The Christian Science Monitor has an interesting article on Canada studies at institutions of higher learning in the US.

Quick test: Who is the current prime minister of Canada? How does that country’s population compare to that of the US? And who eats more doughnuts, Canadians or Americans?
Studying Canada isn’t as glamorous as Asian or Russian studies.

…most Americans probably wouldn’t score as well. They typically know more about Britain and Europe than this neighbor to the north, America’s biggest partner in trade, largest supplier of oil, and fiercest rival at the hockey rink.
Canada 101. Interesting. What many American students may not know is that Canadian students in public and high school study the US. And Canadian Universities offer more that USA 101. I’ve found the British and Europeans know far more about Canada than our neighbours.

Anthony Cicerone, director of the Canadian Studies department at Bridgewater State, says the relationship between Canada and the US is at an important juncture now. “We have good relations, but they will definitely improve under the new prime minister,” he says. The former prime minister, Jean Chrétien, irritated the Bush administration when he opposed the Iraq war. But this disagreement, says Dr. Cicerone, carries with it some important lessons for his students. “They need to see that other countries can differ with us, and that it’s their right to do this.”

Some say the current political climate makes learning about Canada today especially critical. “It’s important now because of the isolation that America is going toward,” says Dr. Pelletier. “Rather than going along with this, I congratulate my students for reaching toward another culture, and for their openness to multiculturalism. It’s important to go out and try to understand where others are coming from.”

via Exclamation Mark
Posted by Bene Diction at February 10, 2004 02:16 PM
Hi Bene,

I think there’s a reasonable explanation.

“What many American students may not know is that Canadian students in public and high school study the US. ”

I live in Iowa (USA).
Iowans study the U.S. The U.S. does not study Iowa, though. Not in any ‘fair’, reciprical way, of course.

There was an op-ed somewhere the other day, I wish I could link to it, about why the US seems so stand-offish, or provincial. For instance, why don’t most US citizens know a second language, or at least familiarize themselves with other cultures?

I think we’re all fascinated with other cultures, but that geography has always made it unneccesary for us to learn other languages.

It’s fascinating to learn how different cultures develope, and why we turned out different from the same starting point.

But the US isn’t comparable to fractured, crowded Europe. (If Missourians spoke another language, or Minnesotans, etc, maybe I’d have learned). Nor is Canada. ha, i guess…

There simply hasn’t been a need here, except by our immigration. And I think the US history of acceptance for immigration makes up for its apparently wary blinders.

Greeks and Italians know more about the US then we know about them. I don’t think that means that they are more globally oriented. I suspect they are actually MORE provincial than the US. Isn’t war more likely to break out there?

“I’ve found the British and Europeans know far more about Canada than our neighbours.”

THAT is surprising to me, I admit.

Blog on!

Posted by: Jackson on February 10, 2004 05:42 PM
Tis true. Regrettably, I hadn’t the faintest clue who the prime minister of Canada was until I read that article. I know nothing about the political status of Canada at the moment or what Canada’s history is. I’m not even certain I can name all the provinces and territories… (Though I’m confidant that I can name more than the average American can). I do know that Canadians measure distance in the metric system and that every so often, you hear that Quebec has once again failed from splitting form Canada.

It’s really a problem I ought to remedy in my own life, seeing as it’s been in the back of my mind to move from the States to Canada because of the horrid political situation here.

But, Canadian issues generally aren’t brought to the forefront of American minds. The media doesn’t cover them unless they somehow directly affect us. Unless you live in the far far north of the US, we don’t recieve the CBC (far far north meaning you can drive over the border in an hour or less). Schools don’t teach anything about Canada, other than it’s our neighbor to the north. So, it’s a struggle to pay attention to Canadian issues living in the States. It’s got to become a discipline, sorta like blogging.. Any good Canadian news sources have RSS feeds? 😉

British & European affairs are much readily pushed upon us, both in the media and in school. Heck, we get BBC America so we can actually watch British news if we want to.

In responce to Jackson’s points… I agree with you, I think there are quite a few Americans who are interested in other cultures, probably a lot more than given credit for. However, despite the interest, I think a lot of Americans are misinformed when it comes to other cultures and countries because of school/the media/etc, and they have very little desire to remedy the fact that they’re misinformed. I know many people who are very interested in European politics, history, etc. but are very unwilling to admit that Europeans don’t think and act the same as Americans.

As for language, I agree wholeheartedly. Although I think there are many Americans who as adults wish that they knew a second language, there wasn’t a need, nor the oppertunity to. I don’t think it’s because we didn’t want to. It’s more because we couldn’t. The oppertunity wasn’t there… When I was in 3rd grade, there were after school programs offered in Spanish and French, and i took them both… and remember finding them quite easy then… but intrest dropped off so they ended up being canceled, and we’d tried to find language programs elsewhere and failed…. so I didn’t get an oppertunity to study a foriegn language again until high school, and by that time, it was too late to become fluent without a fight.

But for all of our ignorance, I’m heard some pretty ignorant comments from Europeans too… Like Europeans visiting rural Ohio and then having the gall to smugly say that all of America is boring because rural Ohio is boring…. because… you know, since it’s one country, America must all be the same. 🙂

Posted by: nikkiana on February 11, 2004 01:34 AM

We are different, not better or worse.
I think where I get periodically frustrated or discouraged is in an area you pointed out…Americans expect Canadians and others to think, act, feel, be like.
We don’t fit the mold.

It is in our best interests to learn about our southern neighbours.
I think it is in the best interest of USA citizens to ‘learn back’. Hopefully, blogging is one way that can happen.

There are two terrific Canadian news portals on my blogroll where you can jump off into our newspapers, networks and magazines:
Bourque and Neale News
And, a premier portal for Canadian blogs…
And if you are looking for Canadian god-blogs, got those too at: The List.

I quite agree that Americans don’t have the market cornered on iqnorance.:^)
Blog on!

Posted by: Bene Diction on February 11, 2004 02:13 AM
Guess what great institution of higher learning has such a program? Click on my name to see . . .
p.s. watch those comments about rural Ohio!