Saturday, May 15, 2010

Did Immigrants Change America?



Once again, I thought the speakers were excellent and it was a great way to spend a Saturday. Please try and get your posts in early. I would like to give the final tally to 'the Mikes' by the middle of the week at the latest. Enjoy the summer!

50 comments:

Mr. Ferrante said...

I really enjoyed today's discussion. In the end, I think it was a two way street. The immigrants definitely changed America as America changed them. They adopted our sports, music, style of dress and work style. While we adopted their food, language, music and stories.
The most insightful comments I heard today were when the professor used the images of the 'open gate' and the 'guarded gate' as the two American approaches to immigration. The second was that the Hispanic immigrants of today are following much the same pattern as immigrants a hundred years ago. What I do still wonder about, is that we are entering a time when people of European decent will no longer be the majority in the country. Will that affect whether or not Spanish lives on in the US or will we have a nation of citizens who are English-speaking but not of European decent?

CTator said...

One cannot disregard the impact the immigrants placed on the development of the United States socially, economically, and politically. One cannot also deny the fact that American culture, laws, and our Constitution continually regulate and mold the lifestyles of immigrants. So the question was which one had more of an impact. The arguments for America changing the immigrants stuck with me more.
The concept of Americanization is very powerful and present in every aspect from ethnic foods that have been Americanized to the style of American clothing trends. For immigrants to be successful and acknowledged positively in America they had to assimilate and change to coexist; either through language development, culture inheritance, and obedience to the laws of the land.

Mrs. Cone said...

As usual, the question itself is multi-faceted and not easy to answer. When my partner and I were assigned our side to argue he stated, “I feel like I always get the good side.” That is because there is always so much fodder for both sides of the issue at hand. Today was no exception.

It is difficult to refute that immigrants changed America. The statistics that Dr. Gerstle shared with us in the beginning of the day help to support this statement. When one thinks of 20+ million immigrants entering a country with a population of only about 80 million, of course they are going to have an impact. The speakers all clearly spelled out how in the areas of language, industrialization, religion, music, and food the influence of the immigrant population did indeed change the country. As evident in our language today, there is influence from elsewhere. The same can be said for music, food, and other cultural avenues. Additionally, the immigrants were the backbone to the industrial revolution and they definitely transformed the American landscape.

Yet, it does go both ways. When starting a new life in a new country, change is inevitable and cultures, traditions, languages are going to evolve and meld. With each generation, there is a lessening of the speaking of native languages. Dr. Gerstle also argued that while immigrants did supply the labor source for industrialization, they did so in a fashion that was different from their patterns of work in their homeland. So America did also change the immigrants.

R. Restifo said...

I think the answer today was in the"gray area." I think immigrants certainly changed America especially from an industrialization and urbanization perspective. The influx of 23 million immigrants out the 76 million total in at the beginning of the 20 century changed America. However America changed them, i.e. changing their rural culture to an urban culture. I believe the most important aspect of this is how by about the 2nd generation "immigrants" like myself who identify themselves as "italian-americans" are really simply American. I love the "Godfather", celebrate the "feast of the seven fishes on Christmas Eve. This is due to the fact that my parents are alive and have continued the tradition. Will my children follow through with these traditions? I hope but I have my doubts. Has America changed my parents, the first generation Americans? Absolutely. They will be traveling to their home town in Sicily this summer meeting with relatives who still live their. I wonder what they will think of them?

Liz said...

I think it is important to define/describe what America is. Immigration has played a major role in defining this country for over 200 yrs. The country in which we live is a blend of various cultures. Through marriage/friendships these cultures have meshed together. With each generation there is less pure Irish, or pure Italian cultur; and is there really anything wrong with that? Isn't that what makes America America?
The immigrants were a part of the industrial and economical development of the US. The US provided the immigrants the opportunity to grow financially, to immerse themselves in new opportunities. Each generation begins to consider themselves as "American" and less defined by their ancestors, as they find their own identity, in their country.
I think it is accurate to say that the Immigrants in our past, AND our country have grown and evolved together...with positive results.

Christina said...

While I was unable to attend this session, I feel that immigrants did change America. I remember learning about assimilation and the idea of a “melting pot” in grade school, but in college I took a class on immigration that introduced to me the idea of a “mixing bowl” or “salad bowl” and I feel that this description fits better. Our cuisine, language, and culture have all been affected by the influx of new groups. Yes, immigrants have assimilated to some extent, but I feel that many have retained their own traditions as well. However, as generations pass, I think that the trend is that some customs have been lost.

Mrs. Stewart said...

