Americans Aren’t Educated About International Politics—Here’s Why That’s So Bad

A Japanese friend of mine recently told me a harsh truth: Americans don’t know what’s happening outside of the United States. It’s common knowledge that while American news is consumed all over the world, international news tends to get swept under the rug, and it negatively affects our relationships with our allies. 

So, Americans aren’t educated about international politics (studies have even shown that Americans are simply just unaware about global events) — it’s a bad thing, but there are ways to fix it.

Being American, I know firsthand that growing up here means: there isn’t a ton of focus on what other nations do except for when what it affects the United States (even in college). Americans also already have a lot of political issues to deal with in our own country, like access to birth control, so it is understandable why we might not catch every international story. That, plus the fact that the United States is massive, and essentially has 50 smaller country-like entities within it — it can be hard to keep up on everything. 

However, it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try. In fact, now is one of the most crucial times in history for us to really take note of what’s happening on the world stage. 

 

The easiest thing you can do is to diversify your feed

The 24-hour news cycle already has a hold on our news and social media feeds, there’s no doubt about that. Oftentimes, however, we’re getting a lot of the same stories with the same angles from the same news outlets, and we still don’t end up feeling educated enough. To combat this, diversifying your news feed is key.

For accurate political reporting, look into outlets such as Al Jazeera (based in Qatar) and BBC News. Both report on what’s trending, but they also report on the international news that tends to get passed up in American news — like the political reasons for Iran’s recent nationwide protests and block on internet access, or the food and fuel shortages in Bolivia

 

This means diversifying your social media too

Following influencers who are from other countries or who report on what’s happening in other countries can also be instrumental in learning about the effect of international politics, straight from those who are being affected. Countries you should be aware of today include Iran, Sudan, Hong Kong, and Bolivia, since these countries are currently undergoing conflicts.

Instagram accounts like iranprotest2019 and Sara Elhassan will keep you up-to-date on what’s happening on the ground in Iran and Sudan, respectively. If you’re looking for a more holistic and social justice-focused outlook, Dr. Kiona is constantly inviting locals from other countries to write features about their home countries on her blog, as well having those writers do occasional Instagram takeovers. If you are going to interact on her page, though, make sure to read the highlight labeled “NEW PPL.” 

 

Ultimately, technology’s presence in our lives is both a blessing and a curse. We suddenly have so much access to learn about things happening all over the world in just a few clicks, but our mental health can also take a beating from the endless news cycle. However, as citizens in a country that allows us to speak up and spread the word when others can’t, we have a duty to stay informed about what’s happening in governments around the world, even if there isn’t much we can do right now. The first step to change, as many of us know, is being aware of the issue at hand. 

 

  • Beth R.

    Really? “so it is understandable why we might not catch every international story.” Still the US centric “our country is so special” attitude. You are offerig a solution but still think completely ignoring the rest of the world and its information is excusable because surely there is nothing else going on in other countries that other nations just have to busy themselves with international relations and politics out of boredom. Hilarious.

    • Sara

      I think they mean that we’re focused on our news because it “hits home” or impacts us directly. I’ve been an American expat for years now and think their “solution” is a decent step towards making sure people are aware. Though I think this article is lacking. I have friends who don’t even know the repercussions Brexit is about to have haha

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    • Sarah K

      Mhm…. this paragraph definitely rubbed me the wrong way too. America has a lot of political issues, granted, but… so do all other countries? I’m all for women’s rights (way to shout out birth control access!) but other countries are facing MUCH more challenging things than this.

    • Nicole Wilkinson

      I think it’s pretty clear that what was intended by this was to show that yes, it’s understandable for a person to be more focused on their own backyard than anything, but that a wider view is also important. EVERYONE’s going to know more about their own country’s goings on than international politics – it’s hardly a purely American problem.

    • I’m pretty sure they’re using “understandable” here because we are bombarded constantly by US-centric news – most of which doesn’t even need to be reported as widely as it is. It’s really easy to see international stories get lost in the shuffle when social media especially is pushing so hard to make sure other content is getting seen.

      So the author is right in saying that we need to take steps ourselves to diversify our feeds, because the social media platforms sure aren’t going to do it for us.

  • Katia

    Most of our news is only international if it somehow relates to the US. I recommend watching or listening to BBC. They truly share a good world view in a quick 30mins.

  • Michele Daniel

    I would love recommendations on news podcasts that cover international news!