Aim of the Course The American Political System The American School System Immigration to America Media and Communications in America Ethnic Groups and Minorities in America Crime and Drugs in America Democracy and American Interests Questions for Discussion Glossary Bibliography

2 3 12 21 30 39 48 57 66 91 98

Page 1



This course is about policy issues being discussed and debated by U.S. citizens and their lawmakers. In seven lectures about domestic and foreign policy matters, it acquaints the Romanian students with some of today's most important American concerns but leaves judgements up to the individual. Each lecture provides basic background information, identifies key questions, and details arguments from differing points of view.

The topics were chosen because, on the one hand, they are also current issues in Romania and, on the other hand, they show how much the average Americans are involved in the public policy debate today. The Americans are discussing these problems in their communities, in their state capitals, and in Washington, D.C. That dialogue is at the heart of the course. Nothing is more important to the democratic form of government in the U.S. than the informed participation of its citizens in the political process. This course is designed to offer an example to and stimulate greater civic participation of the Romanian students by ensuring that when it is time for them to participate in an election, state an opinion, or take a stand on an issue, they will do so from an informed perspective.

Page 2



The United States of America is a republic, with democratically elected representatives who deal with the day-to-day workings of government. Government officials constantly make decisions about important issues. As policymakers, they devise plans for addressing the nation's needs and for conducting relations with other countries. The process for dealing with such domestic and foreign issues is called public policy. Developing public policy is the government's way of meeting national goals, such as defending the country, protecting the environment, and improving access to health care. In the U.S.A., the three branches of federal government - executive, legislative, and judicial - play different, but interrelated, roles in making and implementing public policy.

1. The Executive Branch
The chief executive of the United States is the president, who, together with the vice president, is elected to a four-year term. A president can be elected to only two terms. Except for the right of succession to the presidency, the vice president's only Constitutional duties are to serve as the presiding officer of the Senate; the vice president may vote in the Senate only in the event of a tie. The powers of the presidency are formidable, but not without limitations. The president, as the chief formulator of public policy, often proposes legislation to Congress. The president can also veto any bill passed by Congress. The veto can be overridden by a twothirds vote in both the Senate and House of Representatives. As head of his political party, with ready access to the news media, the president can easily influence public opinion regarding issues and legislation that he deems vital. The president has the authority to appoint federal justices as vacancies occur, including members of the Supreme Court. All such court appointments are subject to confirmation by the Senate.

Page 3

AMERICAN CULTURE FOR DEMOCRACY Within the executive branch, the president has broad powers to issue regulations and directives regarding the work of the federal overnment's many departments and agencies. He also is commander in chief of the armed forces. The president appoints the heads and senior officials of the executive branch agencies; the large majority of federal workers, however, are selected through a non-political civil service system. The major departments of the government are headed by appointed secretaries who collectively make up the president's cabinet. Each appointment must be confirmed by a vote of the Senate. Today,these 14 departments are: State, Treasury, Defense, Justice, Interior, Agriculture, Commerce, Labor, Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, Transportation, Energy, Education, and Veterans Affairs. Under the Constitution, the president is primarily responsible for foreign relations with other nations. The president appoints ambassadors and other officials, subject to Senate approval, and, with the secretary of state, formulates and manages the nation's foreign policy. The president often represents the United States abroad in consultations with other heads of state, and, through his officials, he negotiates treaties with other countries. Such treaties must be approved by a two-thirds vote of the Senate. Presidents also negotiate with other nations less formal "executive agreements" that are not subject to Senate approval.

2. The Legislative Branch
The legislative branch is made up of elected representatives from ll the states and is the only branch that can make federal laws, levy federal taxes, declare war or put foreign treaties into effect. It consists of a Congress that is divided into two groups, called houses: The House of Representatives comprises lawmakers who serve two-year terms. Each House member represents a district in his or her home state. The number of districts in a state is determined by a count of the population taken every 10 years. The most heavily populated states have more districts and, therefore, more representatives than the smaller states, some of which have only one. The Senate comprises lawmakers who serve six-year terms. Each state, regardless of population, has two senators. That assures that the small states have an equal voice in one of the Houses of Congress. The terms of the senators are staggered, so that only one-third of the Senate is elected every two years. That assures that there are some experienced senators in

Page 4

AMERICAN CULTURE FOR DEMOCRACY Congress after each election. The main duty of the Congress is to make laws, including those which levy taxes that pay for the work of the federal government. A law begins as a proposal called a "bill". It is read, studied in committees, commented on and amended in the Senate or House chamber in which it was introduced. It is then voted upon. If it passes, it is sent to the other house where a similar procedure occurs. Members of both houses work together in "conference committees" if the chambers have passed different versions of the same bill. Groups who try to persuade congressmen to vote for or against a bill are known as "lobbies." When both houses of Congress pass a bill on which they agree, it is sent to the president for his signature. Only after it is signed does the bill become a law.

3. The Judicial Branch
The judicial branch is headed by the Supreme Court, which is the only court specifically created by the Constitution. In addition, the Congress has established 11 federal courts of appeal and, below them, 91 federal district courts. Federal justices are appointed for life or voluntary retirement, and can only be removed from office through the process of impeachment and trial in the Congress. Federal courts have jurisdiction over cases arising out of the Constitution, laws and treaties of the United States; maritime cases, issues involving foreign citizens or governments, and cases in which the federal government itself is a party. Ordinarily, federal courts do not hear cases arising out of the laws of individual states. The Supreme Court consists of a chief justice and eight associate justices. With minor exceptions, all its cases reach the Court on appeal from lower federal or state courts. Most of these cases involve disputes over the interpretation of laws and legislation. In this capacity, the Court's most important function consists of determining whether congressional legislation or executive action violates the Constitution.

4. Checks and Balances
When Americans talk about their three-part national government, they often refer to what they call its system of "checks and balances." This system works in many ways to keep

Page 5

AMERICAN CULTURE FOR DEMOCRACY serious mistakes from being made by one branch or another. Here are a few examples of checks and balances: • If Congress proposes a law that the president thinks is unwise, the president can veto it. That means the proposal does not become law. Congress can enact the law despite the president's views only if two-thirds of the members of both houses vote in favour of it. • If Congress passes a law which is then challenged in the courts as unconstitutional, the Supreme Court has the power to declare the law unconstitutional and therefore no longer in effect. • The president has the power to make treaties with other nations and to make all appointments to federal positions, including the position of Supreme Court justice. The Senate, however, must approve all treaties and confirm all appointments before they become official. In this way the Congress can prevent the president from making unwise appointments.

5. Bill of Rights
Apart from the Constitution, to all Americans another basic foundation of their representative democracy is the Bill of Rights. This consists of 10 very short paragraphs which guarantee freedom and individual rights and forbid interference with the lives of individuals by the government. Each paragraph is an Amendment to the original Constitution. In the Bill of Rights, Americans are guaranteed freedom of religion, of speech and of the press. They have the right to assemble in public places, to protest government actions and to demand change. They have the right to own weapons if they wish. Because of the Bill of Rights, neither police nor soldiers can stop and search a person without good reason. They also cannot search a person's home without legal permission from a court to do so. The Bill of Rights guarantees Americans the right to a speedy trial if accused of a crime. The trial must be by a jury and the accused person must be allowed representation by a lawyer and must be able to call in witnesses to speak for him or her. Cruel an unusual punishment is forbidden. Many current controversial issues, such as the death penalty and abortion, stem from conflicts over how the Bill of Rights should be interpreted. Much of the wording in the Constitution and its amendments is general; therefore, many Americans disagree on how this

Page 6

AMERICAN CULTURE FOR DEMOCRACY language applies to certain situations. Ultimately, it is the responsibility of the Supreme Court of the United States to determine the meaning of the Constitution.

6. Current Issues a. Abortion
Abortion has been and still is one of the nation's most controversial issues. Opponents of legalized abortion believe that human life begins at conception and that aborting a pregnancy is murder. Foes of abortion also contend that it has led to sexual promiscuity in American society – especially among teenagers, some of whom may view abortion as an acceptable means of birth control. Some opponents of legalized abortion also say that the procedure is harmful to women's health. Those who believe that abortion should remain legal say that in a free society the government should not take away a woman's right to terminate a pregnancy. They argue that abortion is a personal choice and that a woman should have control over her own body. In addition, abortion rights activists argue that medical experts do not agree on when human life begins: therefore, abortion cannot be considered murder. They dispute the idea that large numbers of women view abortion as a means of birth control and instead describe it as a last resort for women in desperate situations. They also contend that legalized abortion protects women by allowing them to have qualified physicians perform the procedure - preventing them from using dangerous, often life-threatening methods to terminate unwanted pregnancies.

b. Privacy in an Electronic Age
Millions of people throughout the world "surf the Net" regularly for work, shopping, and entertainment. Hundreds of thousands of World Wide Web sites provide vast quantities of information, and Internet capabilities enable "Netizens" to send electronic mail messages around the globe in an instant, trade stocks on Wall Street from their own personal computers, and order numerous products and services from on-line businesses.

Page 7

AMERICAN CULTURE FOR DEMOCRACY However, the Internet has not come without warnings of its attendant problems. The growing industry of electronic business - "e-commerce" – has raised major questions about how much personal information companies can obtain from Internet users who visit commercial Web sites. Business has long relied on personal information about customers who are most likely to purchase their goods and services. The Internet has provided another way to gather such information. Many Web sites request - and in some cases require - that visitors provide personal information like their name, telephone number, and home and e-mail addresses. Often, this information is used to sell Web site advertising or sold to other companies for marketing purposes. Currently, the acquisition and use of information gleaned from the Internet is not regulated. That is why many Americans worry that privacy standards they have come to expect will be lost in the electronic world. The Constitution does not protect citizens' privacy from the actions of other private individuals or businesses. However, Congress can pass laws that regulate the actions of individuals and businesses. Thus, some citizens think that the federal government needs to create an Electronic Privacy Bill of Rights. They believe that Internet consumers should have the right to choose whether personal information is collected from them and to know how it will be disseminated. Such proponents also support the creation of a federal agency or office to oversee and enforce these protections. Those who oppose federal regulations insist that the Internet industry can and will regulate itself with regard to consumer privacy. Some experts argue that, with the Internet changing so rapidly, it would be premature to create uniform standards now. Finally, these Internet advocates argue that federal privacy standards amount to government "policing" of the Internet.

c. Assisted Suicide
Proponents of assisted suicide say that it allows terminally ill patients to die with dignity, without prolonged pain and suffering. Right-to-die supporters argue that patients are being kept alive long after their quality of life has irreversibly deteriorated. They say that permitting doctors to assist in patients' suicides and establishing guidelines to regulate their efforts enables patients and their families to make informed decisions about what is best for them.

Page 8

AMERICAN CULTURE FOR DEMOCRACY Opponents argue that doctor-assisted suicides allow too many opportunities for misuse of the procedure. For instance, they say, older patients and patients with little money might be pressured to choose to die once they become a financial burden on their families. Some people oppose the right to die because they believe that humans should not "play God" and try to decide when it is acceptable for someone to end his or her life. Some doctors reject the idea because they say it is against their medical code of ethics to actively cause a patient's death.

d. Gun Control
The widespread availability of firearms and the high number of gun-related deaths have prompted some individuals and groups to organize efforts to control the buying and selling of firearms. Proponents of gun control want the government to at least require owners to register their handguns and to perform background checks on all potential handgun buyers to ensure that they do not have criminal records. Opponents of gun control argue that restricting gun ownership will not keep criminals from obtaining guns and will not prevent crime because most criminals do not purchase guns legally, but instead steal them or buy them from illegal dealers. Opponents also warn that, ultimately, gun control could disarm the law-abiding general public and place them at the mercy of well-armed criminals.

7. Political Parties
The United States has two major political parties: the Democratic party and the Republican party. Most Americans consider the Democratic party the more liberal party. By that they mean that Democrats believe the federal government and the state governments should be active in providing social and economic programmes for those who need them, such as the poor, the unemployed or students who need money to go to college. Republicans are not necessarily opposed to such programmes. They believe, however, that many social programmes are too costly to the taxpayers and that when taxes are raised to pay for such programmes, everyone is hurt. They place more emphasis on private enterprise and often accuse the Democrats of making the government too expensive and of creating too many laws that harm individual initiative. For that reason, Americans tend to think of the Republican party as more conservative.

Page 9

AMERICAN CULTURE FOR DEMOCRACY Both major parties have supporters among a wide variety of Americans and embrace a wide range of political viewpoints. There is so much variety in both major parties that not all members of Congress or other elected officials who belong to the same party agree with each other on everything. There are conservative Democrats who tend to agree with many Republican ideas and liberal Republicans who often agree with Democratic ideas. These differences often show up in the way members of Congress vote on certain laws. Very frequently, there are both Democrats and Republicans who do not vote the way their party leaders suggest. They put their own views or the views of the people they represent ahead of the views of their party leaders. It should be noted that members of Congress sometimes cast votes which the people they represent do not favour. They do this as a matter of conscience or because they believe they are acting in the best interests of the nation. There are other, smaller parties in the United States besides the two major parties. None of these smaller parties has enough popular support to win a presidential election, but some are very strong in certain cities and states and can have their own state or city candidates elected or can determine which major party wins by supporting one or the other. Many people from other nations are surprised to learn that among the political parties in the United States is a Communist party and other Marxist Socialist parties. They are surprised because the United States is seen by many as the leader of the nations opposed to communism. Most Americans do not like the ideas represented by the Communist party and distrust communism in general. The fact that the party exists, seeks to attract supporters and participates freely in elections, however, is considered evidence that there are no exceptions to the freedoms and rights guaranteed in the Bill of Rights. The emphasis on freedom, rights and equality has created in citizens of the United States strong feelings of independence, self-worth and even resistance to discipline, as well as belief that people should be able to do what they want without interference so long as they do not interfere with the rights of others.

Most citizens view the United States as the freest society in the world because its people have so many rights guaranteed to them by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. The Supreme Court, through its rulings, defines and clarifies the meanings of these documents.

Page 10

AMERICAN CULTURE FOR DEMOCRACY Court rulings also determine how Americans can exercise their rights, whether or by how much the government can regulate or limit those rights, and when the rights of one individual or group should be limited because they are infringing upon the rights of someone else. Americans also have the right to amend the Constitution if they disagree with a decision of the Supreme Court or if they think additional rights need to be extended to the people. This interplay between Supreme Court rulings and the will of the American people shapes the interpretation of the Constitution and its role in American democracy.

Page 11



One of the most ambitious undertakings in the history of education is the American effort to educate an entire national population. The goal is - and has been since the early decades of the republic - to achieve universal literacy and to provide individuals with the knowledge and skills necessary to promote both their own individual welfare as well as that of the general public. Though this goal has not yet been fully achieved, it remains an ideal towards which the American educational system is directed.

1. Elementary and Secondary Education
The progress which has been made is notable both for its scope and for the educational methods which have been developed in the process of achieving it. About 85% of American students attend public schools (schools supported by American taxpayers). The other 15% attend private schools, for which their families choose to pay special attendance fees. Four out of five private schools in the United States are run by churches, synagogues or other religious groups. In such schools, religious teachings are a part of the curriculum, which also includes the traditional academic courses of reading, mathematics, history, geography and science. (Religious instruction is not given in public schools.) Who decides how much money should be used annually for teachers' salaries, new computers or extra books? Private schools that meet state standards use the fees they collect as they think best. But where public taxes are involved, spending is guided by boards of education (policymakers for schools) at the state and/or district level. The same thing is true for decisions about the school curriculum, teacher standards and certification, and the overall measurement of student progress.

