Топики по английскому языку

AMERICAN HOLIDAYS.

    There are 8 major holidays in the USA. Thanksgiving Day which is celebrated on the 4th Thursday of November is one of the oldest public holidays, and it was described previously. Besides the 8 public holidays there are 2 Sundays which are observed in a special way. The 2nd Sunday in May is known as Mother’s Day, which is a day when children honour their mothers. Every child does it in his or her own way. The 3rd Sunday in June is called Father’s Day, when children honour their fathers.

     We must also say that the Americans celebrate holidays which are observed in many countries of the world. Among these are Christmas, which is celebrated on December 25, New Year’s Day, January 1, and Easter, which always falls on a Sunday.

     The first major American holiday in January is Martin Luther King’s Day, which is observed on the third Monday of every January beginning in 1986. Martin Luther King was a black clergyman who became famous all over the world for his campaigns to win full civil rights for the black people in the USA. These campaigns were organized by King in the 1950s and 1960s, because the black people in America were discriminated in different spheres of life. For example, black people were not allowed to eat in the same places with white people, they have to take back seats in public buses, their children could not study at schools together with white children. Today all these practices are abolished because of the movement which was led by Martin Luther King. King was against violence, and his campaigns were peaceful demonstrations. The whole world was shocked when King was killed in 1968. Ever since Americans honoured his birthday on January 15, and the Congress decided to make the third Monday in January a holiday in honour of Martin Luther King.

     President’s Day is quite an old national holiday. For quite a long time it was observed on February 22, the birthday of  George Washington, first president of  the US. In most states Americans also celebrated Abraham Linkoln’s Birthday on February 12. In the 1970s the American Congress decided to honour all past presidents of the country on a single day which was called President’s Day, and which is observed on the third Monday in February.

     Memorial Day is the fourth Monday of every May, when the American’s honour the dead. They remember the dead of all wars and all other dead. Special ceremonies are held in cemeteries, at monuments for the war dead, in churches, schools, or other public places. Memorial Day is also considered to be the beginning of the summer season.

   The fourth ob July is known as Independence Day when the USA was proclaimed an independent republic in 1776. It is a very great holiday marked by parades, flying of flags all over the country and picnics. Fireworks displays fill the skies in the evening.

     Labour Day is observed on the first Monday of September since 1984. The traditions of this holiday are even still older. On this day the Americans honour their working people. In many cities parades of different labour organizations are held. This day also marks the end of the summer season. Public schools open just before or after Labour Day.

     We all know that the New World was discovered by Christopher Columbus on October 12, 1492. Most countries of the American continent celebrate this discovery on October 12, but in the United States Columbus day is celebrated on the second Monday in October. A great parade take place in New York on this day.

     Veterans’ Day is honoured on November 11. This was the date when the First World War ended in 1918. On Veterans’ Day the Americans honour veterans of all the wars in which the United States of America took part. Organizations of war veterans organize parades and different ceremonies. The president of the US places a wreath on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery which is situated in Washington, D.C. Here soldiers are buried from each war which was fought by the United States since the First World War (1914-18). There is much charity work on this day, when different organizations collect money for veterans, invalids and other people in need.

     As has been said Americans widely celebrate Easter and Christmas. Easter is a religious holiday, but many follow old traditions during the holiday such as dyeing hard-boiled eggs, and making presents of chocolate eggs, rabbits and chicks. Many parents organize Easter egg hunts, in which children look for dyed eggs hidden around the house or in the garden. The President of the US even organizes the traditional Easter egg hunt on the lawn of the White House the day after Easter, knowm as Easter Monday. Christmas is a very great religious holiday. As most Americans are Christians so it is widely celebrated in America. In this day many go to Church services to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. There are many Christmas traditions which are very popular, for example to give presents to the children with the help of Santa Claus, who is said to live at the \north Pole, where he makes toys for children during the hole year. Grown-ups also exchange presents and Christmas greeting cards. Americans decorate their homes for Christmas. They have a Christmas tree, which they decorate with toys and small lights. The tree may be a real fir tree from the forest or an artificial one. Gifts are given not only to children, members of the family and close friends. They are given to people who do a lot of work for other people, for example, the postman, milkman. Many firms give their workers gifts of extra money for good work. Christmas is also a time when Americans do a lot of charity work. They help the poor people, organize Christmas dinners for the homeless people. Much help is given to sick people, invalids, people of old age. During Christmas you can meet a lot people in the streets who collect money for those who are in need.

