and life-celebrating events.
- Interaction : the social aspects of human contact, including the give-and-take of socialization, negotiation, protocol, and conventions.
All of the above collectively define the meaning of Culture.
And this is how my students described it in class:
and then I asked again, “How then would you describe American Culture, especially since people say all to often that we, in America, don’t actually have a ‘culture’?” This was the beginning of their response:
While I think this is really well said, I hope that they can better describe their ideas by the end of the semester. 🙂
One thought on “What is American Culture?”
That is VERY well said, and I’m soooooo relieved to read your students’ list. There’s so much culture-defining going on in America right now that sometimes I’m afraid we’ve actually lost it. There’s no “real America,” there’s no one concept of “Main Street,” and there’s definitely no set of arbitrary attributes you can use to define “real Americans” (religion, color, how you make your grits). I cringe every time I hear these proclamations coming from (ahem) certain political parties who think they get to define, and then claim, “real” American culture.
As an American living abroad, when I’m asked about American culture, I tell them EXACTLY what your students wrote on the left there. We have no definition other than we’re always changing and adapting. What a beautiful culture to have in a world where nothing is black and white and everything must, and always does, change.