We certainly can’t argue that immigrants did not change America, nor that America did not change them. So my thought is to approach this question by focusing on the “more than” part – did immigrants change America more than America changed them. I lean toward saying no to this question. I think if we look at the extent to which the children and grandchildren of immigrants have assimilated, we can see that subsequent generations have embraced a truly American culture. Languages brought over by the immigrants of the late 1800s and early 1900s are rarely spoken in the homes of their descendants. Many people have difficulty even identifying themselves as “Italian-American” or “Irish-American” because of the amount of intermarriage that has occurred among the different ethnic groups. Ethnic foods in many cases have become the domain of national corporations, which standardize foods for mass consumption, such that the immigrants of 100 years ago likely wouldn’t recognize the foods that are sold as being of their culinary traditions. As for the current wave of immigrants, particularly those from Latin America, that story is not yet written. Jonathan wondered about a time when the majority of people in the U.S. are not of European descent. But I wonder if our perspective today is much like the perspective of those 100 years ago who wondered about a time when large numbers of people would not be of northern or western European descent. As the patterns repeat, I think it is likely that, over the course of a few generations, we will see the language loss, the assimilation, the intermarriage, and the abandonment of the idea of coming to America only temporarily, and we will see once again the impact of these immigrant groups on America, but at the same time we will see the impact of America on them.

Mr. DeMatteo said...

Yes, how can anyone really argue to the contrary. America has been based on the contribution of immigrants from the very first Colonialist. We have been continually adding to our social fabric by the weaving of so many eclectic cultures. America IS and is always BECOMING because of the contributions of Immigration. Whatever an immigrants reason for their coming to America OR Americas reason for inviting immigrants to her shores – the contributions and effect that they have had upon our history and culture is evident. Our conversations about “old immigration” compared to 21st century immigration help me better understand that how everything old is new again, that instead of just studying history – I am now one of its witnesses.

Sill's World said...

Since we are a nation of immigrants, it may be easy to say that an "American Culture" does not actually resist (Except for teepees and tomahawks). However, America was built on one thing that was not seen in any other place in the world... the ideal of Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of happiness! Now, I know... John Locke said Life, Liberty, Property and he's from Great Britain. But what's the one part Jefferson changed? Pursuit of happiness! That every person has a natural right to achieve happiness! That means people have an open opportunity to achieve, to live out their dreams! America has become the great city upon a hill, the last great hope in a world controlled by Monarchs and Dictators. No other nation allows people from all over the world to settle within its land with an equal opportunity to reach their dreams. True, it has taken about 200 years for these opportunities to reach people of all races, ethnicities, gender, etc. but this ideal of tolerance and equal opportunity is uniquely American!

With that being said, It is this ideal that has changed immigrants. People have come here from troubled lands seeking these opportunites and becoming productive members of the American fabric. Sure, immigrants have influenced our food, our music, holidays, culture, etc. but each immigrant is exposed to other cultures because of the ideals of America. Nowhere else would a person be subjected to so many choices and diversity! And at the center of it all is the American sentiment of freedom, tolerance, and opportunity for all!

God Bless America!

Mrs. Geldmacher said...

This is the most challenging question that we have been faced with. Yes, immigrants changed america but america also changed its immigrants. Our economy and industry in the late 1800's and early 1900's was built on the backs of immigrants that came to country seeking a better life. With them, they brought customs, religion, food, etc that you can still find reminants throughout our country today. In the same token, as immigrant families expanded, generations became assimilated into an "american culture" where English is the dominant language. Immigrants in this country continue to change our country and America continues to change them.

sahmedani said...

It's hard to answer this question difinitively. America was founded by immigrants, and maintained by immigrants- so virtually anything that is America stems from an immigrant group. Factors that include industry, food, music, etc...there are undeniable influences throughout history and even today. America has a very fluid culture and changes with every new wave of immigration.
As for changing immigrants, of course it happened. Even within their own country they would have to change if even moved to a different region. There is no progress without change.

Mrs Raftery said...

An excellent start Jonathan. I would like to also comment that I thought the speakers were great and I do like that set up of a professor and grad students. It adds a nice feature of competition.

With regard to the question, I held firm to my belief that immigrants are America. Unless we all adopt native American ways, we are in essence "mutts". I think recent generations are attempting to hold onto some part of theri distant heritage by indentifying themselves as a hyphenated something or other, but the reality is that America is a sum of varied cultures. I can't say that immigrants adopted American culture because American culture is a blend of the immigrant cultures.

mgoldberg said...