Page 12


a. Education - A Local Matter
Each of the 50 states in the United States has its own laws regulating education. From state to state, some laws are similar; others are not. For example: • All states require young people to attend school. (The age limits vary; 7 to 16; 6 to 18; etc.) Thus, every child in America is guaranteed up to 13 years of education. This is true regardless of a child's race, religion, sex, learning problems, physical handicap or inability to speak English. • Some states play a strong role in the selection of learning material for their students. For example, state committees may decide which publishers' textbooks can be purchased with state funds. In other cases, decisions about buying instructional material are left entirely to local school officials. Americans have a strong tendency to educate their children about major public concerns - problems such as environmental pollution, nuclear issues, neighbourhood crime and drugs. Responding to public pressure, boards of education in different areas often add courses on various relevant issues to the curriculum in grades K to 12.

b. What an American Student Learns
American students pass through several levels of schooling - and thus, several curricula - on their way to a high school diploma. They attend: • Elementary School. "Elementary school" usually means grades K (or 1) through 8. But in some places, the elementary school includes only grades K-6. And sometimes grades 4, 5 and 6 make up what is called a "middle grade" school. (Many Americans refer to the elementary grades as "grammar school.") • Secondary School. "Secondary school" generally means grades 9-12. These grades are popularly called "high school". However, in many districts, "junior high school" includes grades 7-9. And when grades 7-9 are included with the 10th, 11th and 12th grades, all six are said to form a "senior high school." Though there is no national curriculum in the United States, certain subjects are taught in all K to 12 systems across the country.

Page 13

AMERICAN CULTURE FOR DEMOCRACY Almost every elementary school provides instruction in these subjects: mathematics; language arts (a subject that includes reading, grammar, composition and literature); penmanship; science; social studies (a subject that includes history, geography, citizenship and economics); music; art; and physical education. In many elementary schools, courses in the use of computers have been introduced. And in some cases, a second language (other than English) is offered in the upper elementary grades. Most secondary schools offer the same "core" of required subjects: English, mathematics, science, social studies and physical education. But school boards differ greatly from one district to another in the amount of class time they want high school students to spend on these basic subjects. In some high schools, for example, students must complete three years of mathematics before graduation. The national average is lower. The average state requirements for high school graduation amounts to 17.5 "units" of course work. (A high school unit is equal to about 120 hours [3 hours per week] of classes in one subject.) Students planning to attend college might take over 20 units. Students are guided by school counselors in choosing electives, which can range from specialized academic to vocational subjects. For example, high schools offer more than one year - in most cases, several years - of math, science and the other core subjects. After they complete the required units in these core areas (for example, one year of American history), students can take additional units as electives (perhaps a year of European history and a year of world political issues). Other elective courses vary from school to school. Some high schools specialize in particular types of subjects - business education, or industrial trades, or foreign languages, for example. A student planning to be a physician would want to attend a school offering electives in science. The opportunity for elective courses in high school satisfies some ideals that are very important to Americans: • • • The opportunity to get an education that prepares a person for his or her life's work. The opportunity to pursue and study one's own interests. The opportunity to discover one's own talents and perfect them.

Page 14


2. Current Issues a. The Fight Over Bilingual Education
Most Americans agree that it is necessary to help recently immigrated children learn to speak English - one of the most important tools they will need to succeed in their new country. What fewer Americans agree on is how the nation's public schools can best meet that challenge, particularly at a time when immigration to the United States is at a recent high. Since 1968, the system of teaching students core academic subjects in their native language, while gradually integrating the teaching of English, has been the norm in many school districts. Now many think bilingual education was and is an expensive failure; others say it is still the best way to teach English to the millions of public school students who have limited language abilities. Those who oppose bilingual education argue that it is a failed system that has inadequately prepared students to speak English fluently. They cite the fact that less than 10% of bilingual students actually transfer into mainstream English-speaking classes each year, leaving numerous students languishing in segregated classrooms where they have little opportunity to communicate with their English-speaking peers. Critics also point to disturbing statistics that indicate the dropout rate for Hispanic students is 30%, more than four times that of whites. Many of those students came from bilingual classrooms. On the other hand, supporters of bilingual education argue it is still the most pedagogically sound way of teaching English while at the same time keeping students at ageappropriate academic levels. They believe that students are best served by learning to read and write in their native language and then "transitioning" those skills to English. Many proponents contend that anti-bilingual efforts are both racist and anti-immigrant. They go on to say that while one year of intensive English instruction may be enough time to teach "playground English," it is not nearly enough time for students to learn "academic English" the ability to communicate concepts and ideas effectively.

b. School Choice
Many observers of the public school system say that students are not getting the education they deserve because parents have little say in where their children go to school.
Page 15

AMERICAN CULTURE FOR DEMOCRACY They contend that schools have no incentive to improve because they have guaranteed student enrollments based on geography, not on quality. By giving parents the choice of where to send their children, these critics argue, schools - much like businesses in a free-market economy – would have to improve to attract students. One controversial version of school choice involves issuing vouchers to parents to help them pay for their children's education at a private school. Many parents with children in poor public schools, and parents who are already paying tuition fees at private schools, champion the idea. Supporters of school voucher plans say holding schools accountable for their performance would force them to improve. According to proponents, a voucher system would result, at least in the short-term, in a drop in enrollments – and available funds - at substandard schools. This would force teachers and administrators at these schools to fix problems or else risk being closed. Those who favour vouchers believe that low-income parents should have the opportunity to choose a school based on what is best for their children, much like parents who can afford private school do already. Encouraging public schools to improve in order to compete for students will raise the quality of the entire educational system. Opponents argue that only those students who are fortunate enough to be accepted at private schools will benefit from vouchers. They say that there is no solid evidence that voucher systems improve schools or raise student test scores. Opponents also contend that vouchers would hurt public schools by enticing the most motivated students and their parents - often the most involved - to leave the system. Thus, vouchers would leave public schools void of the very students and parents who are most likely to effect positive change.

3. Higher Education
Out of more than three million students who graduate from high school each year, about one million go on for higher education. Simply by being admitted into one of the most respected universities in the United States, a high school graduate achieves a degree of success. A college at a leading university might receive applications from 2% of these high school graduates, and then accept one out of every ten who apply. Successful applicants at such colleges are usually chosen on the basis of (a) their high school records; (b)

Page 16

AMERICAN CULTURE FOR DEMOCRACY recommendations from their high school teachers; (c) the impression they make during interviews at the university; and (d) their scores on the Scholastic Aptitude Tests (SATs). The system of higher education in the United States is complex. It comprises four categories of institutions: (1) the university, which may contain (a) several colleges for undergraduate students seeking a bachelor's (four-year) degree and (b) one or more graduate schools for those continuing in specialized studies beyond the bachelor's degree to obtain a master's or a doctoral degree; (2) the four-year undergraduate institution - the college - most of which are not part of a university; (3) the technical training institution, at which high school graduates may take courses ranging from six months to four years in duration and learn a wide variety of technical skills, from hair styling through business accounting to computer programming; (4) and the two-year, or community college, from which students may enter many professions or may transfer to four-year colleges or universities. Any of these institutions, in any category, might be either public or private, depending on the source of its funding. There is no clear or inevitable distinction in terms of quality of education offered between the institutions which are publicly or privately funded. However, this is not to say that all institutions enjoy equal prestige nor that there are no material differences among them. The factors determining whether an institution is one of the best or one of lower prestige are quality of teaching faculty; quality of research facilities; amount of funding available for libraries, special programmes, etc.; and the competence and number of applicants for admission, i.e., how selective the institution can be in choosing its students. All of these factors reinforce one another.

a. Why Americans Go to College
The United States leads all industrial nations in the proportion of its young men and women who receive higher education. Why is this? Americans place a high value on higher education. This is an attitude that goes back to the country's oldest political traditions. People in the United States have always believed that education is necessary for maintaining a democratic government. They believe that it prepares the individual for informed, intelligent political participation, including voting. In addition to idealistic reasons for going to college, however, most Americans are concerned with earning a good (or better) income. For some careers - law, medicine, education, engineering - a college education is a necessary first step. Some careers do not

Page 17

AMERICAN CULTURE FOR DEMOCRACY require going to college, but many young Americans believe that having a degree will help them obtain a higher salary on their first job. Today, that first job is likely to involve handling information: More than 60% of Americans now work as teachers, computer programmers, secretaries, lawyers, bankers, and in other jobs involving the discovery, exchange and use of data (facts). A high-school diploma is not sufficient preparation for most such employment.

b. Selecting a College or University
In addition to learning about a school's entrance requirements (and its fees), Americans have a lot of questions to think about when they choose a university or college. They need to know: • What degrees does the school offer? How long does it take to earn ne? At the undergraduate (college) level, a four-year "liberal arts" course of study is traditionally offered which leads to a bachelor of arts (BA) degree in such subjects as history, languages and philosophy. Many liberal arts colleges also offer a bachelor of science (BS) degree in physics, chemistry or other scientific subjects. A technical training institution, offering such courses as agriculture or business skills, offers courses of varying length, and community college studies last two years. Graduate schools in America award master's and doctor's degrees in both the arts and sciences. The courses for most graduate degrees can be completed in two to four years. But if a graduate programme requires original research, a student could spend many additional months or even years in a university library or laboratory. • What curricula does a college or university offer? What are the requirements for earning a degree? In an American university, each college and graduate school has its own curriculum. At the undergraduate level, there may be some courses that every student has to take (for example, classes in world history, math, writing or research). But students do select their "major" (the field in which they want their degree), plus a specific number of "electives". Today a total of more than 1,000 majors are offered in America's colleges and universities. The combined electives available in these schools probably amount to a number in the tens of thousands. Typically, an undergraduate student has to earn a certain number of "credits" (about 120) in order to receive a degree at the end of four years of college. Credits are earned by attending lectures (or lab classes) and by successfully completing assignments
Page 18

AMERICAN CULTURE FOR DEMOCRACY and examinations. One credit usually equals one hour of class per week in a single course. A three-credit course in biology could involve two hours of lectures plus one hour in a science lab, every week. A course may last 10 to 16 weeks - the length of a semester. • Is the college or university a public institution or a private one? If it is private, is it a religious school? The United States does not have a national (federal) school system, but each of the 50 states operates its own university, and so do some large city governments. (The government does grant degrees in the schools it operates for professional members of the armed services – for example, the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis, Maryland.) About 25% of all schools of higher education in the United States are privately operated by religious organizations. Most are open to students of different faiths, but in some religious schools all students are required to attend religious services. There are also privately owned schools with no religious connection. Both public and private colleges depend on three sources of income: student tuitions, endowments (gifts made by wealthy benefactors) and government funding. Some endowments are very large: Harvard, Princeton and Yale Universities have more than a thousand million dollars each. Public institutions receive a larger portion of public tax monies than do private schools. • How large is the school? There are many small American colleges - some with fewer than 100 students. But the larger universities tend to keep attracting larger numbers of enrollments. (For example, the State University of New York has more than 60 campuses in different parts of the state.)

4. Current Issues
About 12 million students currently attend schools of higher education in America. They have at their disposal great libraries (Harvard alone has more than 10 million volumes), the latest technology, and faculties with a tradition of research accomplishments. They are free to pursue their interests, to develop their talents, and to gain professional rank. Still, many Americans are not satisfied with the condition of higher education in their country. Critics point out that: • One out of every eight highly talented high school graduates does not go on to college.

Page 19

AMERICAN CULTURE FOR DEMOCRACY • • Only half the students who enroll in college for a bachelor's degree actually achieve their goal. (Is the curriculum too hard? Not challenging enough?) College education has become excessively vocational work-related, therefore it may no longer be developing in students the shared values and knowledge that traditionally bind Americans together. As one response to the last issue many colleges have begun reemphasizing a core curriculum that all students must muster.

Americans cherish their right to express opinions on such issues as: "What is America's proper role as the world's oldest Constitutional democracy; its largest economy; its first nuclear power?" But they are also painfully aware of how complex such issues are. To take part in dealing with new problems, most Americans feel they need all the information they can get. Colleges and universities are the most important centres of such learning. And whatever improvements may be demanded, their future is almost guaranteed by the American thirst to advance and be well-informed.

Page 20



The United States was built by immigrants, many seeking a new life in a new land. Before 1882, anyone could move to the United States. But as the population grew, the federal government decided to control immigration. The first immigration laws limited the number of newcomers from countries such as China and Japan so that the ethnic makeup of the United States would be preserved. In 1965, the government limited not only the number of immigrants from Europe, Asia, and Africa, but also, for the first time, immigrants from countries in the Western Hemisphere. In 1997, the United States admitted approximately 800,000 legal immigrants. However, immigration swelled by another 275,000 people who illegally crossed U.S. borders. Unlike previous waves of immigrants who dispersed more evenly throughout the country, the newcomers of the last 30 years have settled primarily in certain regions. In areas like the American Southwest, California, and Florida, recent immigrants - many of them Hispanic - reside in greater percentages than in other places. As a result, some Americans perceive the country as being overwhelmed by immigrants and have asked policymakers to create new laws that discourage immigration. In 1996, Washington lawmakers passed three new laws that have changed immigration control and immigrants' rights in the United States. The controversy surrounding this legislation made immigration one of the most divisive public policy issues of the 1990s. Recently, the growing influence of a new bloc of voters - newly naturalized immigrants - has caused some elected officials to reconsider their positions on immigration, ensuring that the debate over immigration policy will continue well into the new century.

Page 21


1. The Priority System
The United States restricts legal immigration to a certain quota a year. Within the legal limit for new arrivals, there is a priority system. This system helps to decide who enters the United States first. People who are allowed to enter earliest are the unmarried children, older than 21, of American citizens. Second in line are spouses and unmarried children of resident aliens. Further back in line are people with special skills, such as medical doctors and nurses. People who do not qualify for the preference list have only a limited possibility of immigrating because most of the spaces are taken by people who do qualify for the list. The United States also accepts other groups of people in addition to the "regular" immigrants: refugees and asylees. Refugees are people who flee their homelands because of persecution resulting from their politics, race, religion, nationality, or membership in a particular social group. The Refugee Act of 1980 authorizes the president, in consultation with the Congress, to establish an annual ceiling on the number of refugees who may enter the United States. The act also allows the president to admit any group of refugees in an emergency. Asylees are foreign citizens who claim refugee status while inside the United States or at a port of entry. Not everyone who applies for asylum is accepted. To be accepted for asylum, an applicant must prove that he is subject to racial, political or religious persecution. The United States also tries to reunite families that have been separated by immigration. Family members with relatives in the United States can come to the country even if the legal limit for the year is already filled.

2. Changing Demographics
Overall, the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) estimates that about 5 million illegal immigrants currently reside in the United States, of which 54% are of Mexican origin (in spite of the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 which was designed to stop the flow of illegal immigration from Latin America by imposing sanctions against U.S. employers who hire illegal immigrants). The majority of these residents are called EWIs, meaning "entered without inspection." Such immigrants often come into the country between official border crossings. Approximately 40% of the illegal alien population are "nonimmigrant overstays" - people who arrived legally but overstayed their visas.

