America - Melting Pot, Salad Bowl, or ...? (Student Version)

American culture revolves around common ideals. For example, the Declaration of Independence enshrines our rights to "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." Similarly, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in his most famous speech described the idea that everyone deserves freedom, fairness, and equal opportunity. Most people would agree that we hold these and many other positive values in common. At the same time, America is a highly diverse country in which we all come from different ethnic backgrounds, cultural contexts, and life experiences. America is often described as a "melting pot" in which these diverse backgrounds gradually melt into a shared American identity. A different metaphor would be that of a "salad bowl," in which Americans co-exist side by side, while maintaining more distinct individual identities.

In this conversation, you and other participants will explore questions around America’s common identity as well as our diverse citizenry. By practicing the conversation agreements and sticking to the three-round structure, you’ll learn more about how you and your peers think about whether America today is more of a melting pot, a salad bowl, or something else!
Round 1 (~5 minutes)

Read the technical instructions

Students: Take turns going around the group and reading each one of these aloud, until all have been read.  

Stick together through the conversation rounds.
Nominate one student to be in charge of telling the group when it's time to click to the next round.  If unsure who to nominate, choose the student whose first name comes first alphabetically (e.g. Amy comes before David comes before John).  

Keep an eye on the time.
Watch the countdown timer to make sure you're moving through the conversation rounds at the right pace. You will not be forced to move through the rounds at a specific pace; students determine the timing.

Keep yourself muted when not speaking.
When you are not speaking, press your mute button to eliminate background noise and echo.  When you are speaking, remember to unmute.

Keep your video on at all times.
Show respect for your peers by making yourself visible at all times during the conversation.  If you are having bandwidth trouble, however, you can turn off your video to improve audio performance.

Avoid outside distractions.
Show respect for your peers by giving your full attention to the conversation.  Do not let yourself be distracted by other people or objects.

Click the Support button to report any technical issues or problems. 
Click the blue button in the lower left corner to report any technical issues or problems experienced during your conversation. Also let your teacher know about any problems you may have experienced. 
Round 2 (~5 minutes)

Read the conversation agreements

Conversations work best when participants agree to common ground rules. Each student in the group should take turns reading at least one of these aloud:

Be Curious and Open to Learning.
Listen to and be open to hearing all points of view. Maintain an attitude of exploration and learning. Conversation is as much about listening as it is about talking.

Show Respect and Suspend Judgment.
Human beings tend to judge one another, do your best not to. Setting judgments aside will better enable you to learn from others and help them feel respected and appreciated.

Look for Common Ground and Appreciate Differences.
In this conversation, we look for what we agree on and simply appreciate that we will disagree on some beliefs and opinions.

Be Authentic and Welcome that from Others.
Share what’s important to you. Speak authentically from your personal and heartfelt experience. Be considerate to others who are doing the same.

Be Purposeful and to the Point.
Notice if what you are conveying is or is not “on purpose” to the question at hand. Notice if you are making the same point more than once.

Own and Guide the Conversation.
Take responsibility for the quality of your participation and the conversation by noticing what’s happening and actively support getting yourself and others back “on purpose” when needed.
Round 3 (~10 minutes)

Get to know each other

Get to know each other a bit by sharing something personal. Each participant should answer one or more of the following questions:

  • How would you describe your town? (e.g. urban, rural, crowded, empty, big, small ...)
  • How would you describe your school? (e.g. big, small, public, private, easy, fun, competitive, stressful ...)
  • What are your favorite activities or hobbies outside of school?
  • What do you want to do after you graduate?
  • How would your best friends describe you?
Round 4 (~15 minutes)

Listen and share to understand

Share your views -- and listen openly to others' views -- on the assigned topic, without debating or trying to change anyone's opinion. Each participant should answer one or more of the following questions:

  • How would you describe your cultural heritage? Do you see yourself first and foremost as an "American," or as something else?
  • How have you been shaped by your ethnic background, cultural context, and / or life experiences?
  • Have you experienced cultures other than your own? What did you appreciate? What made you uncomfortable?
  • What value do you see in having a single, shared American culture? What should that culture look like?
  • What value do you see in having a diverse citizenry? What are the benefits of greater diversity?
  • How can we ensure that culture and symbols are inclusive and not exclusionary?
Round 5 (~10 minutes)

Reflect and share takeaways

Reflect on -- and share with other participants -- how it felt to join this conversation. Each participant should answer one or more of the following questions:

  • In one sentence, share what was most valuable to you in this conversation.
  • What new learning or appreciation do you have after joining this conversation? 
  • Have you found common ground or areas of interest that surprised you? 
  • What is one important thing you thought was accomplished here?
Round 6 (~5 minutes)

Say goodbye!

Students: Take turns thanking each other and saying goodbye.  Before closing your browser, take a few minutes to complete this confidential survey so we can learn about how this experience went for you.