No matter how many times I teach about immigration, I always seem to learn yet another interesting perspective. It was an emotional journey of hopes and dreams for a better life- a second chance. It was a journey based on struggles and acceptance into a new life while leaving behind their families, their lifestyle, and their homeland. They left for many reasons but survival and chasing a dream kept them motivated and focused. They knew they needed to “root” into a foreign culture and find a way to co-exist if they were going to “make it”. Our groups presented strong arguments for both sides of the controversy and consensus stated that immigrants changed the “American” culture- a Nation of Immigrants. All of the presenters helped us to uncover more layers to the immigrant story which provided us deeper knowledge and understanding of their journey and their contributions to their new home. No matter the reason, they were here to stay and they would another flavor to the American culture. Discussion focused on the “old” and “new” immigrants around the turn of the 19th century. They were either welcomed and/or faced hostility from people who feared them or were threatened by them. Some Americans tried to preserve the culture they knew by making life difficult for the newcomers in hopes that they would return to their native land or assimilate to their new one. Others welcomed the mosaic of different cultures to enrich the melting pot. American culture would evolve with each wave of new immigrants arriving to our shores. I believe that many immigrants tried to assimilate and become more “Americanized” by changing their names, learning English, celebrating traditional American holidays, etc, however, it was inevitable that each generation of new immigrants would leave their thumbprint on the “American” culture. Whether it was food, music, sports, language, business or religion- immigrants contributed and impacted their culture to their new homeland.

Robin said...

I throughally enjoyed Saturday's class. Both sides presented their arguments extremely well. To answer the question, I think that Immigrants changed America and America changed Immigrants. My mother was the first member of her family to attend school and she still remembers coming home and teaching English words to her parents. Originally they came over from Poland and moved to a neighborhood in Brooklyn where everyone spoke Polish or Yiddish. So at first they were impacting America with their own language, customs amd ability to work in Industry. Eventually when they moved to Mattituck they needed the English language as a means to jobs and to fit in with neighbors. So as time went on, America was impacting them and to fit the American ideal they learned English and settled into a more rural lifestyle.
I think that newer Immigrants cling to their country's customs a bit longer now, but by the second of third generation, the family has assismilated enough and some of the things that were so important to the first generation are forgotten or not practiced anymore. Yet witihn this example we can argue the case that the English language contains many words from other languages and we all know about the impact of ethnic food on the american psyche.
Every ethnic group has faced prejudice upon arrival to this country. It know seems that this bias and suspicion has fallen upon those from Latino backgrounds as well as those from the Middle East. Hopefully Emma Lazarus' poem can ring true for these groups and the bias towards them will diminish over time as it did for all or our ancestors.

L Zederbaum said...

Immigrants are the backbone of American society. It clearly was the immigrants that allowed this country to be made what it is today. America represented a land of opportunity, hope and a nation held together by a common dream. American immigrants of yesteryears were quick and willing, in most cases, to assimilate into American culture. I think the major problem today is that immigrants do not wish to assimiliate. They wish to maintain thier own culture, almost creating a sharp divide. I think that is why there is such opposition to immigrants coming into this country today. Most argue that they do not speak english nor pay taxes. The country is also busting at the seams because of the steady flow of illegal immigration. The country is unraveling at this notion and fact.

-L. Zederbaum

Mr. Cone said...

I thought that today's discussion went very well and much differently than other controversies from the past. In the past, I feel as though my opinion as to which side of the controversy was more true to the facts came much easier. Today, not so much.
I believe that we can see that Immigrants changed America just as much as America changed immigrants. While it's true that new arrivals to this country were themselves changed and eventually were different from people of their homelands, the citizens of America were also affected by these newbies. I believe that it was a two way street where both sides contributed to the other’s culture. I think that it can be looked at as analogous to mixing paint. If you mix yellow and blue you are left with green. Neither color dominates, but rather a new color emerges.
I also think that the speakers did a fine job in creating a well rounded overview about the language, music, food, religion and industrialization influences on both parts. I also feel as though we as teachers were very insightful in our observations and contributions made throughout the day.

Mr. Madeiras said...

The phrase ‘melting pot’ has resonated with us since elementary school. Whether or not to argue if it is true is another point. The fact of the matter is that we are a nation of immigrants. From day 1, in the early seventeenth century to today, immigration has played an essential role in the cultural development of our nation. The diversity of food, dress , agriculture, religion, etc., are a result of the constant stream of different people and races from all over the world. It makes us who we are…mutts. Even one of out most recognized symbols, the Statue of Liberty, invites immigrant to start over and begin a new life. Did the immigrant change America? Immigrants are America.

Mr. Gatto said...

I think immigrants absolutely changed America. There is always a give and take between immigrants and American culture. The give and take inevitably results in change. Food, in my opinion, is a great example of how diverse this country is. Especially in New York, hundreds of different cultures of represented, each with a special cuisine.

Ms. Antoniazzi said...

Great presentation and discussion!

Perhaps the answer depends on geography. Immigrants radically changed New York City and the area around it. The legacy of the "New Immigrants" (and successive waves of immigration) created a unique and dynamic culture that is present here today.

However, in more remote areas of the US like the Mountain West, immigrants seem to have been shaped by relative isolation the difficult environment that they found themselves in. The imprint of different immigrant cultures in this region of the country seems less evident today.

Mr. Karmin said...

