What most Americans know about foreign policy and life in other countries comes largely through war. My mother, a Costa Rican by birth, has spent much of her existence fuming at America’s ignorance about other countries. As a teen ager, I thought she was being un-American. As an adult, I am convinced she is right. While 75 percent of New Zealanders own passports, only 40 percent in the United States do. (The Study-Abroad Solution,” by Sanford J. Ungar, Foreign Affairs, Mar/April 2016 pg. 112.)
Plunged as we are into world affairs, we seem woefully unprepared for global leadership, which is why Democratic Presidential candidate, Bernie Sanders has succeeded in shrugging off Hillary Clinton’s experience as Secretary of State as if it were a cosmetic qualification and pivots back to the American economy. But as Sanford J. Ungar, President Emeritus of Goucher College and Harvard educator, explains our ignorance of other countries, “severely hinders the creation and implementation of a rational, consistent, and nuanced foreign policy that reflects American values and enjoys public support.” (Ibid, pg 111)
Frankly, I’d go further. Our woeful lack of knowledge about foreign affairs impacts our economy. Think about our monetary reliance on international trade agreements and we can see why we must understand those with whom we are dealing. The media does little to keep the public informed on these issues, so Ungar proposes we inform ourselves. He wants our government to increase grants for students to study abroad. Many of us are unaware that, currently, this luxury is denied pupils from low income families. “The majority of study-abroad students are white, female liberal arts majors.” Giving travel advantages to low income scholars would not only increase their awareness of life in other countries, but it would also enhance the ability of these young people to compete in a global economy.
If we want to grow trade and encourage world peace, we must put an end to our parochial thinking. Berne Sanders wants to provide a free education to anyone who qualifies. The goal is noble but the means are cloudy. Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, has already expanded educational opportunities for the young. During her tenure as Secretary of State, she convinced the government of China to provide 10,000 scholarships to American students who wished to study in that country. (Ibid pg. 119) Knowing how to deal with foreign nations isn’t a cosmetic. It’s a vital skill for a president.