Free Resources for Students and Teachers of English as a Foreign Language in China - by Paul Sparks

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Paul Sparks - Online English Lesson Plans, Lesson Material and Ideas for "Culture of English Speaking Countries Lessons" for Xiangtan Normal University...





  • Introduction - The United States of America, The Beginnings, The States, People

  • The Political System - Presidents, Government Structure etc.

  • American Economy - Currency, Economic History, Policies etc.

  • Trade - International Trade and Foreign Policy

  • Religion - Catholic, Protestants, Religious Diversity, Cults, Sects etc.

  • American Education - High School, College, University etc.

  • American Literature - Writers, Novels, Poets etc.

  • Holidays and Festivals - Independence Day, Thanksgiving etc.

  • Social Movements of the 1960's - Civil Rights, Anti-War, Women's Rights etc.

  • American Social Problems - Racial Problems, Drugs etc.

  • Food and Drink - American Meals

  • American Sport - Baseball, Baseball, American Football etc.

  • Transport - How to Travel in America, Airplanes, Trains, Roads

  • American Music - Jazz, Country, Rock etc.

  • American Movies - History of the Movies, Hollywood etc.

  • American Media - Television, Radio, Newspapers etc.

  • American Business - Business Organisations, Stocks, Farming etc.

  • American Retailing - Shopping in the USA

  • Scenic America - Landscape and Buildings

  • American Society - Housing, Weddings, Family Life

Geography Number of states: 50, Population (Based on Census 2000 data):

Total Resident Population 281,421,906
Males: 138,053,563 (49.1% of pop.)
Females: 143,368,343 (50.9% of pop.)
White: 211,460,626 (75.1% of pop.)
Black: 34,658,190 (12.3% of pop.) 
Asian: 10,242,998 (3.6% of pop.)
American Indian and Alaska Native: 2,475,956 (0.9% of pop.)
Hispanic/Latino2: 35,305,818 (12.5% of pop.)
Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander: 398,835 (0.1% of pop.)

The American Flag: The first official national flag, also known as the Stars and Stripes, or Old Glory, was approved by the Continental Congress on June 14, 1777. The blue canton contained 13 stars, representing the original 13 colonies, but the layout varied.

After Vermont and Kentucky were admitted to the Union in 1791 and 1792, respectively, two more stars and two more stripes were added in 1795. This 15-star, 15-stripe flag was the “star-spangled banner” that inspired lawyer Francis Scott Key to write the poem that later became the U.S. national anthem.

In 1818, after five more states had gained admittance, Congress passed legislation fixing the number of stripes at 13 and requiring that the number of stars equal the number of states. The last new star, bringing the total to 50, was added on July 4, 1960, after Hawaii became a state.

THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE UNITED STATES: When Christopher Columbus travelled to America in 1492 there was a population of about 10-20 million, mainly from Asia, Europe and Africa, these people were given the name American Indians. 

In 1497 an Italian sailor, John Cabot, who was at the service of the English King, sailed to the are now called Canada, the English King then claimed the North Americas, were British settlements were established in the 17th century. There were 13 English colonies in what is now North America.

In 1775 the American War of Independence began which divided up the colonies into independent states. The War of Independence ended in 1781 when Britain recognised the independence of the United States and the Peace Treaty of Paris was signed in 1783.

"CONSTITUTION OF THE UNITED STATES": The peace treaty of 1783 recognised the independence of the United States and established the individual states. Once the states were established it was unclear about the relationship between each of the states, therefore a constitution was needed.

After the War of Independence the United States was not one nation, each state had its own government, with its own laws and policies. A plan was then drawn up called the "Constitution of the United States." This proposed an elected leader or president, it also proposed a central system for making laws and court systems. The constitution did not have any reference to the freedoms or basic rights of citizens, therefore in 1791 a "Bill of Rights" was added to the constitution. The government which was formed was divided up into three parts. The Executive, Legislative and Judical. 

LEGISLATIVE BRANCH: The Legislative branch is made up of elected representatives from each of the states. It makes federal laws and taxes and is the only branch of government which can declare war or put foreign treaties into effect. It consists of a "Congress" which is made up of two houses:

The House of Representatives: This is made up of lawmakers who serve for 2 years. Each member represents their home district from their state. The number of districts in a state depends on the population.

