Students ignorant about world news

Sabrina Leung, Editorial Director

Although students are required to learn about World history, American politics and current events throughout their high school classes and have instant access to news through social media platforms, some students are still ignorant what is happening beyond the boundaries of their everyday lives.
“I have talked to some of my friends about the Sequester. It’s national news, not even international, and I thought it was kind of weird how most of them didn’t even know what a ‘sequester’ was,” said sophomore Andrew Yazhgar.

With a society overflowing with advanced technological developments, the general impression is that we are living in an age where people are particularly knowledgeable, possibly the most well-formed generation in history. However, some argue that we are living in an Age of Ignorance.

“Kids are so confined by school these days that they hardly have the chance to explore anywhere else that gives them outside exposure,” said junior Leesan Kwok.

Today, many American students are ignorant of critical facts about important events in the news, ranging from the death of the Venezuelan president, Hugo Chavez, to China’s success of sending a man to the moon. Some are even clueless about presidential elections, and how our government functions.

A study conducted by the new McCormick Tribune Freedom Museum found that 22 out of 100 Americans could name all five Simpson family members, compared with just one in 1,000 people who could name all five First Amendment freedoms.

In fact, a number of Americans can not even answer basic questions that are significant in our daily lives.

In 1991, the Pew Research center revealed that only 25 percent of Americans knew who their senators were for their own state. The National Geographic Society revealed that only 37 percent of all Americans between the ages of 18 and 24 can find the nation of Iraq on a map of the world, and only 50 percent can locate the state of New York on a U.S. map.

This has led some to question why students are becoming more ignorant about world news.

One contribution to this problem that some have noted is negligence, otherwise known as the disinclination to seek reliable sources of information about important news events. Unlike their parents, who were forced to rely mainly on newspapers and network news shows to find out what was happening in the world, students can flip on CNN and NBC or search the internet.

Although Twitter and Youtube allow one to watch developments as they occur halfway around the world in real time and have instant access to current news across the globe, many students simply do not have the interest to learn about what is happening outside of their own personal lives. In 2005, the Pew Research Center surveyed the news habits of 3,000 Americans age 18 and older and found that only 59 percent on a regular basis watch the news from local TV, and just 23 percent from the Internet. In fact, the average age of CNN’s audience is sixty, and only 11 percent claim that they regularly click on news web pages.

“Entertainment is such a money-making business and is too emphasized. Kids are attracted to the glamorous aspect of the entertainment industry and want to relate themselves to that glamour by knowing fully what’s going on with celebrities. With world news, not so much,” added Kwok.

Additionally, “wooden-headedness,” or the inclination to believe what one wants to believe regardless of the facts, can be attributed to ignorance. The influx of social media and celebrity advertisements have caused many students to become susceptible to stereotypes, irrational biases, and simplistic diagnoses that play on our hopes and fears. With hoards of information online, sometimes it becomes difficult for one to sift through it all and find the truth. Many things one views on the Internet are blatantly false and absurd, yet thousands of Americans have been caught into believing these facts.

“People might think that all the news they need is on Facebook but it definitely is not. They should not believe all they see because it might not be the whole picture of the issue,” added Yazhgar.

Another factor is shortsightedness: The support of public policies that are mutually contradictory, or contrary to the country’s long-term interests. Some students are not interested in learning about foreign affairs because they don’t find it relatable to their daily lives. Junior Iris Choi blames the potential “ignorance” of students on the local news stations.

“My family usually watches the Chinese news, which generally broadcasts news related to China and nothing else. Also, I’m not really interested in politics and sometimes don’t understand what is going on,” said Choi.

However, young Americans have already been noted in earlier times for being ignorant on foreign affairs. In the 1940s, the National Election Studies (NES) by the University of Michigan, revealed that only a small percentage knew a lot about politics, 50-60 percent knew enough to answer basic questions, and the rest knew next to nothing.

In the 1990s, political scientists Michael Carpini and Scott Keeter concluded that there was statistically little difference between the knowledge of the parents of the “Silent Generation” of the 1950s, the parents of the “Baby Boomers” of the 1960s, and American parents today.

While some believe that ignorance is an issue among students, others do not view this as a problem.

“I may not watch the world news every day, but I eventually find out what is going on later. I don’t think it’s necessary to pay attention to every foreign issue if it doesn’t have a huge impact in our society,” said Choi.

However, others conclude that it is crucial for students to study world news to keep up with the rest of the world.

“I believe that if everyone knew what was going on around the world; how horrible some peoples’ lives are, then everyone would actually be thinking about their own actions, responses to certain situations, and he or she would be more appreciative of what they get,” remarked Yazhgar.

Even though foreign affairs or economic issues may not appeal to everyone, learning about world news will help one develop critical thinking skills and gain the insight needed to understand how our current society functions.