     Americans celebrate New Year’s Day very much like people in different countries of the world. The celebration take place the night before, when Americans gather in homes or in restaurants or other public places to enjoy food and different  drinks and to wish each other a happy new year. There is much noise at midnight when the old year passes away, and the new year arrives. People sing. Dance, the cars in the streets signal their horns.

     One other day that most Americans, especially the young people, observe is Valentine’s Day.  It is on February 14, though it is not an official holiday. The tradition of celebrating Valentine’s Day is very old. Very many years ago it was celebrated in honour of a Christian saint. On this day Americans send gifts to people they love. They also send special greeting cards called Valentines to those whom they love. Usually the gifts are sweets, chocolates and flowers. The tradition of celebrating Valentine’s Day is well known in the Europe, it was also a tradition in our country many years ago and many post-cards of the past reflect this tradition.

THE PRESS.

            When Columbus landed in the New World in October 1942, it took 6 months for the people in the old world to hear about it. But those who heard about it then did not quite understand where exactly he had been. Ironically enough, not even Columbus himself knew. When in July 1969 man made his first landing on the moon, live radio and TV broadcasts within second reaches hundreds of millions of people all over the world. Such changes in mass communications hav taken place in the 20th century. We can date the beginning of mass communication with the invention of Gutenberg’s printing press in 1450. For the first time it was possible to distribute to a large public identical messages by a process of duplication. Motion pictures, radio and TV came along at the end of the 19th and in the early 20th century.

The right of the people to know is one of the central principles of American society. Recognizing this fact, the First Amendment to the Constitution (1791) says, in part, that “Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press ”. And subsequent decisions of the Supreme Court have extended this curb to all levels of government. That protection from control by the federal government meant that anyone, regardless of his political or religious beliefs, could publish what he wished.

Over the past 2 centuries the means of communication, what we call the “media”, “mass media”, “news media” have grown immensely. Early in American history the media were few and simple, they included newspapers, pamphlets and books. Today the media also include TV, radio, films and cable TV (the so-called electronic press). The term “the press” has expanded to refer now to any news operation in any media, not jut print.

Most important among print media are large, mass-circulation national newspapers, such as the Wall Street Jornal, USA Today, the New York Times, and The Washington Post. Among most popular news magazines are Time, Newsweek and US News and World Report. The electronic press includes radio and TV news programming by such giants as the American Broadcasting Company (ABC), the Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS), the National Broadcasting Company (NBC), as well as public broadcasting, and the rapidly expanding cable networks (CNN).

The proportion of America’s earliest press readers was quite small. These were the colonies’ upper class and community leaders, the people, who could read and who could afford to buy newspapers. The first regular newspaper was the Boston News-letter, a weekly started in 1704 by the city’s postmaster, John Campbell. Like most papers of the time, it published shipping information and news from England. Most Americans, out in the fields, rarely saw a newspaper. They depended on travelers or passing townsmen for this news. An important feature of the press in the early years was that the newspapers reflected the interests of the political parties which were being formed. At the same time early American papers played a key role in American democratic life, they supplied common people with access to political information. The growth of the press was phenomenal. At the beginning of the 19th century, the US had about 200 little newspapers, few of which were dailies. By the beginning of the 20th century the number of the country’s newspapers was over 12000. With the increase of the mass audience, number of readers, newspapers gradually emerged from the domination by political parties and became more independent. The press began to deal with a wide variety of subjects of popular interest in addition to politics.

The tendency to objective reporting made the New York Times the nation’s most prestigious newspaper. This newspaper established itself as a serious alternative to sensationalist journalism. It presents important national and international events, a tradition which still continues. The New York Times is only one of many daily newspapers that have become significant in shaping public opinion. Among the most prominent are The Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, the Boston Globe, and the Christian Science Monitor. These are the newspapers with the largest circulations (from 1 to 2 million copies).

