The daughter of a friend of mine recently graduated from high school. During her time in school she participated in exchange programs in Japan, Israel and England. I think it’s great that American students learn about other cultures. One area that is overlooked in this process is other American cultures.
I’ve travelled all over the US for the last four weeks. In some areas I feel like I’m in a different country; as foreign as if I were walking the streets of Edinburgh or Rome. I’ve lived almost my entire life in the Mid-Atlantic region. Fortunately, I’ve been able to travel to all of the lower 48 states so I have been able to see what life is like on the “other side.” Most people have not been that fortunate.
If you polled recent East Coast high school graduates I bet more have been to Paris than Oklahoma, more to London than Alabama. As this country gets increasingly divided between Red States and Blue States it becomes more important for our own citizens to learn about each other.
Some politicians talk about the “Real America.” Forget for a second what “Real America” may or may not mean. If you want to define it based on population, then Real America once existed in the rural parts of our country. But if you want to talk about the most recent century, then Real America exists in the cities and suburbs. However neither area can claim the exclusive right to being the Real America anymore. The Rockwellian Main Street image of the past is merging with the reality of today.
These groups need to mix more and experience each other’s lives. They might find that they share certain values and are not as different as they think they are. That’s why there should be a domestic exchange program for high school students. Instead of spending a semester in Spain, maybe that Boston student should spend a semester in Texas. Let’s send a Montana student to Miami. The more we come together the more united we will stand as a country. That is, after all, the point of the United States of America.