Mar 052003
 
Authors: David Schneider

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Americans have a lot to learn.

Now don’t get me wrong, I am as patriotic as the next American, maybe even more so, but after spending the weekend with seven Americans, five Australians, two Mexicans, a Canadian, a Palestinian and a New Zealander, I realized just how ethnocentric and flat out ignorant our country can be at times.

For starters, schools in most other countries teach children a second language – if not a third – at a young age. Teaching only one language reinforces the notion that everyone has to conform to us because we are the best and everyone who doesn’t is lazy and not worth our time.

Does anyone else see how lazy and ignorant that could make us appear in the eyes of other countries? I was lucky enough to learn a foreign language in the seventh grade, but in many other countries, they have to become near fluent in a second language by the seventh grade.

American school systems really should re-examine programs that would give students an opportunity to learn a second language. Not only that, but the school system should give its students choices of possible languages to learn.

In giving students the gift to communicate in another language, it would open their eyes to why, and how, things happen in the world outside their comfort zone. It might even influence them to travel and experience things for themselves instead of having to be told about things from their textbooks or the media.

Isn’t that a novel idea?

Secondly, good relationships are built from communication. A big part of communication is listening; it doesn’t matter whether it is on a one-on-one basis or as a part of the international community. If a group of college students can figure that out without an instruction manual, why do governments and world leaders have such a hard time grasping the concept?

How many problems and disputes have started between the United States and another country because we don’t want to debate our differences? It seems would rather risk people’s lives needlessly.

There were no fights among the 18 of us in the cabin this weekend, and there were no yelling matches among people caused by ideological disagreements – even with a very opinionated and stubborn member of the media like me around.

With so many different viewpoints, cultures and religions in one cabin up in the Rocky Mountains, it is almost shocking how well people can really get along.

If only governmental leaders would stop being so full of themselves and converse like we did.

Maybe it was the mountain air, or maybe it was the intense need to get away for a weekend, but seeing the world through someone else’s eyes was a very enlightening experience that I suggest everyone try – you just might see how we can make things better.

David’s column runs every other Thursday. He welcomes all comments, questions, suggestions and requests for dates.

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