This question is as difficlt to answer as to whether the Chicken came before the egg or not. When one looks at American culture, there is evidence of cultural blending. American food, clothing, pop culture, language, and music have all been influenced by the culture that the different immigrants bring to this country. Take food for example... American cuisine is really just a mixing of various different cultures. There is no "American Food" restaurant. Walk down the isle in a supermaket and you can see cultural influences from around the world. The idea of America as a mixing bowl is certainly true though. While immigrants that come to this country adopt "American" culture, many hold on to some of their values. In this way, it seems that Amerian culture is in itself a mixing of the different cultures that the vaious immigrants groups have brought over the last few hundred years. We must remember that all of us trace our heritage back to some immigrant group.

JKeller said...

Both Americans and immigrants have changed through the immigration process. American diversity naturally leads to a mixture of culture. As seen in the book – through food, American cultural diffusion is clear. First generation immigrants have often strived to assimilate to American culture however they do maintain some of their own cultures and traditions. Mean while, the children of these immigrants have successfully created a new American culture – one that incorporates aspect of the “old world” while living in the “new world”. You need only to think of your own family traditions that can be traced back to the “old country”. However, as generations pass these traditions may become diluted or disappear into the American melting pot.

nmusc said...

I thought that this debate was one of the more difficult ones. The question was not as black/white as previous debate topics and it was more difficult to come up with a consensus of our group. Even personally, I found myself wavering between both pro and con. Although we could argue that immigrants have definitely brought their influences to America, there is equally compelling arguments that America has changed them. Through the examples stated in our speakers' discussions, we can look at certain cultural aspects such as food, industry, and language and clearly see how each has changed or has caused change. In my opinion, this seems to be a very circular argument and therefore made it a very interesting one to analyze through debate.

Jennifer said...

My controversy group decided that this question was really more about whether or not the immigrants changed America more than America changed them. I think all would agree that America was changed by the immigrants but that America also changed them. To be able to answer this question, it is necessary to look at a particular immigrant group in a specific time period. Then the question might be easier to answer. There also was some debate on what “American” really is. I think what makes America so unique is that we are a nation of immigrants, and while immigrants may become more American after they arrive here, they are also able to retain aspects of their culture and pass those traditions down to future generations. In other words, to be American is to be influenced by many cultures. There may be time periods in which American culture is more influenced by one ethnic group more than others, but as long as the United States welcomes immigrants, the “American” culture will always be changing.

pcostell said...

America is a nation of immigrants, so just as scientists cannot distinguish what part of our development as individuals is "nature or nurture", America changed its immigrants as much as they changed America. The USA today looks, sounds and smells very different from the land our ancestors came to. Separating out the influences is difficult.
That being said, I felt more of the evidence presented supported the idea that America changed the immigrants. Indiviuals lost their accents, traditions and cultural identity within 50 years, while the essence of what it is to be an American did not. The values of this country, that any individual through his or hers hard work and effort can re-make themselves has endured the wave upon wave of immigration the past centuries.

Jeff Cohn said...

The immigrants that have come to our shores since 1607 have definitely and continually re-shaped the entity that we call America. Our first immigrants from England and Scotland established a Puritan society in New England while retaining the Anglican traditions in the South. The immigrants of the north turned that area into an industrial society while the immigrants who ventured south retained their agricultural way of life.

The unwilling immigrants (the slaves of western Africa) forever helped alter the North American continent economically, politically, and socially. The advent of slavery mostly in the south created the sectionalism that would ultimately lead to the Civil War and a 100 year battle for civil rights.

The immigrants from Ireland in the 1850s who came here to escape the potato famine changed the way the industrialists conducted business. These people were used for the cheapest of labor and suffered their own brand of discrimination.

The Eastern and Southern Europeans who came next stayed in the cities and along with the Irish who were already there created pockets of their own homelands while relying upon the wealthy factory owners for menial jobs. The next generations of these immigrants were the ones who finally left the teeming cities to establish life in the suburbs.

Finally, today we are seeing the newest immigrants, especially those from Central America and Mexico. These individuals are coming to America (sometimes legally and sometimes not) for a better life. They face hostility and hatred and yet, they will be the dominant ethnic group by the year 2046.

So yes, I believe that immigrants have changed America and they will continue to do so as new groups arrive and seek their place in American society.

Daniela McKee said...

This is a very difficult question to answer, and I think it would also vary depending on which time period in history the question is being asked. I think the answer lies somewhere in the middle. Immigrants have had a tremendous impact on American culture and society but clearly they have assimilated. After several generations, it is hard to trace the heritage. However, it is difficult to define what an "American" really is.

Christy said...

