How much should Americans know about events in other nations?
Americans are too often and too falsely accused of being woefully ignorant about affairs of other nations.
America is a vast land mass. Our own affairs are a full time job. We have three cities in California with bigger economies than whole nations.
Americans do keep up on major events in hundreds of nations around the globe. We pay attention to the EU anti austerity protests, but we are not going to memorize the Maastricht treaty, for example.
What do you think is a reasonable investment for the average American to make when keeping up with global current events?
Regardless of nationality, we should all keep up to date with what is going on around us. There should be no boundaries to an individuals knowledge of the world.
This is something I have been thinking a lot about lately. Democracy is great, but requires an informed citizenry. Problem is, that an informed citizenry is virtually impossible these days. The systems of our lives are simply too complex.
Take transportation as an example. 150 years ago, transportation consisted of horses and buggies. Now it requires advancing engineering, a complex understanding of traffic flows, the interaction of multiple systems (e.g. transit, auto, pedestrian, etc), and relationships to hydrologic systems. And even someone who is well-versed in all of those components will still need to develop a fairly sophisticated understanding of the specific place of these systems to fully understand them.
This complexity and sophistication are true for every major system in our lives: foreign relationships, economics, medicine, environmental, etc.
The point of all of this is to say that since we can not be fully or deeply informed, we have no choice but to put professionals in place to manage these systems (this includes politicians). Our duty then has to shift. Rather than being experts on the systems themselves, we must be experts on the professionals we put in place to run things. For that to be possible, transparency, accountability, and public discourse are critically important. Yet, public discourse is virtually worthless these days and there is very little transparency which makes accountability difficult, if not, impossible.
What I think we need to do is attack anything in the public sphere which prevents these things. Attack things which block transparency (like media monopolies and corporate messaging), attack things which block accountability (like the two-party system), and improve public discourse by demanding people debate with respect and from an informed position.
Now with all of that being said, people need to at least have some basic and fundamental knowledge. In a recent poll of people unlikely to vote in the upcoming election (some 90 million people) only 40 percent of them could correctly name the Vice President. That is shocking ignorance and is entirely unacceptable.
Additionally, I think, there has to be a much higher bar for some actions--invading other countries for instance. To approve dropping bombs on people when half of the approvers probably can't find the country on a map is simply unforgivable.
After taking a culture course, I believe we should know more about different countries involving their cultures, their religions, etc.
Do you mean the United States? I'm with you on this, but for completely different reasons. If we are going to have troops stationed in a foreign country, we shave a responsibility to know something about what is going on there. I think that if we pull our troops out of every nation, it would be fine to not know what is going on in the world.
junkseller wrote: "....only 40 percent of them could correctly name the Vice President. "
I bet it's similar in the US of A as it is in Australia..... most people will be able to state the name of their president, or prime minister or premier. Yet very few will be able to tell you the name of the mayor or the council C.E.O., both of whom can wield an enormous influence on our everyday lives.
What about the name of the family who live right next door? Or next door to that? Or the people just across the street? Do you know? Do you need to?
If someone walking past you in the street where you live, and you had never seen that person before, but the person says a pleasant "Hi," as they pass, how would you react? Would you be comfortable in replying? Or reticent? Or down-right worried?
With a huge population in this world, brought about be sophisticate and very successful attempts to triumph over nature, we have become a prolific species. Yet the density of population has built a thicker wall between us as individuals than any stone embattlement of yesteryear.
When I went to live in the States from England, in high school I was frequently asked things like "Do you have TV in England?" When I said I came from Manchester, they would respond, "Oh, it must have been named after Manchester, New Hampshire!" which showed a woeful lack of awareness of their own country's history, let alone that of anywhere else!
That was some decades ago and I think nowadays Americans know more about the world than they did then. The Internet probably helps there, and since we now have a global economy and politics, it isn't practical to be too isolationist. Countries need to work together nowadays and see themselves as functioning as part of a wider world.
Generally speaking, in this day in age where information is more abundant and accessible than any other time in human history, there is no excuse for any well educated human being to not pay attention to the rest of the world.
More specifically, the U.S., still being the most powerful nation in the world, has at least a basic responsibilty to keep looking across its own borders.
In Europe, a big part of anti-American sentiment is the impression that U.S. citizens are indeed highly ignorant when it comes to global affairs. By the same token, most Europeans don't know the first thing about the American political system, or are able to even name all fifty states. And yet they always start to rage if an American cannot name the capital of Romania.
It's the pot calling the kettle black, really. Lack of knowledge and not keeping up with current events is a global issue, not just an American one (the causes of and solutions to which are a different discussion).
Despite all the trends of globalization, mass media and mass communication, the world is still a very big place in the mind of the individual.
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