Cultural Assimilation

The Encyclopedia Britannica defines assimilation in anthropology and society as, “the process whereby individuals or groups of differing ethnic heritage are absorbed into the dominant culture of a society. The process of assimilating involves taking on the traits of the dominant culture to such a degree that the assimilating group becomes socially indistinguishable from other members of the society.”

It is my opinion, that cultural assimilation in America, whether forced or by choice as a result of coercion, is a form of cultural assassination. People and their families lose identities, philosophies, traditions, and we as a country lose diversity. It also gives rise to bigotry and racism being that the homogeneous group would be considered superior compared to the non assimilated groups. The result would be an increase in segregation.

It is also inaccurate to assume that assimilation will have positive effects on adjustment, acceptance, and integration. Even if immigrants attempted to assimilate to the more homogeneous American culture, it is also my opinion that, integration will still be limited by substandard educational, occupational, and housing opportunities, geographic location, income disparities, societal and personal discrimination, etc.

What’s ironic to me is knowing some natural born American citizens, who have advocated in support of assimilation so passionately to the point of being a hair away from bigotry and racism, are however, captivated, curious, and pursue their own cultural and ethnic roots. Do they not realize that their ancestral roots were severed by that same concept of assimilation generations ago? Now as they pursue a connection and want to learn about their ancestral identities, customs, and cultural tradition, they expect immigrants to forget theirs.

Prine Pauls, Elizabeth. Assimilation, Encyclopædia Britannica, 21 Aug. 2019, http://www.britannica.com/topic/assimilation-society.

Melting Pot

The term “melting pot,” was first introduced to American society, in the early 1900’s. British author Israel Zangwill, penned a play called, The Melting Pot. It opened in the United States in 1908. The term “melting pot,” was used as a metaphor within the play. It described how people, specifically immigrants, came from all over the world, representing diverse nationalities and cultures. They integrated by merging themselves into a broader homogeneous social culture of the United States. The play was successful; it boosted the popularity of the metaphor. Mr. Zangwill received accolades from then President Theodore Roosevelt, who attended the play in Washington, DC.

At the time of publication and performance of this play, many immigrants sought out the American Dream. This meant they hoped to escape oppression, poverty, ethnic cleansing, war, religious, cultural, and political persecution in pursuance of a better life and equal opportunities.

Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). “Zangwill, Israel“. Encyclopædia Britannica. 28 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 956.

Zangwill, Israel. “The Melting-Pot by Israel Zangwill.” The Melting-Pot, Project Gutenberg , 18 Dec. 2007, http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/23893.

Werner Sollers, Beyond Ethnicity: Consent and Descent in American Culture (1986), Chapter 3 “Melting Pots”

Guy Szuberla, “Zangwill’s The Melting Pot Plays Chicago,” MELUS, Vol. 20, No. 3, History and Memory. (Autumn, 1995), pp. 3–20.

“Theodore Roosevelt and the Idea of Race” by Thomas G. Dyer 1980 Louisiana State University Press (Paperback edition 1992). A footnote shows the letter to have been written on 27 November 1912. This letter is held in the Roosevelt Collection, Library of Congress

Historians

Have you ever witnessed a car accident? Did you ever have to stay and give your account of the events while others reported theirs? Yes, in the end you can all agree that there was an accident but, how many different versions or aspects were presented? Each individual had their own point of view and recollection of events.

Historians, who are to be unbiased, honest, and diligent researchers, gather and record accurate facts that support and account for people, things, and events, during a particular chronological time.

Present day technology, does make the job of recording history easier in regard to the practical application of documenting. However, historians have a more difficult job in general with the plethora of misinformation, manipulated and inaccurate so called facts, and ignorant bias that is presented daily.

In addition, humans are flawed, their unique attributes, biased implications, and sometimes non-objective points of view, pose the biggest threat of accurately in recording and recounting history and historical events. We see this now more than ever.

History

history, as defined by Merriam-Webster:

noun

his·​to·​ry | \ ˈhi-st(ə-)rē  \

plural histories

Definition of history

1TALESTORY

2aa chronological record of significant events (such as those affecting a nation or institution) often including an explanation of their causes

ba treatise presenting systematically related natural phenomena (as of geography, animals, or plants)

can account of a patient’s medical background

dan established record

3a branch of knowledge that records and explains past events

4aevents that form the subject matter of a history

bevents of the past

cone that is finished or done for

d: previous treatment, handling, or experience

“A chronological record of significant events (such as those affecting a nation or institution) often including an explanation of their causes,” is the particular definition of history, that I relate to Cultural literacy. The history or I should say, the accounts of history presented to us from various sources throughout our life, have been recorded and/or shared from the historians themselves. Historians, whether as participants, recorders, investigators, researchers, archivist, etc., must be unbiased, honest, and accurate otherwise history will not be accurate, credible, or reliable.

History.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/history. Accessed 1 Oct. 2020.

