Wednesday, October 05, 2005

American Culture?

Since I've been here, I've often asked myself to compare the Russian culture with that of the American, and in all honesty I don't think I can. The reason for this is because over here, every where you look you see their culture. From the way that they walk down the street to the way that everything has a certain type of celebration. Take for example yesterday, it was the University's 90th anniversary. They had a celebration (there word, not mine) in honor of this occasion and you could see it all over the place. When I was in the department's office working on editing their web page, I was asked if I wanted Champaign to celebrate. What??? It was so weird to be asked to partake of Champaign inside the University. In America, even for a celebration, this would not happen, especially during office hours. Then I was invited, by the University, to attend the celebration ceremony, which was a lot like an awards ceremony. Normally, I wouldn't have bothered to go, but being invited, which was somewhat an honor, I decided that I should go. The easiest way for me to explain the feel of the ceremony would be to take the "black tie" seriousness (this is not the exact saying I was looking for, but I cannot think of the wording I want and its impossible for me to get the point across to ask someone here) of the Oscars and mix it with campiness of the Miss USA pageant. At one minute, the crowd was very somber and sat quietly listening to speeches, of which I had no idea what was being said (yes, 3 1/2 hours of this), and the next minute the crowd was cheering as performers danced and sang on stage. Like I said mix the Oscars with a beauty pageant and this is what it felt like to me. Anyway, back to my point...The different dancing and singing was very traditional for the Russian people, and while watching all this I asked myself about what I would consider America's response to these dances and songs. For the longest time, I thought about individual cultures within American society, such as Hispanic, Italian, African American, ect., and their own types of cultural aspects, but to define an "American culture" was difficult. I'm not sure if America has its own culture, or if it is simply a culture mixed of many different cultures. I don't know if this is making sense or if I'm just going around in circles, but I'm just trying to show that in Russia the culture (meaning the whole society believing and acting the same way) is set in stone, but in America we have so many different cultures mixed as one that it is hard to find what is "American culture" and what is just one ethnicities, in the many that make up America, culture. I guess the main idea I'm trying to get across is that it is something else to be in a society that holds its culture at its core, while being from a country and a society that is still trying to figure out what it is. I don't think that any University in America would have made such a big deal out of its anniversary. Yes, we would've had some sort of mention and maybe a "party," but I don't think it would've been to the extent that this one was. The Russian people know and understand what it is to be Russian, and I don't think Americans do. Our culture is like our country; that is our country was founded by taking different aspects from many different sources and forming one society, and our culture is trying to do the same thing but it is impossible when so many different cultures within our society are trying to hold onto their own cultures. This probably doesn't make any sense here, but maybe one day I'll go back and revise this...Maybe I'll even be able to say what I really want too.

I guess the next think I'd like to write about is the difference between the education systems in Russia and America. I'm not going to go into great detail with this one, but let me just say that I'm very thankful now for the education I have. Its not that it was any better than the one the students here are receiving, but it was an easier experience. Okay, so you're probably wondering what I mean. Here is my idea behind this: What I have noticed so far, and don't hold me to things because I haven't started my own classes yet, is that teachers here are very under paid. I know American teachers have it hard too, but I never want to hear one complain about how much they get paid. Teachers here are severely underpaid -I'm talking for a months amount of work they get 50 dollars. Granted the price of things over here are cheaper, but still a coat can cost 50 dollars here, so that would equal one months salary. At least in America, teachers don't have to spend one months salary on something like a coat. Another thing that teachers in America should be thankful for is the opportunity to get materials for a class without having to pay for it. Yes, some teachers have to take money out of their pockets to purchase things for class, but copies of materials that are needed is not normally among this out of pocket expense. Over here to make copies of say a homework assignment teachers must pay for them; they don't even have a certain of number they can use before they have to pay, they just have to pay. I cannot image not being able to give my students copies of something I think they need. These few aspects of the education system over here just really make me think about how much American's take for granted (even myself). Yet, even in all these difficulties the teachers I have met love what they are doing. The fact that they are preparing students for their futures is enough for them, so to every teacher out there, especially those who have it really difficult (like the Russians), I say thank you for everything you do to educate the world...

Hopefully, I want have to many rants like this from now on, but lets face it...I like to rant.


At 8:05 PM, Blogger Lydia said...

I thought your rant was really thought provoking:) I was just wondering, what kind of stuff do they serve in the Cantina?

At 6:57 AM, Blogger Lynette said...

Thanks for the perspective on teachers and teaching. We forget that in the U.S. we take much for granted. I'm glad you reminded me of what I have to be thankful for.

Be well.

At 7:10 PM, Blogger Chas S. Clifton said...

When it comes to the problem of defining American culture, don't be surprised if you have the misfortune to meet some Russian nationalists who tell you that Americans have NO culture, that we're rootlesss mongrels, that the International Jewish Conspiracy tells us what to do, and that kind of thing. Have your response ready.


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