The Senate: This is made up of lawmakers who serve for 6 years. Each state has two senators. Every 2 years one third of the Senate are re-elected, therefore there are always experienced senators working in government.

The main duty of Congress is to make laws. A law begins with a proposal, called a "Bill", it is then studied in committees, then amended in the Senate or House chamber in which it was introduced. It is then voted upon, if it passes it is then sent to another house where the same process takes place. When both houses of Congress pass the Bill it is sent to the president for signature, once signed it becomes law.

EXECUTIVE BRANCH: The chief executive of the United States is the president. Every four years there is an election for the president and vice president. Under an amendment to the Constitution in 1951, a president can only be elected for two terms. The job of president allows the formulation of public policy, allows a vito of bills, can appoint judges, has powers to issue regulations and directives regarding the work of the federal governments departments and the president is also the commander of the armed forces.

JUDICIAL BRANCH: The head of the Judicial branch is the Supreme Court, which is the only court created by the Constitution. Congress has established 11 federal courts of appeal and 91 district federal courts. Federal judges are appointed for life or voluntary retirement, and can only be removed from the office through the process of impeachment and trial in the Congress.

THE BILL OF RIGHTS (1791): This is made up of 10 short paragraphs which guarantee freedom and individual rights to all Americans. In the Bill of Rights, Americans have the right to freedom of religion, freedom of speech and freedom of the press (media). They have the right to assemble in public places, to protest government actions and demand changes. They have the right to own weapons. The Bill of Rights also guarantees a quick trial for any crimes.

POLITICAL PARTIES: The United States have two main political parties, the Democratic party and the Republican party. The Democratic party was established before 1800 and now uses the donkey as its symbol. The Republican party was formed in 1850 and uses the symbol of an elephant.

THE ECONOMY: Monetary policy is the responsibility of the Federal Reserve System, an independent U.S. government agency. "The Fed," as it is commonly known, includes 12 regional Federal Reserve Banks and 25 Federal Reserve Bank branches.

Money takes many different forms, in its most basic form, money consists of coins and paper currency. Coins come in various denominations based on the value of a dollar: the penny, which is worth one cent or one-hundredth of a dollar; the nickel, five cents; the dime, 10 cents; the quarter, 25 cents; the half dollar, 50 cents; and the dollar coin. Paper money comes in denominations of $1, $2, $5, $10, $20, $50, and $100.

Government also provides welfare and unemployment benefits to people who cannot support themselves, either because they encounter problems in their personal lives or lose their jobs as a result of economic upheaval; it pays much of the cost of medical care for the aged and those who live in poverty; it regulates private industry to limit air and water pollution; it provides low-cost loans to people who suffer losses as a result of natural disasters.

Government's Role in the Economy: Stabilization and Growth. The federal government guides the overall pace of economic activity, attempting to maintain steady growth, high levels of employment, and price stability. By adjusting spending and tax rates (fiscal policy) or managing the money supply and controlling the use of credit (monetary policy), it can slow down or speed up the economy's rate of growth

Regulation and Control. Regulation falls into two general categories. Economic regulation seeks, either directly or indirectly, to control prices. Traditionally, the government has sought to prevent monopolies such as electric utilities from raising prices beyond the level that would ensure them reasonable profits. Another form of economic regulation, antitrust law, seeks to strengthen market forces so that direct regulation is unnecessary. The government -- and, sometimes, private parties -- have used antitrust law to prohibit practices or mergers that would unduly limit competition.

Direct Services. Each level of government provides many direct services. The federal government, for example, is responsible for national defense, backs research that often leads to the development of new products, conducts space exploration, and runs numerous programs designed to help workers develop workplace skills and find jobs. State governments, meanwhile, are responsible for the construction and maintenance of most highways. State, county, or city governments play the leading role in financing and operating public schools. Local governments are primarily responsible for police and fire protection.

RELIGION IN AMERICA: The United States is a country of many religions. The first words of the Bill of Rights to the U.S. Constitution say: "Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." Therefore, state does not establish, or endorse, or favor a particular form of religion and citizens are free to practice the religion they choose.

America supports over 2000 different religious denominations, and in which more than 60 percent of the citizens can be found at least once a month in one of the almost 500,000 churches, temples and mosques.

EDUCATION: Duration of school lasts 12 years, until around age 18 (depending on the age at entry). Each of the school years is called a grade, so that 12th grade corresponds to the 12th year, etc.