Page 22

AMERICAN CULTURE FOR DEMOCRACY The presence of large numbers of both legal and illegal immigrants has contributed to dramatic changes in the racial, ethnic, and cultural composition of the United States. In 1998, the Census Bureau estimated that almost one in ten U.S. residents is foreign-born - the greatest proportion since the 1930s. And this group is growing at a rate four times faster than the country's population as a whole. These numbers will have a profound effect on the demographic makeup of the country over the next fifty years. Currently, whites account for 74% of the population; blacks, 12%; Hispanics, 10%; and Asians, 3%. But some estimates predict that by 2050, the number of residents with Hispanic heritage will represent a quarter of the population. Some experts believe that by as early as 2010, whites will no longer be the majority in California and that similar demographic shifts in New York, Texas, Maryland, and New Jersey will soon follow.

3. Attitudes About Immigration
Many Americans believe that their country cannot absorb more immigrants. They contend that newcomers take jobs away from Americans – particularly low-skilled workers because they enlarge the labour pool and are willing to work for lower wages. In addition, advocates of immigration restrictions point to the large cost to taxpayers for health and education benefits for illegal immigrants. Critics of restrictions argue that immigrants are important to the country. They turn around the job argument, asserting that immigrants accept low-skill, low-age jobs that many native-born Americans will not. Moreover, these critics say, immigrants come to the United States with a diligent work ethic that increases the country's productivity and helps the economy. They also point out an undercurrent of racism in the restriction proposals.

4. Recent Federal Legislation
Heated criticism of U.S. immigration policy has resulted in new laws at the federal level. In 1996, Congress passed and the president signed into law, three controversial bills with implications for both legal and illegal immigrants. • 1996 Anti-Terrorism Act. One provision in the Anti-Terrorism Act hastened the procedures for deporting immigrants with criminal records. It also expanded the number of crimes punishable by detention and deportation. In fiscal year 1997, the

Page 23

AMERICAN CULTURE FOR DEMOCRACY Immigration and Naturalization Service deported about 50,000 aliens convicted of crimes, a major increase over previous years. However, officials point out that many deportees illegally return to the United States. • Welfare Overhaul. In August 1996, President Clinton signed a sweeping new welfare reform bill. This legislation made illegal immigrants ineligible for virtually all federal and state benefits except emergency medical care, immunization programmes, and disaster relief. It also denied legal immigrants food stamps and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) - a program for older, blind, and disabled people. Controversy erupted in 1997 as many of these provisions went into effect. In response, Congress amended the law, dropping the provision that denied SSI benefits for legal aliens. Since then, other benefits have been restored to legal immigrants. Meanwhile, many local government officials protested new mandates calling on them to determine a welfare recipient's immigration status and report illegal immigrants to the INS. • 1996 Immigration Act. The complex Immigration Act of 1996 is the most extensive immigration legislation passed by Congress in a decade. The new law doubled the border patrol force to 10,000 agents over five years and added fences in the most heavily trafficked areas of the U.S.-Mexican border. Like the welfare reform law, provisions of the 1996 Immigration Act stirred controversy. For example, the law granted sweeping powers to immigration agents, allowing them to make on-the-spot expulsions of noncitizens. Many legal experts challenged those powers on the grounds that immigrants are entitled to hearings.

5. Current Issues a. Immigrants and the Economy
According to the Commerce Department, the United States will need 1 million new information-technology employees over the next decade. Already, more than 300,000 job vacancies exist in this field. The United States currently limits the number of highly skilled workers who can enter the country on special work visas. Some have argued that this number should be raised. Those who support raising the number of employment-based visas - which allow immigrants with skills and talents needed by American companies to work in the United
Page 24

AMERICAN CULTURE FOR DEMOCRACY States - believe that highly skilled legal immigrants help the economy. Many members of the business community say that they cannot find enough multilingual and technically trained American workers to help keep the nation competitive in the global economy. Therefore, American companies recruit highly educated and trained immigrants to fill this void. They argue that these legal residents have provided U.S. firms with specialized job skills and thereby have helped these industries grow. On the other hand, opponents say that American jobs are being lost to foreigners. They argue that foreign workers are not necessarily better skilled than American candidates but are willing to accept less pay and are less likely to challenge poor working conditions because they depend on their sponsor company for their legal right to remain in the United States. These critics argue that easing the ability of American companies to "import" employees depresses industry wages. And some say that increasing the number of work visas will contribute to the already high immigrant population in this country, draining resources and degrading the quality of life for all.

b. English Only?
As the number of immigrants from Latin America and Asia has increased, many Americans have felt the presence of another culture - and another language – in their community. Although many citizens appreciate the vitality and diversity that new cultures bring, some believe the nation's own identity is threatened. These Americans think that a common language binds people together in a society. They fear that a bilingual society might splinter the country along cultural and racial lines. Responding to these concerns, some members of Congress advocate that the United States make English its official language. Supporters of adopting English as the official U.S. language believe that English unifies the nation, and that non-English-speaking immigrants are isolated because they cannot communicate with most Americans. Making English the official language would encourage immigrants to learn it. Many people, including some recent immigrants, think that the government wastes taxpayers' money by printing tax forms, ballots, laws, and court proceedings in other languages. Some English-only proponents believe that the U.S. government should focus on teaching English to immigrants so they can find jobs and assimilate into American society. Otherwise, they caution, immigrants may not be able to find

Page 25

AMERICAN CULTURE FOR DEMOCRACY worthwhile jobs and will be forced to rely on expensive government social service programmes. Other Americans believe that making English the official language of the United States would fundamentally exclude some people from voting, understanding U.S. laws, or participating in America's judicial system. These opponents of the English-only movement argue that the movement is fuelled by racism and a fear of immigrants, not by economic reasons. Critics point out that not only have immigrants assimilated into the United States throughout its history without being obligated to speak English, but they have made many social, political, and economic contributions to U.S. society along the way. Finally, they argue that forcing one language on Americans is a violation of free speech rights.

c. Denying Benefits to Illegal Immigrants
Many taxpayers in states with large numbers of illegal immigrants express outrage at the spiralling cost of social programmes. Many Americans believe that the government, by providing free services to undocumented immigrants, is unintentionally encouraging people to enter the United States illegally. People who want to deny social services to illegal immigrants argue that would-be illegal aliens would think twice before crossing the border once they realized that they would not get free medical care and education in the United States. Although most Americans agree that illegal immigration is a problem, many oppose denying social services to undocumented residents and their children. They think such laws will not discourage illegal immigration because foreigners come to the United States primarily to work, not to collect social benefits. Opponents point to studies indicating that illegal immigrants rely on social benefits in the same proprtions as other Americans. They argue that preventing immigrants from receiving medical care and education services will result in an unhealthy, poorly educated underclass. Many critics believe that the government should instead focus its anti-illegal immigration policies on controlling the U.S.-Mexican border.

d. Detaining Immigrants
Page 26


Trying to carry out tough detention and deportation laws passed in 1996, the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) is struggling to find places to hold noncitizen, legal residents who are scheduled for deportation because of criminal records. A piece of complex immigration reform bills of 1996 calls for the INS to deport legal aliens with certain types of criminal convictions, even if they have already served out their punishments. Some of these detainees, known as "lifers," are stuck in an indefinite detention status because their own countries either will not accept them or do not have deportation relationships with the United States, such as Cuba. Immigrant advocates argue that this indefinite detention constitutes cruel and unusual punishment.

6. No More "Melting Pot"?
In the past, Americans used to think of the United States as a "melting pot" of immigrants. A "melting pot" meant that as immigrants from many different cultures came to the United States, their old ways melted away and they became part of a completely new culture. The United States was likened to a big pot of soup, which had bits of flavor from each different culture. All of the different cultures were so well blended together that it formed its own new flavor. Today, Americans realize that the simple "melting pot" theory is less true. Instead, different groups of people keep many of their old customs. Often groups of Americans from the same culture band together. They live together in distinctive communities, such as "Chinatowns" or "Little Italys" – areas populated almost exclusively by Americans of a single ethnic group - which can be found in many large American cities. Living in ethnic neighbourhoods gives new Americans the security of sharing a common language and common traditions with people who understand them. In time, however, people from different backgrounds mix together. They also mix with native-born Americans. Old traditions give way to new customs. The children of immigrants are often eager to adopt new, American ways. They often want to dress in American fashions, to speak English and to follow American social customs. By one estimate, about 80% of European immigrants marry outside their own ethnic groups by the time they reach the third generation. Third generation means that their great-grandparents were immigrants. Yet as

Page 27

AMERICAN CULTURE FOR DEMOCRACY successive generations become more "Americanized," they often retain significant elements of their ethnic heritage.

7. American Traits
Understanding immigration helps to explain some of the traits of the American people. For example, immigrants move to the United States because they are looking for a better life. It takes a lot of courage to leave behind everything that is familiar and come to a new country. Since before the independence of the United States, Americans have been a people willing to take risks and try new things. This willingness to strike out for the unknown takes an independence and an optimism that also is thought to be a characteristic of the American people today. Immigrants also come to the United States because they differ from the majority of people surrounding them and because Americans also are known to be generally accepting of people with different ideas. Americans are also a people who are quick to learn and are open to new experiences. They have to be. Immigrants both today and in the past have a whole new world to learn about. They often have to learn everything from a new language to new social customs and new ways to make a living. Immigrants also believe in the dream of the United States. They believe that by working hard and obeying the laws, they can have a better life. Often Americans who have been in the United States longer become less acutely aware of the rights and advantages that they have. Immigrants help native-born Americans to appreciate the good things to be found in the United States. John F. Kennedy, who was president during the early 1960s, was the grandson of an Irish immigrant. Kennedy once said that the United States was "a society of immigrants, each of whom had begun life anew, on an equal footing. This is the secret of America: a nation of people with the fresh memory of old traditions who dare to explore new frontiers ..."

As more and more people of different races and cultures enter the United States and the racial composition of the country changes, debates about immigration become more

Page 28

AMERICAN CULTURE FOR DEMOCRACY intense. Some U.S. citizens favor tighter immigration restrictions and argue that immigrants take jobs away from Americans, resist learning English, and drain social services. Others, however, point to America's historical commitment to immigration and believe that immigrants keep the nation economically competitive and culturally rich. The question of whether to close America's doors will continue to be debated in the courts, in Congress, and in communities where immigrants choose to settle.

Page 29



Freedom of the press is an essential part of democracy. Newspapers, television news programmes, and radio talk shows have the important role of keeping citizens informed about domestic and world events. Thus, the news media have been called the watchdogs of democracy because journalists are expected to keep an eye on the government for the people. The ability of journalists to write and broadcast without fear of government censorship is a cornerstone of freedom in America. The 1990s have witnessed the emergence of new technologies that have revolutionized how the news is gathered and consumed. Many Americans now rely on the Internet for news. But what will be the effect of these new information technologies? Some experts think that the government will be more responsive to the people as news and opinions are exchanged faster. Others argue that recent trends in the media - particularly the blurring between news and entertainment - may do more harm than good to the democratic process.

1. The First Amendment
Among other rights, the First Amendment guarantees people's right to freedom of speech and the press: "Congress shall make no law ... abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press...." Ever since 1791, when the Bill of Rights became part of the Constitution, the First Amendment has served as the conscience and shield of all Americans who reported the news, who wished to make their opinions public, or who desired to influence public opinion. Over the past two centuries, however, the means of communication - what we now call the "media" - have grown immensely more complex. Today the term "the press" has expanded to refer to any news operation in any media, not just print. These various organizations are also commonly called the "news media."

Page 30

AMERICAN CULTURE FOR DEMOCRACY This media explosion has created an intricate and instantaneous nerve system shaping the values and culture of American society. News and entertainment are beamed from one end of the American continent to another. The result is that the United States has been tied together more tightly, and the media have helped to reduce regional differences and customs. People all over the country watch the same shows, often at the same time. The media bring the American people a common and shared experience - the same news, the same entertainment, the same advertising.

2. Freedom of the Press and National Security
Wars and other events that have national security implications for the United States test the boundaries of the First Amendment. In times of war, the government has often placed limitations on the press, arguing that making public certain details - such as military strategies - might risk both American lives and national security. Others, however, believe that it is unconstitutional to suspend First Amendment rights, even during emergencies. In 1991, the U.S. government cited national security as the reason for restricting news media coverage of the Persian Gulf War in Iraq. The Pentagon regulated the movements of journalists by giving only the "press pool" - a small group of reporters - limited access to military operations and other information. The pool reporters were always accompanied by military personnel and were supposed to share their findings with those left behind. In addition, ten categories of information were deemed "not releasable." Some of this information was sensitive, such as the number of troops and aircraft stationed in the Gulf, but journalists also were forbidden to disclose the names or hometowns of most soldiers they interviewed. Many constitutional scholars believe that the military is not justified in restricting the media by using press pools. Others, however, respond that the press does not have a right to full access to U.S. military information.

3. Television and Politics
In 1941, television broadcasting began in the United States. By 1949, there were more than 100 television stations and two regular news programmes on NBC and CBS. By 1955, 35 million American homes had televisions. The new medium of television quickly became

Page 31

AMERICAN CULTURE FOR DEMOCRACY more powerful than radio. This fact did not escape politicians, who saw television as a potentially powerful weapon in their election campaigns. Television's role in choosing the president has been particularly significant. Some critics contend that television reporting on presidential campaigns has led to an emphasis on style over substance. Others argue that television coverage has better informed people about the issues. • The Kennedy/Nixon Debate. In the 1960 presidential election Senator John Kennedy defeated Vice President Richard Nixon by fewer than 100,000 votes of the 70 million cast. Although historians disagree over what gave Kennedy his razor-thin margin of victory, few can doubt the significance of the televised debate. On September 16, 1960, Kennedy and Nixon met in a studio in Chicago for the first-ever presidential debate to be broadcast on television. That night, more than 70 million Americans watched the two candidates discuss their opinions on foreign and domestic policy. On camera, Kennedy looked youthful and well rested. Nixon, however, was recovering from an illness and seemed tired and haggard. Afterwards, public opinion polls of television viewers declared Kennedy the "winner"; those who had listened on the radio, however, thought that Nixon came out ahead. After the election, Kennedy told a friend, "It was TV that turned the tide." • Bill Clinton on MTV. In 1992, Governor Bill Clinton of Arkansas appeared on a series of television programmes that were atypical for presidential candidates. Facing accusations about his personal life, Clinton was questioned about his marriage in a special 13-minute interview. Later in the campaign, he donned a pair of sunglasses and played the saxophone on the Arsenio Hall Show in an attempt to appeal to wider audiences. He also went on MTV to take questions from young the American public and helped him with the presidency. citizens. Most political analysts agree that Clinton's television appearances improved his image with

4. The Influence of the "New Media"
Over the course of the 20th century, radio and television had a tremendous impact on the dissemination of news and information. Recent advances in technology have created innovative ways of transmitting news. Experts have dubbed these telecommunications

Page 32

AMERICAN CULTURE FOR DEMOCRACY technologies - cable television, interactive television, electronic mail, and the Internet - the "new media."

a. News Everywhere
In 1980, the Cable News Network (CNN) became the first 24-hour television news channel. CNN helped further the notion of a global village, where people in different countries could witness events around the world "live" on television and communicate instantly via electronic mail or facsimile. Since 1996, two more 24-hour cable news channels, MSNBC and the FOX News Network, have gone on the air. Newspapers and radio programmes have changed as well, offering the public information in new formats. For example, since 1992 the newspapers USA TODAY has offered readers "news at a glance" in an easy-to-read, colourful format. Many news consumers also rely on talk radio personalities to offer opinions and information about current events.

b. The Internet
The Internet has become a major news source for many Americans. In recent years, news organizations and technology companies have raced to put information on the Internet material available almost instantly to millions of "plugged in" computer users. Internet users can "surf" different Web sites in which newspaper articles, important speeches, interviews, and key pieces of legislation can be accessed. Currently, about 40 million people around the world get news from the Internet.

