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Civic
10-02-2011, 04:32 AM
And geography as well. I'm always amazed at how many Americans don't know the three major cities in Canada. Even in California!!...
Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver. Just showing off.:D
Geography and history were two of my favorite subjects in school. I never understood why other kids considered them boring. However, history classes do get more interesting in college. The instructors are more knowledgeable and have the freedom to tackle controversial topics.

milanessa
10-02-2011, 04:35 AM
I always wish that they'd make Spanish the mandatory language to learn where it's prevalent enough to use on a daily basis.

:scream:

smurfy
10-02-2011, 05:49 AM
Intersting topic, and sad in so many ways.

I have always loved history, and I was very fortunate to go to a very good school system with great teachers in all disciplines. Some of my favorite teachers were the history teachers. One had a Ph.D in American history. It seemed all my history teachers loved the topic and knew so much. My dad also loved history and reading.

The European history I took was slanted towards British history. When I travel to places in Europe like France or Ireland and I read up on their history, I find I know more than I thought, and it easy with timeline, due to the intersection with the British history that I am more knowledgeable about.

Vagabond
10-02-2011, 06:20 AM
I could, of course, make it a priority, but why?

Since you are a teacher, I am sure you know how important it is to keep on learning about this world we live in even after our formal education ends. Reading in a foreign language, whether it be periodicals, webpages, or novels, is an especially important part of one's continuing education because (among other things) it gives one different perspectives. And why shouldn't someone who can read French, for example, not read Les Fleurs du Mal or Les Misérables in the original at least once in his adult life?

People in non-English-speaking countries read English-language publications to keep informed about what is going on in the world and how outsiders view their own countries. Some of them also read English-language fiction just for fun.

Why shouldn't we make it a priority?


I think it is more important to know the reasons why Nazi Germany came to being and why World War 2 happened then actual dates.

As PDilemma said upthread, while there is a lot more to the study of History than just knowing dates, learning dates -- at least some dates -- an important part of it. , especially insofar as they are related to other dates.

Anyone who graduates from high school in this country (indeed, anyone who finishes eighth grade) should know the approximate dates and order of Prohibition, the Depression, the New Deal, and World War II and which of them overlapped with each other. He should also know that World War II happened within the lifetime of people who are still living and that many men (and some women) in their eighties and nineties are World War II veterans.


Is it irrelevant to know the three major cities in a country that is right on your border? I learned all the major American cities growing up in Canada, as a matter of course - not only in school. I don't consider that knowledge irrelevant at all since I live in the same part of the world and also, find the US interesting geographically.

In fact, most people in the developed world know the major American cities. Shouldn't Americans likewise be familiar with places outside the USA? The fact that many don't reflects the US's isolationist stance to a certain extent.

:encore:

This is so true.

The U.S. is in many ways a very isolated country, but, like it or not, the outside world intrudes on our lives whether we want to or not, and what we do effects the rest of world: 9/11, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, NAFTA, the drug wars in Mexico, etc.

And even if someone doesn't know what the three largest cities in Canada are, there are times when one should (1) want to know and (2) be able to look things up. If there's a breaking story about something happening in Montreal, for example, one might want to know just how big a city it is and whether it is one of the largest cities in the country.

Japanfan
10-02-2011, 07:03 AM
Most Americans do know major cities outside of the US. They just don't know a whole lot about Canada. Most Americans couldn't care less about Canada. You can think that's awful if you like, but Canada simply isn't on our radar very often.

So they care about other countries in the world, just not Canada? I find that hard to believe. Can't see why Ireland or Portugal or innumerable other countries would be on your radar. And most Americans undoubtedly know the big cities like Paris, London and Tokyo - but that says nothing about general geographical knowledge.

But yes, I do think it is sad that you could care less about a country that a) shares your history to a certain extent, b) has a long-standing and close relationship with you (closer than your relationship with many other countries), c) provides with you with abundant resources, and d) is heavily influenced by you. Not caring about Canada therefore indicates that you care less about your own country's impact on the world and its relationship with other countries.

Prancer
10-02-2011, 07:12 AM
Why shouldn't we make it a priority?

Because there isn't enough incentive.


And even if someone doesn't know what the three largest cities in Canada are, there are times when one should (1) want to know and (2) be able to look things up.

And if people want to know, they can't look this up because......?


So they care about other countries in the world, just not Canada? I find that hard to believe. Can't see why Ireland or Portugal or innumerable other countries would be on your radar. And most Americans undoubtedly know the big cities like Paris, London and Tokyo - but that says nothing about general geographical knowledge.