Although I was unable to attend the Saturday session, I will offer my comments on immigration. Immigrants have definitely changed America. Immigrants bring their culture with them when they settle in this country and although most of them attempt to assimilate, they don't shed all of their traditions. The food they eat, the religions they practice, the holidays they celebrate, and the clothes they wear all contribute to what makes America unique. Just as Christina said, the United States has often been referred to as a "melting pot" and a "salad bowl". I have to agree that I think the salad bowl is a more accurate analogy. Melting implies that cultures and tradions melt or blend together to form one culture. Although there are typical "American" foods and past times, most citizens pick and choose the elements of "American" culture they want to build their lives around. In the end, Immigrants will change America more than America will change them. Many people come to this country for the freedom to live as they wish. They will use the resources available to them to live the life they want to live. Rather than adapt or assimilate into American culture, many immigrants will contribute to the diversity of the United States by speaking their native language and eating their native cuisine.

Mr. Gallucci said...

I cannot believe this is the end of two great years in the TAH program. Each guest speaker is better than the last. Actually getting to sit with Gary Gerstle was a real treat. The graduate students do add a nice balance to the controversy component.

I think this session’s question in particular really highlighted the essence of why controversies can work in the classroom. Both sides of the argument were well represented and meeting somewhere in the middle was extremely possible and seemingly expected.

I think the essence of being an American is the fact that so many parts came together to make the whole. E pluribus unum…out of many – one. Our government is a composite of so many institutions. Our architecture is a blend of styles from around the world. Our food is an amalgam of seasoning, ingredients, and flavors from all the corners of the world. And “we, the people” are a blend of so many cultures, religions, and identities. The immigrants changed America and the product continues to grow and change beyond anything the original Founding Fathers could imagine.

Middy said...

The United States is a "melting pot" of cultures that have been coming to our lands for over 200 years. This is quite and interesting question to debate and I am not sure there is a clear winner. Our country has been built and protected by immigrants. These individuals are a major part of our society today, yet how much of there original culture has survived. I found it very intriguing that the native languages spoken have slowly disappeared by the 2nd or 3rd generations. I thought I had my answer locked up, but then a colleague mentioned the idea that the immigrants have changed America more because out tolerance of differing cultures has come about due the the existence of this melting pot of cultures

Rick Iurka said...

I enjoyed the class last Saturday. The speakers, as usual, did a great job.
Of course immigrants changed America. We are a nation of immigrants and each group has left its mark on our culture to one degree or another. The question we really discussed on Saturday was whether or not the American culture changed the immigrant more than the immigrant has changed America. Our discussion was mainly concerned with immigrants over the last 100 years or so.
I believe today our culture has a greater impact on immigrants than they do on American culture. As the professor pointed out.. this is a country where foreign languages come to die. A perfect example of this would be my mother. She came to this country from Germany in 1968. She didn't speak a word of English. Today, the only time she will speak German is on the phone with her relatives. And when it comes to food, she is also much more likely to make burgers or order a pizza than make sauerbraten :)

vbronzino said...

Once again, the group was faced with another thought provoking, debatable question: Did America change the immigrants or did the immigrants change America? Like others who have posted, I believe the answer is two fold. On one hand the immigrants that arrived in America during the late 1800s brought many culture changes, food recipes, music and diversity that changed American society for the better. Foods that we crave and music that we play in our cars, in some way, shape and form was directly influenced by the immigrants. In addition, immigrants became the backbone to the Industrial Revolution. Their presence during this critical time revolutionized America from a rural society to an industrial one. I firmly believe, without the immigrants this change in America would have taken much longer. On the other hand, America changed the immigrants. For the first time in their lives, immigrants for the most part would be living in American cities, not the rural villages that they were use to in Europe, South America and Asia. In addition, most immigrants took jobs in factories, industrial plants, etc which was quite different from their harvests back home. Furthermore, as the professor eloquently put it; America was the graveyard for immigrant’s language. In order to be successful, immigrants needed to adapt to American culture and sometimes that meant losing their culture and their language. All in all, it was another successful Saturday.

HSEMINTY said...

It was unforunate that I was not able to attend this particular session, because immigration is one of my favorite topics in 19th century American History. I have always be fascinated, of of course emotionaly invested, by Irish immigration to New York during the antebellum period. I remember reading 'How the Irish Became White' in my sophmore year of college. The book discussed the social efforts of Irish immigrants to make a claim on 'Americanness' and the ability to participate in the American republic. In this discourse, the Irish both redefined what it meant to be American (now a wage laborer could be a good citizen) and America redifined what it meant to be Irish. I suppose this dichotomy is replicated with every incoming era.

bkilkenny said...

This question seems to be the one most solidly placed in an area of gray. The United States is a nation built from immigration, therefore immigration has changed America as much as America changed the lives of immigrants. Just as the United States changed the lives and culture of the immigrants that came and continue to come to America, those same immigrants created and continue to create the culture of America. The US has changed from a white-protestant-male driven society to one in which there are real possibilities for other groups to have access to success.
It is inevitable that the immigrants’ culture would be altered through the process of assimilation while at the same time the infusion of the immigrants’ cultural practices would change American culture. Whether the US is a salad bowl or a melting pot, the uniqueness of American culture is a direct result of immigration.

stapes1976 said...

