According to a 2016 study done by National Geographic, most young Americans cannot pass a test on international affairs. This study consisted of over 1,000 bachelor degree-holding Americans taking a 75 question test. The average score was 55 percent, a score that is most certainly failing.
Many Americans know little to nothing about international current events, which is a massive problem.
A large portion of the news that Americans find readily available for their consumption focus on problems within the United States, or events that directly impact its interests. In the rest of the world, most individuals don’t have the luxury of closing the curtains on international events and problems.
The same National Geographic study shows that many Americans do not know where other countries are on the map. You would be very hard pressed to find someone who knows off the top of their head what type of government other members of the United Nations have.
Americans subscribe to a western bias that allows us to ignore what is happening in the rest of the world — some of this might simply be because it feels like none of these issues have impact on the U.S.
This could be happening for a multitude of reasons, including systemic bias that motivates Americans to prioritize their culture and news over that of others. American centrism is a privilege, and a destructive one at that.
Or it could be attributed to simple disinterest. Either way, the average American’s lack of knowledge about international affairs, events and politics should alarm you.
Some might argue that Americans do not know enough about their own politics and government either. While this is entirely possible, the two problems are not mutually exclusive. Another potential explanation for America's lack of knowledge about international issues is that our culture does not encourage the consumption of, or trust in, news.
Americans need to start caring about other things happening in the world because the U.S. is not the only country in the world that matters. Events happening overseas impact our economy, politics and culture.
Globalization makes attention to international issues as important as ever. Historically, there has never been this kind of ebb and flow of currency, capital, labor, technology and ideas. This type of close proximity also means information is at our fingertips. There is no reason not to learn about current events all around the world.
Understanding global problems and current events has the potential to show Americans how their own experiences are situated within the larger global picture. Social institutions and global structures have the potential to provide solutions for our own smaller scale problems, but only if we pay attention to them.
This lack of knowledge doesn't just impact a few Americans or those belonging to a specific group. Ignorance to global events, politics and issues is a systemic and major problem that is in dire need of fixing.
To take this specific problem and make a general claim, I would be as bold to say that Americans are generally uneducated compared to the rest of the world. This lack of education is one of the biggest proponents perpetuating ignorance.
Ignorance is never bliss, and it is always a slippery slope, for both those doing the ignoring and those being ignored.
Megan Holmen is the assistant news editor at the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com or on Twitter @megan_holmen.