Saturday, July 7, 2012

American Culture, Tradition, and Patriotism

Greetings from an American traveler! This summer my family and I have embarked on a journey across the states to celebrate our son’s graduation from high school. As I have contemplated what to put together for this blog coming out just after our country’s birthday celebration, I began thinking about patriotism, why we celebrate days like the Fourth of July, how we celebrate days like this and the traditions we follow, etc., etc. This lead me down a path of considering culture and what it means to be American. Which lead me back to thinking about why I decided to make it possible for the family to get in the car the night of June 14 and set out across the western states to experience our country.

Charles Miller, High School Grad (at last) 

Disclaimer……this blog is very much about my personal (although professionally influenced) thoughts about being an American and the American culture and traditions that people share that make us Americans. It is not meant in any way to diminish any or be insensitive to other cultural heritage. I firmly believe there is a time and place to celebrate and promote other cultures, but during a time of year where we parade around the American flag, I’d like to take a few minutes to encourage you to think about what makes you an American and how that might be incorporated into your early care and education programs.

What is culture and how is it transmitted from one generation to the next?
According to, “Cultural transmission is the process of passing on culturally relevant knowledge, skills, attitudes, and values from person to person or from culture to culture” (1996). “For anthropologists and other behavioral scientists, culture is the full range of learned human behavior patterns( There is a vast amount of scholarly literature in the social development and anthropological fields of study that can be referenced about culture, cultural transmission, and social learning theory. In deference to making this blog the most reader-friendly as possible, I will not go into any more detail than to say that the basic premise is that children learn what they are taught…..if you provide opportunities for children in your program to learn about culture, they will learn it.

The Grand Tetons....a natural American icon.

Here are some things to think about when you contemplate program planning in the future and how you might renew or implement teaching the American culture and continuing traditions in your corner of our amazing United States:

1. So, just what does make a person American? Not just citizenship, but what is the American way? I believe there are certain ideals that Americans hold that make us unique in the world. Ideas like freedom of speech, rights to assemble, working hard for prosperity and success come to mind. How do you define being an American? Do you create learning/play opportunities that promote those ideals and beliefs?

Old Faithful, Yellowstone National Park

2. How do you define your American culture and your traditions?
Back to our trip…..Doing this blog topic made me think about why I decided to take the family in a car to camp across 17 states and 2 provinces in 30 days this summer. When I was growing up, my parents had summers off as educators often do, and we would pack up a car or van every 3 years or so and head out to explore our country. It’s amazing how vast and diverse yet similar our country is. We started off in Georgia and have been through Alabama, Tennessee, Mississippi, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, Montana, Alberta (Canada), British Columbia (Canada), Washington, Oregon, California, and are now in Nevada. This afternoon (July 5) we are setting out for Utah again and then Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Louisiana, and back home. We are camping, and in a car (no DVD players…but ipods and cell phones are allowed). To me, this is an excellent way to experience our country and learn about being American……the vast expanses of lands, the ability to cross close boarders (between states) without military involvement, the ability to use the same currency and speak the same language and expect and receive similar goods and services over 5,000 miles. During this time we have had a chance not only to bond, but to tell our children about each state, ourselves, and our history. It has been a way to experience and further define our American culture within ourselves through the family tradition of travel.

Camping in Yellowstone...Great American Bison 20 yds from our tents!

            Note: There is a difference between culture and tradition. Culture is a more broad, historically influenced way of being and considering ourselves. Traditions are more individualized and help display culture. You might think of culture as a set of beliefs with history behind them that define a group of people in a large context, and traditions are behaviors that allow you to see and demonstrate those beliefs.

3. What traditions are you passing down in your program that help children identify and demonstrate their American culture?

Trout fishing...3 keepers from Yellowstone Lake.

4. Patriotism….what is it? How do you convey it to children?

I leave you with those questions to ponder as you either continue in or plan for your new year with young minds who are just now learning what it means to be a person. How are you helping pass on the culture of Americanism?

~Dr. Ellaine B. Miller

Miller family experiencing the Redwood Forrest!

Blog entry by Dr. Ellaine B. Miller, PhD. Family Child Care Partnerships at Auburn

1 comment:

  1. What an awesome experience for your family, Ellaine! My family has such great memories from road trips through a number of states, too. I pinned your post to my Kids' Patriotic Activities Pinterest Board at


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