Schoolhouse Rock was an American animated musical educational show that was originally produced in the 1970s and 1980s. “Great American Melting Pot” was aired in 1977, written by Lynn Ahrens and Lori Lieberman. It tells the story of immigration from the Old World of Europe to the New World of the United States. It suggests that immigrants of different backgrounds have come together in America, bringing with them their own traditions and values, but ultimately becoming part of one “Great American Melting Pot.” The chorus sings: “Lovely Lady Liberty/With her book of recipes/And the finest one she’s got/Is the great American melting pot.”
Consider the history of the founding of America that is told in this music short. What does it get right? What is missing from its historical narrative? Whose stories are emphasized, and whose stories are overlooked?
Consider the idea of the “Great American Melting Pot.” Do you think this concept has value? Do you find reasons to criticize its philosophical approach. Why or why not?
This educational musical short was produced in the mid-1970s. If it were produced today, what would be different? What would remain the same?
The idea of the “American melting pot” has been criticized for ignoring cultural difference and forcing assimilation toward a white norm upon people of diverse backgrounds. Some have suggested that the “salad bowl” metaphor is more appropriate, as it takes a more pluralistic approach in which ethnic difference is recognized and maintained, but unity in purpose is still the ultimate goal. The salad bowl metaphor itself has come under criticism, as some have argued it continues to perpetuate an American norm of whiteness that treats minority groups as second-class citizens.