Teens in America Critically Unaware of Global Events

Sevilla Tovar, Editor-in-Chief

   International news rarely makes its way into the minds of young Americans. Even if they do engage with a reputable platform, it’s tragically short-lived. Quickly, headlines fade, and something more eye-grabbing or “relevant” takes the spotlight. Why is this? Why do people move on so quickly from tragedies happening outside of their borders? Teens in America have been plagued with indifference regarding foreign countries, and the blame falls on their media consumption and America’s social structure.

   A lack of international awareness is suffered throughout the United States, especially among teens. This is because of how people inside the country consume their media, and what’s promoted to the public. Junior Clay Shaughnessy said, “America is a lot more sheltered from global events than people want to believe. Throughout September, American mainstream news stations were covering the Queen of England’s death for weeks. At the same time, people were being killed on the streets in Iran, and Puerto Rico was being demolished by a hurricane, but only a select number of stations were covering it.” Shaughnessy is aware that, indeed, some news outlets spoke out in international interest, but the majority of widely used media was too preoccupied with the British royalty to bat an eye.

   Nowadays, there is a frighteningly high amount of people who get their news from limited sources, those who depend on social media or U.S. politics-based news channels would be completely oblivious to certain disasters. Shaughnessy continued, “When it comes to global conflicts that are really important to know about, American news coverage isn’t the most reliable place to go if you want to be informed.” Shaughnessy recommends that people search for internationally-based stations who serve to bring in an outside perspective, and interact with global social media to keep bringing relevant information to their feed. There are lengths people can go to maintain their worldwide understanding. The question is, do teens even bother?

   This lack of a global consciousness is also a result of how this country functions due to patriotism. The country’s number one priority is their own wellbeing, and while this has proved useful in uniting the nation (in the past, today is an entirely different story), it also creates an image that outside affairs aren’t important unless they impact the United States. According to Inside Higher Ed, “Whether motivated by exceptionalism, isolationism, triumphalism, or sheer indifference — probably some of each over time — the United States has somehow failed to equip a significant percentage of its citizenry with the basic information necessary to follow international events” (insidehighered.com).

   The term that comes to mind is “American exceptionalism.” The New World Encyclopedia describes the term as the belief that America is inherently better than other countries. This ideology has both promoted a national identity and isolated Americans from worrying about other parts of the world (newworldencyclopedia.org). Unfortunately, there’s a ripple effect, making it harder for younger generations within the United States to campaign for a difference. Inside Higher Ed continued, “A basic lack of awareness and understanding among the public makes it even harder for policymakers to formulate positions that will attract widespread domestic support and perhaps influence the outcomes” (insidehighered.com). Now, even young people who know about foriegn issues and want to help aren’t able to contribute to a solution.

   This begs the question, at what point is it too much? Many feel that it’s not necessary to go to such lengths, that the United States shouldn’t have to stick its nose in every problem affecting every other country. However, the sheer amount of young Americans unaware of international issues highlights an obstacle in the way the general public obtains information about worldwide affairs. When people are aware of a problem, they can do research on their own time. But what if people are not even aware of the problem? Americans should care about global events, even if it doesn’t directly impact them or their nation.

   Despite the United States being country of educated citizens, its younger generation (especially) is under-educated about the events happening around the world. Unaware of disasters and tragedies, they continue supporting media that brings in a blinded view or merely feeds into their social bubbles. The country supports this oblivion, since there is no benefit to doing otherwise. New World Encyclopedia adds, “On the one hand, America has tried to act as a nation among nations promoting liberty and the pursuit of happiness. On the other hand, America has acted as a nation above nations, pursuing its special self-interest at the expense of other people’s liberty and happiness” (newworldencyclopedia.org). This leaves people forced to search for their own solutions. Shaughnessy said, “Know that there is more going on in the world than the top story; always dig deeper. Know where your news is coming from and if it’s a reliable source that truly wants to inform.”