Infant school, pre-school, and the first or second year of formal schooling are collectively termed Early Childhood Education in the United States. Formal primary education is called Elementary Education and ranges from first grade through grade 4, 5, or 6, depending on state and district regulations. The upper level of primary education is often organized separately into a unit called Middle School, which begins at grade 4, 5, or 6 and ends at grade 6, 7, or 8. Likewise, the lower grades of secondary education (years 7, 8, or 9 depending on state and district regulations) are sometimes organized separately into what is called Junior High School. Regular (including upper) secondary education is called High School, beginning in grade 8, 9, or 10 and ending at grade 12, again depending on state and district regulations.

Compulsory schooling ends by law at age 16 in 30 states, at age 17 in 9 states, and at age 18 in 11 states plus the District of Columbia. Students may drop out of school if they have reached the age set in their state's law for the end of compulsory schooling, but dropouts are not considered to have completed school and no certificate or award is issued at this stage. The U.S. dropout rate is just over 11 percent of secondary-level students age 16 and older.

Two basic school leaving certificates are awarded for completing school, the High School Diploma, awarded to graduates of secondary school, and the GED (General Educational Development) Certificate, awarded to adults who left school but then complete a special supervised study and examination program. High School Diplomas represent a variety of different curricula and standards.

No national education system or national curriculum exists in the United States. The federal government does not operate schools.

AMERICAN HOLIDAYS: On legal holidays, businesses, schools and government offices close. The only legal religious holiday is Christmas. Other religious holidays in America are Easter, a Christian holiday and Yom Kippur and Hanukah which are both Jewish holidays.

There are also many holidays that have nothing to do with religion. Some holidays like Memorial Day and Veterans Day are observed out of respect for those who died in battle during various wars.

In the United States, for the year 2002 there are 10 federal holidays set by law. Four are set by date (New Year's Day, Independence Day, Veterans Day, and Christmas Day). The other six are set by a day of the week and month: Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Birthday, Washington's Birthday, Memorial Day, Labor Day, Columbus Day, and Thanksgiving. All but the last are celebrated on Mondays to create three-day weekends for federal employees.

Note: As well as national holidays each state may also have their own holidays.

Background to the Social Movements of the 1960's: At the beginning of the 1960's black and white people were treated differently. There were laws to say that they had to use different shops, services, transport, schools etc. These laws were known as Segregation laws. Women were also treated in a very different way to men.

On 1st February 1960, 4 freshmen from a black college in Greensboro, North Carolina, went to a store and sat down for lunch. The waitress said she could not serve "people like them" (See the picture). The students believed that the law which kept black and white people separate when eating was wrong, so they would not move. The police came, but the students continued to sit down, more people came to join and the next day there were many people there. Each day more black students joined and started a quiet "sit-in". This began the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960's.

During the first twelve months of the 1960's over 50,000 people took part in demonstrations in America, over 3,600 were jailed. But by the end of the 1960's food places were open to people of all colours or nationalities.

In the summer of 1963 hundreds of thousands of peaceful demonstrators went to Washington DC, where Martin Luther King gave a famous speech "I have a dream...". He was given the Nobel Peace Prize in December 1964.

Racial Problems: Americans are a nation of immigrants. Their ancestors are from many different parts of the world. Some came in search of a better life, whilst others were sent to America as slaves. Because there are so many different cultures and religions in America the result is sometimes conflict. There have been many periods of violence due to racial discrimination. The main violence is against the black American population.

Although legal segregation was ended in the 1960's there still exists a segregation in many areas through choice, housing is especially segregated. Many black people live in black only neighbourhoods, and do not mix with white Americans. Black neighbourhoods are sometimes referred to as "Ghettos".

Poverty: America is generally known as a rich country, however about 1 in every 10 Americans lives below the national poverty line. This means that they live on incomes that the government considers too low to buy food, clothes, shelter etc. Many different groups of society live in poverty, sometimes young people, sometimes old people. Poverty leads to crime such as stealing and also leads to the spread of disease. the distribution of money in America is not equal - some people have great wealth, whilst others struggle to live.

Crime: The main social problem in America is Crime. Violent crime rises every year, with most people afraid to leave their homes in the dark, especially in big cities. Many Americans own, and carry, guns for their own protection (this is legal in America). The majority of crime is by young men, with many more black men being arrested than white.