I think today's question would have been easier to answer if it was narrowed down to a certain time period. As always you can argue both sides of the question, but in my own opnion, I feel that overall immigrants have changed America, more than America changing immigrants. The change is continuing today at an exponential rate.
Everyday a different form of foreign culture is becoming part of mainstream america. We can see it in architecture, music, food, and politics. As we head toward a more global community, the country will continue to welcome foreign philosophies and add them into the melting pot that is American Culture.

Mr. Toth said...

I would have to say 100%, without a doubt Immigrants changed America. Unfortunately I was unable to make class this past Saturday, and not having the background from the presenters I will have to draw from my prior knowledge. America is a country of immigrants. The majority of our population can draw their ancestry back to a time when their family immigrated to America. This immigration helped change the landscape, and culture of America. I think the most obvious example of how Immigrants changed America is New York City, which is arguably one of the most diverse places in the world. Any where you go in the city, you can come across many different cultures within minutes. Whether you are in Chinatown, Little Italy, or other sections of the city, you are immersed in different cultures. These Immigrants not only helped change America, but the also help create America.

Michaela said...

It is difficult to answer this question with a yes or no, as with several other controversies this year. One cannot ignore the fact that America was established by immigrants and continues to be a haven for immigrants. All elements of American society can be traced to ethnic and immigrant roots including fundamental aspects such as language, food, music, culture, etc. America has always been in flux and our cultural changes with the waves of immigrants make that clearly evident. Every new ripple can be felt in the adaption of our culture. Both the immigrants and America have changed. One cannot be separated from the other. A major shift occurred during the Industrialization Era when millions of immigrants entered the United States. Immigrants adopted the English language and learned the ways of urban life. In turn, America was exposed to new smells, new languages and new cultural practices which only helped to enrich the already existing American culture. Immigrants were culturally changed forever and so was America. These changes will continue as long as America allows immigration to exist. With the “newest” wave of immigration, America finds itself in another cultural flux and if American immigration history is predictor of the future, America will be richer for it!

Thone said...

Like someone mentioned during the Saturday session debating this question is like arguing whether the chicken or the egg came first. One cannot deny that the United States is a country of immigrants. Every one of us with the exception of Native Americans are descended from ethnicities that all migrated to this country at some point. Our descendants all brought their unique cultures and helped to create this melting pot culture that America possesses today. After a few generations, assimilation did occur and many cultural traits were lost. All cultural traits such as language, music, food, and holidays were impacted in some ways. Very few cultures with the exceptions of those that refused to leave their ethnic ghettos were affected. So in many ways the immigrants did help to change America but in the end, it was America that got the final say and changed the immigrant populations more then they changed America.

M.Delaney said...

M.Delaney said
After Saturday’s course presented by Gary Gerstle and his team of graduate students Ansley Quiros and Nicholas Villanueva the question argued was “Did immigrants change America more than America changed them? It was concluded that there was no definitive answer to this question but an exchange between the two theories. We discussed that history indicates that the second generation assimilates to the American culture through the power of environment. Immigrants who came to America wanted to shed their culture to take on a new persona. One of the most prevalent ways of adapting to the American culture was by learning to speak English and letting their native language die within themselves.

kimcraig said...

America is a nation of immigrants. They have shaped the nation, just as the nation has shaped each wave of immigrants and the generations that follow. Immigrants were the cheap-labor fuel during the Age of Industry, for which the Captains of Industry owe them a great deal! While each new wave seems to receive the cold shoulder at first (Ben Franklin complained about the Germans in the 1760s!), with time comes acceptance.

Whether we are a melting pot or a salad bowl, one cannot deny that the variety of ethnic groups have contributed a great deal to our nation’s culture. I do not believe that there is one set “American culture” that immigrants have had to assimilate to since the nation began. While Americans of all backgrounds embrace certain principles, or at least I hope we do, I think American culture is ever-changing. Variety is the spice of life!

Lori Wilde said...

Unfortunately, I was unable to attend this session but I do believe that immigrants have definitely changed America. Immigrants, no matter what time period have brought their rich cultures through their music, art, religion, traditions and foods. They have enriched our lives through sharing their traditions and making great contributions to our economy. Immigration opened a world of diversity. Likewise, I feel that America was the “Land of Opportunity” for the immigrants

Joan said...

Last Saturday's controversy session was probably one the best sessions to date. Dr. Gerstle and the graduate students, Ansley and Nicholas provided excellent background information and presented solid arguments to support their sides of the focus question. As Nick said, this was an excellent example of how a controversy activity can work and how it is possible for the consensus to fall somewhere in the middle.