5. Public Trust of the Media
Today, the public can choose from an abundance of media sources. However, many people question whether much of what they are reading, hearing, and seeing is reliable. They worry that reporters are not using credible sources or checking their facts. Some think that news conglomerates - companies that own more than one newspaper, magazine, or television station - are more concerned about generating profits than providing legitimate, accurate news coverage.
Page 33

AMERICAN CULTURE FOR DEMOCRACY Some experts are apprehensive about the media's preoccupation with sensationalist topics. They argue that over the last few years the press has become obsessed with stories such as the death of Princess Diana, the O.J. Simpson murder trial, and the scandals surrounding President Clinton - all at the expense of hard news. Critics claim that mainstream newspapers are becoming more like supermarket tabloids and that, as a result, the public is not being kept informed about events and issues that really make a difference in their lives. Overall, the news media appears to have lost much of the trust they once had from the American public. Some observers believe that one way to address cynicism about the press would be to create a national news council, composed of journalists, to monitor the coverage of people and events. However, others say that criticism of the press is overblown. They contend that journalists are generally committed professionals who provide a valuable public service. Besides, media watchers point out, readers and viewers publicly denounce certain media coverage yet privately consume it, thus keeping ratings and profits high. These critics say that the American people have to learn to separate the "real" from the "sensational."

6. The Risk of Being Sued
One growing pressure on reporters and editors is the risk of being sued. Even though the First Amendment protects the press from government interference, the press does not have complete freedom. There are laws against libel and invasion of privacy, as well limits on what reporters may do in order to get a story. Libel is any false and malicious writing or picture that exposes a person to public ridicule or injures his reputation. If a broadcast or published story falsely implies that a private citizen committed a crime or is mentally incompetent, for example, the victim would probably win a libel suit. But Supreme Court Decisions have made it much harder for public officials or well-known public figures to prove libel. Such persons must prove not only that the story is wrong, but that the journalist published his story with "active malice." The right of privacy is meant to protect individual Americans' peace of mind and security. Journalists cannot barge into people's homes or offices to seek out news and expose their private lives to the public. Americans' right to a fair trial, guaranteed by the Constitution, has provoked many a media battle. Judges have often ordered journalists - many times unsuccessfully - not to

Page 34

AMERICAN CULTURE FOR DEMOCRACY publish damaging information about a person on trial. Also, in most states journalists may be jailed for contempt of court for refusing to identify the sources for their story if demanded by a court. TV newspeople operate under an additional restriction called the Fairness Doctrine. Under this rule, when a station presents one viewpoint on a controversial issue, the public interest requires the station to give opposing viewpoints a chance to broadcast a reply. In recent years, more news organizations are settling cases out of court to avoid costly - and embarrassing - legal battles. Editors say that major libel suits, which generally ask for millions of dollars in damages, are having a "chilling effect" on investigative reporting. Most affected are small news operations which do not have large profits to finance their defence. Press critics, however, say the chill factor also works the other way - against people who feel they have been wronged but cannot afford to sue. In short, the United States confronts a classic conflict between two deeply held beliefs: the right to know and the right to privacy and fair treatment. It is not a conflict that can be resolved with a single formula, but only on a case-by-case basis.

7. Current Issues a. The New Media and an Informed Public
While new information technologies - especially the Internet and cable television have made it possible for news consumers to get news on demand, they have also increased the possibility for misinformation. Some experts think that the new media have contributed to an increased focus on scandal coverage and a loosening of important journalistic standards. Others argue that the Internet provides an open forum for discussing ideas and debating policy, which ultimately strengthens democratic institutions. Critics of the new media believe that the tremendous amount of information now available 24 hours a day has left citizens overwhelmed by choices and underwhelmed by content. They argue that the average citizen lacks the media savvy necessary to discriminate between fact and fiction when it is all reported in the same fashion. On-line journalism in particular has sped up the news cycle and created a demand for constant updates, at the expense of accurate reporting and thoughtful analysis. Many Americans are concerned that

Page 35

AMERICAN CULTURE FOR DEMOCRACY Internet reporters rely on rumour instead of fact and that reputable news organizations, eager to keep up, are running stories they have not yet verified. While most concede that the new media have some drawbacks, many Americans believe that these advanced technologies are helping to keep people better informed. Some argue that most practitioners of the new journalism know that their reputations will be made on the accuracy of their information; thus, they need to be just as careful as traditional journalists. These proponents claim that the 24-hour news channels help educate voters and give them greater access to their elected leaders and that the Internet has created a forum for citizens' voices to be heard. Consequently, supporters of the new media say, government officials are becoming more responsive to the needs of the people.

b. Journalistic Ethics
Many people, both inside and outside the mainstream media, say that journalistic ethics are headed downwards. The notion of journalists as sources of uncensored, truthful information for the electorate has long been considered one of the pillars of American democracy. Now, people question whether a combination of factors - including increasing competition for viewers and readers; corporate ownership of the media; and the rapidly blurring line between information and entertainment - have caused irreparable damage to journalism. Those who believe that journalistic ethics are in decline argue that the basic tenets of good journalism - multiple sources; fair, nonbiased reporting; and a focus on government, public policy, and politics - have been replaced by an overabundance of editorializing, too much scandal coverage, and the "dumbing down" of news content. These critics also maintain that because most major media outlets are now owned by corporate stockholders out to make a profit, the sacred line between the editorial department and the marketing department has been lost. Thus, profit motivation, instead of the public interest, drives decisionmaking. Finally, these critics say that growing competition among news sources has caused a "rush to press" and a loss of filtering devices and editorial processes that have historically ensured the accuracy and relevance of the coverage. On the other hand, many media critics point out that scandal has always been a part of journalism. In fact, they contend that fairness and accuracy levels were once much worse when newspapers were controlled by political parties and readers simply subscribed to the

Page 36

AMERICAN CULTURE FOR DEMOCRACY paper whose ideology they agreed with. These experts disagree with claims that journalists have lowered their standards and instead suggest greater scrutiny of the media by the public. Some in the field think that journalistic practices are actually more scrupulous today than in decades past because reporters are more aware of the public's scepticism. Finally, many others point to the fact that news organizations have continued to prove their credibility by uncovering corporate wrongdoing, even though they may be owned by giant media corporations themselves.

c. Free Airtime for Candidates
Political campaigns for Congress and the presidency are expensive. Some Senate races, for example, cost as much as $50 million. A major reason for the huge cost is the expense of television airtime. If candidates have a lot of money at their disposal, they can buy television commercials and get their message out to more people. Candidates with little name recognition and limited funds, however, cannot compete effectively because they are unable to buy time on the airwaves. The end result, experts say, is that voters are not given a real choice on election day. To level the playing field, many political leaders and journalists are trying to convince television stations to offer free airtime to candidates. Proponents of free airtime think that giving candidates more direct access to voters would benefit the political process. They also argue that viewers would be more engaged in the election if candidates could address them with prepared, uninterrupted speeches. Some think that this forum would encourage candidates to offer thoughtful commentary on the issues rather than sound bites and attacks on their opponents. Critics, on the other hand, argue that there are already many media sources that voters can use to educate themselves about the candidates and the issues. Some point out that giving free airtime is unnecessary because many television stations and networks already offer public-affairs shows on which candidates participate. Critics also warn that candidates might use free airtime to attack their opponents rather than discuss issues. Others contend that it is a citizen's responsibility to be proactive in researching the issues and the candidates.

Page 37


Because of the tremendous power it wields, the press has often been called the "fourth branch" of government. By choosing which issues to cover and how to cover them, the media can influence whether a bill is passed, if U.S. troops go to war, and which presidential candidate is elected. Some argue that news media have too much power and often use it irresponsibly. Others respond that the press promotes democracy by keeping citizens informed, searching for the truth, and exposing corruption and scandals. As new technologies revolutionize information sharing, many people believe that citizens are gaining a greater voice in government and that the news media's role as the watchdog of democracy is growing.

Page 38



The United States is a country of many ethnic groups. An ethnic group is made up of people who share one or more characteristics which make them different from other groups. They may share specific racila or physical traits, speak their own language or practise a distinctive religion. They are usually bound to one another by common traditions and values, and by their own folklore and music. Some of their activities may be determined by unique institutions, such as a complex family structure or the social practices within their communities. Members of an ethnic group tend to see themselves - and to be seen by outsiders - as separate from other people. THE HARVARD ENCYCLOPEDIA OF AMERICAN ETHNIC GROUPS lists 106 major groups in the United States today, including Native Americans, Albanians, AfroAmericans, Arabs, Burmese, Chinese, Eskimos, Filipinos, Greeks, Irish, Italians, Jews, Mexicans, Puerto Ricans and Swiss. There are really more. For example, there are more than 170 different Native American tribes. For the sake of simplicity, the encyclopedia treats them as one. In the same way, Syrians, Jordanians, Egyptians, and Palestinians are all counted as Arabs. Most members of ethnic groups long established in the United States have lost much of the distinctiveness of their culture. Third generation Germans, for example, may only speak English and may think of themselves as "plain" Americans. Third generation Chinese, however, often retain their language and many cultural and family traditions. They will usually define themselves as Chinese-Americans. Members of most ethnic groups are full participants in the broad tapestry of American life, even if they keep alive many of their old traditions. The Irish, Danes, Germans, Italians, Poles, Jews, Mormons and Catholics, for example, have moved into almost all social, economic and political sectors. Some ethnic groups, however, suffer disadvantages which continue to keep them from freely participating in some areas of American professional and cultural life. Poverty and all

Page 39

AMERICAN CULTURE FOR DEMOCRACY the deprivation that goes with it often make it more difficult for black Americans and Puerto Ricans to acquire the social and educational skills needed to enter more desirable and more highly paid occupations. Racial prejudice and discrimination against blacks, Chinese and Native Americans has often meant that many members of those groups have been forced to live and work in narrow sectors of American life. Those ethnic groups which suffer systematic economic or social disadvantages are called minority groups. About one of every five Americans is a member of such a group. In the past, many minority groups overcame the barriers that confronted them. The Irish, the Italians and the Germans, the Catholics and the Jews all faced hostility and discrimination which severely restricted their opportunities for decades. In time they largely overcame these barriers and became fully integrated into national life. There are many signs that today's minorities are following the same path. For several decades, it has been an official aim of public policy to encourage such an outcome.

1. Discrimination and Civil Rights Reforms
Although the United States has made great progress towards protecting its people from discrimination, some Americans favour stronger laws to guarantee that women and minorities are treated fairly by employers, businesses, and schools. However, others believe that civil rights laws – particularly affirmative action policies - have gone too far. They contend that certain government-granted rights and guarantees, designed to redress past wrongs against certain groups of people, may actually discriminate against other groups. Forty years after the beginning of the modern civil rights movement, Americans have differing opinions about the meaning of "rights" and whether policies to correct past injusticies are still necessary. Some think that too many groups in the United States still face discrimination and that it would be a mistake to abandon protections they believe have worked so well.

a. Affirmative Action
In the early 1960s, President John F. Kennedy issued a series of executive orders requiring federal contractors to "take affirmative action" to ensure that their hiring practices

Page 40

AMERICAN CULTURE FOR DEMOCRACY did not discriminate on the basis of race or gender. His successors, Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon, expanded these programmes. The goal of affirmative action is to match the racial and gender composition of the workplace and higher education with that of society as a whole. The policies require governments and government contractors to take an active role to help some minority groups overcome past discrimination, by considering race or gender as a factor when hiring or awarding contracts. Many businesses, universities, and colleges have voluntarily adopted affirmative action programmes. However, many Americans believe that affirmative action can lead to racial quotas and charge that it promotes reverse discrimination, mostly against whites. In 1998, a proposition to end most affirmative action programmes in Washington state passed overwhelmingly. Supporters of eliminating affirmative action hope other states will follow suit.

b. Voting Rights Act
Passed in 1965, the Voting Rights Act forbids literacy tests, poll taxes (taxes that are used to prevent low-income Americans from voting), and intimidation of voters in any state.

c. Civil Rights Restoration Act
In 1988, Congress passed the Civil Rights Restoration Act which prevents institutions that receive government money from discriminating in any of their programmes on the basis of gender, race, age, or disability.

d. Laws Against Gender Discrimination
The women's rights movement made great progress in the 1960s and 1970s. In 1963, Congress adopted the Equal Pay Act, which guaranteed equal pay for men and women who perform equal work. In the early 1970s, the Supreme Court applied clauses of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to strike down laws that discriminated against women. A 1972 law barred gender-based discrimination in all education programmes receiving federal support. And in 1978, Congress amended the Civil Rights Act to prohibit job discrimination against

Page 41

AMERICAN CULTURE FOR DEMOCRACY pregnant women. Despite progress in achieving equal rights, many Americans believed that only a constitutional amendment could correct gender discrimination for good.

2. Discrimination Against People with Disabilities
In the past, Americans with disabilities were segregated in special schools and commonly denied college educations. Consequently, they often had to settle for low-paying jobs. The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 outlawed some barriers to equal education and created job opportunities for disabled people. The law prohibited employers who receive federal aid or who work on government contracts from refusing to hire people with disabilities. The act also required that colleges make buildings accessible to people who are blind or in wheelchairs. In 1990, Congress passed the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the most extensive civil rights legislation since the 1964 Civil Rights Act. This law protects people with physical and mental disabilities by prohibiting discrimination in employment, transportation, telecommunications, services, and public places such as restaurants, theatres, and stores. In 1997, Congress passed the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), which revamped an older law guaranteeing adequate public education to disabled children and providing more funding to schools.

3. Discrimination Against Homosexuals
In recent years, homosexual men and women have asked the government to protect them from discrimination. Although federal law does not extend civil rights protections based on sexual orientation, several cities, counties, and states have passed bans on discrimination against gay men and lesbians. Same-sex marriages are not legally recognized in any state and specifically prohibited by 29 states and Congress. Married people can often be covered under their spouse's health plans, file joint tax returns, and make important medical decisions for their spouses, but homosexual couples are often denied these rights. Gay rights activists, who believe that marriage is a basic human right that any committed couple is entitled to, support the legalization of same-sex marriage. Some local governments have granted certain rights to gay

Page 42

AMERICAN CULTURE FOR DEMOCRACY couples and allowed them to register as "domestic partners," and many companies recognize same-sex couples in their benefits policies.

4. A Progress Report
Many Americans believe that most of the civil rights violations and inequities of the past are just that - past. Women and racial minorities have made tremendous strides in all aspects of public life. Female-owned businesses have increased from 500,000 in 1972 to almost 8 million in 1996. Women now receive more than half of all college degrees awarded. In 1995, 13% of African Americans had attended at least four years of college as compared to just 3% in 1960. The percentage of blacks living in the suburbs - evidence of a steadily growing black middle class - more than doubled between 1950 and 1995. Nonetheless, many Americans believe that women and minorities still face obstacles in society, including pay discrepancies, racism and sexism, and a disproportionate share of problems like violence and poverty. While it is true that significant civil rights progress has been made over the years, many lawmakers and advocates argue that there is more work to be done.