Drugs: The problem of drug abuse grows every year. There is a strong link between drugs and crime. Alcohol and drugs are responsible for many deaths on American roads, with drivers who are drunk or taking drugs. The drug problem began in the 1960's with "social drugs", but more recently has grown into the use of strong drugs. The strong drug users also spread disease through dirty needles, especially HIV / AIDS - a big problem in America. the drug problem costs the government a lot of money - because of crime, court cases, hospital treatment etc.

MEALTIMES: Many meals in America are arranged around popular television shows, people like to eat in front of the TV, not always sitting at a table, they sit in a chair or on a sofa. Cooking in the USA is not just hamburgers, pizza and fast food. However the American fast food restaurant chains have been very successful at introducing American style fast food around the world, now people from many lands believe it is what we everyone eats all of the time in the USA.

Most traditional American foods were introduced by the early European immigrants but modified to take advantage of the locally available ingredients. Fried chicken, meatloaf, baked potato, corn, baked beans and apple pie would be considered traditional American dishes. Regional Cooking varies from state to state and is highly influenced by the types of ingredients locally available, as well as the cultural background of the people that settled in the area. New England cooking, native to the northeastern states; was heavily influenced by the cuisine of the original English settlers. Southern cooking has definite African influences. Cajun cooking, from the New Orleans area, is a spicy mixture of Spanish, French and African styles. California cooking is known for the use of fresh fruits and vegetables in interesting combinations with Asian, Mexican and Spanish flavorings.

BREAKFAST: A typical American breakfast menu includes scrambled or fried eggs or an egg omelet, juice, bacon or sausage, toast, biscuits, or bagels. An alternative American breakfast could be cereal with milk, juice, and toast or pancakes or waffles with syrup and butter, juice, and white milk. Drinks include orange juice, milk, tea or coffee.

LUNCH: The lunch menu normally involves sandwiches (peanut butter and/or jelly, cheese, bologna, turkey, ham), rolls, hamburgers, hot dogs, pizza, tacos, chicken, salad, fruit (orange, banana, apple, tangerine), milk, soft drink, tea or coffee.

The normal practice in America is to eat the salad before the main course. A wonderful American invention is the salad bar. In restaurants that have these salad bars the waiter does not bring your salad. You go to the salad bar and help yourself, usually to as much as you want. This is normally done after you have ordered your meal; you eat the salad while the main course is being cooked.

DINNER: Dinner is normally the largest meal of the day. It normally involves food such as pizza, meat (steak, chicken, fish, pork, turkey) with potatoes and a vegetable (corn, green beans, beans, carrots, spinach, peas, greens, asparagus, cauliflower, broccoli), spaghetti with either tomato or meat sauce, lasagna, tacos, and dessert (cake, cookies, pies, ice cream, and candy). Dessert is served after the main meal - Triple Chocolate Cake, All-American Apple Pie, Rum Carrot Cake, Sudden Death Brownie, Chocolate Chip Cookie Sundae, Berries and Sorbet. turkey (pictured) is a traditional food for Thanksgiving meals.

SNACKS: "Brunch" is a meal taken sometime in the late morning or mid-afternoon. Fast Food is readily available almost everywhere in the USA and is very inexpensive. Sandwiches are the most common and they come in many varieties such as: Hamburgers, roast beef and chicken. Pizza is sold everywhere. In addition, there are fast food restaurants serving fried chicken, Mexican Tacos, Greek Gyros, Chinese dishes, Japanese sushi, Bar-B-Que and many regional specialties. Many fast food restaurants offer free refills on all drinks, and some offer "Giant sized" portions for a small additional charge. You can get a fast food breakfast for about $3 and lunch for less than $5. 

Convenience Stores are open from early morning to late night, sometimes even open "24 hours a day". They usually sell groceries, snacks, pastries, cold drinks, coffee, hot dogs, and sandwiches made to your order. They are very inexpensive. You can usually get a light breakfast or lunch for just a few dollars. 

Supermarkets sell many things besides groceries. They sell hot soups by the cup or the pint. Spoons and napkins are free. Make your own salad from a choice of several dozen items and pay by the weight when you check out at the cashier. You can find some real bargain meals "ready to eat" in a large supermarket. In many cities, supermarkets are open "24 hours a day". 

