10.04.2006

myth

In that same discussion, I said this in comments:
Interestingly, I haven't found people in Canada - not online, in person - any more informed than people in the US. In casual conversations I have at work, or in my neighbourhood, I see an extremely low awareness and understanding of global events.

I'm starting to wonder if the supposed contrast between Americans and Canadians/Europeans, how informed each is supposed to be, is perhaps a bit of a myth itself.
I've always known many thinking, informed Americans, and through this blog I've met equally informed Canadians. But is the "average" (whatever that means) Canadian better informed than the average American? Do Canadians have a broader world view?

The media is less biased here, and reports more on international news. Yet the people I'm thinking of get their news mainly from CNN. Is the presence of US-based media in Canada dumbing down the public? Or, as one side of the debate would have it, are they just dumb for relying on it?

With all due respect to Rick Mercer, I wonder if "talking to Canadians" might be just as funny.

60 comments:

Scott M. said...

I think it's a matter of degrees. Grab anyone off the street and they will, in general, have an opinion on the current Federal or Provincial government. It may not be that well informed, but they'll have one.

Contrast that to parts of the states where I've visited where it appears that people don't seem to know (or care) what their governor does.

That being said, Talking to Canadians could be equally funny, depending on how loaded the questions are. They'd have to be a bit trickier however, as I think you'd have a difficult time convincing a typical Canadian that, for example:

- People in greenland live in igloos
- People in Australia have pet kangaroos

These would be "typical" questions RM would ask of Americans and get rather funny responses.

L-girl said...

You're probably right that it's a difference of degree. However, I'd have no problem believing that many Canadians would think Australians keep kangaroos as pets. But I'm not about to go find out. :)

Idealistic Pragmatist said...

I am in total agreement with you on this one. Sadly, the difference in this respect isn't so much between Americans and Canadians, but between those two countries and practically everyone else. And honestly, I think it's less about the media than it is about the fact that while the rest of the world travels (to take one of the other countries where I've lived as an example: even lower-middle-class Germans travel to other countries on a very regular basis, and in most of the world, it's perfectly normal for every university student to do a year abroad somewhere, even if they're studying, say, chemistry), Canadians and Americans tend to stick to their own kind.

There's a post brewing in my head about this, because the more I think about it, the more important I think it is to change this aspect of Canadian culture. Because even with fine professional media all around, people really don't tend to learn very much about other places and other cultures without experiencing them first-hand. In other countries living in some other place for at least a few monhts is regarded as a very basic thing, and they're all leaps and bounds ahead of us in terms of having a public (not to mention a public service) that's truly knowledgeable about the world we live in. Having that kind of first-hand knowledge would change so much--the way we look at our institutions, the possibilities we consider for our domestic problems, our foreign policy, the way we educate our children--everything.

The real difference between Canadians and Americans, though? Tell Joe Canadian that the rest of the world travels while they stay at home, and he'll say things like: "hmm, I bet that gives them a leg up on business. maybe I should send my teenage son on a school exchange for a year." Tell Joe American the same thing, and he'll instead say: "why would we want to do anything that people in other countries do? we're Americans!"

Scott M. said...

As well, there is a cultural difference in the way media is consumed across the country. Folks in Quebec tend to be very, very informed on local events and international events, however not as much on extra-provincial national (ROC) events. Hence the great debate over Afganistan and the most-watched show of 2005, the Gomery hearings.

The BC media eats politicians for lunch, latches on to a story and beats it into the ground, through the core of the earth, out the other side and into space. Hence the locals tend to know a few local stories well but don't have as wide a view about things outside the province.

In general, media in Alberta and Ontario are local-driven, with very little information outside the region.

Available to everyone nationally is "CTV News with Lloyd Robertson", "Canada Now" and "the National", each of which has their own mix and you've probably seen them.

Canrane said...

I agree with IP that travel is the key difference between Europeans and N. Americans. But I don't think Canadians are any worse than non-Europeans, like Indians or Chinese, in that. For example, the average middle-class Indian really only knows what's going on in America in addition to their own country. Same as us.

Unfortunately, I don't think we can *ever* reach European levels of awareness simply because travel like that isn't as affordable for most of us. You can break the bank just visiting family on the other side of the country, let alone overseas.

I also think there are different kinds of "informed-ness", if you will. World events? We're kinda shabby. But I do think we are decently informed about other cultures.