5. Current Issues a. Reverse Discrimination or Necessary Remedy?
Many governments, federal contractors, businesses, and universities have encouraged the recruitment and hiring of racial minorities and women through affirmative action programmes. However, these policies have been challenged on many fronts across the United States. In recent years, members of Congress have introduced bills that would end affirmative action. The Supreme Court ruled that affirmative action programmes must address specific, identifiable past acts of discrimination as opposed to a general presumption of discrimination. Opponents of affirmative action believe that decisions based on race or gender alone violate the core American value of equal opportunity under the law. They argue that affirmative action forces employers, universities, and governments to fill specific quotas, which can lead to race and gender being placed above all other qualifications. Such policies, according to critics, lead to better-qualified whites and Asians being denied employment or
Page 43

AMERICAN CULTURE FOR DEMOCRACY educational opportunities. Furthermore, some contend that affirmative action implies that minorities and women cannot compete on their own merit, thereby undermining their efforts and accomplishments. Many Americans, on the other hand, maintain that affirmative action has been an effective tool for correcting bias in hiring, college enrollment, and government contracting. They argue that, though there have been major advances in civil rights over the last thirty years, it has not been enough to make up for hundreds of years of slavery and second-class citizenship. According to supporters, affirmative action is not simply retribution for past injusticies but an attempt to level the playing field. They believe that affirmative action is necessary to force businesses and schools to make an effort to search for qualified female and minority candidates who may not have the same resources and access as white males.

b. Comparable Worth
The Equal Pay Act of 1963 guarantees "equal pay for equal work," regardless of gender or race. However, studies show that the average salary for a woman is about 70 percent of the average salary for a man, and that jobs filled mainly by women pay less than comparable jobs held by men. Some civil rights advocates believe that salaries for jobs commonly held by women should be raised to the level of men's salaries for jobs that require comparable effort, skill, experience, education, and responsibility - that is, equal pay for work of comparable value. Supporters of comparable worth argue that the pay disparity shows that women are still discriminated against in the workplace. They say that comparable worth standards could first be applied through a job rating system that would assign points to each job based on the type of skills and experience required. Advocates believe that such a system would help overcome differences in wages caused by tradition, male-dominated unions, and employer preferences in selecting men for high-paying jobs. Critics of comparable worth argue that wage differences are not the result of discrimination but rather of free-market forces such as competition and laws of supply and demand. They believe that women generally earn less than men because women do not have the same education, experience, or career goals. Opponents of comparable worth point out that women are gradually moving into higher-paying jobs and that the wage gap is narrowing

Page 44

AMERICAN CULTURE FOR DEMOCRACY overall. They add that determination of comparable worth is subjective, impossible to enforce, and costly to implement. Despite the opposition, several states now require public agencies to pay the same salaries to employees in jobs traditionally held by women that require skills comparable to those required in jobs commonly held by men.

c. Prosecuting Hate
Crimes committed because of a bias against an individual's or group's race, religion, ethnic origin, or sexual orientation can be designated as hate crimes. Hate crimes are most commonly committed because of race, followed by religion and then sexual orientation. Most states and the federal government have special statutes that mandate stiffer penalties for criminals convicted of hate crimes. Deciding who should be protected by hate crime laws is controversial; most states as well as the federal government do not include crimes motivated by the victim's sexual orientation. Opponents of special designations for hate crimes note that, by definition, these actions are already illegal and do not require additional penalties. They also argue that all crime is offensive and damaging, regardless of the criminal's motivation. Some experts maintain that hate crime laws are unconstitutional. They say that the laws violate people's First Amendment rights by more heavily punishing those with particular viewpoints. Critics believe that this is a slippery slope that could lead to prosecuting people based on their ideas. Advocates of special penalties for hate crimes believe that tougher sentences are needed to address the damage these crimes inflict on the victim and on society at large. They argue that the motivations for hate crimes, such as racism and homophobia, harm the community and humanity in general. Some experts favour hate crime laws because, like antidiscrimination laws, they can discourage prejudice. Moreover, the Supreme Court ruled in 1993 that hate crime penalty enhancements do not violate First Amendment rights.

d. Employment Nondiscrimination and Sexual Orientation
The Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment prohibits unreasonable discrimination. Over the years, the Supreme Court has ruled that certain groups who have been the victim of past discrimination, such as women and racial minorities, receive

Page 45

AMERICAN CULTURE FOR DEMOCRACY heightened protection under the Fourteenth Amendment. Currently, federal law prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, gender, religion, national origin, and disability but does not extend similar protection to homosexuals. Homosexual advocates have lobbied for such protection in various areas, including employment discrimination. Recent Supreme Court decisions have both pleased and disappointed activists on both sides of this issue. In 1996, the Supreme Court struck down a Colorado law that prohibited nondiscrimination laws for gays. More recently, the Court has indicated that it is unwilling to grant homosexuals heightened protection under the law. Currently, only ten states prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation. In 1996, an attempt in the U.S. Senate to extend job antidiscrimination protection to homosexuals lost by one vote. The next year, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) was introduced in both houses of Congress. This act prohibited bias in hiring based on sexual orientation. Ultimately, neither the House nor Senate voted on the proposed bill, but there are plans to reintroduce the legislation in the 106th Congress. Supporters of ENDA cite numerous American businesses that have already included homosexual nondiscrimination clauses in their employment policies. They argue that passing ENDA will merely extend equal rights to gays, not bestow special rights. They also point out that the proposed federal legislation explicitly prohibits quotas or preferential treatment. Opponents of the legislation believe sexual orientation is a choice, unlike race or gender, and therefore not deserving of special protection. Some believe granting homosexual protected class status would encourage an immoral lifestyle and further contribute to the breakdown of the family in American society. Still others believe that local communities need to make individual decisions about the issue.

6. The Future
When economic life falters, group conflict and prejudice increase. This is because people see themselves as competing for the same scarce resources, such as jobs. The American economy is undergoing a historic transformation. Traditional industrial jobs are being lost to other countries. Most of the new jobs have been concentrated in service sectors, many of them requiring skills beyond the level of many ethnic minority members. Many people are also trapped by poverty in the central areas of large cities, where few new

Page 46

AMERICAN CULTURE FOR DEMOCRACY jobs are being created. The social demoralization of some ethnic minorities is also a barrier that keeps them from taking advantage of actual opportunities that are available to them. The belief in an essential equality among all people has been part of the cultural heritage of Americans since the founding of the United States. Many efforts have been made in recent decades to reform social and economic life to conform to the ideal. Today, despite vigorous debate over specific programmes and policies, all levels of government regard aid to the disadvantaged and the enforcement of antidiscrimination laws as very important areas of their activities. The social drama of the struggle for equality and acceptance will continue, as it has for over 300 years. As always, the leading roles in this drama will be played by ethnic groups, old and new.

Despite the progress achieved in extending civil rights to all Americans over the past thirty years, some citizens believe that discrimination is still a major problem. They say that the federal government has not done enough to eliminate discrimination against minorities, women, homosexuals, and people with disabilities. However, others argue that government actions to make up for past discrimination have gone too far and actually discriminate against other groups, particularly white males. Lawmakers and the public must decide how much they are willing to scale back these policies without giving free rein to discrimination in U.S. companies and universities.

Page 47



Crime touches the lives of millions of Americans, regardless of age, race, gender, or income. Whether they have been victims or not, many Americans say that the fear of crime lessens their sense of security. However, studies show that crime, although pervasive, affects certain sectors of the population more adversely than others. In the early 1990s, "crimes against the person" - murders, assaults, and robberies increased in the United States. Over the past few years, however, the violent crime rate has dropped. In October 1997, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) reported that the murder rate reached its lowest level since 1967. Law enforcement officials credit this decline to a number of factors: better neighbourhood policing, stricter jail sentences, and tighter gun control laws. However, despite these encouraging statistics, about 1.7 million violent crimes are still committed every year in the United States. Fighting crime is an enormous task because many economic and social issues contribute to lawlessness, including poverty, splintered families, drugs, unemployment, and the availability of firearms. Consequently, policymakers disagree on where to focus their anticrime policies: stricter law enforcement or programmes aimed at crime prevention. Many Americans believe that harsher punishment and stronger law enforcement will reduce crime; others say that it is most important to attack the underlying social problems that commonly lead to crime.

1. Violence in America
More than 13 million crimes are committed annually in the United States. Almost 90% of these are crimes against property, such as burglary or car theft; the rest are violent crimes. Violent crimes - murder, rape, robbery, and aggravated assault - continue to be a top concern of many citizens. However, government statistics indicate that crime rates are

Page 48

AMERICAN CULTURE FOR DEMOCRACY dropping, often dramatically, across the country. In 1997, the homicide rate reached a thirtyyear low. In the first six months of 1998, the number of violent crimes dropped 7% below the previous year; murders fell by 8%. Law enforcement officials and sociologists attribute this decline to a combination of factors, including the aging of large sections of the population, tougher sentencing laws, more effective community policing, gun control laws, crime prevention efforts, and low unemployment. In some places, such as New York City, a "broken windows" policy - which attemps to prosecute even small crimes like breaking windows and spraypainting graffiti in the hopes of deterring larger ones - has proved successful in keeping communities safer. Although the overall violent crime rate has declined, violent crimes committed by juveniles, particularly homicide, rose throughout the early 1990s. Experts attributed the rise to a breakdown of families and communities, as well as the influence of gangs, access to weapons, and the use of drugs. But, in 1995, those numbers began dropping and continued to do so throughout the decade. Still, public fears about juvenile crime remain high, fuelled by a series of well-publicized schoolhouse shootings in the late 1990s.

2. What Causes Crime?
Some experts say the roots of crime are poverty, drug abuse, and lack of employment and education opportunities. Others contend that the judicial system is failing to rehabilitate violent criminals or keep them off the streets.

a. Poverty
Experts say that low-income workers and the unemployed are more likely to be depressed and frustrated and therefore more inclined to commit unlawful acts. This appears to be especially true in low-income urban areas, where homicide is the leading cause of death among African-American males between the ages of 25 and 45. In 1997, the federal government defined the poverty threshold as $16,400 for a family of four and $12,800 for a family of three. In other words, families were classified as living in poverty if their annual incomes fell below those levels. By this definition, in 1997, 35.6 million Americans - slightly more than 13% of the U.S. population - lived in poverty. Although the poverty level in the

Page 49

AMERICAN CULTURE FOR DEMOCRACY United States has remained somewhat stable over the last thirty years, it is still one of the highest in the industrialized world. Poverty affects certain groups more than others. The elderly, children, single mothers, and minority groups make up a disproportionate share of those in poverty. For example, in 1997, although the national poverty rate was 13.3%, the poverty rate for African Americans was 26.5%, 27.1% for Latinos, and 20% for children. Children comprise 40% of the poor yet only 26% of the total population. They have become, in the words of one expert, "the face of poverty." Americans disagree on the causes of poverty. While most believe that the lack of educational opportunity is a major reason, some also contend that capitalism inevitably divides societies into rich and poor. Other cite behavioural factors that may promote a cycle of dependence - beginning with the inability to find or hold a steady job and possibly extending to other problems such as alcoholism and drug abuse. Because there are disagreements over its roots, lawmakers face difficult decisions about the best way to address poverty. When millions of Americans fell into poverty during the early 1930s, the states were financially ill-equipped to provide for the needy, and no federal policy was in place to deal with the problem. President Franklin Roosevelt and Congress wrote landmark legislation, known collectively as the New Deal, to combat the effects of the Great Depression. The new legislation included massive job programmes that provided work for unemployed Americans. Other programmes focused on people who did not work because of age or disability. The legislation also aimed to provide decent housing for the poor. • Social Security. Formally named Old Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance, Social Security was created in 1935 to provide assistance to low-income elderly Americans. The largest social programme today, Social Security is a self-perpetuating trust fund, financed by equal contributions from employer and employee. The amount individuals receive at retirement is based on their average monthly earnings over a number of years while they were working. All citizens over age 65, regardless of income, are eligible to receive varying levels of Social Security benefits. • Public Housing. Another part of the New Deal legislation was the U.S. Housing Act, passed in 1937. The act aimed to eliminate slums and construct low-rent housing for low-income Americans. For the next three decades, local public-housing authorities built and operated apartment buildings. However, many such buildings fell into disrepair and needed more and more government funding for maintenance. Therefore,

Page 50

AMERICAN CULTURE FOR DEMOCRACY in 1974, Congress created the Section 8 programme to revitalize public housing and control federal spending. Under Section 8, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) subsidizes the rent for low-income tenants. According to federal guidelines, public-housing residents must contribute 30% of their income towards rent and HUD makes up the difference. • The Great Society. The legacy of Roosevelt's New Deal continued with President Lyndon Johnson's War on Poverty. In 1964, President Johnson declared that no society could be great with poverty in its midst. Along with major civil rights legislation, Johnson implemented social programmes designed to eliminate poverty by moving people up the economic ladder through vocational education and job training. He also promoted programmes to help poor and older Americans get enough food and adequate health care. Johnson called his plan the Great Society. o Food Stamps. The U.S. Department of Agriculture instituted the federal food stamp programme in 1964 to ensure that people with little or no income would have enough to eat. Instead of providing money, the food stamp programme gives coupons, or vouchers, that are redeemable only for food. In 1997, the U.S. government spent about $20 billion on food stamps. o Medicaid. Medicaid is a joint federal-state programme which provides lowincome people with free or subsidized medical care. President Johnson and Congress created Medicaid in 1965 to provide health insurance for the lowincome elderly and the poor. An estimated 33 million people were on the Medicaid rolls in 1997, with the federal government spending $95.6 billion (57% of the total) while states spent $72 billion (43%). o Medicare. Medicare is a federal programme financed through the Social Security Administration, which provides a national system of retirement and other benefits. Medicare, also instituted in 1965, pays health care benefits to almost 40 million older and disabled Americans. The government alloted more than $200 billion for Medicare payments in 1997. While many lower-income older Americans benefit from Medicaid, all people of retirement age receive Medicare benefits. • The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act. In 1996, Congress passed a historic welfare reform bill called the Personal Responsibility

Page 51

AMERICAN CULTURE FOR DEMOCRACY and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act. The new law authorized states to run their own welfare programmes using block grants from the federal government called Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). Among the major provisions of the law are requirement that adults on welfare find work within two years and receive benefits for no more than a total of five years during a lifetime.

b. Millions of Guns
Law enforcement officials cite the availability of guns and the willingness of people to use them as major factors in the high crime rate. Americans own more than 200 million firearms, including handguns, rifles, and shotguns. Although legal purchases are regulated, people can buy guns illegally with relative ease. In 1996, there were about 9,000 handgunrelated homicides in the United States, down from 11,000 in 1995. Some attribute this decline in part to the passage in 1993 of the Handgun Control Act (also known as the Brady law), which mandates a five-day waiting period for anyone buying a handgun. In 1994, Congress also approved a ban on the manufacture, sale, or possession of 19 types of semiautomatic assault weapons.

c. The Role of Drugs
Most experts say that the sale and use of illegal drugs, particularly heroin and cocaine, contribute greatly to violent crime. Many illegal drugs are addictive, and users often commit crimes to support their drug habits. In addition, drug trafficking - the business of manufacturing and selling drugs - is lucrative. Shootings and murders are commonplace in the drug trade, as drug dealers compete for territory and money. According to a 1997 survey by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, drug use among young people is increasing. The survey found that almost 11% of 12- to 17year-olds admitted to using illegal drugs in the month preceding the survey, double the percentage reported in 1992. Of the total population aged 12 and over, 6.4% reported using illegal drugs in the prior year. Some people say illegal drugs are flooding into the country because of sophisticated production and trafficking methods used in foreign nations – the "supply side" theory. Others counter that drugs find their way into the United States because of the huge markets for

Page 52

AMERICAN CULTURE FOR DEMOCRACY narcotics - the "demand" theory. These different theories are important because each requires a different solution. The supply-siders advocate fighting the drug war abroad, at U.S. borders, and with the street dealers. Those who believe in the demand theory advocate spending money on prevention and education programmes at home. Others think that any successful antidrug effort must be a combination of both approaches. Currently, the federal government allocates about 70% of its antidrug budget to curbing the supply of illegal substances. This effort seeks to destroy crops used to make drugs in foreign countries, encourages those nations to plant other crops, and tries to intercept shipments of narcotics before they enter the United States. The remaining 30% of the federal antidrug budget is spent on education and treatment programmes to reduce the demand for drugs.

