Our world is rapidly changing and 2016 has brought about increased fear of what will happen next globally. With the election of Donald Trump in America and the vote on Brexit, the future for transatlantic relations is in question. Along with this, we are seeing increased rhetoric which expresses anger towards globalization. This anger may be linked to many misconceptions of what globalization actually means. On one end, those in the east may associate globalization with Americanization or Westernization. In American media there is a lot of anti-immigration and isolationist rhetoric coming from journalists and politicians. This bias has been exacerbated by the events mentioned above and the recent refugee crisis at the front lines of Europe. However, becoming an isolationist country is not a solution, we should not stop trading globally or leave NATO because of these misconceptions. Therefore, how do we address these concerns within individuals and change the narrative in the media?
There is fear in the unknown, which is where these misconceptions can stem from. According to the US Department of State only 36% of Americans have a valid passport. With so few Americans traveling abroad, it is easy to form misunderstandings about other cultures and countries one has never interacted with. And while the US Department of State alone funds numerous exchange programs for both US and non-US citizens, most of these programs target individuals with vested interests or success in academia or politics. Therefore, there is still a population untouched when it comes to cultural exchange.
An increase in transatlantic international education programs can serve as a solution for this lack of interactions and misunderstandings amongst the average American, Canadian and European citizen. The future is in the youth and by bringing about more understanding amongst the younger generations and engaging them in cross-cultural education at a young age it is more likely that transatlantic relations will be encouraged and improved in generations to come. It will also better prepare them to recognize media bias and critically think about the information they consume on a daily basis.
Many educators are working to make curricula more relevant. One way to do this is through global education, which has the ability to expand the minds of our youth and make them more engaged globally. Cross-cultural exchange can happen on many levels and through many methods, many of which can occur virtually. It is my belief that through interacting with various cultures earlier in life students will be more eager to learn a foreign language and be better equipped to perhaps one-day work abroad or in a culturally diverse environment.
It is imperative that this cross-cultural exchange happen on the elementary and secondary level. At the university level it is likely that most individuals have already turned towards their niche and therefore if the exchange happens at this level, it will most likely be from within their specialty. Additionally, those that do not attend university will be losing out on the opportunity. Transatlantic exchange will have just as much value to the construction worker or the police officer in each respective country. The working class has a vote in the presidential elections and referendums, and they have the right to be informed in an unbiased way.
Perspectives and misconceptions could change if everyone were to participate in a cross-cultural exchange. Students can have the opportunity to see from an international perspective at a young age, rather than just an American, Canadian or European perspective. Transatlantic education has the opportunity to make us see everyone on a human level rather than as being defined by a nation, religion or ethnicity.