Are we talking about general geographic knowledge now? I thought we were talking about knowing about big cities in other countries.


But yes, I do think it is sad that you could care less about a country that a) shares your history to a certain extent, b) has a long-standing and close relationship with you (closer than your relationship with many other countries), c) provides with you with abundant resources, and d) is heavily influenced by you. Not caring about Canada therefore indicates that you care less about your own country's impact on the world and its relationship with other countries.

I had no idea that Canada was the barometer of all the world for us. I think Americans care about their relationships with a lot of countries; Canada is kind of taken for granted in all that, mainly because we don't expect Canadians to a) go to war with us or b) go bankrupt or c) take over our economy. If you want to get on the radar of most Americans, any of those would do it nicely. Disasters and impending doom are much more likely to draw attention than quietly going about your business.

Civic
10-02-2011, 07:28 AM
...
I had already been screamed at by many parents (supported by the dumbass principal) for showing Obama's convention speech to the students before McCain's. We started school in mid-August. I showed the speeches the day after they were given. You may recall that in 2008, the Democratic convention was first...
Not just in 2008. The Democrats always hold their convention first; at least they have for as long as I can remember.

Vagabond
10-02-2011, 07:31 AM
And if people want to know, they can't look this up because......?

Of course they can look it up. On the other hand, I would have to say that Americans tend not to look things up. Blame their teachers, blame their parents, blame their own lack of curiosity. There's more than enough blame to go around.

Prancer
10-02-2011, 07:36 AM
Of course they can look it up. On the other hand, I would have to say that Americans tend not to look things up.

I don't find that to be true at all. They don't always look up things I think they should, but they sure do Google a lot.

Vagabond
10-02-2011, 07:47 AM
I don't find that to be true at all. They don't always look up things I think they should, but they sure do Google a lot.

Some do. Some don't.

There are plenty of people here on FSU (Americans and others) who clearly don't, even though they obviously have Internet at their fingertips.

Prancer
10-02-2011, 07:48 AM
Some do. Some don't.

But that's just people, isn't it?

Japanfan
10-02-2011, 09:51 AM
Are we talking about general geographic knowledge now? I thought we were talking about knowing about big cities in other countries.


I'm talking about general geographic knowledge, which includes big cites other the prominent ones which people everywhere pretty much can't avoid knowing the names of (i.e. London, New York, Paris, Tokyo).



I had no idea that Canada was the barometer of all the world for us.


I did not say it was. Rather, I said the relationship is such that it certainly merits more than zero consideration from Americans and that the relationship reflects America's influence and identify - which should be of interest to Americans.




I think Americans care about their relationships with a lot of countries; Canada is kind of taken for granted in all that, mainly because we don't expect Canadians to a) go to war with us or b) go bankrupt or c) take over our economy. If you want to get on the radar of most Americans, any of those would do it nicely. Disasters and impending doom are much more likely to draw attention than quietly going about your business.

That's a pretty sad statement and point of view IMO. It precludes a lot of countries that America has relationships with. And certainly reflects an isolationist stance. The Iraq War showed that many countries might not go to war with you and no-one is likely to take over your economy except China perhaps, at some point in the future. And, I seriously question whether the average American is concerned about Greek's financial crisis (though I'd say the same for the average Canadian). It's mostly investors and politicians who care about that, many average North American citizens are quite oblivious to such events.

What about being interested in other countries for themselves? Interested in your neighbours because they are your neighbours and you share commonalities? There is much richness and knowledge to be gained from such interest.

If Canada is a barometer of anything, it's of that disinterest. However, I should qualify my statement by acknowledging that many Americans are interested in other countries/the world and seek out knowledge of countries/the world.

RockTheTassel
10-02-2011, 11:09 AM
Since you are a teacher, I am sure you know how important it is to keep on learning about this world we live in even after our formal education ends. Reading in a foreign language, whether it be periodicals, webpages, or novels, is an especially important part of one's continuing education because (among other things) it gives one different perspectives. And why shouldn't someone who can read French, for example, not read Les Fleurs du Mal or Les Misérables in the original at least once in his adult life?

People in non-English-speaking countries read English-language publications to keep informed about what is going on in the world and how outsiders view their own countries. Some of them also read English-language fiction just for fun.

Why shouldn't we make it a priority?