3. Fighting Crime
In 1994, Congress passed the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, which provided $30 billion over six years for crime control. Major provisions of the new law included funding to add 100,000 police officers nationwide; a ten-year ban on certain semiautomatic assault weapons; an expansion of the death penalty to cover additional federal crimes; and approval to impose a mandatory life sentence on any criminal convicted of three felonies for violent crimes (a provision known as "three strikes, you're out"). • Megan's Law. Victims' rights advocates around the country have lobbied hard for legislation meant to protect potential victims. Most notable are a series of protective laws named after young victims. One such example is New Jersey's Megan's Law, memorializing 7-year-old Megan Kanka, who was brutally murdered in 1994 by a known sex offender living in her neighbourhood. Megan's Law has served as the model for a federal law and numerous state laws that require various types of public notification when convicted sex offenders and child molesters are released into the community. Many civil liberties advocates challenge these notification laws, arguing they violate privacy rights. Supporters cite the high recidivism rate for child molesters and maintain that parents and community members have a right to protect their children from potential harm.

Page 53


4. Current Issues a. Lessening Gun Violence
In 1998 and 1999, several major U.S. cities began a new campaign to lessen gun violence in their communities by suing gun manufacturers, distributors, and dealers. City officials complain that these companies knowingly turn a blind eye on the illegal gun market and that manufacturers should be responsible for adding safety mechanisms that would prevent unauthorized persons from using guns. Their attorneys argued that manufacturers should be held liable for contributing to the "public nuisance" - including police and hospital costs – of gun violence. Gun industry advocates say that they are abiding by the law and have begun trying to limit the type of lawsuits that can be brought by city officials.

b. Mandatory Sentencing
About 2 million men and women are locked up in the nation's jails and prisons - a record high. One of the reasons for the large U.S. prison population is that judges often have no choice but to impose mandatory prison sentences for first-time criminals, particularly drug offenders. Mandatory sentencing laws obligate judges to send offenders to prison. These laws became popular during the 1980s as a way to combat the increase in crime produced by the illegal drug trade, particularly the buying and selling of crack cocaine. Many law enforcement officials think that mandatory sentencing laws send a strong message to would-be drug dealers that they face time in jail if caught and convicted. Experts also argue that the judicial system has to act forcefully to keep people safe from drugs and the violence that often stems from their sale and use. In addition, proponents of mandatory sentencing laws believe that U.S. taxpayers are willing to spend their tax money to get drug offenders off the streets by locking up criminals and building prisons. Finally, many point out that mandatory sentencing helps make the justice system fair, ensuring the same punishment for similar crimes. However, critics contend that mandatory jail terms for drug felons are too expensive and do little to reduce violent crime. Some experts contend that mandatory sentencing laws, which include first-time nonviolent drug felons, have caused prison overcrowding. They
Page 54

AMERICAN CULTURE FOR DEMOCRACY believe that this will inevitably lead to early parole for more violent criminals. Furthermore, most argue that these laws take discretionary control away from judges who otherwise might choose a rehabilitation programme for some drug offenders.

c. Juvenile Crime
The adult criminal system traditionally focuses on punishment. The criminal system for individuals under the age of 18, on the other hand, has generally concentrated more on the prevention of crime and the rehabilitation of juvenile delinquents. However, largely because of the fear of rising juvenile crime, almost all fifty states have reformed their juvenile justice laws so that, in some instances, minors can be tried - and imprisoned - as adults. Supporters of these changes in the juvenile justice system say that violent criminals no matter what age - deserve harsh punishment. They argue that the juvenile justice system created more than 100 years ago to deal with petty thieves, truants, and vandals - has become outdated as younger criminals commit increasingly violent crimes. Such proponents believe that the judicial system needs to give younger criminals a strong message about the consequences of their actions. Some maintain that the United States should establish a uniform minimum age at which juveniles can be tried as adults for certain crimes. Opponents of these policies argue that placing teens in the adult justice system will turn them into hardened criminals because they are exposed to experienced, often-violent adult offenders. Instead, many people support strong crime prevention and rehabilitation programmes such as community centres, boot camps, adult mentors, and help with education and employment. They rationalize that such programmes offer less expensive and less traumatic alternatives to overcrowding prisons with teenagers. Furthermore, rehabilitation, rather than just punishment, encourages young people to become productive adults.

Many local, state, and federal lawmakers believe the falling crime rate is evidence that present crime fighting methods are working. However, some observers contend that the recent anticrime laws that have emerged from state legislatures and Congress are, at best, short-term solutions. They think the roots of crime - poverty, the breakdown of families, and drug abuse have yet to be properly addressed by the government and that the increase in drug use among

Page 55

AMERICAN CULTURE FOR DEMOCRACY young people is an ominous sign for the future. Therefore, many lawmakers call on law enforcement officials and communities across the country to continue to be vigilant in their anticrime efforts, by strengthening both law enforcement and crime prevention efforts.

Page 56


In recent years, many countries have become democracies. In 1999, there were 117 democratic governments, more than twice the number of democracies in the 1970s. As democracy has spread, so too have core democratic values such as human dignity and equality. In an effort to secure the fundamental rights of every human being, world leaders have signed several agreements, including the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights. At the same time, some nations have continued brutal human rights violations. Recent years have produced genocide by ethnic and tribal leaders in Bosnia, Kosovo, and Rwanda and political executions in Burma and China. Even democratic governments do not always respect the individual rights of their people. For decades, policymakers in the United States have promoted democracy and human rights around the world. However, the degree to which these objectives are in America's national interest is a matter of debate. Should human rights in other countries be a top foreign policy priority of the United States? Should American leaders send troops to encourage democracy overseas? While U.S. policymakers want to promote democratic governments, they must also protect other vital interests, such as maintaining beneficial economic and diplomatic relationships. The United States is the oldest continuous democracy in the world. Throughout much of the 20th century, U.S. leaders promoted democracy overseas. They supported fair and free elections in other countries because they are beneficial to U.S. national interests, such as security and trade. Because their leaders are elected by the people, democratic governments are often more politically stable than dictatorships. Such leaders often share American values and are eager to become U.S. military allies. In addition, democracies are not imperialistic; they tend to respect the national borders of other countries. Thus, the United States is safer from military attack if there are more democratic nations.

Page 57

AMERICAN CULTURE FOR DEMOCRACY Democracies usually have free-market economies; that is, their economies are controlled by the forces of supply and demand, not by government leaders. Because the U.S. economy is so large, other free-market countries want to trade goods and services with the United States. Many economists assert that greater international trade, especially increases in U.S. exports to other countries, improves the American economy. Finally, democratic nations often share American ideals. Elected officials tend to permit more individual freedoms, such as freedom of expression and religion. As these ideals take root in more countries, U.S. leaders believe that the American way of life is more secure. Therefore, U.S. officials believe it is important to support and promote democracy.

1. The Spread of Freedom
Although the United States was founded on principles of individual liberties, more than 150 years passed before those freedoms were granted to everyone in American society. Only after freeing its slaves and granting suffrage to women could the United States truly be called the "Land of Liberty." Some argue that, even today, the United States needs to work on ensuring equality and freedom for all its people. Similarly, it has taken centuries for democracy to spread around the world, and even within democratic countries individuals enjoy varying degrees of freedom and equality.

a. Empires Collapse
During the 17th and 18th centuries, France, Germany, Great Britain, Holland, Portugal, and Spain established colonies in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East. From the late 19th century through the mid-20th century, European powers began to lose control of those colonies. One reason for the end of European imperialism was the high cost of maintaining and administering these territories. After World War II, the international community's support for "self-determination" - the belief that a country should have the ability to govern itself without outside control or interference - further diminished colonial power. After gaining independence in the 1950s through the 1970s, most former colonies aligned with either the United States or the Soviet Union. These were the most tense years of the Cold War, when the United States and the Soviet Union were vying for world influence

Page 58

AMERICAN CULTURE FOR DEMOCRACY and power. Some newly independent nations sided with the West and formed democratic governments. Examples include Botswana and Mauritius in Africa, India and Malaysia in Asia, and several Caribbean nations. Among these democracies, however, citizens have a broad range of electoral and personal freedoms. For example, Malaysia's political system is dominated by one political party, and the Malay government restricts the freedoms of speech, press, and public assembly. Thus, democratic elections do not always lead to the same kind of freedom to which Americans are accustomed.

b. The Fall of the Iron Curtain
With the end of the Cold War and the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991, the "Iron Curtain" that separated eastern and western Europe collapsed, and so did many of the political distinctions between democratic countries in the West and communist countries in the East. Most former Soviet republics, including Russia and Ukraine, and Eastern European countries, such as the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, and Romania, have held democratic elections and are converting to market economies. The fall of the Soviet Union also had a ripple effect outside Europe. New democracies emerged in Asia (Mongolia) and Africa (Benin, South Africa, and Zambia). Today, all Latin American countries except Cuba have democratically elected governments. Once again, however, those citizens sometimes have limited electoral and personal freedoms. The end of the Cold War and decolonization have resulted in an unprecedented number of democracies. Nevertheless, most governments in Africa and the Middle East and many in Asia still do not hold free elections or honour individual rights.

2. The U.S. Role in Democratization
For many years, U.S. leaders have promoted democracy in other countries. During the Cold War, American policymakers focused on containing authoritarian communist governments and supporting democracy among U.S. allies. Since the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991, U.S. interests are no longer threatened by communism. American leaders have exerted their influence using a variety of tools, including close diplomatic ties, military alliances, trade, foreign aid, and - if necessary - military intervention.

Page 59

AMERICAN CULTURE FOR DEMOCRACY • Haiti. In some situations, American leaders have sent U.S. troops to support democracies in other countries, particularly in the Western Hemisphere. In 1994, President Bill Clinton sent American troops to Haiti to help restore that country's democratically elected president to power. While U.S. forces were on the way to Haiti, its military leaders, who had seized power from the president in a 1991 coup, agreed to step down. American soldiers remained in the Caribbean nation until 1996 as part of a United Nations (UN) force to ensure a peaceful transition back to democracy. A newly elected president took office in 1996. However, when UN troops left Haiti in 1997, its government and economy remained weak, and reports of human rights abuses continued. • Bosnia. A 3-year-long war in the former Yugoslavian republic of Bosnia-Herzegovina prompted U.S. military intervention in 1995. In December of that year, President Clinton sent 20,000 U.S. troops to Bosnia as part of a 60,000-strong NATO force. Their duty was to enforce the Dayton Agreements, a U.S.-brokered peace plan. The presence of U.S., Russian, and NATO troops helped Bosnians to vote peacefully in a national election in 1996 and in local elections in 1997. However, on-site observers think the elections were not entirely free and fair. In addition, U.S. troops have been used to arrest accused and indicted human rights violators in Bosnia. The accused are tried before the International Criminal Tribunal - a court which was established in 1993 by the United Nations and which meets in the Hague, Netherlands.

3. Human Rights
The term "human rights" incorporates a broad range of ideas that are often described in four categories. Most central are the rights that protect an individual's security. Governments should protect citizens from genocide; slavery; torture; cruel, degrading, or inhuman punishment; arbitrary arrest or imprisonment; denial of fair trial; and invasion of their homes. Human rights also encompass people's ability to secure their basic human needs, such as food, clothing, shelter, education, and health care. Furthermore, there are civil and political liberties, including freedom of speech, press, association, and the freedom of movement within and to and from a person's country. Finally, there are human rights laws

Page 60

AMERICAN CULTURE FOR DEMOCRACY pertaining to freedom from discrimination on the basis of race, colour, ethnic origin, religion, social status, and gender.

a. Human Rights Documents
To avoid repeating the tragedies of World War I and World War II, many of the world's leaders met in 1945 to create the United Nations. In doing so, they assessed their core values on human dignity and rights. Since then, the United Nations, many regional organizations, and individual countries have developed statements calling for the protection of the basic rights of every person. The first global human rights documents were the UN Charter, approved in 1945, and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, approved by the United Nations in 1948. A centrepiece of global human rights legislation, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is largely based on the U.S. Bill of Rights, Britain's Magna Carta, and France's Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen. Other important human rights documents include the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, as well as the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights, both approved by the United Nations in 1966. These documents form the basis of international law that protects human rights in all countries that have signed them.

b. Human Rights Activism
As the number of democratic countries and human rights laws have grown, concern for such rights around the world has also increased. Human rights advocates have created a number of nongovernmental organizations, such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, which publicize rights violations and encourage concerned governments and individuals to pressure the offending leaders to improve their human rights records. At one time, human rights were considered matters of internal governmental policy. Today, many foreign governments claim a legitimate right to pressure other countries about violations. Human rights have gained credibility as foreign policy issues because of improved global communications and the large increase in international trade and investment over the last 30 years.

Page 61


c. Linking Human Rights and Trade
In recent years, the United States and China have carried on a visible conflict over human rights. U.S. officials have often criticized China's treatment of dissenters and prodemocracy activists; China believes its internal matters are not the business of the U.S. government. This conflict represents a thorny problem for American policymakers because China is a large country with a booming import-export business. The clash between U.S. business interests in China and American values of individual liberty is a classic case of competing concerns in foreign relations. In 1989, President George Bush decided to renew a special trading privilege called "most favoured nation" (MFN) trade status for China. It grants China goods reduced tariffs upon entering U.S. ports. Therefore, with MFN status, Chinese goods are less expensive and thus more attractive in the American market. Human rights activists criticized this decision because it came soon after China's military attack on prodemocracy demonstrators in Beijing's Tiananmen Square. In the early 1990s, human rights organizations discovered that Chinese prison labour was being used to make goods for export to the United States. In addition, the U.S. State Department reported that China continued its unfair judicial procedures and mistreatment of political dissidents. Therefore, in 1994, President Clinton threatened to revoke China's MFN trade status unless its human rights record improved. Chinese leaders vehemently opposed linking trade with human rights, an issue they considered a domestic matter. American business interests also opposed the link because they feared that Beijing would retaliate and cut off U.S. investment in China's growing economy. Human rights organizations supported the president's policy. However, after heated exchanges between U.S. and Chinese leaders, President Clinton softened his stance on Chinese human rights violations. He stated that the prison labour issue was resolved and that further human rights concerns would be handled separately from trade issues. Accordingly, China's MFN status was renewed in June 1994. Since then, it has been renewed every year.

d. Democracies and Human Rights
The violation of human rights is not limited to authoritarian governments like China's. There are many countries that hold relatively free and fair elections while restricting some

Page 62

AMERICAN CULTURE FOR DEMOCRACY fundamental democratic rights and liberties. For example, several Latin American countries had long periods of military rule between decolonization and democratization. Therefore, aspects of military rule continue in some democracies in the region. Human rights activists accuse Mexican and Brazilian police forces of human rights violations, and they say that both countries sometimes use improper judicial procedures. Right groups claim that law enforcement officials in these countries execute people without giving them trials and illegally hold people in jail without charges.