A number of magazines have even larger circulations. At the top of the list among those that print mainly political news is Time, which sells 4,5 million copies each week. Time was the first magazine to organize news into separate departments, such as national affairs, business and science. Other prominent news weeklies are Newsweek, using much the same format, Business Week and US News and World Report. But the largest audiences of readers were won by magazines that catered to Americans’ increasing leisure time and appetite for consumer goods, such as Cosmopolitan, the Ladies Home Journal and the Saturday Evening Post. Publishers are no longer just selling reading material; they are selling readers to advertisers. Among all magazines the leading is the monthly Reader’s Digest, with a circulation of over 18 million copies. The 1st commercial radio station in the US began operating in 1922, and in 1950 about 2150 stations were on the air. Though mostly entertaining, the radio’s instant, on-the-spot reports of dramatic events drew huge audiences throughout the 1930s and World War II. Radio also introduced government regulation into the media, though the press and telecommunications in the country are privately owned and operated, with the fewest possible governmental regulations.

In the late 1940s and 1950s TV was establishing itself as an entertainment medium. Like radio before it, TV focused on entertainment to provide large audiences to advertisers. TV production rapidly became concentrated in 3 major networks: CBS, NBC and ABC. One 30-second commercial on ABC-TV’s evening news costs 50000 dollars. It was not until the 1960s that TV news came into its own. Watching TV soon became a social ritual. Traditional family ways were weakening. Millions of people set up their activities and lifestyles around TV’s programmes. The average American spends a great amount of time in front of a TV-set, about 20 hours a week! TV has become the main source from which most Americans get the information.

By the beginning of the 1990s the use of media in the US was at record levels. Over 98% of homes in the country had at least one TV-set, and 1114 stations were in operation. There were 9151 newspapers and nearly 11000 magazines and journals.

Technology continues to change the media. Computers are already revolutionizing the printing process. Cables and satellites are expanding potentialities of  TV.

THE BRITISH AND AMERICAN ENGLISH.

The early English colonists in the new world were speaking Elizabethan English, the language of Shakespeare and Marlow, when they came to America. This is important and necessary for our understanding of some of the features which American English was to develop later on. There are very few pure languages. English has been known as a word borrower. In the formation of the American English the English-speaking colonists were brought into contact with the different peoples who spoke different languages. Many words, derived from these languages, were added to the 17th century form of English. First in importance come the words derived from the speech of various Indian tribes. This was caused by the necessity of talking about new things, qualities, operations, concepts, and ideas. The movement of a people to a new and different environment not only creates a problem of communication but makes it urgent.

The first colonists saw plants and animals which were new to them. Some of the fish they caught in the coastal waters were unlike anything they had seen before. The land was occupied by tribes who spoke strange languages, wore strange clothing, prepared strange foods. Even the landscape was greatly different from the neatly tailored English countryside. Names had to be given to all these aspects of their new life. So, from the Indians were borrowed not only the many geographical names of rivers, lakes, mountains, but names for objects (plants, animals), as well as implements and food preparations of a new kind, such as canoe, moccasin, wigwam, toboggan, tomahawk, totem, igloo, hammock, etc.

Besides the various Indian influences, American English reflects the other non-English cultures which the colonists men in their conquest o the continent. In the westward expansion of their territory, the English-speaking colonists soon came into contact with the casual French settlements in the Middle West. From the French a considerable number of words were derived , e.g. rapids, prairies, etc. More substantial borrowings were made from the Spanish colonization and culture as the English-speaking settlers moved southward and westward toward the Pacific Ocean. Spanish words were adopted at two different periods. In the early colonial days, American English received creole, mulatto. Then, after the Mexican war (1846-48) contact with the Spanish-speaking inhabitants of Texas and the Spanish West resulted in borrowing of such words as canyon, ranch, sombrero. The Dutch settlers of New York contributed to American English the following words: boss, cookie, Santa Claus.

The increasing influence of the mass media has caused a steady infiltration of American words and expressions into British English. The word “okay”, for example, once exclusively American, is today normal British usage. And the word “commuter”, meaning a person who travels to and from his work daily with a season ticket, is rapidly passing into British English. It is shorter and easier than the British equivalent, “season ticket holder”. Americans are constantly inventing new words, many of which have found a permanent place first in American and then in British usage. In this category we have formations like “to televise” from “television”, and compound words like “cablegram” from “cable” and “telegram” and “sport-cast” from “sport” and “broadcast”. The use of nouns as verbs and vice versa has also given rise to new words. Thus we have “to park”, which now means “to put in a safe place until needed”, and today we park not only cars but also children, dogs and even chewing gum. A cheap article of good quality is a “good buy”, things to eat are “eats”, and a technical designer who produces a perfect “lay-out” (design) has “know-how”. Foreign students with a knowledge of English often experience considerable difficulty in their first contacts with American speakers. The problem here, however, usually has more to do with pronunciation than with the language itself. Apart from the typically nasal quality of American speech, there are the number of basic differences between British and American pronunciation:

a)      Words ending in –ary and –ory have a stress on the text to last syllable in American: secretary, laboratory;

b)      Americans often pronounce [r] in position where it is not pronounced in British English: car, here;

c)      In such words as bath, news the American pronunciation will be [bæθ], [nu:z];

d)      Other words which are pronounced differently tomato, address.

In American English the pronunciation is [tә’meitәυ] and [‘ædres].

In American English there is an increasing tendency to employ a simplified spelling. The commonest feature of this

simplified spelling is the use of –or in all words that in English contain –our: thus Americans write labor, honor, honorable, also many Americans write tru for through, Malboro for Marlborough.

There are, however, a number of cases in which British and American people continue to use different words to mean

the same thing. These words are still in constant use and have retained their national character. Here are a few examples illustrating certain variations in the two languages.

British                                                                            American

Transportation

booking                                                          office  ticket window

         bonnet (of a car)                                                        hood

                                                car park                                                                   parking lot

                                                Circus (Piccadilly)                                      Circle

                                                coach                                                                      bus

                                                engine-driver                                                           engineer

                                                garage                                                                       service station

                                                guard (of a train)                                                     conductor

                                                goods train                                                   freight train

                                                 lay by                                                                      rest area (on highway)

                                                 lift                                                                elevator

                                                 lorry                                                             truck

                                                 petrol                                                                       gas or gasoline

                                                 pram                                                                        baby-carriage

                                                 railway                                                                    railroad

HIGHER EDUCATION.

Out of more than 3 million students who graduate from high school each year, about 1 million go on for “higher education”. It is not easy to enter a college at a leading university in the US. Such a college may accept only one out every 10 who apply. At present there are over 3300 different institutions of higher education in the USA with more than 12 million students.

Successful applicants at colleges of higher education are usually chosen on the basis of (a) their high school records which included their class rank, the list of all the courses taken and all the grades received in high school, test results; (b) recommendations from their high school teachers; (c) the impression they make during interviews at the university, which is in fact a serious examination; and (d) their scores on the Scholastic Aptitude Tests (SATs). The SAT is a test in mathematics and English language which was introduced in 1947. The SAT is taken in the 11th grade of high school (over 1,5 million high school students take it yearly). If a student gets 1600 scores it is considered as a good result, if he or she gets 400 scores such a result is considered to be poor. A SAT can be taken 2 or 3 times, so that the student can improve the results if he or she wishes to do so.

The system of higher education includes 4 categories of institutions: (1) the two*year, or community college, which is financed by the local authorities and which is intended to satisfy the needs of the local community in different professions. Tuition fees are low in these colleges, that is why about 40% of all American students of higher education study at these colleges. On graduation from such colleges American students can start to work or may transfer to four-year colleges or universities; (2) the technical training institution, at which high school graduates may take courses ranging from 6 months to 3-4 years, and learn different technical skills, which may include design, business, computer programming, accounting, etc., (3) the four-year college which is not part of a university. The graduates receive the degree of bachelor of arts (BA) or bachelor of science (BS), (4) the university, which may contain (a) several colleges for students who want to receive the bachelor’s degree after four years of study; and (b) one or more graduate schools for those who want to continue their studies after college for about two years to receive a master’s degree (Master of Arts (MA)) or of Science (MS) or a doctoral degree (Ph. D. – Doctor of Philosophy, in some science). There are 156 universities in the USA.

 Any of this institutions of higher education may be either public or private. The public institutions are financed by the state. Of the four-year institutions 28% are public, and 72% are private, but most of the students, about 80%, study at public institutions of higher education, because tuition fees here are much lower. If at the end of the 1980s tuition fees at private institutions were 12 thousand dollars a year and even higher, at public institutions they were 2-5 thousand dollars a year.