There's no denying that learning a foreign language is beneficial and worthwhile. But is it worthwhile enough? I'm sure anyone who has tried knows how difficult not just learning but retaining a foreign launguage is. It takes a lot more time and commitment than many high school kids are willing to give it. And realistically, how many of them are truly going to use it later on? Many adults don't use their time to read in their own language, let alone a different one.

That time is better spent improving students' critical thinking, writing, and math skills. Many kids go to college or the workforce and struggle because they did not learn these subjects well enough in high school. It's much better spending time preparing them for what they're going to do after high school. That time can also be spent letting them further explore subjects they find interesting and might want to pursue, be it a foreign language or something else.

It's a great idea teaching everyone in the US to be bilingual. It just isn't practical or realistic.

Vagabond
10-02-2011, 05:18 PM
But that's just people, isn't it?

Maybe. I do wonder whether people in other countries are brought up to look things up more than Americans do. (And, yes, I did try looking that up on Google just now.)

I wish some of our friends from outside the U.S. (and outside North America) would participate in this thread. Their perspectives could be very interesting.


There's no denying that learning a foreign language is beneficial and worthwhile. But is it worthwhile enough? I'm sure anyone who has tried knows how difficult not just learning but retaining a foreign launguage is. It takes a lot more time and commitment than many high school kids are willing to give it. And realistically, how many of them are truly going to use it later on? Many adults don't use their time to read in their own language, let alone a different one.

That time is better spent improving students' critical thinking, writing, and math skills. Many kids go to college or the workforce and struggle because they did not learn these subjects well enough in high school. It's much better spending time preparing them for what they're going to do after high school. That time can also be spent letting them further explore subjects they find interesting and might want to pursue, be it a foreign language or something else.

It's a great idea teaching everyone in the US to be bilingual. It just isn't practical or realistic.

If, as jlai suggested upthread, foreign-language instruction were designed to get students to the stage where they were reading works of literature in the original, the benefit to students' critical thinking skills would be enormous.

In fact, for a few privileged young people in the U.S., this is exactly the kind of education they are already getting.

At the Brearley School (http://www.brearley.org/) in New York, for example, students begin studying French in fifth grade. In tenth grade, they are reading L’étranger and Rhinocéros. In eleventh grade,


Topics in French literature and culture will be studied through works by Molière, Voltaire, Colette and Césaire. These longer works will be supplemented by excerpts from Breton and Barthes and poems by Rimbaud, Mallarmé and Apollinaire as well as speeches on video (Michel Onfray; Alain Didier-Weill) and films (Cyrano de Bergerac; Les enfants du paradis; Césaire: Une voix pour l’histoire.)

In twelfth grade, there is a choice between French Literature Through the Ages and Modern French Literature.

I would say that that is a good way of improving critical thinking. (And, to be sure, it is complemented by similarly outstanding education in other subjects.)

As for not having enough time to read, that is in many ways a choice people make. For example:


According to the A.C. Nielsen Co., the average American watches more than 4 hours of TV each day (or 28 hours/week, or 2 months of nonstop TV-watching per year). In a 65-year life, that person will have spent 9 years glued to the tube.

http://www.csun.edu/science/health/docs/tv&health.html

If people wanted to read for four hours (or even one hour) a day instead of watching television, they would do so.

Making every American bilingual may not be practical or realistic, but that is only because we, as a society, have chosen to make it impractical and unrealistic, just as we have chose to undervalue instruction in History and Geography.

taf2002
10-02-2011, 06:06 PM
Every time I see this thread it makes me mad. I don't know if OP was born in the US, is a naturalised American, or is a citizen of somewhere else, but the assumption that Americans are somehow less than other people is annoying & typical. Why are we the constant target of this kind of thread? Every nation has a huge part of the population who will never have the money to travel to other countries, even those countries close by. Those people may or may not learn a foreign language, be able to name major cities in other countries, or know the history of other countries. Why judge a nation on the most insular and/or ignorant of its population?

When I married a Canadian I could name the provinces & many of the cities, & I knew much of the history of Quebec & Ontario...not so much about the western provinces. I can also name most of the British kings & queens, and I know a lot of European history. I'm sketchier on Asian history, but I do know quite a bit about Japan, India, & China. I took French in HS & college, & Spanish in college. I'm also pretty good in World Geography. And I think I'm pretty average..I was a mostly B & C student, and I don't have any post-graduate education.

ETA: oh yes, I forgot to say that I'm an ignorant loud-mouthed Texan who was educated mostly in substandard Texas schools.

ETA2: I also read Volaire, Moliere, & Cervantes, among others, in HS, & French & Spanish books in the original language in college.