Sunday, June 3, 2012

We Are Number 1?

In a post from April (“Cato and Kiriyama Are...Right?” on April 1), Jack highlighted how readily we point out one character as morally superior and the rest of the cast as simply wrong. He wrote, “We like to associate ourselves with the hero, even if that distances us from the reality of the situation,” and I’d like to spring off of that statement and suggest that Americans have an obsession with being the best. Oftentimes, our claimed “superiority” is unsubstantiated.
                America is no stranger to self-assurance. Oh, the U.S. is only number twenty-five in the global education rankings for Math? Well, that’s ok, because we offer a well-rounded education that makes our students understand the world. Yes, in Germany the majority of students opt for vocational training instead of high school, and yes, 80% of German students have a job within six months of finishing their education, but we’re still better because we want to send every single one of our students to college. Forget that only 48% of our students have a job within six months of leaving school and find themselves strapped with debt. It’s not that we don’t see what other countries are doing. It’s just that we have too much pride to take their successes and incorporate them into our own system.
I, too, am guilty of straining to make myself feel good about failures. This track season I humiliated myself at almost every meet by crossing the finish line at the back of the pack. Instead of using my defeat as motivation to work harder and improve my standing, I commented that track wasn’t my priority and that I’m good at other things which matter more to me. While that is true, I might be true I can’t deny that I was making excuses. Furthermore, who knows what I would think about track if I were actually much better at it. Maybe then it would be my priority. The point is, rather than face my failures, I tried to make myself feel better about them by saying that they were not important.
                The difference between these two situations is that while a person or nation may claim to not prioritize an activity and therefore not excel at it, the U.S. does claim to value education. Why then does it indulge its own pride and ignore the lessons to be learned from other countries’ successes?
To clarify, of course no person or country can be the best at everything, especially in an area that is truly not a priority. What we should avoid, however, is turning a blind eye to failures and, in the process, ignoring the models of successful action that surround us and could improve us. We’re not always the best. We should accept it and learn from it.


Hi, I’m Kirby. I love being outdoors and exploring new areas, even if only the neighborhood next to mine, though there are more interesting places than that in the world. I play the harp and enjoy learning and performing ethnic pieces. A confession? I can’t get through the day without diving into the newest discussions and causes on – multiple times.

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