Many students need financial aid to attend college. When a family applies for aid, an analysis is made of the parents’ income. The aid may be given in the form of a grant, or stipend which the student doesn’t need to pay back. It may be given as a loan, which the student must pay back after college. The third type of aid may be given in the form of some kind of work, which the student has to do at the university or college, for which he gets some money. Most students work, especially during the summer vacation.

The academic year is usually nine months, or two semesters of 4 and a half months each. Studies usually begin in September and end in July. There are summer classes for those who want to improve the grades or take up additional courses. Students who study at the university or four-year college are known as undergraduates. Those who have received a degree after 4 years of studies are known as graduates. They may continue with their studies and research work to another 2 years as graduates in order to get a higher degree. The undergraduate students who study for four years are called as follows: (a) the first-year student is called a freshman; (b) the second-year student is called a sophomore; (c) the student of the third year is known as a junior; and (d) the fourth-year student – a senior.

During one term or semester a student will study four or five different subjects. The students’ progress is controlled through oral or written tests, term or course papers and a final examination in each course. Each part of a student’s work in a course is given a mark which helps to determine his final grade. A student’s record consists of his grade in each course. College grades are usually on a five-point scale: A – is the highest mark and is usually equal to 5 points, B=4, C=3, D=2, E or F means failure. To points make it possible to calculate the GPA (grade point average). Normally, a minimum GPA of 3,5, points is necessary to continue or university and to graduate.

Each college or university has its own curriculum. There are courses that every student has to take an order to receive a degree. These courses or subjects are called major subjects or “majors”. At the same time there are subjects, which the student may choose himself for his future life. These courses are called “electives”. A student has to earn a certain number of “credits” (about 120) in order to receive a degree at the end of four years of college. Credits are earned by attending lectures or laboratory classes and completing assignments and examinations. One credit usually equals one hour of class per week in a single course during the semester.

Thus, we see that the American system of higher education gives the student much choice which he may realize according to his will. His achievements in his studies and future work depend upon himself. At the same time many Americans are not satisfied with the condition of higher education in their country. The high tuition fees make it difficult for law-paid American families to send their children to university. This is especially true for young people from minority groups – the Blacks, Asians, etc. Though much is spent by the state for education, American universities complain that this funds are becoming smaller with every new year. The equipment which is used at the universities for research is not modern enough, and the universities do not have the money to install new equipment. Under such conditions tuition fees are growing and many talented young people cannot receive higher education. Critics point out that one every eight highly talented high school graduates does not go on to university or college, and only half the students who enter college for a bachelor’s degree actually achieve their aim. All these problems are widely discussed today in American society.

 

POPULATION.

When the 1st census was taken in 1790 much of the country had not even been explored, and much of it did not belong to the US, but to France and Spain. The “western settlers” of that day were in the Appalachian Mountains, and the total population was about 4 million. By 1854 the US had acquired the western part of the country. This region had been unified politically. The population then was about 24 million. The speed with which it actually was settled is one of the most exciting stories in American history. Within the period of a single lifetime, vast territories of forest and prairies were converted into farms and industrial cities. The dramatic movement of the population from the East to the Pacific was caused by the discovery of gold in northern California.

A vital role in the formation of the population of the US was played by the immigration. Very many people came from abroad , mostly from Europe, in search of political or religious freedom. Others fled from poverty and hunger. Before 1880 most of the immigrants came from northern and western Europe, and after that from southern and eastern Europe. Thousand of Asians came to the Pacific coast. The peak of movement was reached in the period from 1901 to 1910 during which some 8.8 million persons entered the country.

The first Europeans to establish permanent settlements along the Pacific coast were the Russians. They came late in the eighteens century in search of easily extracted riches. Here that proved to be furs, and they established a number of trading posts and missionary activities that eventually reached as far south as northern California. However, they were concentrated in Southeastern Alaska, These posts never became self-sufficient in foodstuffs, and the costs of maintaining these scattered, distant posts consumed most of the profits. So in 1867 Alaska was sold to the US for a price of 7.2 million dollars. Many Americans considered the price far too high, and the government was seriously criticized for the purchase. Evidence of this Russian presence can still be seen in some parts of Alaska in wooden architecture, onion-domed churches, cemeteries, and the Russian Orthodox faith.

Immigrants from different countries very often live by solid communities – Franco-Canadians in the north of New England, Germans in Pennsylvania, Swedes in Minnesota, the French in Louisiana, the Slavs in the northeast and the Lake District. They use their native languages and keep the customs and traditions of their forefathers. Representatives of many nationalities and ethnic groups took part in the formation of the American nation and it is a very complicated product.

