Long Term Travel: A Necessity in American Education

Discussion in 'Archive: The Senate Floor' started by Ben_Skywalker, Nov 5, 2010.

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  1. Ben_Skywalker Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    May 20, 2001
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    "Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.? - Mark Twain

    Don't you hate it when you write a long post and your internet explorer has a hiccup and it gets all deleted? I'm going to try to keep this short and to the point.

    I think America needs to create a societal norm where people take extended time off in order to volunteer abroad and/or travel abroad.

    It seems pretty consistent where people who travel more, tend to be more understanding and giving towards their fellow human beings. And those who have never travelled or travelled only within their comfort zones (like Canada, England, or any other highly developed Western culture), tend to be more conservative.

    When you partake in long term, meaningful travel, you learn not only about your own personality but also about the world around you. You learn to depend on yourself, but more importantly, on the need to depend on others, sometimes complete strangers.

    I may get a lot of flak for this but I think that your average Republican wants to lower taxes for one simple reason: keep more money for themselves. It doesn't matter how badly the national infrastructure is or the fact that we're fighting two wars. As long as they get to keep more of their money, the happier they'll be. Would people think differently had they spent two years living within a culture that had nothing? No schools within a 15 mile radius or a non-existant health care system? I'd like to think so.

    I wonder how different Sarah Palin would have turned out if she had spent 2 years with the Peace Corp in sub-Saharan Africa or 2 years backpacking throughout Asia? Somehow, I doubt she'd be at the forefront for repealing health care for millions of poor Americans. If anything, I believe she'd try to work compromises within the Health Care Bill.

    President Obama talked about a national service program where college students would receive scholarships in exchange for time in the Peace Corp, AmeriCorp, etc. I think this is a great idea and a step in the right direction. But in order for America to get rid of all the narrow-mindedness that seems to have plagued the political system lately, I think it needs to become the norm.

    What do you think?
  2. Raven Administrator Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Oct 5, 1998
    star 6
    A better way to lead people to left wing politics is to have them live near the coast.

    [image=http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/a/a0/111th_US_Congress_House_of_Reps.png]

    Alaska, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia and Florida are exceptions, but otherwise states on the Atlantic or Pacific coasts are essentially blue or purple states. Meanwhile, the interior tends to swing red.
  3. Ben_Skywalker Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    May 20, 2001
    star 5
    My intent is not to make everyone liberal. While it may be ideal ;) that's obviously not possible nor is it good for government. What I'm saying is that I think if people had such experiences, they wouldn't see life as so black and white. I'm not only talking about conservatives but liberals as well. I've met a lot of people who were extremely liberal that became more moderate after spending time abroad. It works both ways.
  4. Espaldapalabras Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Aug 25, 2005
    star 5
    Mormons are way ahead of you.
  5. Mr44 VIP

    Member Since:
    May 21, 2002
    star 6
    Someone must have watched the Office last night....

    Seriously though, it's because the effect you described in the opening post is a personal one.

    Everything you listed as a benefit could also be applied to a tour in the military. But would you be open to the idea of re-instating the draft, in order to ensure that the greatest percentage of the eligible population would receive such benefits? Of course, a couple of years ago, it was Rangel and a core group of democratic Congressmen who introduced HR5741, which would have done just that. That is, before the entire thing was quashed by Rumsfeld and others because the draft is antithesis to a professional military.

    Or should something like joining the military be an individual choice, where you take out of it what you put into it?

    That's where I think your characterization uses a bit of a flawed perception. Sure, at the basic level, people want to be taxed as little as possible so they can keep more of their money, just as people don't want to be drafted so they can spend more time at home. But this has nothing to do with what they choose to do with their resources. As was mentioned, Mormons as a group, are quite conservative. But Mormons also have a well established missionary system. Mormons are also one of the groups which give a large percentage of their discretionary income to charity.

    I think the difference you opened with are more subtle and based on choice, because as I said, such effects are a personal one.