EXTRA FOOD INFORMATION: Smoking is now banned in all elevators, public buildings, hospitals, busses, trains and airplanes in the US. Restaurants have "smoking" and "non-smoking" tables. Many families do not smoke and prefer that guests do not smoke in their home. Before you light a cigarette, always ask your host or companion if smoking would bother them. 

The minimum drinking age for alcohol is 21 in nearly every state. Laws prohibit anyone under 21 years old from buying, owning or drinking any alcoholic beverage. Bars and nightclubs will not permit anyone younger to enter even if parents accompany them. Restaurants that serve alcohol will allow children to enter and eat but will not serve them any alcoholic beverage.

SPORT IN AMERICA: Sport plays a big part in American life. Although many people do not take part in sport, they do watch sport either on television or at a sports stadium. College students are normally required to take part in sports events as part of their education. A report in 1996 showed that over 60% of American adults do no regular sport, exercise or fitness.

AMERICAN TRANSPORT: Air Travel is the most practical and common method of covering the large distances between areas in the USA. It is the fastest, the most convenient and frequently the most economical means of transportation. Trains are not as popular in the USA as they are in many other countries. They are an acceptable choice only for short or medium distance travel in certain areas. In many major cities, commuter trains provide good passenger service from suburban communities to the downtown metropolitan centers. In many parts of the US, train service may be infrequent or even non-existent. 

Busses are an economical option. Bus transportation is a great option for urban or suburban transit, but bus service can be very limited in rural areas. The Greyhound Bus line offers inter-city and transcontinental bus service. It can be an inexpensive alternative to other forms of travel if you are willing to put up with the discomfort of long rides with minimum comforts. 

Cars are almost a necessity. In many parts of the USA where public transportation is inadequate or non-existent, a car is a practical necessity. In most large cities, the major shopping centers and sports or entertainment facilities are usually located in the suburban communities far from the metropolitan center. Without a vehicle, sightseeing, shopping and touring can be very inconvenient. 

Each of the 50 states has its own set of traffic laws and regulations. Fortunately, most of the laws are the same, but some states have slightly different rules.

The minimum age for driving is 16 in most states but some states will not allow unrestricted driving until 18. Some car rental agencies refuse to rent a car to any person under 25 years of age. Some rental agencies in the US will not rent to drivers over 71 years of age.

The History of American Music: American popular music includes many different forms, such as: Blues, Jazz, Country, Rock, R&B, RAP, and Hip-Hop. When British pop music of the 1960's hit America, almost everyone listened to music from "The Beatles", "Rolling Stones", "Tom Jones" and many other British groups and individual performers.

Rock and Roll grew from Black Rhythm and Blues with Country and Western. Rock and Roll started out being labeled as rebellious, primitive, black music. Some white artists like "Buddy Holly" introduced Rock and Roll to the youth in the early 1950's, and their influence along with others began the first true multi-racial and multi-cultural movement in America. It was legendary Elvis Presley bursting on the scene in the middle 1950's that signaled that Rock and Roll had began to become accepted as legitimate. 

Rhythm and Blues (now called R & B) can trace its roots from Jazz and old black Gospel music. The narrative form (speech) and rich beat of R & B has led to modern RAP and Hip-Hop. It is this music which form the basis of the rhythms of modern American Popular Music. From New Orleans Jazz, to the Motown Sound, to Urban Hip-Hop and Rap, black music forms the core of contemporary music in America. There is hardly a Rocker anywhere who can't trace their music's roots to the sound of black America. 

The media explosion of the 1950's and 1960's was fueled by Rock and Roll on Radio, Television, and the movies. The beat of Rock and Roll became the dominant force of American music, and the lines between the forms began to blend. Music forms are no longer segregated by race today as the forms have merged across the lines of culture in America. Today the effect of this mixing of music and culture can be seen everywhere in the culture. Whitney Houston soulfully sings a song written by Dolly Parton, Lionel Richey writes Country songs for Kenny Rogers. Ray Charles has had some of his greatest hits from Country and Western standards like "Your Cheatin' Heart". Marshall Mathers, better known as Eminem, is a white Rap artist who crosses all lines.

