I have been thinking a lot about our American Government and the values it upholds. This is probably timely, as July 4th is just aroung the corner. We, Americans, "hold these truth to be evident, that all men are created equal with certain unalienable rights".This implies that each person's understanding and values are to be commended, as a "right". But, what determines their "understanding"? Education and culture.
Culture is a frame of reference, which determines the most important values of a person. In our free society, the individual is "free" to determine his own life. It is called "self-government". Our Constitution limits our government from overt determination or covert suppression, in a number of areas; privacy, religion, freedom of expression (speech, press, assembly). Individuality marks the American experiment.
But, Americans determine their own values in various ways. Some Americans adhere to an exclusive religious claim and gain and maintain their identity through the group's approved norms. Others Americans gain their values from their specified "cultural location". These values all influence the individual's own values and determine how he views the world and life, in general.
Education in our American society has been public, private, and religiously based. Each has its own constituencies. And each has its emphasis. While private and religiously based education has been privately funded, public education has not. We believe in the right of everyone to have an education. There is no "elite class" or "tracking system" as in European countries. A lack of "tracking or limiting" education to those who are "fit" for it has its downsides, as well as its opportunities. But, Americans believe in equality of each individual to choose his place of education.
Education has been valued for its ability to prepare others for a vocation/job, as Americans are pragmatists. Pragmatism has had its impact on American opportunity, irregardless of 'fit". In Europe, education is deemed to be a service to society. Those who have higher IQ's are deemed "fit" to fulfill a certain role or function in society. These are the ones who are tracked to attend the "gymnasium" high school and later to attend the publically funded universities.
Professors are considered highly in European society, whereas, educators are not valued, on the whole in American society. Americans like their entertainment, after working their jobs to earn their living. They don't seem to care to think about "values" or if "values" are important to address as to change. Americans are open, generous, and self-focused, for the most part, because they are naive'.
Perhaps, because America is so large and many do not travel extensively and even when we do, we don't go out of our country to understand the 'wider world". Cultural differences don't exist because we are a diverse country and "anything goes", while Europeans can be in another country and hear another language and experience another culture in a matter of a few hours drive. Most Europeans are exposed to differences, in a different way, than Americans are.
So, when Americans talk of values, then we are a people who define ourselves, by the multiplicity of opportunities, and "cultures" we can be a part of. American identity is as diverse as the American population. And the individual's values are developed within a diverse, open and free society that should value critical thinking more than it does.