A Great Egocentric Disservice to the American Youth
English, mathematics, science, and social science: this is the stripped-down version of four years of American high school. Speaking from experience, my parents’ experience, and their parents’ experience, precedent has dictated curriculum across our nation, and while times are changing, our education system is not. We teach about books and commas, plants and animals, equations and variables, and pilgrims and The Constitution.
There are many flaws to be found in the system we entrust with our children’s formative years, but one of the greatest is lack of exposure: lack of exposure to real-world applicability, lack of exposure to technical training and skill-based career tracks, and lack of exposure to the world outside of our egocentric American bubble.
I am a product of thirteen years of public secondary education plus three and a half post-secondary years at one of the most renowned private institutions in our country. Even so, it took me venturing to another continent during my study abroad semester to learn about foreign relations and international crises that do not fit within the scope of American interests or attention. In high school, I opted to take every Advanced Placement social science course offered including European History, World History, Human Geography, and American Government and Politics, and in college, I sat through in-depth political science courses just to find that each of them preached on domestic issue after domestic issue.
Indeed, my education has lended me an invaluable and acute understanding of American interests and how they are at play across the globe, but what has consistently remained underdeveloped is my exposure to international affairs that exist without a vested American interest.
There are a few questions that this neglect for global counternarratives raises. From an education perspective, do the foreign affairs of other nations not deserve a place in curriculum if they aren’t trending on Twitter or broadcast on Fox and CNN? And from a societal perspective, how could our national sentiment shift if we weren’t so wrapped up in our own narcissistic world?
The United States is facing a crisis of criticism without constructivism. What this can truly be equated to is a crisis of complacency, naiavity, and a lack of accountability in our education system. American youth are more involved in domestic politics than ever before, and as we continue to shield them from the issues and frailty of international affairs that are entirely excluded from egocentric American discourse, we stand no chance of forging a path for unification and coalescence in our precariously divided country.
As it stands, Americans tend to view our country as inherently flawed and in need of a complete makeover from the top-down. Can we blame our citizens for holding this perspective? We have spent generations pointing at ourselves in the mirror and all the while, failing to shine a light on what legitimate national crises look like.
Chances are, if you picked a student off of any street in America, they could tell you all about the Egyptian pyramids they saw in an episode of Scooby-Doo, but have no idea whatsoever about Egyptian president Abdel Fattah El-Sisi and the worsening human rights violations ensuing in the country. They could tell you about their parents’ complaints on inflation in 2022 as we’ve seen it reach 8.6%—the highest in America since 1981—but they probably couldn’t tell you about the desperate Sudanese who are facing inflation rates of 388%. They could tell you about the outrageous six months that it may take for their passport to get renewed, but you would be met with a blank stare if you brought up the expiration of border crossing for United Nations aid that occurred in Syria this year, leaving the Syrian people to suffer and die with no hope of alleviation from starvation, thirst, and military oppression.
There is a tremendous gap in the social science curriculum that fills our American classrooms. As these students transition from dependents to civil citizens, it is no wonder that social media is exploding with trivial grievances; we have failed to expose them to nations who are deeply failing their people and committing egregious human rights violations every day.
Oftentimes, remedies for situations are entirely dependent on a little perspective. If we fail to start offering this perspective at a young age in the American education system, we’re driving our country down a path of deeper egocentrism, increased global tensions, and dangerous naivety within our own borders. It is common knowledge that the grass always appears greener, but perhaps if we gave American students a glimpse of the bigger picture, they’d be able to see more shades and our country could come a little closer together in gratitude for our free soil. By neglecting to break through our American bubble, we are rendering ourselves complicit in a great disservice to the potential that our people possess.