. Contemporary American Society

A First Look

A. Background Building

1. Look at the illustration on the preceding page. Write some differences you see between the family in the picture on the wall and the family on TV.


2. What does this illustration show you about American society?

3. Complete these sentences about your hometown. You may have more than one answer.

a. I come from____

a. a town b. a small city с a large city

b. My family has lived there for____

a. less than b. my whole life с many generations

five years

с Most of the people in my town/city know me_____

a. very well b. a little с not well at all

d. On the street, in my city/town, I say hello to most of the people I see.

a. yes b. no

e. For entertainment, most people in my town/city_____

a. stay in town b. go to another town or city

4. Complete these sentences about life in your country.

a. Divorce is____ in my country.

a. common b. fairly common с uncommon

b. Young men and women____ live together before they get married.

a. often b. sometimes с never

с. Parents____ want their children to be independent.

a. do b. don’t

5. What is a question you have about American society? Write it here.

Find the answer by reading this chapter and asking your teacher and other people.

B. Topic

DIRECTIONS: Before you begin to read, look at these topics. There is one topic for each paragraph. Look quickly at the reading to find these topics. Do not read every word at this point. Write the number of the paragraph next to the topic of that paragraph.


a transient society


marriage and divorce


Ufe for young people now


traditional life in a small town


bringing up children

C. Reading


In the past fifty years, American society has changed a great 1

deal. Fifty years ago, most Americans lived in small communities. 2

They rarely moved from one area to another and usually knew their 3

neighbors at least by name if not by close, personal interaction. Life 4

was so personal in those days that people often joked about it. They 5

said that a person could not even stay home from church on Sunday 6

1 without the whole town knowing about it. It was difficult to have 7

privacy in a small community like that, but there was usually a 8

sense of security, of belonging, and of community togetherness in 9

such places. Except for church and the local movie theater, there 10

was not much in the way of entertainment. Some people dreamed 11

about moving to the exciting life of the big cities, but most people 12

were happy to live all their lives in the same community. 13

Few people experience this type of lifelong social interaction 14

or sense of community togetherness now. Contemporary American 15

society is much more transient now; people often move from neigh – 16

borhood to neighborhood, city to city, and coast to coast. It is rare 17

to find people who have lived all their lives in one community. Be – 18

cause people move so frequently, they do not have a chance to get 19

to know their neighbors. Perhaps this is also why Americans tend 20

to have a more casual attitude about friendships than people from 21

some other cultures; Americans are accustomed to leaving friends 22

and making new friends. In this impersonal society, they have lost 23

the habit of saying hello to people they pass on the streets or in the 24

hallways of their apartment buildings. 25

The American family has also gone through many changes in 26

the past fifty years. Primary among these changes is the current 27

attitude about divorce, the legal end of a marriage. Until the 1960s, 28

divorce was quite uncommon. However, between 1962 and 1981, the 29

number of divorces each year tripled. With less emphasis on tra – 30

dition, on religion, and on the economic dependence of women on 31

men (due to the increase of women who work), Americans seem less 32

likely to remain in a marriage that has problems. They are not forced 33

by economic, social, or religious pressure to stay married. Partly as 34

a reaction to the high divorce rate, many Americans live together 35

without being married. They feel that it is a good idea to know each 36

other well before they become legally tied. This is particularly com – 37

mon in the more liberal areas of the country—the East and West 38

Coasts and the large cities of the North. 39

Since the 1960s, both the number of single-parent families and 40

the number of mothers who work outside the home have doubled. 41

Obviously, children have greater responsibilities in these nontra – 42

ditional families. However, bringing up children to be independent 43

has always been a part of the American culture. At an early age 44

American children learn to do things on their own. They learn to 45

take care of themselves by cleaning their rooms, helping with the 46

dishes and the laundry, and spending time away from their parents, 47

either in daycare, with a babysitter, or alone. Older children often 48

do work for other people such as babysitting or cutting the grass. 49

Most teenagers try to find summer or after-school jobs so that they 50

can have their own spending money. While in college young people 51

usually work part time and during summer vacations in a variety of 52

jobs ranging from construction work to waiting on tablrs in res – 53

taurants. 54

In the past, most young people moved away from home when 55

they finished high school, either to go to college or to get a job and 56

live with friends. Now, however, the cost of living is so high that 57

many people under 25 are moving back in with their parents. Young 58

people are getting married later now than they used to: the average 59

age for a woman to get married is now about 24 and, for a man, 26. 60

Nowadays, newly married couples often postpone having children 61

while they are establishing careers. Once they have children, they 62 face difficult decisions about whether the mother should continue 63

working and, if so, who should care for the children. 64


Underline an idea in the reading that you think is sur­prising. Talk to your classmates about this idea.

O. Scanning/Vocabulary Part 1

DIRECTIONS: Write the line number where you find the word(s). Then choose the best meaning for the word as it is used in that sentence.



line number

a. person to person

b. greeting






line number.

a. being a part of

b. owned





line number

a. feeling close

b. living





line number

a. person of same age

b. modern


ordered by. time



line number

a. easy-going

b. formal





line number

a. at an early age

b. basic color


of first importance



line number

a. stay

b. finish





line number

a. response

b. reason


chemical change



line number

a. young children

b. students


older children



line number

a. front of a building

b. have in front of them


the front of the head

Part 2

DIRECTIONS: Find a word that is the opposite of the one given. The line where you will find the word is given.

1. line 3


2. line 9


3. line 16

staying in one place

4. line 23


5. line 29


6. line 30


7. line 38


8. line 42


E. Reading Comprehension

DIRECTIONS: Circle the letter of the choice that best completes each sentence.

1. Fifty years ago, Americans moved around

a. a lot b. from one area с less than they

to another do now

2. The author states that more mothers work outside the home now in___

a. single-parent b. general с two-parent families


3. Single-parent families are____

a. always single – b. more common now с three times as

parent families than before numerous as before

4. In lines 42-43, "nontraditional families" means___

a. single-parent b. families with the с both a and b

families mother working

5. People probably____ went to church when they lived in small communities.

a. rarely b. often с sometimes

6. People today____ live all their lives in one community in the United States.

a. almost never b. usually с almost always

7. The author thinks that Americans and people from other cultures have__ ideas

about friendships.

a. similar b. strange с different

8. In paragraph 3, the author mentions_____ things that used to make divorce dif­

Подпись: a. three b. four 9. Fifty years ago, children a. had greater b. were probably responsibilities independent also 10. When people get married now, they probably a. have more children b. live with his parents image076


section 2

Look Again

A. Vocabulary

DIRECTIONS: Circle the letter of the choice that best completes each sentence.

1. People come and go here all the time. It is really a very___ community.

a. misleading b. transient с dependent

2. I never have coffee_____ sugar.

a. unless b. in spite of с without

3. Business letters are usually very_____

&-. private b. impersonal с pressured

4. A large salary generally gives people financial____

a. security b. statistics с assistance

5. I like that class because the teacher______ grammar rules and I need to under­

stand grammar more clearly.

a. interacts b. postpones с emphasizes

6. I don’t know them very well. We are just_____ friends.

a. personal b. casual с temporary

7. This magazine is over a year old. The news in it isn’t_____

a. tripled b. current с casual

8. A____ is something I do without thinking. I am accustomed to it.

a. tradition b. habit с reaction

9. They did not associate with each other. They had little____

a. dependence b. personality с interaction

10. There was an emergency so we had to____ our meeting.

a. postpone b. establish с bring up

Подпись: В. Reading Comprehension
DIRECTIONS: Complete the following summary of the reading. Try to answer in your own words without looking back at the reading.

Paragraph 1: Introduction

Fifty years ago, people lived in (1)____________________ towns. Peo­ple (2) their neighbors well.

Paragraph 2

In contrast, American society is (3)____________________ now be­cause (4)

Paragraph 3

A major change in American society: (5)____________________

Some reasons why divorce is more common: less emphasis on

(6) ___________________ , (7) _________________________ , and

(8)____________________ dependence of women on men.

As a reaction to high divorce rates, (9)_________________________

Paragraph 4


Examples: young children help clean up and spend time with babysitters; older children and teenagers earn money by working for other people.

Paragraph 5

Young people are moving back home with their parents because


They are getting married (12)______________________ They have to

make difficult decisions about having (13)___________________ and

whether or not the (14)_____________________ should work.

С. Think About It

1. Were you surprised by any information in the reading? What? Ex­plain it to a classmate.

2. How do you think community life is different in your culture from community life in the United States?

3. How do you think atittudes about friendships are different in your culture from attitudes in the United States?

4. In the United States, working parents have to find someone to take care of their children while they work. Some daycare possibilities are:

a. children stay at home and someone comes in to take care of them;

b. children go to another home where someone takes care of them as well as other children;

с children go to a daycare center where professionals take care of them.

Do people in your country need daycare for their children? Explain why or why not.

5. Why do you think people live together before they are married?

D. Reading


DIRECTIONS: Read and answer the questions below.

Jack and May Young work at a factory. Jack works days (7 a. m. to 4 p. m.), but May alternates between the day shift and the night shift (4 p. m. to 1 a. m.). They have two children, Anna, 9, and Justin, 6. After thirteen years of marriage, Jack has moved out and asked May for a divorce. May doesn’t know for sure, but she thinks that Jack is going to move in with a co-worker, a woman with two young children.

May doesn’t want a divorce so this situation is very difficult for her, but, to make matters worse, Jack says that he wants custody of the children. He knows that May is a good mother, but he thinks that he can take better care of them because he will be home when they are at home.

1. Is May ever at home when the children are not in school?

2. Does Jack have a girlfriend?

3. Who do you think should have custody of the children? Why?

section 3_____________________________

Contact a Point of View


DIRECTIONS: Answer the following questions.

1. When you were a teenager, how did you spend your free time?

2. Did you spend most of your time at your own house, at friends’ houses, or out?

3. Do/Did your parents worry about you?

B. Timed Reading

DIRECTIONS: Read the following point of view and answer the questions in

four minutes.

My name is Ron Perotta. I have three teenagers, two girls and a boy. I want to tell you it’s not easy to have kids nowadays. They all laugh

because I’m always saying, "When I was a kid. . . But, it’s true; when I was a kid, things were different. Families were closer. We all went to church together. I make my family go to church every Sunday, but we are the only ones in our neighborhood who go. So my kids think that religion is just another one of Dad’s traditional ideas. There is not much support for traditional ideas nowadays.

It’s hard to be a parent these days. My parents never had to worry about drugs, about sex, about the danger for their kids on the street. Kids weren’t even supposed to know about sex, unless they lived on a farm, until they were sixteen or so. There were some problems, I guess, even then, but there weren’t as many. Drugs and violence weren’t all around us like they are now.

Well, I’m a realist. I expect my kids will probably try marijuana and alcohol and my girls may live with their boyfriends. I won’t like it and I’ll fight to prevent it, but that’s the way it is. But I think that basically my kids are good kids. I think they’ll grow up and get married. They’ll probably have the same kinds of values that my wife and I have.

I just wish it were 1965 again. Those were the good old days!

DIRECTIONS: Read each of the following statements carefully to determine whether each is true (Tj, false (Fj, or impossible to know (ITKj.

1. The writer is a mother.

2. Ron has six children.

3. Ron’s neighbors go to church every Sunday.

4. Drugs, sex, and violence were big problems when Ron was


5. Kids who lived on a farm were supposed to know about


6. Ron thinks it is a good idea for people to live together

without being married.

7. Ron thinks that traditional ideas are unpopular now.

8. Ron’s children tried marijuana last year.

9. Ron thinks that religion is important.

10. Ron is married.

С Vocabulary

DIRECTIONS: Circle the letter of the wordfsj with the same meaning as the italicized wordjsj.

1. We have five kids.

a. parents b. relatives с children

2. It’s hard to be a parent.

Подпись: с busy с develop с idealisticПодпись: с type с president с continueПодпись: с postwar times с other thing с showa. difficult b. single

3. I can’t prevent my friend from moving.

a. stop b. follow

4. I am worried about my children.

a. angry b. concerned

5. What kind of ice cream do you have?

a. product b. area

6. The РТА is the Parent-Teacher Association.

a. child b. father or mother

7. They seem to grow up too quickly.

a. become adults b. take drugs

8. In those days I felt like a different person.

a. another place b. the past

9. What else do you want to do today?

a. time b. important

10. Will you support me with this new idea? a. prevent b. help

D. React

DIRECTIONS: Answer the following questions and then share your answers with a classmate or with the class.

1. Which three of the following worries do parents have most about their children in your country?

_________ physical danger

_________ education

_________ drugs

_________ premarital sex

_________ loss of religion

________ extreme religions

_________ alcohol

teenage pregnancy kidnapping

violence outside the home violence inside the home teenage suicide


2. Now decide the three most difficult problems for parents today in the U. S.

3. In the United States, teenagers usually go through a stage that is very difficult as they try to establish their independence from their parents. Is this "rebellious" stage common in your country?

4. Some parents and teenagers get along better than others. What do you think makes the difference?

E. Word Analysis Part 1

DIRECTIONS: Look at the endings for verbs and adjectives. Are the italicized words in the sentences verbs or adjectives?


like lik able

accept acceptable


1. Ask anyone. Everyone here is very knowledgeable.

2. Her personality changes like the wind.

3. That solution is unthinkable.

4. What do Americans value?

5. He usually has very changeable ideas.


6. Подпись: VERBCompare the two cars. They are very similar.

7. This is a very strange place; the weather changes almost every hour.

8. Your decision is not workable.

9. Those two cars have comparable en­gines.

10. I know what you mean. It’s understand­able.

Part 2

1. Study the meanings of these: Another example:









ex-, e-

out of, from

























2 Complete the sentences with one of the above words,

a. They study in two languages at school. It is a____________________ school.

b. When did your parents_________________ to the United States?

с A big problem in some countries is that the well-educated people

. from those countries instead of staying and contributing what they can to the society.

d. A trading company_____________________ and____________________

things from one country to another.

e. I brought my____________________ so I can see everything up close.

f. John Kennedy and Martin Luther King lived at the same time. They were

___________________ —(s).

g. Professional photographers stand their cameras on___________________ (s).

h. You are only supposed to have one wife in the U. S.____________________

is the law. In some cultures you can have more than one wife.____________

is permitted.

section 4

Look Back

A. Vocabulary

DIRECTIONS: Circle the letter of the choice that best completes each sentence.

1. It increased from 50 to 150. The number____

a. declined b. doubled с tripled

2. I know my friend is a little crazy sometimes, but______ he is a good person.

a. early b. in relationships c. basically

3. A lot of people live in my house and there is very little______ I can’t get away

from the other people to be by myself.

a. privacy b. noise с socializing

4. There is too much crime and___ on television shows today. I think it has a bad

influence on children and on adults, too.

a. divorce b. privacy с violence

5. In the afternoon a babysitter comes in to____ the children.

a. raise b. grow up с take care of

6. What is your____ reason for coming here?

a. primary b. previous с realistic

7. In the____ world, TV is an important means of communication.

a. contemporary b. statistical с violent

8. This writer always____ descriptions of scenery. I like more action.

a. prevents b. emphasizes с reshapes

9. I’m sorry, but I’m going to have to_____ our meeting. Could you come back on


a. face b. establish с postpone

10. We always celebrate our holidays in the____ way.

a. traditional b. supportive с experienced

В. Matching

DIRECTIONS: Find the word or phrase in column В which has a similar mean­ing to a word in column A. Write the letter of that word or phrase next to the word in column A.





wait to do later




repeated action requiring no


















stop before it happens area of places to live




set up










very small city

С Synthesis Questions

DIRECTIONS: Answer the following questions.

1. Discuss the changes in your country’s society in the past fifty years. Talk about general changes as well as changes in family life.

2. Choose some aspect of American life (for example, education, bringing up children, crime). Work with a classmate to develop questions about this topic. Interview people and report back to the class.

D. Vocabulary Preview

What shorter words can you find in these words?

Protestant (1)_____________________

percentage (2)_____________________

lifestyles (3)_____________________



















What does the "ees" at the end of the retirees and employees mean? How is employer different from employee? (13)__________________________________________

Updated: 18th July 2015 — 3:10 pm