The late 1990's and the beginning of the new millennium have been dominated by the "teen-queens" like Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, and Mandy Moore, as well as the "boy bands" such as NSYNC, Backstreet Boys, and O-Town. While many of the old favorites like Aerosmith are still popular, the sugar pop crowd rules. 

Country music is undoubtedly one of the most popular genres of music alive today. It was born in the backwoods and hills of the rural South. Country music has played an integral part in American society, especially in the South. Most major cities have at least three country music stations. You can hardly walk a step in Nashville without seeing something of significance to country music.

THE AMERICAN MOVIE INDUSTRY: Ronald Reagan, was a famous actor in the 1950's before becoming president in the 1980's.

By the early 1920s, Hollywood had become the world's film capital. It produced virtually all films show in the United States and received 80 percent of the revenue from films shown abroad. During the '20s, Hollywood attracted many of Europe's most talented actors and actresses. By the end of the decade, Hollywood claimed to be the nation's fifth largest industry, attracting 83 cents out of every dollar Americans spent on amusement.

During the 1920s, movie attendance was very high. By the middle of the decade, 50 million people a week went to the movies - the equivalent of half the nation's population.

The film industry changed radically after World War II, and this change altered the style and content of the films made in Hollywood. After experiencing boom years from 1939 to 1946, the film industry began a long period of decline. Within just seven years, attendance and box receipts fell to half their 1946 levels. Families with babies tended to listen to the radio rather than go to the movies; college students placed studying before seeing the latest film; and newlyweds purchasing homes, automobiles, appliances, and other commodities had less money to spend on movies.

As the 1960s began, the movie industry grew quickly. 

By the early 1960s, an estimated 80 percent of the film-going population was between the ages of 16 and 25. 

Many of the major studios were acquired by large media and entertainment corporations, like Sony, which purchased Columbia Pictures, Time Warner, and Rupert Murdoch, whose holdings include HarperCollins publishers, the Fox television network, and Twentieth Century Fox. At the same time that these large entertainment conglomerates arose, many smaller independent producers like Lorimar and De Laurentiis, disappeared. 

Hollywood Today has increased the amount of family entertainment it offers, including feature-length cartoons like Aladdin and Beauty and the Beast; family comedies, like Honey I Shrunk the Kids; and positive portrayals of the teaching profession, like Dead Poet's Society and Stand and Deliver.

AMERICAN TELEVISION: From the 1950's to 1980's three privately owned television networks offered free programs financed by commercials, they were NBC, CBS, and ABC - controlling  90% of the TV market. Since the 1980's there has been an increase in pay cable TV transmitted by satellite. By 1994, almost 60 percent of American households had subscribed to cable TV. Among the new cable channels were several that show movies 24 hours a day, channels such as MTV, which shows music videos, and many news and entertainment channels. A fourth major commercial network, FOX, has expanded quickly, broadcasting local and national shows.

There are over 300 public television stations across the United States, each of which is independent and serves its community's interests. But the stations are united by such national entities as the Public Broadcasting Service, PBS, which supplies programming. American taxpayers provide partial funding for public television.

Television shows are divided up into different times of day: Daytime, Primetime and Weekends.

There are many American Soap Operas - Many American soaps feature very attractive cast members, unlike British soaps which feature characters which are more true to life.

RADIO: The beginning of commercial radio broadcasts in 1920 brought a new source of information and entertainment directly into American homes.

The expansion of FM radio, which has better sound quality but a more limited signal range than AM, led to a split in radio programming in the 1970s and 1980s. FM came to dominate the music side of programming, while AM has shifted mainly to all-news and talk formats.

Developed over the past 25 years, talk radio features a host, a celebrity or an expert on some subject, and the opportunity for listeners to call in and ask questions or express opinions on the air. The call-in format is now heard on nearly 1,000 of the 10,000 commercial radio stations in the United States.

Besides the 10,000 commercial radio stations, the United States has more than 1,400 public radio stations. Most of these are run by universities and other public institutions for educational purposes and are financed by public funds and private donations. In 1991, more than 12 million Americans listened each week to the 430 public radio stations affiliated with National Public Radio, a nationwide, nonprofit organization headquartered in Washington, D.C. 

NEWSPAPERS (THE PRESS): Early in the 20th century, newspaper editors realized that the best way to attract readers was to give them all sides of a story, without bias. This standard of objective reporting is today one of American journalism's most important traditions. Another dominant feature of early 20th-century journalism was the creation of chains of newspapers operating under the same ownership, today about 75 percent of all U.S. daily papers are owned by newspaper chains.