Most people living in cities will know at least one person from a different background. So you learn about their practices, language, food, holidays etc. So compared to Europeans I think we'd be as, if not more, culturally knowledgeable.

I wish this would change, but for the time being, Canadians don't necessarily need to GO and see the world. The world comes to us.

James said...

Even lower-middle-class Germans travel to other countries on a very regular basis

Sure, but in Europe, if you drive for a couple of hours in any direction, you're in another country. Or very wet. :)

Anonymous said...

I would say that most people outside of the US are better informed. We tend to think the world revolves around the US.

And what is so bad is, most Americans think it's cool for them to be that way.

This is the same group of people who love to share anecdotes about black or Hispanic kids who pick on the more studious among them for "acting white."

The irony is rich

M@ said...

A friend of mine lived in Germany for a couple of years, and was shocked at how many Germans said to him "You're from Canada? Yes, I've been there -- to the Yukon." He met far more Germans who have been to the Yukon than he ever met here. (I've only been as far as NWT myself.)

But it's not just about the view of the world -- Americans don't appear to be too informed about their own country. Not that I think Canadians in general are very well-informed, but I find it hard to believe that many Canadians could be so delusional about their own government as many Americans seem to be. The sponsorship scandal revealed that Canadians are perfectly capable of maintaining a healthy mistrust and skepticism towards a relatively popular government. Despite the endless catalogue of blunders and outright evil Bush has presided over, he still enjoys almost enough support to get elected to a majority in Canada (~40%).

I can't fathom why more than a wingnut few would remain in support of Bush. Maybe that's your cultural difference right there.

Maybe I just don't get it. I don't know. But how can one account for the utter inability of Americans to see through its own government's lies?

(For the record, I bet you'd find plenty of Canadians who believe Australians keep kangaroos as pets.)

L-girl said...

Interesting thoughts, folks. Keep 'em coming.

he still enjoys almost enough support to get elected to a majority in Canada (~40%).

I agree with what you're saying, M@. I just wanted to note that recent polls had him under 25% approval rating.

Why it's more than 5%, I don't know, but I think it's well under 40% by now.

L-girl said...

Sure, but in Europe, if you drive for a couple of hours in any direction, you're in another country. Or very wet. :)

I always thought that had something to do with it - Europeans' proximity to other cultures and languages, right outside their doors.

Historically, the US's geography must have contributed to people's cultural isolation. These days, travel and communications being what they are, it's not much of an excuse. But it could still inform people's worldviews.

Canadians do seem better informed on Canadian issues than Americans on US issues. What prompted my post was a shocking (to me) lack of awareness of US and international issues among Canadians I speak with.

I can't tell you how many people say they have no idea why an American would want to move to Canada, because it seems so nice in the US - so prosperous and easy. Even with a lot of hinting and prompting from me, they don't get it. (Very political left-leaning Canadians do, of course.)

L-girl said...

Tell Joe Canadian that the rest of the world travels while they stay at home, and he'll say things like: "hmm, I bet that gives them a leg up on business. maybe I should send my teenage son on a school exchange for a year."

This does sound very Canadian to me. :)

M@ said...

What good news! I didn't realise that he was so low. Another fine achievement for ol' Dubya! But he was certainly in the 40% range earlier this year, and all he's done since then is continue to fark up his country, rather than find new and exciting ways to do so. (Upcoming invasion of Iran notwithstanding.)

But yes, 5% seems like a far more reasonable approval rating. I could deal with that.

L-girl said...

But he was certainly in the 40% range earlier this year, and all he's done since then is continue to fark up his country

Yup, absolutely.

My strong belief that US media helps cover for him goes to this, too.

Mike said...

I can't really make a comment on how informed Canadians are. Mainly because I have only met a few (to my detriment I assume), and that's when I was living in Connecticut.

However, regarding the US Media in Canada, I always FEEL DUMBER after mistakenly watching CNN. It has that effect on people I think.

Ferdzy said...

I'm a bit surprised that you see Canadians as not big travellers. When I was in Europe this summer, there were a lot of Canadians (numerically noticeably more than Americans, and given we've 1/10th the population...) and in general people thought of Australians and Canadians as frequent travellers. Of course, once you are at home I'm sure it all depends on your social circle.