  6. Jabbadabbado Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Mar 19, 1999
    star 7
    Many of my first cousins in Alabama have never left the country, some of them have never even traveled extensively within the U.S. As a starter, I think even getting to know the variety and diversity of your own country is a critical part of being educated and well rounded. Look at the Chicago suburbs. There are suburbanites who have never set foot in the west our south sides of Chicago, don't know what an urban high school looks like, have never been in a store front church or attended a Hispanic mass. You have protestant Christians who talk up the importance of America's relationship with Israel who have never once attended a service at a Synagogue.

    Foreign travel is great and all, but if you don't really know or understand your own country you're a lost cause.
  7. Ben_Skywalker Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    May 20, 2001
    star 5
    Mr44, no I didn't watch The Office last night. Don't spoil it though :p When I get back from my deployment, I plan to buy the season set and watch it.

    And yes it was personal experience but along the road I've met so many different types of people with the same stories. This leads me to believe that it's not just an isolated experience.

    A tour in the military is completely different, I assure you. The biggest difference is that you don't have much freedom (depending on your rank). Your job is not about helping people. It's about war and killing. The complete antithesis of what I'm getting at. Deployment to a combat zone is a completely different beast for obvious reasons.

    I'm not advocating for a draft. What I'm advocating for is that the education and work enviroments need to empathize and support people who take extended time off to either volunteer or travel. The British do this well between their college and university years. Before they commit to university and then the workplace, they take time off to do various things for themselves. I'm not saying they all come back enlightened. But a good majority of people who do something meaningful with their time off, learn something about themselves and the world around them.

    Jabba, I agree with you. If you're from the deep South and have never left it, maybe you should volunteer at a soup kitchen in Los Angeles. Or if you're from NYC, maybe you should try tutoring kids in rural Mississippi. The sad thing is that the current education system that we have does not allow this to happen. People are too worried about going from high school straight to college so that as soon as they get out, they can either go to grad school or go get a job. For the majority of American kids, there's no time to stop and learn something that isn't taught in a school.

    Gap years (commonly known in the UK) are slowly gaining steam in the U.S but it's still far from mainstream.
  8. SuperWatto Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Sep 19, 2000
    star 5
    I think people lope around too much as it is. They should be at school, or at work.
  9. Lowbacca_1977 Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jun 28, 2006
    star 6
    I think it's very simple why other places can do this and we don't. Aside from it being really expensive to travel, there's a huge opportunity cost here. An undergraduate degree in several other countries, including the UK, takes 3 years to complete. Here, it takes 4. A Master's program takes 2, and a PhD takes an additional 4 (and I think the average is technically higher for the last bit). Elsewhere, a master's can be 12-18 months, and a PhD program is 3 years. In the U.S., pursing academics requires far more years than it does in other countries and so that reduces the ability to travel.

    That aside, I do also think that trying to create a norm out of that is somewhat misguided, as you're basically presuming that people will put their whole life on hold for 1-2 years to move somewhere else in the world and not everyone is cut out for that, particularly for the sorts of countries you're talking about.
  10. Jabba-wocky Chosen One

    Member Since:
    May 4, 2003
    star 8
    I think it's grossly over-simplified to presume that mere travel will lead people to be more tolerant or accepting. Historically, travel abroad often helped to ground people in imperialist and orientalist rhetoric. As such, it was the source of more intolerance, misunderstanding, and hate than we can easily grapple with. While travel is an important and enriching experience, a lot depends on the framework within which one receives the new experiences, and then how one assimilate those experiences into their worldview.
  11. Mr44 VIP

    Member Since:
    May 21, 2002
    star 6
    Ben, I still think you're just using an increasing narrow criteria to describe your idea. First off to get out of the way, the military is much more than war and killing, as peacekeeping and humanitarian missions are far more numerous than combat, and even combat missions are a complex mix of all sorts of diplomacy, resource building, and networking goals. If your point is to expose someone to new experiences to give them an appreciation for their own life, it's exactly what your opening post described.

