My heart sinks in despair whenever I hear the casual remark of "Oh, you are American- aren't you supposed to be stupid?" I realize this is a stereotype, and like all stereotypes is based off of perceptions from entertainment and prejudice. As somebody who has had a lifelong love and interest in geography, I find it rather amusing and sad. When I was a young child, I spent hours on a musical globe memorizing all the countries of the world. I would go to the library every week and pull out a book on a different country each week, I would eat food and sing music from this country- these were the fondest moments of my youth. I was too young to know there was a stereotype that Americans were "stupid" and "uneducated." I realize that public schools at times are in need of reform- but outside of the school atmosphere- there are libraries and the internet-- the great storehouses of knowledge! My dear reader- ignorance has chained us to a belief we could never do more. But I am here to challenge that myth- we can liberate the masses from the ignorance that has blinded them, and through making education enjoyable enlighten the flame of knowledge.
I was homeschooled, so I acknowledge my upbringing may have been different. I had a wonderful history curriculum which not only explored Western Europe and the USA but also- Africa, Asia, Latin America and countless stories from all corners of the world flooded my imagination. That being said, my favorite country has always been France- I remember being particularly interested in French history, and years later had a wonderful opportunity to intern in Paris. There are many other countries that hold special places in my heart- Poland being one because of some fun travels there. Although I've never been to Bolivia, I had a penpal from there back in gradechool and she always captured my imagination when talking about her country.
Years later, I sometimes find myself rolling my eyes at some person in a suit making a snarky remark about how "shocked" he is the "American knows all the capitals in South America." Alas, to the person in this suit- you have greatly underestimated my country. I know Americans who are ignorant, and I know Americans who have a thirst for knowledge. Likewise in your own country there are people just as ignorant as you claim Americans are. I have sadly encountered people in Poland who believe Venezuela is in Africa! Ignorance is not confined to a particular nationality, and it is bigotry to assume because I was born in the USA that I must be "stupid."
Americans also are guilty of playing up this stereotype- I have seen countless videos circulating the internet of Americans thinking its funny to pretend they don't know where Canada is. I've also seen unfortunate incidences of Americans ignorantly explaining the situation in Venezuela or Belarus when it is clear they never studied the situation, and talking over the people who actually lived that. We need to stop this attitude! Not only does it perpetuate the stereotypes about us, it is rather annoying to the rest of the world as well. Every country has flaws- this nobody can deny, but when we let a stereotype rooted in negativity define who we are- we are succumbed to the flaws.
As I said, ignorance is not tied to a particular country. I understand there are circumstances like war which make it rather difficult to obtain books and knowledge- but I know people who have been through such hardships who are the most dedicated individuals when it comes to pursuing knowledge. I also know rich people who have access to the world but cannot locate Ukraine on a map. There is something more sinister at play- and that is the love of ignorance that we keep talking ourselves into.
I speak to my own Patria- we were once 13 colonies owned by the British Empire. Under imperialism, we were deprived of our rights and considered second class to European born subjects. This also happened to the colonies owned by France, Spain and Portugal. Hence, this instilled in our subconscious an attitude that we will never be as "smart as Europe." This mentality must be renounced my dear reader! Just because we were born in a particular country this does not determine our intelligence. No matter where in the world we were born- we all have a natural drive within us to be more and learn more. If you are reading this on the internet you have access to knowledge just one google search away.
Citizens of the Americas! We have been bound in the chains of ignorance for too long, we have believed myths that we will never be able to achieve anything because of where we were born. Americans (yes the whole hemisphere) this I challenge to you- learn about a new country today, spin a globe and learn about another culture. Do not like this myth of "but we are ignorant" tie you down. Break the chains of oppression and because your liberator as your rekindled the flame of knowledge that burned so brightly in you as a child. Citizens of the world! I realize every nation carries negative and harmful stereotypes perpetuated by hatreds of the past. Break these chains, and through knowledge and discourse- become the liberators of knowledge. May the books on your shelves be the guide for your path, and may your computer screen's light forever kindle a desire to learn and share knowledge with others.