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Dr. Robert Osburn. Lecturer, Dept. of Educational Policy and Administration Executive Director, Wilberforce Academy ( training college students to help develop their home societies) Genetics and Religion symposium (September 26, 2009) Teach two courses in Spring 2010:

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dr robert osburn
Dr. Robert Osburn
  • Lecturer, Dept. of Educational Policy and Administration
  • Executive Director, Wilberforce Academy (training college students to help develop their home societies)
  • Genetics and Religion symposium (September 26, 2009)
  • Teach two courses in Spring 2010:
    • Religion, Ethics, and Educational Policy (undergrad; 3 credits)
    • Religion and International Development (grad and undergrad; 3 credits)
navigating american culture

Navigating American Culture

Robert Osburn, PhD

Executive Director

Wilberforce Academy

Presentation to China Outreach Ministries

August 8, 2009

the three threes
The “Three Threes”
  • Three primary American cultural distinctives
  • Three primary trends in American culture
  • Three primary resources for successful navigation of American life and culture
a letter from a singaporean chinese friend
A Letter from a Singaporean Chinese Friend

“When Americans have dogs and cats in their homes---sometimes on their beds--- what's a trifling thing like shoes on their feet in their homes?

What I find more interesting is to see well-dressed Americans walking on the streets--barefoot. No, they are not hobos. They daintily carry their very nice shoes in their hands.

And...what about restaurant signs that read "No socks, no shoes, no service"?

You see...when some Americans are in their homes, they wear their shoes. When they are outside their homes, they go barefoot.

America is a wonderful place,

XXXXXX XXX”

three primary american cultural distinctives
Three Primary American Cultural Distinctives
  • Individualism
  • Pragmatism
  • Dynamism
three primary american cultural distinctives1
Three Primary American Cultural Distinctives
  • Individualism
    • Identified by individual accomplishments, not the communities that help them succeed
    • Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community (2001), by Harvard professor Robert Putnam
    • Personal responsibility for the world = Innovation and creativity
three primary american cultural distinctives2
Three Primary American Cultural Distinctives
  • Individualism
    • Habits of the Heart (1985), by Berkeley professor Robert Bellah:
      • Expressive individualism = Expressing yourself so as to gain the attention of others
      • Utilitarian individualism = Using people and things to accomplish personal objectives
three primary american cultural distinctives3
Three Primary American Cultural Distinctives
  • Individualism
  • Pragmatism = Valuing what works more than valuing that which corresponds to reality
    • Rewards hard work, planning, and meeting real needs
    • American pragmatism has always benefited from Christian ethic of honesty
    • Closest similarity to Chinese culture
three primary american cultural distinctives4
Three Primary American Cultural Distinctives
  • Individualism
  • Pragmatism
  • Dynamism = Importance of change and innovation, rather than stability
    • Assumes relatively stable moral framework
three primary trends in american life and culture
Three Primary Trends in American Life and Culture
  • Culture War
  • Pluralism
  • Globalization
three primary trends in american life and culture1
Three Primary Trends in American Life and Culture
  • Culture War = Since 1970, two moral visions have competed:
    • Christian vision of absolute, enduring morality based in God (many Jews and Muslims share this)
    • Postmodern vision of changing morality based on social needs
three primary trends in american life and culture2
Three Primary Trends in American Life and Culture
  • Culture War
  • Pluralism =
    • (1) Multiple moral and religious visions for American society
    • (2) Multiple ethnicities sharing life in USA, including millions of people with Chinese ancestry
three primary trends in american life and culture3
Three Primary Trends in American Life and Culture
  • Culture War
  • Pluralism
  • Globalization = Increasing inter-connection between America and the rest of the world, particularly because of technology, trade, travel, and business
    • American problems are no longer separate from problems of others around the globe

Samuel Huntington: Who Are We? The Challenges to America’s National Identity (2004).

three resources for navigating american culture
Three Resources for Navigating American Culture
  • Reliable map
  • Fellow travelers
  • Wise guide
three resources for navigating american culture1
Three Resources for Navigating American Culture
  • Reliable map
    • “Mental map,” or worldview that helps you make sense of what you encounter in America
      • Helps makes sense of cultural contradictions in US America, as well as cultural complexities
      • Ultimately, it should correspond to the shape of reality
three resources for navigating american culture2
Three Resources for Navigating American Culture
  • Reliable map
    • “Mental map,” or worldview that helps you make sense of what you encounter in America
    • Thee are three primary “mental maps” that define US American culture
      • Scientific naturalism (science/technology)
      • Postmodernism (humanities/social sciences)
      • Christianity (historical basis for US America)
three resources for navigating american culture3
Three Resources for Navigating American Culture
  • Reliable map
  • Fellow travelers
    • Kind, honest and generous
    • Needed when facing the “U-curve of adjustment” (next 6 months)
    • Followers of Jesus Christ
three resources for navigating american culture4
Three Resources for Navigating American Culture
  • Reliable map
  • Fellow travelers
  • Wise Guide
    • Obstacles and challenges greater than you can imagine
    • One who never abandons you, but carries you safely along
    • Jesus Christ (rational choice to follow Him)
the three threes1
The “Three Threes”
  • Three primary American cultural distinctives
  • Three primary trends in American culture
  • Three primary resources for successful navigation of American life and culture
three questions
Three Questions
  • What attracted you to study in the USA?
  • What is your biggest surprise about American culture and life?
  • What do you think about the suggested resources for navigating American life and culture?