There was actually a certain amount of resentment about how few Americans were in Europe, especially in places that rely heavily on tourism. My own feeling is that (duh) this has a lot to do with economic conditions. I've been following the "housing bubble" lately, and I am left with the impression that a lot of people who would normally have been travelling, have been spending that money on their highly overpriced digs instead.

Idealistic Pragmatist said...

canrane,

I don't think Canadians are any worse than non-Europeans, like Indians or Chinese, in that.

The Chinese are still living in a less than democratic society, so that's not exactly a fair comparison. But I'll tell you that a large proportion of, say, New Zealanders also spend time living abroad before settling down. It makes a difference, too--I'm sure it's no accident that New Zealand was able to get enough popular support for an electoral reform movement.

New Zealand is also a good counterpoint to those who say that the North American tendency to stay at home is all about living far away from other countries. I'm sure that's a factor, but the Kiwis are far away from *everything*, and they still manage to send young men and women abroad for part of their education.

ferdzy,

I'm a professor of languages and linguistics at one of the largest universities in Canada, and I myself have lived in many different countries. I assure you that it's not my "social circle" telling me that Canadians don't travel much. But among my non-academic friends almost none have travelled beyond the United States, and if you look at my students, it's almost impossible to get them (as foreign language students!) to study abroad even by throwing money at them. It's simply not a tradition here. And that's incredibly disconcerting when in much of the rest of the world, students of subjects that have nothing at all to do with languages and foreign cultures are spending years abroad in France, the U.S., Australia, Japan...

Woti-woti said...

Canada used to have a fairly unhealthy 'travel deficit', meaning Canadians spent more abroad than tourists spent here. I also believe we are in the top 5 in per capita spending on foreign travel (I think Sweden is first--although my info dated). Anyway, a closer look at the numbers revealed that it was mainly due to snowbirds seeking warmer climes. Hence we give Cuba a lot of love. Canadians may be able to tell you a lot about cheap booze and sandy beaches, but I don't think the general world view of the average Canadian can be classed as 'learned'.
On a local level, with the upcoming municipal elections, the sitting mayor and entire council of a village near me were re-elected by acclamation because no one else would run. The local TV station did the 'man-in-street' with the folks, looking for reactions. One women said "Does that mean we're apathetic here?" Her mate chimed in with "No, I think the word is 'pathetic'." We don't need Rick Mercer around here.

doug said...

i find that peoples view of "intelligence" is skewed as it is viewed through one's own eyes...so to equate "intelligence" to one's understanding of their knowledge of international politics, world situation etc. is baseless..I have a friend who graduated from chemical engineering , very bright ,smart fellow but he has no interest whatsoever in politics etc. so if you were to ask his opinion on Iraq he would have none, does it make him less "inteelligent" no, he has no interest...

so this argument, discussion that has been going on for ages Americans, versus Canadians in terms of cultural differences, views of the world etc. are really not applicable...Canada has 32 million people the states 200 million so what exists in Canada exists in the states, just take the number and extrapolate it to get to a conclusion, on the right, the left, the christian right, etc.

It all has to do with who we choose to hang-out with are interests are circle of friends. But their are the same amount of uniformed people in Canada as the States but the cor-relation between that and "intelligence" is negligible...

L-girl said...

i find that peoples view of "intelligence" is skewed as it is viewed through one's own eyes...so to equate "intelligence" to one's understanding of their knowledge of international politics, world situation etc. is baseless

Was someone doing that? I'll read over the comments. But the original post was about how well informed people are, not how intelligent they are.

James said...

Here's a great record of Bush's polls over his time in office.

I always thought that had something to do with it - Europeans' proximity to other cultures and languages, right outside their doors.

This was also something I wished Jared Diamond had addressed in Guns, Germs, and Steel. I suspect that part of the drive in technology in Europe was due to the fact that there are so many different cultures (and language groups) in such a small space. Between the mountains and the Med, you have a more fractured area than anywhere else in the world, leading to a large number of competing "tribes" all vying with each other for dominance.

New Zealand is also a good counterpoint to those who say that the North American tendency to stay at home is all about living far away from other countries.

Sure, but they're also a very small country (2 million people, and physically not that large), so there aren't that many place to go within the country, either.

the states [has] 200 million

Forty years ago the US had 200 million people. They'll be passing 300 million this year.

L-girl said...

New Zealand is also a good counterpoint to those who say that the North American tendency to stay at home is all about living far away from other countries.

Sure, but they're also a very small country (2 million people, and physically not that large), so there aren't that many place to go within the country, either.