Insignificant

Society, is continuously adapting, advancing, developing, and growing. Whether this happens quickly or slowly, every second of every day we are evolving and progressing. People are being born and impacting society in a multitude of ways, whether in the arts or sciences, sport of athletics or politics, conservation or technologically, significant changes are constantly occurring.

With the previous being said, I know from looking at Hirsch’s index, what content in essential to our American foundation. However, reading through the dated list with content that spans centuries, I ask the question, “can some of the content be or become insignificant over time? Or does the original content remain, and significant more current content be added? Lastly, do we not necessarily view Hirsch’s list as written in stone but, as foundational precedent?

Also for a white male, who grew up and was educated during a time where inclusion and civil rights were a notion and movement, not law, Hirsch sprinkled few multicultural elements within his work. Conservatives loved and supported what they felt was his orthodox and Euro male centric legacy. Liberals saw him as a backwards leaning, discriminatory champion of the white establishment. Hirsch identified himself as a progressive, who championed for the poor and culturally illiterate. He felt that his work reflected this pursuit for social equality. I do believe his intensions were just that.

Hirsch, E. D., Kett, Joseph F. Trefil, James S.,Cultural Literacy: What Every American Needs To Know. New York : Vintage Books, 1988, c1987. Print.

5,000

In 1987, E.D. Hirsch released a book that contained list of 5,000 cultural concepts, dates, facts names, and references. This appendix, per se, did not offer any explanatory notes. The list included: art, artists, athletes, composers, dancers, dialect, entertainers, films, geography, history, idioms, literary works, news headlines, notable quotes, people, politics, science, signs, stories, symbols, technology, theatrical works, etc. all of which he felt was essential for every literate American to know, understand, and be able to communicate about. This possession of fundamental knowledge would ensure ones ability to flourish with in society.

Originally, the list only contained content that was solely chosen by Hirsch. However, after over 200 people submitted suggestions and or requested deletions, an updated version was published.

Examples, of indexed content are: 1776, Adirondack mountains, banana republic, black hole, Ty Cobb, copyright, Easter Bunny, Ralph Waldo Emerson, John Hancock, hemisphere, etc. etc. I will be elaborating on some of the content, listed in his book, in future blogs.

Hirsch, E. D., Kett, Joseph F. Trefil, James S.,Cultural Literacy: What Every American Needs To Know. New York : Vintage Books, 1988, c1987. Print.

Cultural Literacy

In 1994, I was a student at Penn State University, enrolled in a Education in American Society course. That is when I first heard of E.D. Hirsch and his books, particularly Cultural Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know.

E.D. Hirsch, was born in Tennessee, in the year 1928. He attended Cornell and Yale University and later became an American Educator. Early on he was attributed to founding contemporary intentionalism, which regarding contemporary literary theory, was an important contribution.

In the 1980’s, he became more popular, when he published his work relating to cultural literacy. According to E.D. Hirsch, cultural literacy is a person having the knowledge, understanding, ability to participate, and articulate an identified culture. Cultural literacy, is not limited to civilization, customs, society, traditions, etc. It is art, entertainment, literature, music, and philosophy.

Hirsch, E. D., Kett, Joseph F. Trefil, James S.,Cultural Literacy: What Every American Needs To Know. New York : Vintage Books, 1988, c1987. Print.

Unknowing & Knowing

Did you ever look at an aerial view of a corn maze? There are so many paths in all different directions. Some connect and you end up right back where you started, while others lead you to a dead end, then there is the path that takes you right through and out. I don’t think that I have ever found it on a first try.

When I think of my life, I think of it as a maze. Each new direction taking me down another path never knowing where it will lead me. Sometimes I go so far and end up right back where I started. Other times I hit a dead end and I can’t get any further for whatever reason. Then there are the times that I shoot for the goal and I achieve it. 

No matter what path I have taken, I brought with me what I knew, went into the unknown, and came out knowing more. That is because there is so much to know and learn that there isn’t enough time in one’s life to experience and know everything. For every new life choice, adventure, leads us to the next! And, with that, the unknown becomes the known…  

What can I say?

I was born and raised in Northeastern Pennsylvania. I am the youngest of five. My closest sibling is 13 years older than me. Which means at one time in my life I was the cute, little sister, that everybody doted upon. That quickly wore off during adolescents. My parents were “older parents”. I coined myself the “m&m”, not because I was sweet like chocolate but, that I was definitely a “menopause mistake”.

Throughout the years our family has evolved into a ever growing, loud, in-your-business, humorous, sometimes chaotic, loving, caring, at times belligerent, dysfunctional, familia. I’m sure I will fill you in more about them at some point.

Since I was a little girl, I was very inquisitive. I never grew out of the “why?” phase. When I learned about something I wanted to know more and more. I love learning! Sometimes the best type of learning is when you discover something new, about something that you had already thought you knew, all that there was to know.

I was read to, even after I was able to read independently, and I read to others at a very young age (before the start of grammar school). Around that same time, I also began to write, in a creative way that is. My love for both continues to this very day.

I begin this blog with the hopes that my journey, from the unknown to the known, will become your journey as well! Welcome!