I have always felt that Americans needed to learn more about the rest of the world. In the classroom, they learn primarily about their country, culture, and history. And even then, the current inclusions might only survive for a few more years ― if that.
Some politicians are fighting hard to trim an already sparse curriculum:
- The Florida governor rejected 54 math textbooks, claiming they contained critical race theory.
- Texas proposed the removal of slave history from the curricula.
- More than half of U.S. states have banned books to “cleanse” the education system of racial or LGBTQIA+ content.
- Indiana proposed a bill banning teachers from mentioning anything “anti-American” in the classroom, such as gender (???).
- North Dakota successfully passed a bill banning teachers from discussing systematic or institutional racism.
The education system is at the heart of the problem in America. Leaders successfully created a machine that churns out patriots who have no real idea about what is going on in the world. The goal is to indoctrinate, not educate, and it works exactly as intended. Not surprisingly, American students lag behind much of the world in science, math, and reading. We won’t even get started on geography.
But, as adults, we have limitless access to information. And a fresh start could be as simple as changing the channel from CNN or Fox News to BBC.
Being in Europe makes me realize how much Americans live in a bubble.
As a full-time traveler, I am always in unfamiliar places with unknown faces. It’s a common expectation to introduce myself and state where I’m from. I have done this countless times around campfires in North America, and now I must do the same at restaurants and cafes in Spain. The differences in reactions between the two demographics are shocking, to say the least.
I have never met a European who didn’t know where Jamaica was on a map. You would be surprised how many people in North America have asked me whether Jamaica is in South America or Africa. This is not all that surprising when I think of the guy in Atlanta who got mad at me for asking how on Earth he didn’t know what language people spoke in England.
One of the most significant contrasts is that Europeans do not respond with the typical stereotypes or the fake Jamaican accent to show me they are down with the culture. They share what they do know, which tends to be accurate. Or they tell me what other islands in the West Indies they have visited.
Inevitably, someone does ask whether certain stereotypes are true, but assumptions are rare. I prefer this over the immediate belief that I am ready for a smoke fest when encountering North Americans. In case you’re wondering, I do not smoke and have never tried marijuana. I hate that I constantly have to say this in the Americas.
Europeans have the same problems as Americans but view them differently.
One of the biggest culture shocks in Europe for me was how very little was different. European countries also face steep gas prices and challenges finding wait staff. Rent and mortgage prices have skyrocketed, and it’s as hard to get an apartment or buy a home in Málaga as in San Diego.
Like Americans, they are distrustful of their politicians. One Spanish guy continually complained about the level of corruption of officials in government. He complained about high tax rates and not seeing results. The politicians caught with drugs, strippers, and young girls while pretending to be religious.
Interestingly, the similar distrust has not caused them to heap blame onto any one individual. That may be because the European Union does not share one president, and no one country can skew things for everyone ― not even Britain or Brexit.
For example, some websites and services have disclaimers directly pointing to the Russian invasion of Ukraine as the reason for inflation, higher gas prices, and their switch to more renewable resources. Not Biden. Because, you know? He isn’t president of the world. And, surprisingly, not Pedro Sánchez or any other country leader ― well, except Putin.
What difference would a global education and international news make for Americans?
Americans recently endured the trolling of a lifetime from other countries on Twitter. Europeans and other foreigners tackled everything from the economic scapegoatism of tipping culture to the fact that most Americans do not own a passport and have never left their country.
There are legitimate reasons for this, such as many Americans do not receive enough paid time off for international travel. However, the top reasons thrown around were that Americans are “poor” and that the country is big, so leaving is hard.
Without a doubt, the majority of Americans live paycheck to paycheck ― and this has been true for years. But how does that compare to actual, poor countries where people scrape by on minimum wages of $200 per month? (And, we have passports!) Travel and a more global education would give Americans a better context and a different perspective on what “poor” actually means ― among other things.
The same goes for inflation. When I talk to Americans, many seem to believe they are the only ones experiencing it. Here are some facts to consider:
- America’s inflation rate for February 2023 was 6%, which is the same in Spain.
- The big difference is that while Americans have a median annual salary of $67,521, it is $28,365 in Spain.
- America ranks in the top ten countries for median income and surpasses the average median income for these countries, which is $40,094.
- Inflation rates reached 8.7% in Germany for the same period.
- In Poland, residents weather double-digit inflation at 18.4%. They have a median household income of $28,146.
Do you pay attention to international news?
My time in Europe is slowly winding down. It feels like I have been here for eons, mostly because I have thrown myself into spaces and experiences to get an authentic feel for Spain. I will miss the cultural competence and global knowledge people have here, and I know that the lack of it is what I will dislike most about returning to North America.
I run into many US expats here who feel the same. They have also noticed the bubble facilitated by a narrow-minded education system and a hyper-focused media network bent on only discussing American news.
These ex-pats did not come from privileged backgrounds. They chose to broaden their horizons through whatever means necessary. Whether it was choosing to study abroad or joining the military to see the world on Uncle Sam’s dime, they found options. I love hearing their stories because they differ so much from what I encounter in mainstream America.
So….. what about you?
Will you commit to looking beyond America for a change? Learning more about other cultures and the realities faced ― and SHARED by other people worldwide? What about raising global citizens if you have the privilege of raising or influencing the upbringing of the next generation of children?
I know most of my readers are already doing this. For almost a decade, you have read my rambles on my life in Jamaica and Mexico versus the United States. You have expressed natural and genuine curiosity about those experiences and asked questions. Many of you are also traveling around the world or living overseas.
If you find that America is really all you know, I hope you’ll start seeing things a little differently. Maybe you’ll change the channel or book a trip. It’s insane to have one of the most powerful passports in the world and never use it!
2 thoughts on “Everyday Americans Desperately Need More International Exposure”
An excellent post as usual. The bubble you describe really hit me hard when I lived in the US.
Thank you! The new generations seem to be more keen on exploring, so maybe it will change in the next 20 years or so. Fingers crossed!