Yes, I was going to say the same thing. NZers have to travel great distances to see anything different. People from the US and Canada can travel great distances and still be in their own countries. Think of all the different landscapes and subcultures you can see in North America alone. It makes domestic travel very enticing.

also believe we are in the top 5 in per capita spending on foreign travel (I think Sweden is first--although my info dated). Anyway, a closer look at the numbers revealed that it was mainly due to snowbirds seeking warmer climes. Hence we give Cuba a lot of love. Canadians may be able to tell you a lot about cheap booze and sandy beaches

You know, I had a similar observation. When I learned that many Canadians went to Cuba, it sounded so cool to me, since Cuba is the forbidden planet of US travel. Then I realized Canadians (the ones I spoke with, anyway) went to Cuba and the Dominican exactly as Americans go to the Bahamas or Cancun, just to lay on the beach and party. It's not a cultural exchange, it's standard warm-climate tourism.

****

International travel does usually change with changing economic conditions. Things are very hard in the US now. International travel is a luxury.

On the other hand, I/P makes a good point that for Americans to live abroad when they're younger is a rarity - also a luxury. Wealthy kids do the "junior year abroad" thing but they're still in university, which is very different than setting up a life somewhere.

doug said...

you made mention of people being "dumber" so yes in a sense you are questioning their intelligence

you've lived in Canada for a year or so so all I can say is that my perceptions of the states are people in the Southern states burning Beatles records for John Lennon stating"we are bigger then God", then 30 years later fans, radio stations boycotting the Dixie Chicks for Natalie stating"she was ashamed that she's from the same state as George Bush"..or today in the newspaper how a county in the Atlanta region wants to ban Harry Potter books because they promote the "Wicca" beliefs...it just comes across as a outsider that a country that prides itself on it's model to the world on free speech and all it's other so-called virtues is just a lesson in hypocrisy.

Canrane said...

Hmm...I'm thinking my last sentence came out the wrong way.

What I meant to say was that in order to be culturally aware, Canadians don't need to travel as people from more homogenous countries do. I'm not saying that we shouldn't or don't have to go anywhere just because people from all over emigrate here.

Biiiig difference. Now you know why English has never been my forte. Numbers are so unambiguous! ;)

James said...

Yes, I was going to say the same thing. NZers have to travel great distances to see anything different. People from the US and Canada can travel great distances and still be in their own countries.

From New Zealand to Australia is roughly the distance from New York to Florida. Taking the Montreal-Vancouver distance from New Zealand can get you as far as Indonesia. :)

L-girl said...

you made mention of people being "dumber" so yes in a sense you are questioning their intelligence

Oh yes, now I see what you mean.

You might note that I wrote "as one side of the debate would have it".

That means, in context, people who don't blame the media (for the public being misinformed) would say the news consumers themselves - in this case, Canadians - are to blame. That if Canadians are less informed because they're watching CNN instead of CBC, that's their own fault.

I'm not saying that. I'm remarking that in the context of our is-the-media-to-blame discussion, that is another way to look at it.

it just comes across as a outsider that a country that prides itself on it's model to the world on free speech and all it's other so-called virtues is just a lesson in hypocrisy.

No argument there. It's not relevant here, but I agree with you.

doug said...

yea I see but to me it is relevant because as a Canadian I look at CNN as a outsider, not to get knowledge but rather to get a overview of a situation and as a outsider I look at CNN and wonder what the hell are Americans seeing, as surely they can see it's a political spin-job and most of my Canadian friends see it the same way

Americans have to realize that the world's views of America are seen as through CNN, and the world's view surely has to be that Americans are blind we have CBC, Brits BBC etc...but Americans see their country through NBC,ABC,CBS,CNN, and worse of all Fox news ...it's sad that they have to go to a comedy network show the Daily Show to get their "news"...so yes I would say Canadians, rest of the world are more informed just by default...

L-girl said...

as a Canadian I look at CNN as a outsider, not to get knowledge but rather to get a overview of a situation and as a outsider I look at CNN and wonder what the hell are Americans seeing,

Well, that's good. I wish more people did the same. People I've spoken to at work, in my neighbourhood, in the grocery store, and such, are actually getting their news from CNN, and believing what they see.

They seem pretty uninformed, and also overly interested in trivia, celebrity gossip, fake terrorism scares, and all the other crap the US public eats up.