After studying the language, religion, food, music of immigrants, and industrialization in the U.S., it is apparent that immigrants have changed America, but America has changed them as well. Depending on a specific time period, the attitudes toward immigrants have varied from one of welcome to one of suspicion, hostility, and exclusion. Depending on physical appearance, religion, how well immigrants blended in with American society and whether or not they were useful for the economy and well-being of American citizens was a major factor in determining that. Dr. Gerstle also mentioned that the pattern is repeating itself, citing the current immigration and naturalization debates that are ongoing in the U.S.



After listening to the pro and con presentations and having the opportunity to develop an argument with Charlie, listening to the viewpoint of the other members of my group and the ending discussion, I was able to gain more insight into the topic and look at it with a broader lens. I feel that if the focus is on immigration during the 19th century, immigrants changed this country more than American changed them. They were the work force that helped the U.S. change from an agrarian to industrial society.



On a final note, participating in the TAH workshops these past two years has resulted in greater enthusiasm for examining topics in U.S. history and a tremendous desire to use this model in the classroom to foster critical thinking and create a deeper understanding of events in history.



Joan

kevinallo said...

I believe that the immigrants changed America more than America changed them. Although it can be argued that America is still controlled by the WASP element of society, there is no denying that they have also been influenced by immigrant culture. For instance, immigrants have constantly been used to boost the political power of the so-called perfect Americans. Even looking at America today, with our president and his cohorts apologizing for Arizona’s immigration law in Mexico and around the world present the only necessary evidence to show that immigrants have changed America. This is not to say that America has never experienced nativism, or a fear that the immigrants were changing America because both of these have, and are presently happening. However, this also strengthens the argument that immigrants have changed America. It is easy to see that America has been impacted by immigrants through food, and so on. However, it is also evident that immigrants were changed by America in many regards such as language, and the assimilation of the second and later generations. Regardless, as immigrants gain more acceptance into society, their change lies in the political sector. As each immigrant group received the right to vote, their change of America occurred. America is a land of immigrants, and as the door of this nation remains open, America will continue to change.

AFisk said...

The presenters from this session were excellent. Each side had convincing arguments and I thoroughly enjoyed the relationship between the grad students and their professor. The impact of immigration on America or America on the immigrant is a symbiotic one – each affects the other at the same time. It is clear that our nation is a nation of immigrants and their affects are obvious and far reaching. On the other hand, it is also quite obvious that the immigrant who settles in our country is forever changed. When or if they return to their homeland they are viewed as “outsiders” and are no longer seen as originally from the homeland. But I believe this has always been the “magic” of America. People have always taken a chance and have left their “old” countries behind to start a new life. In the process they may retain many of their native cultures and traditions but they also assimilate into an “American” way of life and create a new tradition and culture that may somewhat resemble the old but it still somehow different and “new”. These cultures and traditions are also somewhat adopted by America to some extent, such as in foods, etc, thereby affecting this country. And so it goes…back and forth. The immigrant is most definitely changed but so too is America.

Zartler, Michael said...

Although American society had to adjust in response to the millions of immigrants who arrived in the United States in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the immigrants themselves likewise had to adjust to life in the United States. To ease their adjustment to American life, immigrants clustered together in ethnic neighborhoods where they could speak their native language, buy their traditional foods, and celebrate traditional holidays with others from the same country (and even from the same region or village). The various immigrant groups improved their social and economic status at different rates. Those who came with a skilled trade or spoke some English generally did better than others. The Irish came in such great numbers that they were able to dominate the Democratic Party and Catholic Church leadership in New York and Boston. Other ethnic groups that had higher rates of return to their homelands, such as Italians and Chinese, experienced slower upward mobility and assimilation.

mnolan7715 said...

I wasn’t at this session due to the Model UN conference, but my first reaction to this question is that our entire country was built by immigrants and so of course they changed America. They brought their cultures with them, and cultures mixed and blended to create our “American” culture as we understand it today. On the flip side though, immigrants were changed by coming to America as many eventually assimilated into society.

dmcgoldrick said...

The sheer number of immigrants entering the United States as a percentage of the population and in total numbers by default changed America. The immigrant population between the 1880's and the 1920's reached 20% of the total U.S. population according to information provided by Dr. Gerstle, Ms. Quiros, and Mr. Villanueva. During the early 1900's 70% of the urban population in the major U.S. cities were immigrants as well as 70% of the workforce in 15 of the 19 major industries of the industrial revolution.

Those numbers indicate that immigration has been a major force in the development of every aspect of life in the United States. The pressures created by waves of immigration led to restrictive legislation at times and eventually a return to the open door policy that characterizes the American identity as a nation of immigrants.

The question as stated must be answered with a yes but in truth, the foundation of this country as created by the founding fathers is a flexible construct against which immigration pushes to continually redefine democracy, liberty and justice.

msmilow said...