4. Current Issues a. Human Rights and U.S. Foreign Policy
Although human rights now attract worldwide attention, many Americans disagree about whether the U.S. government should make it a central issue in its foreign policy. Some Americans believe that freedom is a universal right of all human eings and that U.S. foreign policy must reflect values such as individual liberty, equality, and justice. Moreover, some observers warn that the freedoms of the United States and its allies cannot be secure in a world where freedom is threatened everywhere else. Thus, they argue that U.S. stability will be enhanced if more countries grant their citizens greater freedoms. Supporters of a foreign policy based on human rights believe the United States should condemn and take some form of action against any government that uses terror or brutality, even if it has otherwise friendly relations with the United States. Critics of this approach say the United States should not pursue policies based primarily on morality. They contend that U.S. leaders have to be pragmatic and work with all economically and militarily powerful countries, placing practical issues, such as trade and security, ahead of human rights. For example, many think the United States cannot afford to be too critical of China's human rights policies because Chinese leaders, if pushed too hard, could threaten U.S. allies in Asia with military action and restrict U.S. access to China's lucrative market. Furthermore, many experts believe that if American leaders pressure an ally with a less-than-perfect human rights record to dismantle its leadership, an even more repressive government could take over. Critics claim that the United States has a stronger national interest in building beneficial economic relationships than in forcing countries to become

Page 63

AMERICAN CULTURE FOR DEMOCRACY democratic and that these strong economic ties will eventually bring about democratic change.

b. Trying Human Rights Violators
At the end of World War II, war criminals were brought to trial in courts or tribunals established by international agreements. Nazi leaders stood before judges from the victorious nations - including the United States - at Nuremberg, Germany, to answer charges of committing genocide and crimes against humanity. Similar trials wre held in Tokyo from 1946 to 1949 to judge accused Japanese war criminals. In 1993, the UN Security Council established an International Criminal Tribunal to prosecute those responsible for ethnic cleansing and war crimes in the civil wars fought in the former Yugoslavia. The next year, the council established a similar tribunal to prosecute highlevel officials responsible for the genocide in Rwanda. Both tribunals have met with limited success, their biggest complaint being the lack of cooperation from the nations involved and at times even from Security Council member states who have not fully suported the court's efforts. The United States - while not always eager to use its troops to arrest war criminals in Bosnia - has generally encouraged the courts to proceed. However, in 1998 the United States did not support the treaty drawn up at a meeting of 153 nations in Rome, establishing a permanent International Criminal Court. This court was established to prosecute crimes against humanity, genocide, war crimes, and aggression in international and internal conflicts. The United States and several other major powers fear that smaller countries could gain too much power on the court, thereby bypassing the influence of the world's strongest nations - some of which are members of the UN Security Council. Many Americans also fear the loss of national sovereignty to the decisions of an international tribunal - an issue often raised by those who believe the United States should not be forced to comply with decisions made by international bodies like the United Nations or the World Trade Organization. For example, champions of U.S. sovereignty do not want U.S. troops being called into a foreign country to enforce what may be a dangerous and expensive mission mandated by an international court. Advocates of the permanent court say that without the support of the United States and other strong nations, the tribunal will not be successful. They contend that the United States has an obligation to the rest of the world to help bring war criminals and human rights

Page 64

AMERICAN CULTURE FOR DEMOCRACY violators to justice if it is going to continue to take the lead in negotiating peace settlements and participating in peacekeeping missions abroad. Supporters also point out that U.S. sovereignty has not been threatened in the past by international tribunals like those at Nuremberg or The Hague; therefore, America officials have no reason to fear that happening if the permanent court is established.

For decades, American policymakers have promoted democracy, but today's human rights abuses remind them that a viable democracy should honour individual liberties - not just allow democratic elections. In addition, those governments must have fair judicial procedures. The dilemma for U.S. policymakers is that protecting human rights does not always coincide with promoting other interests, such as trade. While many American leaders remain committed to the ideals upon which their country was founded, they also believe that they must balance those ideals with present-day realities, such as economic interdependence and national security.

Page 65



1. Explain the functions of the three branches of government in the U.S.A. Compare them with those in Romania. 2. Point out major differences between the function of political parties in the U.S.A. and in Romania. 3. Debate: Constitutional Rights a) Abortion should remain legal. b) The government should regulate the Internet to protect users’ privacy. c) Doctor-assisted suicide should be allowed. 4. Comment on the following quotations: • • Must a government of necessity be too strong for the liberties of its people or too weak to maintain its own existence? (Abraham Lincoln) Whenever by an unfortunate occurrence of circumstances an opposition is compelled to support the government, the support should be given with a kick and not a caress and should be witdrawn at the first available moment. (Randolph Churchill) • • • To govern is to choose. (Pierre Mendes-France) The art of governing is not letting men grow old in their jobs. (Napoleon Bonaparte) Too bad that all the people who know how to run the country are busy driving taxicabs and cutting hair. (George Burns)

Page 66


5. Vocabulary Practice: A. Write the letter of the word set that best completes the sentence. 1. When the _____ was removed from power, a(n) _____ government was set up to maintain civil rule until elections could be held. A. precinct – imperial B. preamble – provisional C. sovereign - imperial D. potentate – provisional

2. The _____ to the document gives the party’s on issues. A. jurisdiction - diplomacy B. potentate – preamble C. preamble – stance D. negotiation - hierarchy

3. After the armed _____ , the people met to _____ a new leader. A. negotiation – ratify B. insurrection – inaugurate C. jurisdiction – inaugurate D. diplomacy – impeach

4. We recommended who should be lected to the ____ of our ____. A. charisma – potentate B. sovereign – jurisdiction C. hierarchy – precinct D. diplomacy – hierarchy

5. The country’s ____ will ____ a new constitution. A. potentate – intervene B. precinct – rescind C. hierarchy – impeach D. sovereign – ratify

6. The candidate will ____ his opponent’s attempts to ____ poverty. A. rescind – intervene B. denounce – eradicate C. inaugurate – ratify D. impeach – rescind

7. The ambassador’s ____ did not make up for his lack of skill in ____. A. charisma – diplomacy B. jurisdiction – negotiation C. stance – insurrection D. hierarchy – charisma

Page 67


8. The mayor tried to ____ the order, but the matter was outside his ____. A. ratify – negotiation B. rescind – jurisdiction

C. eradicate – precinct D. impeach - stance

Circle the letter of the word that most nearly has the same meaning as the italicized word. 1. charisma A. knowledge
2. ratify

B. attraction

C. rank

D. eloquence

A. organize
3. stance

B. challenge

C. reason

D. approve

A. belief
4. impeach

B. size

C. greed

D. order

A. obligate
5. imperial

B. accuse

C. impose

D. influence

A. chaotic
6. hierarchy

B. rebellious

C. majestic

D. weighty

A. structure
7. sovereign

B. chamber

C. freedom

D. control

A. vocation
8. provisional

B. chief

C. council

D. employee

A. makeshift

B. maverick

C. economic

D. routine

Page 68


9. rescind

A. duplicate
10. eradicate

B. charge

C. repeal

D. include

A. prevent

B. insist

C. project

D. destroy

Page 69


1. Describe the differences between the structure of the educational system in the U.S.A. and in Romania. Discuss their respective advantages and disadvantages. 2. What problems do minorities in the U.S.A. have to face and how does the American educational system try to solve them? 3. Debate: Education a) Public schools should provide bilingual education. b) The government should give parents vouchers to pay for private schools. c) Homeschooling should be encouraged. 4. Comment on the following quotations: • • The things taught in schools are not an education but the means of an education. (Ralph Waldo Emerson) No one can become really educated without having pursued some study in which he took no interest. For it is part of education to interest ourselves in subjects for which we have no aptitude. (T.S. Eliot) • • • Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire. (William Butler Yeats) Education is what survives when what has been learnt has been forgotten. (B.F. Skinner) If you think education is expensive – try ignorance. (Derek Bok)

5. Vocabulary Practice: A. Write the letter of the word that best completes the sentence. 1. George, who wants to do research in animal communications, must first finish his basic studies in ____ . A. biology B. philosopher C. curriculum D. evaluation

Page 70


2. The teacher emphasized the seriousness of ____ and urged students to avoid copying and to document all quotations. A. evaluation B. dissertation C. plagiarism D. reformatory

3. In your quest for knowledge, you have become quite a(n) ____ . A. evaluation B. sophomore C. philosopher D. prank

4. After six months in the ____ math class, Fred had raised his scores up to grade level. A. rudimentary B. truant C. prolific D. remedial

5. The first year at college is rough; you’ll have more fun as a ____ . A. philosophy B. sophomore C. sorority D. colleague

6. Statistics show that ____ students have problems later in life, too. A. truant B. rudimentary C. academic D. prolific

7. My mother has been working on her ____ for three years; but she will finish in the spring. A. prank B. evaluation C. dissertation D. plagiarism

8. In choosing a college, it is important to study each school’s ____ . A. sorority B. curriculum C. reformatory D. sophomore

B. Circle the letter of the word that most nearly has the same meaning as the italicized word. 1. colleague A. university 2. academic A. informal B. athletic
Page 71

B. associate

C. stranger

D. driver

C. scholastic

D. tedious


3. aide A. opponent 4. excel A. surpass 5. prank A. plank 6. prolific A. deep 7. sorority A. organization 8. rudimentary A. difficult 9. evaluation A. appraisal 10. comprehend A. pity B. release C. know D. correct B. loss C. evacuation D. mischief B. essential C. lasting D. rude B. brotherhood C. sorrow D. superiority B. scarce C. abundant D. proud B. favour C. idea D. trick B. defeat C. sell D. enjoy B. helper C. teacher D. student

Page 72


1. Explain the impact of immigration on American society. 2. Discuss possible consequences of recent changes in the pattern of immigration. 3. Debate: Immigration a) The U.S.A. should increase the number of work visas for highly skilled immigrants. b) The U.S.A. should adopt English as its official language. c) The American government should deny social services to illegal immigrants. 4. Comment on the following quotations: • • • • • America is a willingness of the heart. (F. Scott Fitzgerald) Part of the American dream is to live long and die young. (Edgar Z. Friedenberg) The greatest American superstition is belief in facts. (Hermann Keyserling) America – the best poor man’s country in the world. (William Allen) In the United states there is more space where nobody is than where anybody is. This is what makes America what is is. (Gertrude Stein) 5. Vocabulary Practice: A. Write the letter of the word set that best completes the sentence. 1. The ____ supported the efforts to ____ the university. A. alumni – integrate B. confederation – jeer C. conformity - segregate D. cabal – integrate

2. The ____ gang began to ____ as soon as the speaker began. A. choral – integrate B. populous – integrate C. heterogeneous - segregate D. unruly - jeer

Page 73


3. I like this ____ group of people because of their total lack of ____ A. populous – hubbub B. unruly – cabal C. heterogeneous - conformity D. choral - conformity

4. There was quite a ____ when the ____ submitted their proposal. A. furor – clergy B. tumult – cabal C. troupe – confederation D. hubbub – exodus

5. In summer there is a mass ____ from the ____ areas. A. tumult – unruly B. hubbub – populous C. exodus - populous D. furor - heterogeneous

6. The members of the ____ wanted to ____ themselves from the town. A. clergy – integrate B. alumni – jeer C. commune - integrate D. commune - segregate

7. A(n) ____of the F.B.I. was investigating the activities of the ____ . A. confederation – hubbub B. furor – troupe C. auxiliary - cabal D. alumni - conformity

8. There was ____ in the South when the ____ of the states was formed. A. tumult – confederation B. conformity – troupe C. hubbub – exodus D. furor – alumni


Circle the letter of the word that most nearly has the opposite meaning of the italicized word. 1. clergy A. choir B. laypeople C. ministers D. graduates

Page 74


2. conformity A. diversity 3. segregate A. understand 4. populous A. famous 5. hubbub A. quiet 6. tumult A. distress 7. jeer A. mock 8. integrate A. resolve 9. exodus A. arrival 10. furor A. fight B. fuss C. passion D. calm B. reality C. flight D. uproar B. notice C. mix D. isolate B. applaud C. endanger D. arrest B. bustle C. peace D. company B. clamour C. league D. mixture B. uninhabited C. obese D. dense B. isolate C. mock D. merge B. overthrow C. uproar D. similarity

Page 75


1. Explain the function of the news agencies. 2. What, in your opinion, are some advantages or disadvantages of having a great choice of radio and TV programs available?

3. Debate: The Media a) Journalistic ethics are declining.
b) The new media have helped citizens become more informed.

c) Television stations should give free airtime to political candidates. 4. Comment on the following quotations: • • • • • One newspaper a day ought to be enough for anyone who still prefers to retain a little mental balance. (Clifton Fadiman) News is the first rough draft of history. (Benjamin Bradlee) What you see is news, what you know is background, what you feel is opinion. (Lester Markel) Television is chewing gum for the eyes. (Frank Lloyd Wright) Television is not the truth. Television is a god-damned amusement park. Television is a circus, a carnival, a travelling troupe of acrobats, storytellers, dancers, singers, jugglers, sideshow freaks, lion tamers and football players. We’re in the boredom-killing business. (Paddy Chayefsky) 5. Vocabulary Practice:

A. Write the letter of the word set that best completes the sentence. 1. The journalist’s ____ skills were limited, and often he was ____ . . A. linguistic – incoherent C. guttural - linguistic

Page 76

AMERICAN CULTURE FOR DEMOCRACY B. lucid – verbose D. eloquent – guttural

2. We were grateful for the ____ of the speech because the technical ____ made it too difficult to understand. A. oratory – usage B. dialect – emphasis C. brevity - jargon D. usage - idioms

3. Her unusual ____ did not detract from her ____ explanation. A. dialect – lucid B. diction – verbose C. idioms - incoherent D. jargon - prosaic

4. I have to ____ his work because he has trouble with English ____ . A. contradict – emphasis B. enunciate – emphasis C. incite - idioms D. edit - usage

5. In spite of the lecturer’s precise ____ , her speech was far from ____ . A. emphasis – prosaic B. oratory – verbose C. dialect - guttural D. diction - eloquent

6. Jim learned to clearly ____ the many ____ sounds of German. A. equivocate – eloquent B. enunciate – guttural C. incite - eloquent D. edit - guttural

7. The linguist did not ____ about her dislike of many English ____ . A. incite – emphasis B. contradict – jargon C. equivocate - idioms D. enunciate - dialect

Page 77


8. I did not want to ____ him, but his advertising campaign seemed too ____ . A. contradict – prosaic B. enunciate – incoherent C. incite - guttural D. edit -lucid

B. Circle the letter of the word that most nearly has the same meaning as the italicized word.

1. emphasis A. language B. stress C. neglect D. poem

2. brevity A. briefness B. logic C. speed D. beauty

3. lucid A. murky B. unstable C. tiresome D. clear

4. verbose A. poetic B. talkative C. full D. bossy

5. eloquent A. wordy B. sincere C. rational D. expressive

6. incoherent A. irrational B. vulgar C. clear D. flashy

Page 78


7. contradict A. formulate B. disagree C. agree D. chatter

8. equivocate A. determine B. argue C. evade D. equal

9. prosaic A. dull B. poetic C. amusing D. pure

10. incite A. fight B. leave C. provoke D. detain

Page 79


1. Why can the U.S.A. hardly be called a “homogenous” nation? 2. What recent developments have affected the role of women in American society?