A constituent part of the American nation are about 30 million  Negro people, or Afro-Americans (over 12 % of the whole population). Half of them live in the South, in the states of Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Georgia, North and South Carolinas, Virginia. The group of Spanish-speaking Americans also constitutes a considerable proportion of the population – about 17 million. The native people comprise Indians (1.5 million), Eskimos and Aleuts. North Alaska has been the home of Eskimos for countless centuries. It is believed that the Eskimos moved there from Mongolia or Siberia, probably crossing Bering Strait, named for Vitus Bering, the Danish sea captain who discovered Alaska on his voyage for Russia in 1741. The Eskimos, the Aleuts of the southwest, and the Indians of the southeast are the state’s earliest known inhabitants. There are about 4 million people belonging to other ethnic groups. But the great majority of the people of the US are English-speaking Americans (over 80%), though their language under new conditions of life and immigrant environment acquired a number of new phonetical and lexical peculiarities.

In number of population (over 260 million) the US holds one of the first places in the world (after China and India). The average density of population as a whole, without Alaska and Hawaii, is 26.2 people per 1 square kilometre, i.e. considerably less than in most of the countries of Europe. More than half of the population is concentrated in the industrial Northeast, and the density of population here is very high – 374 people per 1 square kilometre. The density of the population of the South is over 30 people per 2 square kilometre. On the Pacific coast the density is high again – 64 people per 1 square kilometre (California). Meanwhile, California is the most populous state – 27 million people, New York is second – 18 million. In the industrial and agrarian states of the Lake District the density of population is lower and decreases sharply in the purely agricultural states – North and South Dakotas and Nebraska – 4-7 people per 1 square kilometre. In the mountainous Cordillera States the density ranges from 2 people (Wyoming) to 12 people per 1 square kilometre in Colorado.

The lowest density of population is Alaska – 0.3 people per 1 square kilometer. But the tendency of movement of the population from one region to another never stopped. Interregional migrations of the population are closely connected with considerable territorial differences in the level and rate of economic development and reflect changes in the structure and distribution of economy. As a result of the reduction of employment in agriculture and the increase of those employed in industry, trade, finance, government, service, the urban population of the country is continuously growing, now it is 74 %. The proportion of rural population is only 26 %. The principal reason today for population movement is the growth of new industries, especially in the West and South.

The population of 50 largest American cities constitutes 37.8 million people (16.6 % of the country’s population). At the top of the list is the urban agglomeration of New York – the population of which is 17.9 million. It is followed by Los Angeles – 13 million, Chicago – 8.1 million, San Francisco – 5.8 million, Philadelphia – 5.8 million, Detroit – 4.6 million, etc. As a whole, the US has 182 cities with the population of over 100 thousand people.

Today 95% of the population of the US are the people who were born here. The great majority of the Americans belongs to the Protestant and Catholic churches. As regards sex structure the ratio of females and males is 51.4 to 48.6%. The expectation of life for a white man is 71.3 and for a black man 65.4 years, for a white woman 78.3 and for a black woman 73.6 years. The US is one of the few countries in the world that has no “official” national language. English is the common language by use, but it is not the national language by law. About 30 million Americans speak a language other that English at home. This means, for example, that if you meet an American in New Mexico who speaks Spanish as his first language, he could be a recent immigrant, having arrived in the USA only few years ago, or his grandparents could have arrived in the US a hundred years ago. It could also be that his ancestors had been living in the area years before the thirteen American colonies were established on the East Coast. A social foreign accent does not necessarily mean that an individual is (or even was) a foreigner.

SCHOOL EDUCATION.

            Every autumn more than 44 million young Americans walk through the doorways of about 106 thousand elementary and secondary schools for the start of a new school year. The young people fill classrooms after leaving the kindergartens and continue to study up to the 12th grade. (In the USA they use the term “grade” instead of the words “class” or “form”, which are used in Europe or in our country). The children attend classes usually for five hours a day, and five days a week until the beginning of the following summer. Like in our country they don’t attend classes on public holidays, or when they have their vacation for Christmas or Easter.

