I was browsing one of my old books – Barron’s 2001 Profiles of American Colleges – the other day and, once again, I realized several unique features of America as the world’s education powerhouse.
First of all, America is a distinct educational destination which values pluralism. Besides the tens of thousands of educational institutions hosting students from America and the rest of the world, dotting the landscape of this mammoth country, America offers a whole world of college courses. These programs are of relevance to the American populace. Eskimo Studies, Jewish Studies, Native American Studies, Hispano-American and Mexican-American or Chicano Studies, and in recent years, Philippine Studies, are some of the peculiar programs offered in US universities which reflect the history and the increasingly multicultural and pluralistic heritage of the American people (It can also be inferred that the past colonial masters offer courses in their universities which mirror their imperial past. In the United Kingdom, Egyptology is a course offered at University of Oxford and Cambridge University. This scenario manifests British interest in Egypt which historically was one of the colonies in Imperial Britain’s spheres of influence). As a Boston resident, I am well aware that America, especially Boston, Massachusetts, is the keystone of world education. For instance, shop at a local Abercrombie and Fitch store, and you will come across hordes of multicultural youths. You can overhear them speaking in Central European, French, Japanese, British English, and myriads of other lingua francas, manifesting how America is the ultimate educational hotspot of the world. You will also find a group of well-dressed Japanese tourists politely volunteering to take my picture while I was strolling along School Street in Boston, thinking I was a visitor like them. Or a Red Cross volunteer reckoning me as a student and asking for my contribution. I agree with LL Cool J, a well-known rap artist, in remarking that regardless if America encounters financial and political turmoil, the superpower will always be number one in the world for primarily being a creative hub. Given the millions of this educational heartland’s citizens and growing, imagine the vast creativity this population can produce.
Second, no country in the world is as democratic as the United States. Academic freedom prevails everywhere. Students are encouraged to get involved and to speak up their points of view in as early as elementary school. The popularity of talk shows is aired during daytime, primetime, and late night, hinting you are in Oprah country.
Third, in the United States, the right to information is highly respected and observed. America is a reading society. Publishing and documentation are valued for their purpose of keeping the American public abreast with knowledge and events which affect their day-to-day lives. Furthermore, if you are curious about anything particular under the sun, expect that when you Google it, a mammon of information would be readily available for such subject has already been published or blogged about. I have experienced this particularly when I conducted my research about this contemporary phenomenon of students taking on study-abroad programs or traveling overseas to study college. Lo and behold, I realized that America has institutionalized the subject of my graduate thesis and has even coined the term for it – international education. And whoa, institutions like the Institute of International Education in New York City (where I ordered my references needed to complete my study) and the experts on international education have been in existence for a very long time! Furthermore, another scenario on how this information hub works is barely two months after the 33 Chilean miners got trapped in the centuries-old copper-gold mine in Chile, the book The 33 Men by American author Jonathan Franklin had already been published. Indeed, America is the place to be when you need a wealth of information for you research work or simply enjoy learning and finding out more. Furthermore, art films centering on the immense tendencies of human nature abound, like the ballet psychodrama The Black Swan starring Natalie Portman, Michael Fassbender’s film on sex addiction explained in Shame, and the Lolita-like young student-older man May-December love affair film An Education starring Peter Sarsgaard and Carey Mulligan facilitates your inner humanity to be tremendously developed if you live in the United States. This educational heartland enables an individual’s intent to be highly educated, civilized, classy and cultured.
Fourth, apparently, the Americans have a role and a say in almost all fields of knowledge and human interest. They take interest, discover, and document anything under the sun for which the whole world recognizes them for, like the naming of dinosaurs (19th-century Yale academics are credited for this), the mooing of cows’ benefit to the livestock industry (Thanks to Temple Grandin, an American prodigy in animal science and animal behavior), and National Geographic’s informative accounts on its magazine about the lavender-laden perfume fields of Provençe, the Galapagos Islands’ aquatic wonders, Alaska’s dramatic Exxon Valdez oil spill, and the tea-colored Orinoco waterway at the heart of Venezuela. America certainly allots substantial funds to uphold not only its citizens’ but also the people of the rest of the world’s inalienable right to know.
Fifth, being the world’s Education Mecca as it is, America is an acclaimed investor in people. It provides opportunities to anyone who has the intent to do whatever it takes to achieve his life plans regardless of his background. For instance, Temple Grandin, a typical Boston resident, was diagnosed with high-functioning autism at an early age. Later in her life, she developed into an expert in animal science. Dr. Grandin is a specially abled American doctor of animal science and behavior. Gifted and versatile, she has achieved on to becoming a professor at Colorado State University, a best-selling author, a consultant to the livestock industry on animal behavior, and the inventor of the hug machine, designed to calm hypersensitive people and a mode of stress relief therapy. In 2010, Dr. Grandin’s life story was produced into a film under her namesake. The inspiring movie earned a Golden Globe award for Claire Danes, the actress who portrayed the title role.
Finally, America’s offering of Scandinavian Studies, British Studies, Canadian Studies, Dutch, and Polish in some of its tertiary institutions shows America’s intent to extend is appendages of influence – be it political, economic, or cultural – to the territories dealt with by these programs of study. Moreover, it is in America’s ideals to fortify its established diplomatic relations with its allies, thus, aiming to gain a better knowledge and understanding of these countries. In the American television program, Rick Steves’s Europe, I am surprised to arrive at the conclusion that American expatriates are everywhere, studying and familiarizing themselves with the other sojourners of this world better. Rick Steves is an American author, historian, and television personality hosting his Eurocentric travel show. The episodes present Mr. Steves journeying in strange yet breathtakingly picturesque locations such as the Croatian city of Dubrovnik, the Balkan side, and other Adriatic delights. In one of the episodes, he met a fellow American writer and a permanent resident of Slovenia who authored a travel guide about the life and times in the southern European land. In addition, a lucid account of the socio-cultural landscape of the Philippines has been vividly captured by an American scholar, David Timberman in his book A Changeless Land: Continuity and Change in Philippine Politics, one of my required readings in graduate school. As an observer, these scenarios present America as to be projecting a Roman Empire-like international presence. I could therefore expect that should I travel to non-mainstream tourist destinations like Greenland or Iceland, I could always look forward to encountering hints of the American-ness.