The friends we've made here are all very well informed, as are my friends in the US.

From what I've seen, it's not as all-or-nothing, Canadians are well informed and Americans are not, as some would believe.

L-girl said...

we have CBC, Brits BBC etc...but Americans see their country through NBC,ABC,CBS,CNN, and worse of all Fox news ...it's sad that they have to go to a comedy network show the Daily Show to get their "news"...

Which is what I always say - that the awful US media helps keep the country mis- and uninformed.

so yes I would say Canadians, rest of the world are more informed just by default...

But you can't get informed by default. You have to actually care about the world around you and make an effort to get the news.

I'm not really sure that happens more here than in the US. Maybe it does. But I was under the impression there was a huge difference, and I haven't found that to be the case.

Idealistic Pragmatist said...

L-girl,

International travel is a luxury.

It's seen that way *here*, but it really doesn't have to be that way. To take New Zealanders as an example again--it's not the wealthy who travel for study abroad, it's everyone. In fact, there are very, very inexpensive ways to travel that are often less expensive than staying at home. North Americans just tend to *assume* that international travel is only for the elites, so they never find out about those opportunities. And it hurts us in the long term.

canrane,

What I meant to say was that in order to be culturally aware, Canadians don't need to travel as people from more homogenous countries do.

Yeah, and I really don't agree with that statement. It's extremely valuable for a large portion of a society to have first-hand experience with how other countries solve their problems so that we don't assume that our way of doing things and the guy next door's way are the only possible ways.

If you have a look at my post that I linked above I think it explains what I mean, but just to name one specific example: I'm an electoral reformer who's constantly having to explain what coalition governments are because there's no tradition of them here. If Canadians looked even the tiniest bit beyond the familiar, they'd see that *most of the world* has coalition governments, and yet even most extremely educated Canadians don't really know what they are. That's incredibly disturbing.

doug said...

I think it does in subtle ways, a example on Sunday 10 American soldiers die in Iraq and there was no mention of it in any of the american media sites I could see which was inexcusable...but in Canada deaths in Afghanistan are reported and what we as a public do with it is up to us...so if you are a supporter of the conflict or not you make that decision based on facts whereas in the States I feel sorry for a lot of Americans because as you said you have to do research to get the true picture well that shouldn't be the case, it should be reported leave it up to the viewer to use that info as they want to...but that info is not even passed on to Americans...

Lone Primate said...

One women said "Does that mean we're apathetic here?" Her mate chimed in with "No, I think the word is 'pathetic'." We don't need Rick Mercer around here.

Woti, there's every chance the gent in question might have been being disingenuous in the hopes of irony, rather than ignorant. :)

Woti-woti said...

Lone Primate, I guess I didn't paint the scene well enough. The lady's mate (as in buddy) was another lady and she was chiming in with down-home Canadian dry humour. I guess all the OZ and NZ references made me think of 'mate', mate.

L-girl said...

a example on Sunday 10 American soldiers die in Iraq and there was no mention of it in any of the american media sites I could see which was inexcusable...but in Canada deaths in Afghanistan are reported and what we as a public do with it is up to us

That's an excellent example! We tell our US friends how the Canadian media reports on Canadian deaths in Afghanistan - each death, an important event to be noted, a person of value, each known, each counted. They think we're exaggerating. In the US, the war goes on in the background.

It was not like that during the Vietnam War. And horribly, that is one of the "lessons" of Vietnam - don't put the war on TV. It will help fuel the peace movement.

L-girl said...

To take New Zealanders as an example again--it's not the wealthy who travel for study abroad, it's everyone. In fact, there are very, very inexpensive ways to travel that are often less expensive than staying at home.

I don't think this is true. I know that long-term international travel is much more common in Australia and NZ than in North America. But everyone, from all walks of life? That's not my impression from the considerable number of Kiwis I know.

Many leave for another continent and never return, and never see their families (or see them once every 10 years), because their families can't afford to visit. Many grow up without leaving the continent.

Idealistic Pragmatist said...

L-girl,

Okay, "everyone" was an exaggeration. But so was "international travel is a luxury." There are LOTS of ways to live short-term in another country that cost next to nothing, or even make you money. And in other countries, it's not just the elites who avail themselves of those opportunities. Far more than money, the assumptions of our North American culture are what prevent international travel on a larger scale here, especially among youth.

doug said...

yes you are exactly right there were lessons to be learned from Vietnam but unfortunately it seems they were all the wrong ones

as a ex-American can you explain the apathy that exists around this conflict in the states...my take when I discuss it with my friends is that their is not a draft so therefore you don't have the uproar from individuals, families who are drafted...

