Talking about . . . American culture: melting pot or salad bowl or something else?
The American Melting Pot is a metaphor used since the 1780s to describe diverse cultures “melting” into one common American culture. As more and more people come here but maintain their homeland and regional cultures, it becomes harder and harder to describe a single, common American culture, perhaps the metaphor of a salad bowl is more appropriate today. Some people think this is as it should be, while others see value in a country having a shared culture, broadly speaking. In this conversation, we consider what IS American culture.
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Background reading (optional)
While you don't need to be an expert on this topic, sometimes people want background information. Our partner, AllSides, has prepared a variety of articles reflecting multiple sides of this topic.
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Now that you are all together, here we go!
This Living Room Conversation flows through five rounds of questions and a closing. Some rounds ask you to answer each question. Others feature multiple questions that serve as conversation starters — you need only respond to the one or two you find most interesting.
Before you begin your conversation, please go over the Conversation Ground Rules with your participants.
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One. Why are we here?
What interested you or drew you to this topic?
Two. Your core values
- what sense of purpose or duty guides you in life? What is your mission statement?
- what would your best friend say about who you are and what makes you tick?
- what are your hopes and concerns for your community and/or the country, now and long-term?
Three. American Culture
Remember that the goal of this Living Room Conversation is for each participant to listen to and learn about the different opinions within the group to see where you might share interests, intentions and goals.
- What is your cultural heritage?
- Have you experienced cultures other than your own? What did you appreciate? What made you uncomfortable?
- What value do you see in having a single, shared American culture? What would that culture look like?
- What value do you see in having a decidedly multicultural society?
- When should cultural symbols be public versus private?
- in one sentence, share what was most meaningful or valuable to you in the experience of this Living Room Conversation;
- what new understanding or common ground did you find within this topic?
- has this conversation changed your perception of anyone in this group, including yourself?
Five. Accomplishment and moving forward
- name one important thing that was accomplished here;
- is there a next step you would like to take based upon the conversation you just had?
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