The topic was as engrossing as any we have covered in the last two years since most of us readily relate to the immigrant experience. We are for the most part the children, grandchildren and yes even the great-grandchildren of immigrants who came to the New York metropolitan area within the last 150 years ago. However as we intermarry and produce children who are of the “Heinz 57” variety, (Heinz 57 is a myth alas as we learned from Gabbaccia.) the identification with our immigrant forbearers becomes more tenuous. So therefore it is easy for us to assume that America has changed immigrants more than they have changed their new homeland.

However, based on our readings, the arguments presented by the Vanderbilt University graduate students, and our cooperative debate, the immigrants most assuredly changed America. As noted by Oscar Handlin the “immigrants were America”. While I would tend to negate the importance of immigrants on the evolution of the English language in the United States, it would be difficult to underestimate the role they played in the industrialization of our nation. This is backed by the statistics noted by our presenters. While 70% or the workforce was comprised of immigrants and their children, even more astounding was the fact that 96% of the railroad workers were Chinese, Greek or Mexican. Beyond the muscle, some of our colleagues pointed out that many of the innovators were also foreign born. One only has to think back to last month and Andrew Carnegie comes to mind. However, he was not the only immigrant to dramatically change American industry. Samuel Slater, the English inventor carried the plans for a mill in his head and changed American textile technology forever.

Immigrants also changed America’s religious complexion as well. Originally our nation was a Protestant nation but the influx of Jews and Catholics dramatically changed how we perceive ourselves. Since their numbers were overwhelming, the newcomers demanded inclusion and America is now considered a Judeo-Christian nation. Yet again this will change as immigrants from non-European nations continue to introduce Americans to new faiths.

Finally, my favorite way in which immigrants have changed America is demonstrated by their introduction of new foods to our shores and how they have transformed the way we eat. Even today we are constantly introduced to new ingredients and recipes from other cultures. Not only do we have new dishes to taste but the introduction of these new foodways has as Gabbaccia stated transformed eating from merely providing nourishment into a positive, pleasurable experience. This is one for which we can all by thankful. So though immigrants may eventually become Americanized, it can be seen that their contributions to industrialization and religious diversity in America, as well as their culinary ways have definitely changed America.

Karen V said...

This last session was among the best, in my opinion, possibly because we viewed history through food. Way to go! I think that the interaction beteen America's immigrants and our country is like a successful marriage. Each contributes to the good of the other and both are changed in the process.

Examining what America is helps to answer this question. Ours is a constantly evolving culture that is based on the input of each new wave of immigrants. In the early days, America was the East Coast, and the settlers were immigrants from the UK, France, and the Netherlands. With the victory of the British, English was established as the prdominant language, and the Protestant world view, with its work ethic, became the mainstream culture. Although other religions and ethnicities were permitted, and often flourished, this early culture was perpetuated by our immigration laws.

As immigration laws changed to admit immigrants from parts of the world other than those of our forefathers, America's culture changed as well. It was intersting to see the statistics presented by the professor to show how many immigrants from which countries were permitted entrance in various time periods. Now that our immigration laws are permitting greater numbers of people from Asia and Africa, our culture again is undergoing a great change.

The availability of food from all nations, the public celebration of non-Judeo-Christian religious holidays, and the celebration of secular holidays such as Cinco de Mayo are but a few of the changes. Our educational system provides bi-lingual classes and normed tests are printed in many languages. There is a preponderance of Spanish, Korean, Chinese, and Indian radio and TV stations, which reflect the cultures of American's newest immigrants.

For their part, immigrants generally give up their native language and lifestyle to adapt to "the American way". They undergo a metamorphosis that often renders them unrecognizable as anything but an American to their compadres in "the old country," when and if they do return to their country of origin.

As Dr. Gerstle pointed out, past waves of immigrants who remained in America were assimilated, and by the third generation, their descendants had given up the language of the original country and had accepted the American way of life. The professor also observed that the jury is still out on the current wave of immigrants, but research indicates that they are following in the footsteps of their predecessors, probably leading uture generations of TAH participants to ask: What came first, the immigrant or the American?

cmverycute said...

Without a doubt! We are who we are today because of immigration. We are a mixed basket. America has changed its role as immigration increased and changed. It is a driving force; just look at the changes that has occurred over the past few years regarding immigration.

Mr. Cummings said...

Did Immigrants Change America? Taken at face value, this is a fairly easy question to answer... Of course immigrants changed America, we are a country of immigrants. How would a Native American answer this question. Of course the question is pertaining to an era of immigration, and that makes it a little more difficult to answer. It relates to the question: What is American culture?

Is our culture solely American or is it a combination of many cultures? What about baseball, hot dogs, apple pie & Cevorlet??? I think Immigrants have certainly changed America. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries immigrants were primarily from Europe. By the late 20th century and ealy 21st, immigrants were now coming from Latin America and Asia. The changes to America in each of these eras may be more apparent regionally, but immigrants have always changed America to a certain extent.