            In the USA there are two types of schools – public schools which are supported by the state and where schooling is free-of-charge, and private schools, where the families have to pay special attendance fees. These schools are usually controlled by different churches or religious groups. In such schools religious teachings are a part of the curriculum, which also includes the traditional academic subjects which are taught in public schools.

            Each of the 50 states in the USA has his own laws regulating education. From state some laws are the same, in others they are not. For example, all states require young people to attend school, but the age limits are different. They may be from 7 to 16, or 6 to 18, etc. Thus, every child in America is guaranteed up to 13 years of education. This is true, regardless of a child’s race, religion, sex, learning problems, whether he or she is physically handicapped or not. About 85% of American schoolchildren attend public schools, and 15% private schools. Public schools are controlled by boards of education of the state or the district where the school is situated. These boards are responsible for the curriculum, the selection of the teachers and other aspects of school life.

            American schoolchildren pass through two main stages of school education on their way to get a high school diploma. They attend the elementary school and then the secondary school. Of the 44 million schoolchildren about 27 million attend elementary schools and 17 million secondary schools.

The elementary school may include 8 grades in some places, and 6 grades in other. Sometimes grades 4,5 and 6 make up what is called a “middle grade” school. Many Americans call the elementary school a “grammar school”.

Secondary education may begin with grade 9 or with grade 7. It depends on the way elementary education is organized in this or that state or district. Usually “secondary school” means grades 9-12. These grades are popularly called “high school”, and the young people who attend these schools are called high school students. So you must not mix up with those young people, who study at universities or colleges. They are also called students.

            In many districts secondary education begins with grade 7. In these cases grades 7-9 are called “junior high school”. And when grades 7-9 are included with the 10th, 11th and 12th grades, all 6 are said to form a “senior high school”.

            Though there is no national curriculum in the US certain subject are taught in all the 12 grades across the country.

            Almost every elementary school provides instruction in the subjects: mathematics, language (a subject that includes reading, grammar, composition and literature); penmanship (the rules of writing); science; social studies (a subject that includes history, geography citizenship and economics); music; art; and physical education. In many elementary schools, courses in the use of computers have been introduced. And in some cases they begin to study a foreign language.

            Most secondary schools have the same number of required “basic” subjects: English, mathematics, science, social studies and physical education. But school boards differ greatly from one district to another in the amount of class time they want high school students to spend on these subjects. In some high schools, for example, students must complete 3 years of mathematics before leaving school.

            In the US the usual requirements for high school graduation are about 18 “units” is equal to about 120 hours of classes in one subject (3 hours a week). Students who plan to attend college need over 20 units.

            High school students are helped by school counselors in choosing the subjects, which are called “electives”, because they are not necessary for everybody. A student chooses the electives which he thinks will be necessary for him for his future work or further education at the university or college. A student may take 1 year of American history, and then a year of European history. The elective courses differ from school to school. Some high schools specialize in 1 group of subjects, for example, in business, engineering, trade. Another high school may offer to study foreign languages, science, music. A student planning to become a doctor would want to attend a school where there are many electives in science, health. Another student who plans to start to work after leaving school will pay more attention to get practical knowledge and develop practical  skills.

            Though much is spent by the state for education, American schools face many problems. As the schools depend greatly on what they get from local authorities, they differ from one another in the quality of education. The private schools, where the parents have to pay special fees, are attended by children from rich families. Here education is very good. Thus, we see that not always young people have equal chances to get good education. Schools in the poor districts of many big cities do not give the required level of education.

            One of the problems of the American school today is connected with the “drop-out” of high school students. Unfortunately, many high school students leave or drop out of schools before graduation because of poor material conditions at home. They have to work to help their families. Many specialists in the field of education consider that more attention must be paid to the quality of education so that the school graduates should be better prepared for work and further education.

            School reform is a major issue in modern American life. The parents are often displeased with the low level of knowledge of public school leavers. Many Americans demand that a national curriculum for school should be worked out. President Clinton expressed his concern about the problems of American education, emphasizing that crime and violence are a result of the inefficiency of many public schools.

THE FACE OF THE COUNTRY.

            The physical features of the US are also greatly diverse. The majestic Rocky Mountains stretch all the way from Mexico to the Arctic. They divide country into 2 parts – the East and the West. The East is occupied by the Appalachian Mountains, the Atlantic Plains. The West is under the powerful Cordillera Mountain System, and the Rockies are part of this system. Close to the Pacific coast, lying between mountain ranges, stretches the California Valley, a narrow strip of lowlands.

