I recently decided to store all of my academic reports and papers on Google Docs (because I am a neat freak even when it comes to my hard drive and I am trying to cure my “Delete” addiction). While sorting through my documents I found this embarrassing reminder of my own naivety. I can only assume I wrote this for admission to a DC internship program that I participated in immediately following my semester abroad in London. I am fairly certain the prompt for this essay was something like “Why do you want to intern in the field of international relations/defense?”
I wrote this long before I even considered becoming a librarian, when I was thinking more along the lines of intelligence analyst. Since deciding to really commit to librarianship, I’ve been unsuccessfully trying to reconcile my current career goals with my former interests. It occurred to me while reading this, that perhaps my interest in defense and intelligence is the reason I decided to get my MS in Library and Information Science after all. I’m seven years older, my career goals have changed, my worldview has broadened, and hopefully my writing has improved but I am still committed to the essence of this argument that the best defense is a good education.
Education and National Defense
In meeting people of many varying nationalities I have discovered my own ignorance of the world. Growing up in suburban New Jersey it was impossible for me to imagine that the life of a person from any developing country could contain any semblance of “normalcy.” Upon meeting my first acquaintances in London, I was astounded to find that the girl with the British accent being educated at one of the UK’s best schools [universities] was actually from a small town near a jungle of Malaysia and that the very westernized guy across the hall wearing the Vans sneakers was a recent graduate of a very small high school in Afghanistan.
Judging from my own experience, American ignorance of other cultures is a contributing factor to our poor reputation abroad. In allowing an embarrassing lack of education concerning developing and non-western nations in American high schools, the US is really harming itself more than anyone else. We are taught from a very young age about the Revolutionary War and the Civil War and about the Declaration of Independence and the American Constitution but the concept of a parliamentary system or an authoritarian government is not even mentioned (at least in my public high school) until senior year.
The epiphany of my own ignorance while abroad was jarring. Any discussion of geography was truly embarrassing for me, and to sit at a table with four people from four different countries who are each bilingual at the very least made me feel that my education had been severely under par. The fact that I had taken three years of high school Spanish and yet could not string together an elementary sentence was a constant source of amusement to my foreign peers and my year of university Latin seemed a massive waste of time while attempting to travel from Paris to Prague.
I believe that world history and current events classes, as well as more extensive language programs would prove infinitely advantageous to future international diplomacy. A serious investment in education now could save the US billions in defense spending later.