L-girl said...

Okay, "everyone" was an exaggeration. But so was "international travel is a luxury."

I didn't mean to pick on you for the word everyone. I traveled on little money when I was younger, and knew a lot of other people who did.

There are LOTS of ways to live short-term in another country that cost next to nothing, or even make you money.

Like what?

When I traveled on the cheap when I was younger, it didn't cost a fortune, but it was still a luxury, a privilege, something that was available to me because I came from a middle-class background, was educated, etc.

I saved all the money myself, but I still had to be able to afford it. If I was in tough economic conditions at home, I couldn't have done that.

I could have traveled more cheaply, but I didn't want to. When we were in Peru in the spring, we met lots of young people bumming their way through South America. The goal (to my eyes) seems to be to travel for as long as possible on as little money as possible. But (again, from my POV) these kids seem to have very few experiences, they hang out, but little else - because they want to spend $5 a day. I was never willing to do that just to stay somewhere 3 months instead of 6 weeks.

But perhaps you're thinking of something else entirely, that I'm not familiar with.

Idealistic Pragmatist said...

L-girl,

There are countless scholarships for high school student exchanges (which is how I got to go abroad the first time at the age of fifteen even though my parents couldn't have afforded to send me). If you're a little older, you can be an au pair, and either take care of a child or two or do light work in a household in exchange for room and board and some spending money. For university students, there's study abroad, which usually costs less than the tuition they'd be paying if they were staying home, and if you get a scholarship (my university never finds enough people to give all its scholarship money to, so this is not difficult), nothing at all. For those who can't afford to go even a summer without working, there are also work-abroad programmes for either a summer or a year, where you can make the same kind of money you'd be making in a job at home and get some international experience at the same time. There's even one that allows politically interested students to work as pages in foreign parliaments! (I *so* would have done that.) There are also organizations that help Canadians find good jobs, often even career-track ones, in other Commonwealth countries for a year or two. And that's just a start.

Wrye said...

I think you'll find that "countless" is a very finite number indeed, in that case.

Ugh. i want to comment on every comment. My inability to get a night's sleep since getting home isn't helping with the punchiness. I'll give you the Japanese take tomorrow, after I theoretically get some sleep.

Why it's more than 5%, I don't know, but I think it's well under 40% by now.

This has been identified and quantified as an irreducible core of lunacy known as the The crazification factor. Please do read.

L-girl said...

I/P, ok, now I see what you mean. It's for people of privileged background.

All the methods you're talking about cost quite a bit of money, even the ones that supposedly earn money. Kids from backgrounds that can't afford college in the first place, or who put themselves through school while they're working, can't avail themselves of these opportunities.

There are countless scholarships for high school student exchanges (which is how I got to go abroad the first time at the age of fifteen even though my parents couldn't have afforded to send me).

Perhaps when you were in the US these scholarships were available. US public schools don't have anything like this now. If they exist, they're very rare.

I still consider things like this a luxury, although I realize you disagree.

Idealistic Pragmatist said...

L-girl,

I'm not sure where you're getting the "they cost money" statement from, because only a few of the examples I mentioned cost money. In fact, with some of them, you end up with money you didn't have when you started. You're right, it's certainly true that if you need to earn money to put food on your family's table, you're not going to be able to go abroad. But I know several Canadian (and remember, we're talking about Canadian society, not American) kids who are putting themselves through university while working who have nonetheless spent a summer working in Germany, so it's not the case that you can't do these things if you need to work while going to university. There's also no university education requirement to be, say, an au pair, nor do you need any money for that (many au pairs in Europe are from poor eastern European countries). And the high school student exchange scholarships I spoke of come from international organizations, not public schools. (There are several different such organizations, most of them offer scholarships, and yes, they still exist today.)

You're right about one thing--most of the kids who take advantage of these programmes aren't the ones with money problems. There are a lot of reasons for that, though, many of which are cultural and systemic instead of situation-specific, and it's too simple to boil all those reasons down to "kids simply can't do this unless they have lots of money." And I'd be willing to bet that if we lived in a society that valued sending a good percentage of its youth into international experiences, there would be a lot more opportunities for "ordinary Canadians" to take advantage of--as there are in other countries. Which is kind of my point.

L-girl said...

Ugh. i want to comment on every comment.

Maybe shoot for half? I hope you got some sleep. We miss you around these parts.

L-girl said...

Actually, I thought we were talking about the US, not Canada. I have no knowledge of the availability of these kinds of programs in Canada.

Why I said they cost money: I knew several people who studied abroad with the help of scholarship money, but they still had to be able to afford many thousands of dollars worth of expenses. The programs didn't pick up 100% of the cost. Similar to all the young people who can't afford to attend university, even with financial aid, because there are too many costs unaccounted for.

I understand about the au pair thing, but that is not for everyone. And if you want the au pair experience to include travel and something other than working for the family, it does cost money.

I was a nanny for five years. I don't think of taking care of other people's children an enlightening or broadening experience, no matter where it takes place. It's hard work for low wages.

There are a lot of reasons for that, though, many of which are cultural and systemic instead of situation-specific, and it's too simple to boil all those reasons down to "kids simply can't do this unless they have lots of money."

I agree. I was using a shorthand saying they can't afford it. It's not only financial, it's often cultural and social, as well as financial.

Idealistic Pragmatist said...

L-girl,

*throws up hands* I've mentioned opportunities that are offered to students at my (Canadian) university. I started the thread about international travel by talking about how important I think it is "to change this aspect of Canadian culture." Why would I have said those things if I were talking about U.S. society?

Gah. I need to go to work.

L-girl said...

*shrugs* Sorry.

Your first comment on this thread said: "Sadly, the difference in this respect isn't so much between Americans and Canadians, but between those two countries and practically everyone else."

Not knowing anything about your background, I thought you grew up in the US (since you moved to Canada from there and were a US citizen). I assumed your knowledge of high school and university opportunities would be about the US, not Canada.

Also, I read (and try to respond to) every comment on this blog. It's easy to get them mixed up when the thread goes on for a long time.

Sorry to cause you frustration.

L-girl said...

There are countless scholarships for high school student exchanges (which is how I got to go abroad the first time at the age of fifteen even though my parents couldn't have afforded to send me).

This was in Canada?

James said...

Daily Show as substantive as "real" news:

Anyone who watches the evening news with any regularity knows that it's not a bastion of substance. However, a new study conducted by researchers at Indiana University reports that The Daily Show has just as much substance to it as the broadcast news. 'The researchers looked at coverage of the 2004 Democratic and Republican national conventions and the first presidential debate of the fall campaign, all of which were covered by the mainstream broadcast news outlets and The Daily Show... There was just as much substance to The Daily Show's coverage as there was on the network news. And The Daily Show was much funnier, with less of the hype — references to photo ops, political endorsements, and polls — that typically overshadows substantive coverage on network news, according to the study.'

Idealistic Pragmatist said...

This was in Canada?

No. But like I said, these are international organizations. The same scholarship that was given to me (and others like it) is also available to Canadian youth.

Let me come at this from another direction. Let's assume that you're one hundred percent right--that the programmes I mention are reserved for Canada's elite due to gatekeeping mechanisms like financial concerns. This elite probably comprises about 10% of Canadian society, and a somewhat larger proportion of university students. Why, then, is every one of those elites not spending a summer or a year living abroad, either studying or working? Ten percent of Canadian society spending time living abroad--and the ten percent most likely to someday be running the country or in higher positions in business, no less? It would be huge. It would be transformative.

M@ said...

That's pretty depressing about TDS -- although it shows how awful news coverage is, rather than how useful TDS is (I'm sure that goes without saying).

On the subject of Canadians in Afghanistan: I wonder whether Americans know how many soldiers have been killed or maimed in their wars (the body count is more widely reported of course).

My friend in Afghanistan, incidentally, recently phoned a mutual friend from the satellite phone in his armoured vehicle. ($11/min, your tax dollars at work!) He's been there two months, he's in the field with an artillery battery, and he's really regretting volunteering for the mission now. He said that he'd take any other mission in the world over this one. It's too scary and too dangerous.

Unfortunately, I think the soldiers' views are under-represented in the media these days (support our troops! baa! baa!). The coverage is indeed good, but I'd happily lose the coverage and bring the men and women home.

L-girl said...

This was in Canada?

No.


That's why I thought you were talking about the US.