3. Debate: Women and Minorities a) Affirmative action should be abolished. b) Special penalties should apply to hate crimes. c) Federal law should protect homosexuals from employment discrimination.

4. Comment on the following quotations: • • • • • Governments exist to protect the rights of minorities. The loved and the rich need no protection – they have many friends and few enemies. (Wendell Phillips) Shall we judge a country by the majority, or by the minority? By the minority, surely. (Ralph Waldo Emerson) A minority may be right, and a majority is always wrong. (Henrik Ibsen) We must indeed all hang together, or most assuredly we shall all hang separately. (Benjamin Franklin) It is always the minorities that hold the key of progress; it is always through those who are unafraid to be different that advance comes to human society. (Raymond B. Fosdick) 5. Vocabulary Practice: A. Write the letter of the word set that best completes the sentence. 1. ____ dances will be the featured entertainment at this year’s ____ . A. Cultural – decoration C. Enduring - idolatry

Page 80

AMERICAN CULTURE FOR DEMOCRACY B. Ethnic – fete D. Cultural - ablution

2. This ornate ____ is ____ of the 15th century. A. escutcheon – reminiscent B. memento – enduring C. cavalcade - irreverent D. taboo – reminiscent

3. Your ____ comments should be forgotten, not preserved for ____ . A. ancestral – idolatry B. cultural – reverence C. irreverent - posterity D. enduring – fete

4. Our community has a diverse ____ and ____ heritage. A. irreverent – enduring B. ancestral – irreverent C. irreverent – devout D. cultural- ethnic

5. Each guest received a(n) ____as a ____ of the occasion. A. decoration – memento B. ablution – posterity C. cavalcade - fete D. memento – decoration

6. Profanity is ____ in our ____ household. A. ablution – ethnic B. idolatry – sacrosanct C. taboo- devout D. posterity – cultura

7. ____ of their leader was a(n) ____ throwback to the Dark Ages. A. Cavalcade – devout C. Idolatry - cultural

Page 81

AMERICAN CULTURE FOR DEMOCRACY B. Adage – irreverent D. Posterity - ethnic

8. In many religions ____ symbolizes a ____ way of life. A. memento – cultural B. taboo – sacrosanct C. reverence - reminiscent D. ablution - devout

B. Circle the letter of the word that most nearly has the opposite meaning of the

italicized word. 1. enduring A. permanent 2. reminiscent A. quizzical 3. posterity A. future 4. sacrosanct A. torn 5. reverence A. disrespect 6. taboo A. honesty 7. ancestral A. ancient 8. commemorate A. celebrate B. disregard
Page 82

B. brief

C. lost

D. timeless

B. strange

C. unusual

D. futuristic

B. location

C. ancestors

D. outlook

B. exempt

C. eminent

D. vulgar

B. worship

C. sanity

D. joy

B. allowance

C. strength

D. forest

B. past

C. future

D. recent

C. consider

D. build


9. irreverent A. sacrosanct 10. devout A. immortal B. impious C. dishonest D. inactive B. artistic C. ancient D. cultural

Page 83


1. Compare and contrast the measures taken by the U.S. government and the Romanian government to reduce drug use among the youth. 2. Should drug convictions carry mandatory sentences?

3. Debate: Crime and Drugs a) Gun control laws reduce violent crime. b) Who is to blame for the gun violence in the U.S.A.? c) Juveniles should never be tried as adults. 4. Comment on the following quotations: • • • • • The number of malefactors authorizes not the crime. (Thomas Fuller) All punishment is mischief. All punishment in itself is evil. (Jeremy Bentham) Capital punishment is as fundamentally wrong as a cure for crime as charity is wrong as a cure for poverty. (Henry Ford) The study of crime begins with the knowledge of oneself. (Henry Miller) Prisons don’t rehabilitate, they don’t punish, they don’t protect, so what the hell do they do? (Jerry Brown) 5. Vocabulary Practice: A. Write the letter of the word that best completes the sentence. 1. Mary has been working for years to improve the ____ system in her state. A. compulsory B. penal C. impending D. pecuniary

2. He received a(n) ____ requiring him to appear in court. A. extortion B. restitution C. citation D. malefaction

Page 84


3. Anne felt a sense of ____ doom as the jury returned with its verdict. A. penal B. pecuniary C. impending D. compulsory

4. ____ seized by the customs authorities included drugs and weapons. A. Citation B. Restitution C. Extortion D. Contraband

5. Giving forty hours of community service to children was part of the ____ he made for having vandalized the park. A. restitution B. malefaction C. citation D. contempt

6. The town was scandalized when the death of Mrs. Brown was discovered to be ____ , and Mrs. Brown’s daughter was arrested. A. extortion B. restitution C. matricide D. larceny

7. Clarissa’s attempt to ____ the “crime of the century” failed when her plan was

discovered. A. allege B. perpretate C. filch D. waive

8. The gang used ____ to squeeze payment for protection from the shop owners. A. extortion B. citation C. contempt D. larceny

B. Circle the letter of the word that most nearly has the same meaning as the italicized

word. 1. filch A. find 2. harass A. entertain 3. contempt
Page 85

B. contribute

C. steal

D. release

B. harm

C. disturb

D. compliment

AMERICAN CULTURE FOR DEMOCRACY A. happiness 4. incarcerate A. accuse 5. malefaction A. charity 6. indemnify A. insure 7. waive A. curse 8. compulsory A. inspired 9. larceny A. friendship 10. confiscate A. grant B. take C. surrender D. allow B. poverty C. reward D. stealing B. voluntary C. organized D. forced B. relinquish C. desire D. insist B. destroy C. help D. sue B. crime C. illness D. neutrality B. burn C. imprison D. defend B. admiration C. sorrow D. disdain

Page 86



1. What are human rights? 2. What is the relationship between democracies and human rights?

3. Debate: Democracy and Human Rights a) U.S. foreign policy should focus on protecting human rights. b) The U.S.A.. should support a permanent international court to try human rights violators. c) The U.S.A. should economically punish nations that do not practice religious tolerance.

4. Comment on the following quotations: • • • Democracy is based upon the conviction that there are extraordinary possibilities in ordinary people. (Harry Emerson Fosdick) It has been said that Democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time. (Winston Churchill) People often say that, in a democracy, decisions are made by a majority of the people. Of course, that is not true. Decisions are made by a majority of those who make themselves heard and who vote – a very different thing. (Walter H. Judd) • • My definition of a free society is a society where it is safe to be unpopular. (Adlai Stevenson) As I would not be a slave, so I would not be a master. This expresses my idea of democracy. (Abraham Lincoln)

Page 87


5. Vocabulary Practice:

A. Write the letter of the word that best completes the sentence. 1. Most city governments operate through a(n) ____ . A. parliament B. oppression C. bureaucracy D. legation

2. The military dictator was forced to ____ in order to save his life. A. abdicate B. gerrymander C. curtail D. bestow

3. The official’s ____ caused upheaval in his native country. A. caucus B. defection C. parliament D. caste

4. The nation’s ____ chooses a new President every four years. A. defection B. transition C. caucus D. electorate

5. The ____ bill included the day care provision and other proposals. A. inalienable B. omnibus C. politic D. plenipotentiary

6. Congress has granted this committee ____ rights to carry out the investigation. A. inalienable B. omnibus C. politic D. plenipotentiary

7. The party tried to ____ some districts in order to retain power. A. gerrymander B. abdicate C. extradite D. bestow

Page 88


8. The government is attempting to ____ the flow of drugs into this country. A. abdicate B. bestow C. extradite D. curtail

B. Circle the letter of the word that most nearly has the same meaning as the italicized word. 1. bestow A. withold B. present C. evaluate D. conceal

2. transition A. meeting B. power C. conversion D. preservation

3. caucus A. council B. statement C. intention D. rebellion

4. inalienable A. inherent B. untested C. lost D. powerful

5. manifesto A. disclaimer B. betrayal C. authority D. proclamation

6. subterfuge A. openness B. gain C. ignorance D. camouflage

7. politic A. deceptive B. clumsy C. cunning D. sociable

Page 89


8. oppression A. dignity B. tyranny C. liberation D. compulsion

9. parliament A. legislature B. opinion C. despotism D. party

10. legation A. dignity B. statement C. delegation D. rights

Page 90



Administration – The officials and agencies of the executive branch which carry out the public policies established by the legislative branch of the government. affirmative action - Programmes through which businesses, schools, and other institutions expand opportunities for women and members of minority groups. alien – One who is not a citizen (or national) of the state in which he/she lives; usually, an alien owes allegiance to a foreign power but may gain citizenship by naturalization. amendment – A change in, or addition to, a constitution. appeal – Legal proceeding in which a case is carried from a lower court to a higher court for review. bill – A formal proposal for a new law. Bill of Rights – The first ten amendments to the Constitution. They prevent the national government from tampering with fundamental rights and civil liberties, and emphasize the limited character of national power. broadcast media – Mass media that transmit information electronically. cabinet – A group of presidential advisers composed of the heads of the executive departments and other key officials.

Page 91

AMERICAN CULTURE FOR DEMOCRACY checks and balances – A government structure that gives each branch some scrutiny and control over the other branches. citizen – One who owes allegiance to a state and is entitled to its protection; American citizenship may be acquired by birth (1) in the United States or (2) to American citizenparents abroad, and (3) by naturalization. civil rights – Powers or privileges guaranteed to individuals and protected from arbitrary removal at the hands of government or individuals. civil rights movement – Political mobilization of the people to promote racial equality. civil service – The system by which most appointments to the federal bureaucracy are made, to ensure that government jobs are filled on the basis of merit and that employees are not fired for political reasons. Cold War – In the 1950s, a period of increased tension that stopped short of outright military conflict, during which the adversarial nature of U.S. – Soviet relations was clear. Americans were called upon to give priority to defense spending over domestic spending. confederation – A loose association of independent states that agree to cooperate on specified terms. conservatives – Generally, those people whose political ideology favours a narrow scope for government. Also, those who value freedom more than equality but would restrict freedom to preserve social order. counties – The major units of local government in most States; existing as agencies of the State and empowered in law enforcement, welfare agencies, and maintenance of highways, schools, and courts. criminal case – A court case involving a crime, or violation of public order.

Page 92

AMERICAN CULTURE FOR DEMOCRACY democracy – A system of government in which, in theory, the people rule, either directly or indrectly. department – he largest unit of the executive branch, covering a broad area of government responsibility. The heads of the departments, or secretaries, form the president’s cabinet. discrimination – Acts of irrational suspicion or hatred, directed towards a specific group of people. equality of opportunity – The idea that each person is guaranteed the same chance to succeed in life. executive branch – The law-enforcing branch of a government. federalism – The division of power among a central government and regional governments. food stamp program – A federally funded program that increases the purchasing power of needy families by providing them with coupons that they can use to purchase food. free enterprise – An economic system based on private ownership, individual initiative, profit, and competition. general election – A national election held, by law, in November of every even-numbered year. government – The legitimate use of force to control human behavior within territorial boundaries; also, the organization authorized to exercise that force. impeachment – The formal charging of a government official with treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors. judicial branch – The branch of government that interprets law.

Page 93

AMERICAN CULTURE FOR DEMOCRACY justices of the peace – Elected officials who preside over minor civil cases and misdemeanors; jurisdiction is generally very limited. legislative branch – The law-making branch of government. libel – Written defamation of character. liberals – Generally, those people whose political ideology favours a broad scope for government, those who value freedom more than order but not more than equality. literacy – Test of a potential voter’s ability to read and write; once used in several States to prevent voting by blacks and other minorities but now outlawed. lobby – An organized group of individuals that seeks to influence public policy. Also called an interest group. lobbyist – A representative of a lobby. mandate – Support for and/or commands relating to policy stands that a constituency gives to its elected officials. market economy – An economy in which the prices of goods and services are determined through the interaction of buyers and sellers, that is, through supply and demand. mass media – The means employed in mass communication, often divided into print media and broadcast media. Medicare – A health-insurance programme for all persons over the age of sixty-five. minority rights – The benefits of government that cannot be denied to any citizens by majority decisions. misdemeanor – Crime less serious than a felony (e.g. a traffic violation), punishable by a small fine and/or short jail term.
Page 94


New Deal – The measures advocated by the Roosevelt administration to alleviate the Depression. political party – An organization that sponsors candidates for political office under the organization’s name. political system – A set of interrelated institutions that link people with government. poll tax – A tax of $1 or $2 on every citizen who wished to vote. Although it was no burden on white citizens, it effectively disenfrachised blacks. poverty level – The minimum cash income that will provide for a family’s basic needs, calculated as three times the cost of a market basket of food that provides a minimally nutritious diet. precedent – A judicial ruling that serves as the basis for the ruling in a subsequent case. presidential government – Form of government characterized by a separation of powers between independent and coequal executive and legislative branches, as in the United States. President of the Senate – The Vice President of The United States. print media – Mass media that transmits information through the publication of the written word. public assistance – Government aid to individuals who can demonstrate a need for that aid. racism – A belief that human races have distinct characteristics such that one’s race is superior to, and has a right to rule, others. ratification – Formal approval, final consent to the effectiveness of a constitution, constitutional amendment, or treaty.

Page 95

AMERICAN CULTURE FOR DEMOCRACY representative government - System of government in which public policies are made by officials who are selected by the voters and held accountable to them in periodic elections. republic – A government without a monarch; a government rooted in the consent of the governed, whose power is exercised by elected representatives responsible to the governed. republicanism – A form of government in which power resides in the people and is exercised by their elected representatives. reverse discrimination – A description of affirmative action by critics of that policy, that giving preference to females and/or non-whites is unfair to members of the majority group. rights – The benefits of government to which every citizen is entitled. school district – An area for which a local government unit administers elementary and secondary school programmes. separation of powers – The assignment of law-making, law-enforcing, and law-interpreting functions to separate branches of government. sexism – Sex discrimination. social equality – Equality in wealth, education, and status. social insurance – A government-backed guarantee against loss by individuals without regard to need. social security – Social insurance that provides economic assistance to persons faced with unemploymant, disability, or old age. It is financed by taxes on employers and employees. social welfare – Government programmes that provide the necessary minimum living standards for all citizens. suffrage – The right to vote.
Page 96


two-party system – A political system in which two major political parties compete for control of the government. Candidates from a third party have little chance of winning office. veto – The president’s disapproval of a bill that has been passed by both houses of Congress. welfare state – A nation in which the government assumes responsibility for the welfare of its citizens, redistributing income to reduce social inequality.

Page 97



Bowman, Ann O'M. & Richard C. Kearney, STATE & LOCAL GOVERNMENT, Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, 1990. Fitzhenry, Robert. I. (ed.), BOOK OF QUOTATIONS, Chambers, Edinburgh, 1986. Janda, Kenneth & Jeffrey M. Berry & Jerry Goldman, THE CHALLENGE OF DEMOCRACY, Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, 1989. May, Ernest R., A PROUD NATION, McDougal, Littell, Evanston, 1985. McClenaghan, A. William, MAGRUDER'S AMERICAN GOVERNMENT, Allyn and Bacon, Inc., Newton, 1987. McDougall, Stevenson, Littell, D.K., VOCABULARY AMERICAN DEVELOPMENT, McDougall, Ernst Littell, Klett

• • • • •

Evanston, 1989.


Verlag, Stuttgart, 1987.

Tarasovici, Amy E. & Tim Walker, CURRENT ISSUES, Close Up Foundation, Alexandria, 1999.

Page 98

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful