U.S. Institutions Class Questions Fall 2011
FAST-US-2 United States Institutions Survey (Hopkins)
Department of Translation Studies, University of Tampere
(Questions have been anonymized and are listed in the order in which they
1. Following the United States Public Law 103-150 (the so-called Apology
Resolution to Native Hawaiians for the Overthrow of the Kingdom of
Hawaii) in 1993, the Reinstated Hawaiian Kingdom and Government was
formed in 1999 with the goal of reinstating Hawaii's former
sovereignty and having the Kingdom's authority recognized as the
lawful government of Hawaii instead of that of the United States. How
strong is the Hawaiian independence movement today? Is there the
slightest possibility that the movement could ever succeed in its
endeavors, considering that the Constitution does not permit states to
secede from the union?
2. The District of Columbia is not part of any state. Does it have its
own law in a similar fashion as each of the 50 states?
1. Why is American Football called "football," when only a minor part of
the game has anything to do with feet and the ball simultaneously? What
is the background of the name, and have there been any optional names
for the sport?
2. What is the status of the languages the immigrants spoke back in the
17th, 18th and 19th centuries? Are they taught in schools in the
regions they were spoken in, or are they spoken in family tradition. Or
have these languages simply disappeared from these regions?
1. It is said that (Christian) religiousness is one of Americas most
pervasive core values. With this in mind, how do Americans justify the
death penalty? In general, is there much public debate about this,
namely the (some people would say) irreconcilable conflict between
Christian values and the death penalty?
2. In recent years there has been research by international relations
scholars into different "anti-Americanisms" that have been seen to grow
in the world especially after Sept 11, 2001 (see example).
How aware in general are Americans of these sentiments; is there much
about them in American media? If Americans are aware of them, have they
affected their understanding of themselves as a nation at any level?
1. What kind of relationship is kept up between the different U.S. states?
Is there any mutual rivalry or pride? Have any states ever claimed a
kind of independence? Are there stereotypes or jokes made by one state
about another? What are they?
2. Why are Americans considered to be ignorant of the culture, history and
geography of other countries? Are they? I asked some Americans that I
met here and it appears that they agreed with the stereotype. The
reason they gave is the education system, which seems to be very
ethnocentric. They said they do learn a lot about their country, and
also learn about other countries. But they only seem to learn the
American perspective. About the Vietnam War, for example, they said
that everyone knows when the Americans fought it and that it happened,
but not many people know why or how it ended. And they believe this is
because they lost that war. And another reason given is that the USA is
already a big country with a lot of different cultures so they already
have a lot to learn about themselves.
1. Which states are more Democratic and which are more Republican? In
other words, which states vote for the Republicans and which for the
Democrats? Are there huge regional differences?
2. What if you don't have health insurance and you are taken ill? Can
patients be denied treatment due to their inability to pay the fees?
1. Do the copyright laws in USA differ much from those in Finland? Is
there any organization that resembles the Finnish Teosto?
2. If church and state are separated, why do politicians refer to God in
their speeches? Is it commonly accepted or do people frown upon it?
1. What is jury duty like? Does it concern all American citizens?
2. Why do Americans use garbage disposal units in their kitchens? For
Europeans this way of garbage disposal sounds a bit odd.
1. The US is one of the most technological and scientific countries in the
world, and at the same time one of the most religious. I cannot
understand that Creationism is taught in schools and real scientific
theories like Darwin's isn't. Does it depend on the State? Why does the
religion have still this influence on teaching? What about secularism?
2. Last year in one of my English classes we talked about the letter of
Chief Seattle to President Pierce in 1855, and about the importance of
nature for native Americans. Does nature in general have an importance?
What is the relationship of Americans with their National Parks?
1. In Finland, people are generally reluctant to talk about religion. How
openly do Americans discuss their religious beliefs?
2. Do homeschooled children have the same opportunities in life as the
kids who have been to school? Does homeschooling have any negative
impact on their future? For example, does it make it more difficult to
get into universities?
1. In US-1 we talked about different dialects in American English. I
couldn't help but think the situation is somewhat similar in Finland.
People seem to think the 'coolest' dialect is that of Helsinki region,
whereas people from, for example, Savonia sound ridiculously funny to
some people. Is there any reason the situation with American English
dialects and the situation with Finnish dialects is NOT comparable?
2. Do Americans in general speak languages well? Do they study foreign
languages a lot? If so, which ones?
1. It is said that 1 in 7 Americans don't speak English as their native
language. What types of people does this one seventh consist of? Is it
just recently arrived or poorly educated immigrants, or could there be
for example a portion of people who speak another language at home and
think of that as their mother tongue?
2. How do Americans in general view immigrants and immigration into their
country? Illegal immigration is of course a whole other story in
itself, but do where they come from and what they end up doing for a
living in the States factor into how warmly foreigners are welcomed?
1. I have read that The United States has the highest teen pregnancy rate
in the industrialized world. That made me wonder what kind of health
education or sex education students are given at school. Are they
provided with information about contraception and disease prevention?
If so, why are there so many pregnant teenagers? Are there religious
reasons for not using contraception?
2. In class we were told that Americans are very hard-working and
persistent, and many don't want to take a vacation at all. They are
also expected to take part in some activity outside work. How many
hours does a typical American work a day, and how many days a week?
When do they have time to spend with their families, if not on a
vacation? What would be typical examples of freetime activities? Would
they be taken part in as a family?
1. In Finland there are strict regulations concerning the correct usage of
the Finnish flag. The American flag on the other hand seems to be used
quite liberally. What kind of flag etiquette is there concerning the
American flag? How strictly is the use of the flag monitored and are
there penalties for failing to follow the etiquette?
2. What is the relationship between the states and the central government
like? What kinds of things does the federal government dictate and what
kinds of decisions are left to the states?
1. There are a lot of foreign and subtitled programs and such on Finnish
television. In comparison, how much do Americans (in general) watch
programs that are made somewhere else or in a foreign language? What's
the general attitude towards subtitles?
2. Since American people seem to be quite patriotic, I'd like to know what
the general knowledge of other cultures is like among average
Americans? How much do they teach about other cultures and for example
European history in schools? Also, how up-to-date are Americans
generally with current events in other parts of the world?
1. TV in the US; Most of us have at least some knowledge about the
programs and technology in the US, but I'd like to konw about TiVo in
layman's terms... Also, are the "After-School Specials" really as bad
as all the pop-culture references seem to indicate? Oh, and are there
any kind of statistics available on how many Americans use TV as their
only news-source? I am especially interested in people who rely solely
on the "truth" of FOX-News...
2. I know why the right to arm bears... ahem... right to bear arms is in
the US Constitution... But why do people, after all these years, still
think that gun-contol is anti-American? I get that big corporations use
all kinds of ways to influence people, but somehow it just does not fit
in my head why organizations like the NRA have such a strong influence
in the politics...
1. American television programs seem to have a commercial break every five
minutes or even less (for example, "we'll be right back after these
messages!" in talk shows). Is this purely out of capitalism or, as it
has been suggested in Finland, that Americans simply can't focus on a
program for longer than five minutes at a time?
2. Why is the American government so heavily populated with far left and
far right wing politicians instead of middleground people?
1. Are there traffic-related laws other than the open container ones that
differ from state to state, and if so, are they known to cause problems
to people travelling in different states?
2. How rapidly are the regulations on gambling changing? Also, Utah and
Hawaii seem to be the strictest states on this issue, why Hawaii?
1. Barack Obama announced a few days ago that all U.S. troops will be
brought home from Iraq by the end of this year. What exactly have the
U.S. achieved by the War in Iraq? How do the Americans feel about the
war, do they think it's a good thing and justified because of 9/11?
Have there been any large demonstrations or peace movements (like there
were against the War in Vietnam)?
2. I've read that there are many dumb laws in the U.S. For example, in New
York "A person may not walk around on Sundays with an ice cream cone in
his/her pocket" and in Alaska "Moose may not be viewed from an
airplane". Every state seems to have a few crazy laws of its own. Where
do these laws originate from and are they truly enforced nowadays?
1. The American people seem to be very proud of themselves and their
country, unlike the Finns, who often wonder why anyone even comes here
willingly. How come the Americans have such pride in themselves and we
don't? Is it the culture of modesty in Finland or the history of the US
or what? America surely has its share of problems with the education
system, social security and such, and Finland is quite a good place to
live after all, even though it surely also has its problems too.
2. How does the American public feel about increasing social benefits?
1. 16, 18, 21: those are the magical numbers for anyone growing up in the
U.S. How does the American society justify the fact that 16-year-olds
are allowed to drive a car, become de facto adults at the age of 18,
yet it is only upon turning 21 are they allowed to possess and consume
alcohol and tobacco products?
2. Why is it so that even though English is obviously the most commonly
spoken language in the United States and is the language of the
government, the US does not have an official language?
1. What are the big names of modern art in USA today? Are Americans
interested in art in general?
2. Why are there many religious people in the "Bible belt"?
1. As the U.S. is a highly individualistic country, the relationships to
one's family aren't as important there as they are in, for example,
India. What are the relationships like in a typical American family?
For example, in many American television series set in big cities,
adult characters don't seem to have much contact to their parents, not
to mention to their grandparents. Is that a realistic image?
2. During World War II, the American Japanese were treated as highly
unreliable, and many of them were forced to live in concentration
camps. Has there been an official apology for that? How are ethnic
Japanese people treated in the United States nowadays?
1. People living in the US are sometimes portrayed as ignorant about
history and other countries. Is that image just a stereotype that's
been blown out of proportion or is there some truth to it?
2. There seem to be few interracial couples in American television
programs, at least in those that are shown in Finland. Are they a taboo
or outside the target audiences?
1. How much public support and power (as in representation in the
Congress) does the Tea Party movement have? Is the movement all about
cutting taxes, or are there some other issues it is concerned with?
2. Even though the principle of separating state and church is written in
the constitution, does religion play a role in the politics of the
1. Is there any movement towards adopting the metric system in the U.S.?
2. We have all heard of stereotypes about Italian Americans, Mexican
Americans and so on, but has there ever been any, positive or negative,
stereotypes about Finnish Americans?
1. When the US troops killed Osama Bin Laden there were big celebrations
at Ground Zero and I heard numerous people say that they were "so proud
to be American today". How was the death portrayed in the media? How
big a portion of Americans believe, for example, that they had the
right to kill Bin Laden and not give him a trial or the right to attack
Afghanistan in 2001 even though The United Nations Security Council did
not authorize the attack? Is there division between the Republicans and
2. What are the best-known traditional songs/folk songs in America?
1. I'm wondering about environmental awareness in the U.S. When I went
there for a trip, I was really surprised how they throw everything
together in one bin. Some said recycling is more costly since in
America there is a lot of barren area where they dumped trash and burn
or whatsoever. Still, it wouldn't make any difference in a matter of
environment. My question is, does that also depends on the states?
Wouldn't environmentalists have a movement to go against this?
2. In America, possession of guns is relatively tolerant. Even if those
who want to possess a gun have to go through test and get a license,
isn't there a lot more possibility of crime in society? What is the
background and what's people's notion about this issue in general?
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Last Updated 16 November 2011