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The majority of Americans today would be hard pressed to accurately locate a major country on the world map or comment on today’s world news, let alone identify a culture. Abroad, brutally comical stereotypes paint Americans as ignorant, obnoxious, and culturally insensitive. The United States is a diverse country, filled with people from nations that span the globe. So why do we have this reputation? The United States prides itself on being a melting pot, a nation built on immigrants who hail from all corners of the globe. Nowadays, it would appear to be more accurate to use the term “salad bowl” to describe like-minded ethnic groups who tend to cluster around their own instead of assimilating into “American” culture. The 2011 Census states that 381 languages were spoken in the U.S. Yet, the nation remains a largely English‑speaking country, with 15-20 percent of Americans considering themselves bilingual, and just 5-8 percent speaking a language other than American English. Another reason why many Americans are monolingual can be attributed to the geolocation of the U.S. It is a giant country separated from most of the world by two large oceans, serving as effective geographic buffers from influences of foreign nations. This issue is demonstrated by a weak foreign language education system and the fact that English is the global language for commerce and science. Hindered by barriers such as the need to maintain language proficiency and the low priority of bilingualism, enrollment in language classes has been consistently low.2 Each year, cuts have been made to language education funding, citing low enrollment and interest, which, in turn, churns out low proficiency levels and few non-western language offerings.2 However, due to the U.S.’s position in the global playing field, learning another language other than English doesn’t seem necessary. It is no secret that the U.S. is the leading world power with its robust economy and technological prowess. Throughout history, it has branded itself as a force

of global good, reinforcing the idea that the U.S.’s “political system, values, and history are unique and worthy of universal admiration,” a phenomenon otherwise known as American Exceptionalism.3 The new trend of “voluntourism,” an international volunteer program allowing people to help developing countries, benefits from the “American hero” narrative. However, according to former voluntourist Lauren Kascak,“Voluntourism is ultimately the fulfillment of the volunteers themselves, [it’s] more about retrospectively appearing to have had a positive impact overseas.” Some volunteers tend to showcase their experiences on social media in order to confirm their “selflessness” with the world. Unfortunately this has created somewhat of a fake value system based on the amount of likes and views some of these volunteers get, rather than creating meaningful cultural connections, engaging with the local community, and valuing their experience. Due to the perpetual cycle of cultural unawareness that breeds cultural insensitivity, the U.S. has been isolated from other countries. Now it is more important that we, as the new generation of Americans, are interested in different cultures. Identifying and abandoning the ideas of American Exceptionalism will allow us to be humble, open, and respectful, and actively engage with cultural communities. It enriches our lives and ultimately our relationship with the rest of the world. Disclaimer: What we’ve discussed and the solutions we’ve provided within this article are only a small snippet of a much larger conversation of the state of cultural isolation in the United States. − 1 Sayantani Dasgupta and Lauren Kascak, “#InstagrammingAfrica: The Narcissism of Global Voluntourism,” Pacific Standard, June 19, 2014.  2 Amelia Friedman, “America’s Lacking Language Skills,” The Atlantic, May 10, 2015.  3 Stephan M. Walt, “The Myth of American Exceptionalism,” Foreign Policy, October 11, 2011.  4 “Language Use in the United States: 2011,” U.S. Census Bureau, September 16, 2015.

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Positive Negative Magazine Volume 9  

Positive/Negative Magazine is the result of a powerful collaboration between senior graphic designers and photographers in the College of Im...

Positive Negative Magazine Volume 9  

Positive/Negative Magazine is the result of a powerful collaboration between senior graphic designers and photographers in the College of Im...

Profile for posnegmag