            The mountain ranges or the US stretch longitudinally and afford no protection against the cold northerly winds. This accounts for the country’s climate, which is notably colder than that of Western Europe or North Africa in the same latitudes.

            The Appalachian Mountains run along the Atlantic coast of the country. Compared with the Rockies in the West, they are ancient, strongly destroyed mountains of no great height (2000m). Railroad lines run along the river valleys and over the low mountain passes, thus connecting the Atlantic coast with the interior of the country. The eastern slopes of the Appalachians merge with the Atlantic Coastal Plain, which, expanding in the south, adjoins the Gulf Coastal Plain and the lowlands of the Peninsula of Florida. The greatest width of the Appalachian belt in the south is nearly 320 kilometres, and in the north – some 100 kilometres.

            The Appalachian Mountains consist mainly of the numerous mountain ranges which are nearly parallel with the Atlantic coastline and extend from near the Gulf of Mexico north into Canada.

            Nearly all the Western part of the US is occupied by the Cordillera Mountain System. The Cordillera Mountains extend from Mexico to Canada and Alaska. In the south they are drained by the Colorado River, in the north – by the Columbia River. It is a region of high plateaus crossed by streams which flow through deep canyons.

            The Cordillera Mountain System includes a number of lofty ranges or chains and plateaus. The Rocky Mountains form the eastern chain of the Cordilleras. They rank among the greatest of the world mountain ranges. They are high (over 4000 metres), sharp and rugged. As compared with the Appalachians, they are young and their peaks are caped with snow. When the Rocky Mountains were formed (over 100 million years ago) the molten rock which was forced up carried with it gold, copper, lead, silver and other metals, so they are very rich in minerals.

            Another subdivision of the Cordilleras is the Sierra Nevada – Cascade Range, which extends from the Canadian border to the Mexican boundary. It forms an almost unbroken mountain wall between inland US and the Pacific coast land. The only east route from the interior to the coast is at the point where the Columbia River cuts through the mountains in a wide pass. There are great forests in the Cascades and large gold deposits in the Sierra Nevadas.

            The Pacific slope of the Cordillera Mountains includes the Pacific valleys and the Coast Ranges. These ranges form two parallel mountain systems stretching along the Pacific coast. The Coast Ranges are known also as the Maritime Cordilleras.

            The eastern and western chains of the Cordilleras enclose the Great North American Plateau. The climate here is markedly continental and dry, vegetation – of the desert and semi-desert types. The central part of the Great North-American Plateau – the Great Basin – is a semi-desert area with the only large sheet of water – the Great Salt Lake. In the region between Salt Lake City, Utah, and Reno, Nevada, there is nothing but dead lakes, dry rivers, snakes and small animal life, enormous mineral wealth, and the inhuman beauty of the desert. The climate is so dry and hot that even fairly large rivers from the mountains evaporate so rapidly that they die before reaching the end of the desert. The sun shines nine-tenths of the year, and the temperature goes up to about 50 degrees centigrade in the shade. But occasionally it rains, even here.

            Close to the western edge of the Sierra Nevadas, in California, there is a particularly lonely stretch of desert named Death Valley by pioneers who tried to cross it in their rush to the goldfields. For 225 kilometres hardly a bush can be seen in this ancient lakebed 85 metres below sea level – the bottom of the US.

            But even in the vast, silent desert there are rich and prosperous towns which were built where men found sufficient water. The Colorado, the Gila and other smaller rivers have made the desert bloom along their shores. Centuries ago, American Indians used these western rivers to irrigate their fields. Ruins of their old canals are still found throughout the desert. Observing these canals, early settlers reasoned that bringing water to this land would be easy. They had seen that the mountains held plenty of snow and rain, and that the mountain rivers could be put to work.

            The water that is brought down the mountains is stored in two natural lakes – Utah Lake and Bear Lake – and six man-made storage facilities. These facilities account for about 75 % of the total water in the state. More than 100 towns and countless gardens now flourish in this region which had once been considered worthless.

            After 1848, when gold was found in the river beds of California, great numbers of people crossed the mountains over trails discovered by the hunters. Today, eight railroads and a dozen highways go winding over the mountains, following routes made by these settlers.

s made by these settlers.