I think most US high school students are unaware of opportunities like that, if they still exist.

L-girl said...

The coverage is indeed good, but I'd happily lose the coverage and bring the men and women home.

The coverage is part of what will help bring them home. The lack of coverage in the US impedes the peace movement, and it's not an accident.

Idealistic Pragmatist said...

I think most US high school students are unaware of opportunities like that, if they still exist.

Yep, you're right. And most Canadians are, too. And I submit that this is because North Americans tend to stay at home instead of spending time living abroad, so they don't think to look for opportunities like that. Which is the point I've been trying to make here all along.

With American exceptionalism, there isn't a lot of hope for the U.S. on this front. But there's hope for Canada. Like I said earlier, tell Canadians that spending a limited amount of time living somewhere else is far more common in the rest of the world, and they start to say: "hmm, maybe that would be a good thing for me/my kid." They just have to realize that they can do it, and understand that waiting an extra year before going into the work force in their own country isn't going to destroy their chances at ever getting a good job.

L-girl said...

Yes, that seems like a reasonable assumption.

I understood your point. I do think, in the US, it's not just American exceptionalism, but the huge socioeconomic divide that impedes or prevents much study and travel abroad. I don't think it's as readily available as you do.

M@ said...

The coverage is part of what will help bring them home. The lack of coverage in the US impedes the peace movement, and it's not an accident.

Absolutely. But I'd like to hear more from guys like Al, who are saying that this is a horrible mission and he'd rather be anywhere than there. He actually thinks any mission in Africa would be easier than Afghanistan.

I doubt he's alone in this thinking, and it would be an antidote to the "support our troops" meme that is so irritatingly prevalent these days.

L-girl said...

I agree completely. Usually it's presented as if voices for peace are the opposite of voices in the military, when often that is very far from the truth.

Idealistic Pragmatist said...

L-girl,

I don't think it's as readily available as you do.

Even if that's the case (and I'm not convinced it is) it's beside the point. You seem to be arguing with something that's, at best, tangential to the point I'm trying to make. If the main issue were money, then elite North American youth would all be having experiences abroad. They're not.

L-girl said...

Ok. Fair enough.

"Junior Year Abroad" is extremely common in the US, among families who can afford it.

impudent strumpet said...

Speaking as a recent language student who considered but rejected the option of going abroad, the main problem is that it doesn't fully integrate into a four-year program of study. They do try very hard to integrate it, but all it takes is one non-negotiable prereq. that has no equivalency at the other university, and you're in for a fifth year. And since you're only taking one or two courses your fifth year, you have part-time status, so you lose the right to student housing, on-campus jobs, scholarships, drug and dental coverage, government student employment programs etc.

Not having gone to France has definitely hindered me professionally, but the fact remains that the need for a fifth year made it logistically impossible, even with 20/20 hindsight. Many of my classmates rejected going abroad for this very reason, and those who did ended up having to do a fifth year. I don't know anyone who went abroad and graduated in four years, although I'm sure some people somewhere have.

I recently read an article or an interview or something (I've been googling but can't seem to find it) that mentioned in passing that going to another country is far more normalized in Europe, so their programs of study take it into account. I guess it's a vicious circle, because if more people went abroad, more programs would fully accomodate it, and if more programs accomodated it, more people would go abroad.

James said...

That's pretty depressing about TDS -- although it shows how awful news coverage is, rather than how useful TDS is (I'm sure that goes without saying).

But then, Stewart doesn't claim to be doing real news. Like he said in his infamous discussion with Tucker Carlson on Crossfire:

STEWART: It's not honest. What you do is not honest. What you do is partisan hackery. And I will tell you why I know it.

CARLSON: You had John Kerry on your show and you sniff his throne and you're accusing us of partisan hackery?

STEWART: Absolutely.

CARLSON: You've got to be kidding me. He comes on and you...

STEWART: You're on CNN. The show that leads into me is puppets making crank phone calls.


And, of course, the closing:

CARLSON: I do think you're more fun on your show. Just my opinion.

STEWART: You know what's interesting, though? You're as big a dick on your show as you are on any show.

L-girl said...

I don't know anyone who went abroad and graduated in four years, although I'm sure some people somewhere have.

In the US, it's very common. Again, it's the children of well-off parents who do this, and I don't know how much it broadens their horizons. (Obviously that's got to vary a lot, depending on the person.) But typically students don't need a 5th year, even part-time.