The number of Sunday papers rose from 497 in 1946 to 889 in 1994. The largest U.S. newspapers have been losing circulation in recent years, a trend that can be attributed to the increasing availability of news from television and other sources. 

The top five daily newspapers by circulation in 1995 were the Wall Street Journal (1,823,207), USA Today (1,570,624), the New York Times (1,170,869), the Los Angeles Times (1,053,498), and the Washington Post (840,232). The youngest of the top five, USA Today, was launched as a national newspaper in 1982, after exhaustive research by the Gannett chain. It relies on bold graphic design, color photos, and brief articles to capture an audience of urban readers interested in news "bites" rather than traditional, longer stories.

New technology has made USA Today possible and is enabling other newspapers to enlarge their national and international audiences. USA Today is edited and composed in Arlington, Virginia, then transmitted via satellite to 32 printing plants around the country and two printing plants serving Europe and Asia. The International Herald Tribune, owned jointly by the New York Times and the Washington Post, is a global newspaper, printed via satellite in 11 cities around the world and distributed in 164 countries.

MAGAZINES: In 1893, the first mass-circulation magazines were introduced, and in 1923, Henry Luce launched "Time", the first weekly news magazine. 

Magazine publishers responded to a reduction in readers by trying to appeal more to carefully defined audiences than to the public at large. Magazines are now available on virtually any topic. TV Guide, Time, and Newsweek, for example, also publish regional editions. 

The number of  magazines published in the United States has risen, from 6,960 in 1970 to 11,000 in 1994. More than 50 magazines had a circulation of over one million in 1994. The top two in circulation were both aimed at retired persons: NRTS/AARP Bulletin (21,875,436) and Modern Maturity (21,716,727). Rounding out the top five were Reader's Digest (15,126,664), TV Guide (14,037,062), and National Geographic (9,283,079). 

In 1993, Time became the first magazine to offer an on-line edition that subscribers can call up on their computers before it hits the newsstands.

LANDSCAPE: The US has many National Parks who employ Park Rangers to look after the land and animals.

The Southwest: The American Southwest is made up of desert areas such as Nevada and many other national parks. The area also includes volcanoes, the most famous being Mount Saint Helens. The area also includes the Hoover Dam, a hydropower energy station.

The Northwest: Near the Canadian border is Yellowstone National Park, named after the river which flows through the area. It is the oldest of the national parks, dating from 1872. It is famous for the hot water springs and waterfalls.

The Rocky Mountains - Colorado: The Rockies are famous mountains, running from the Canadian border to the South, through Colorado. They attract many visitors who climb the snow covered mountains.

Florida: The south east area of the US, is the state of Florida which is warm all year, unlike the north of America. Florida has many beaches and many tourist attractions such as Disney World at Orlando. Florida also has the Everglades national park, with many animals including alligators. South of Miami towards Cuba there are a series of islands called the Florida Keys.

Urban Areas: Each city in America has a unique atmosphere. Many areas are highly developed with huge shopping malls, cinemas etc.

ARCHITECTURE & BUILDINGS: America is well known for the skyscraper, the tall building which are all across the US. They were made possible by new construction techniques and the invention of the elevator, the first skyscraper went up in Chicago in 1884.

FAMILY LIFE: In 1960, over 70 percent of all American households were made up of a working father, a homemaker mother, and their children. Today, "traditional" families with a working husband, an unemployed wife, and one or more children make up less than 15 percent of the nation's households. As American families have changed, the image of the family in the media has changed accordingly. Today's families vary from both parents working to single mothers and their children and unmarried couples who live in the same house.

In a decade, divorce rates doubled. The rapid increase in the divorce rates contributed to a dramatic increase in the number of single-parent households or what used to be known as broken homes. The number of households consisting of a single woman and her children has tripled since 1960.

As late as 1940, less than 12 percent of white married women were in the work force; today the figure is nearly 60 percent and over half of all mothers of pre-schoolers work outside the home.

As wives have assumed a larger role in their family's financial support, they have felt justified in demanding that husbands perform more child care and housework. Today, over two-thirds of all three-to-five year olds take part in a day care, nursery school, or pre-kindergarten program, compared to a fifth in 1970.

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