The Metaphor of the Melting Pot
Peggy Ruth Geren
The melting pot has been used metaphorically to describe the dynamics of American social life. In addition to its descriptive uses, it has also been used to describe what should or should not take place in American social life. How did the term originate? How was it used originally? How is it used in contemporary society? What are some problems with the idea of the melting pot? How is public education connected to the idea of the melting pot? How does the melting pot function in American cultural and political ideology? These are some of the questions considered in the following discussion.
The Statue of Liberty is by now a universally recognized symbol of American political
…show more content…
By the late 1800's the public school movement in America was robust in the Northeast but just gaining momentum in the South. Its progress had been halting, proceeding at different rates under the influence of varying geographic, cultural, and economic circumstances. The common school, as it was first called, was to be tax supported. It was to have a common curriculum, regardless of the social station of its clientele, it was to be open to all, and it was to foster a common set of civic virtues. The public school movement in the Northeast began to gain ground in the early years of the 19th century. It was powerfully influenced and directed by the rise of industrialism, by charismatic reformers such as Horace Mann, by new modes of transportation, and by the contributions of American inventors. The historian S. Alexander Rippa says “ In the history of American education, one of the most significant outcomes of the Industrial Revolution was the gradual emergence of a new, public school- minded working class in the northern cities. Indeed, the rapid growth of manufacturing depended on a readily available source of labor for the new factories” (Rippa, 1984.p.100).
The labor force in the northern factories and mills was augmented by European immigrants: Between 1815 and 1845 almost 3 million emigrants had left their home shores for America (p.101). Significant numbers