    Additionally, options like the military or the peace corps are much more realistic because you get paid for your experiences, instead of simply taking 8 months off to go travel. (full salary in the case of the military. A stipend in the case of the Peace Corps.)

    I'm also not so sure how extensive the "soul searching method" of travel that you described is anywhere in the world. example Now, that link covers vacations, which doesn't exactly fit with what your point is, but extended world building trips aren't common anywhere. The middle class is the middle class the world over. Europeans, as a group, do tend to save up for travel and then splurge during the trip, but a standard holiday is much more common.

    Soup kitchens are much easier to volunteer at. Most US colleges now require some sort of community service requirement for incoming students, and every high school student that I know of, at least in the suburban Chicago area, has volunteered at such a charity if for no reason than to fulfill the requirement. (but I'm sure a good deal probably find it rewarding as well)

    Again, I think what you do on such trips are a personal experience.
  12. SuperWatto Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Sep 19, 2000
    star 5
    In carbon emission, one return flight U.S.-India is the equivalent of driving an average car 12,000km per year for 3 years. To whip Americans into a flying frenzy would be irresponsible.
  13. Jabbadabbado Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Mar 19, 1999
    star 7
    What about crossing the Atlantic on a fishing trawler? That would be an education.
  14. SithLordDarthRichie London CR

    Chapter Rep
    Member Since:
    Oct 3, 2003
    star 8
    Travel is a great way to learn and become cultured. I do think many people who haven't ever travelled have a stereotype view of many countries and the way things are done.

    I heave read somewhere that only 10% of Americans actually have a passport and of that bunch many wouldn't have been outside of North America. It doesn't help understanding of the world if you only see it through TV or film interpretations.

    I like travelling myself, it is good to sample authentic foods and see great sites.

    Education in general does help, and I agree understanding your own ountry better first will make your understanding of the world better too. But I do think travel should be actively encouraged.
  15. Lowbacca_1977 Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jun 28, 2006
    star 6
    This couple year old article estimated that summer of 2008 over 25 million Americans would travel outside the US for recreation. So that's 8% of Americans traveling outside the U.S. in a single summer. Additionally, there are nearly 17 million American citizens that were born in another country, or a bit under 6%.
    I do think numbers should be higher, but I've some skepticism about the numbers that are tossed around because they never seem properly sourced. I'd also wonder the percentage of Europeans that have left Europe compared to the percentage of Americans that have left the US.
  16. SithLordDarthRichie London CR

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    Member Since:
    Oct 3, 2003
    star 8
    There is much to see in Europe itself, many of the nations have a grand history and great achitecture, cuisine etc. Europe is a continent consisting of many countries, the USA is one country.
    I would think plenty of Europeans travel around Europe, I see plenty of European tourists all the time. I travel when I can, it's not that expensive these days.

    Asia & Africa should be visited more often by people I think.
  17. Lowbacca_1977 Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jun 28, 2006
    star 6
    There's much to see within the US itself, even though it's a single country. The number of countries is not a suitable marker for what you're seeing. I mean, the last time I traveled for recreation in the U.S., it included visiting cliff dwellings (as in, structures built into the cliffs) that date back around around 1300 years.
    The history of America goes back far longer than the history of the United States, and is far more diverse than "a bunch of white people that kicked out England".

    I'd also say that a part of my comparison isn't just if they're on par, but that it is substantially cheaper for someone in Europe to visit another country, period, than it is for someone in the U.S. to visit another country. A quick check is that a couple hours of travel and less than 150 USD can get someone from London to Paris and back. It is notably cheaper than it is to travel from major cities in the US to major cities outside the US. (For example, Los Angeles to Mexico City costs around 300 USD.
  18. Espaldapalabras Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Aug 25, 2005
    star 5
    While culturally the US is more homogeneous than Europe, it isn't monolithic. I enjoy visiting other countries and wish I could do it more, but Americans also just don't have the amount of vacation (holiday) that other Western nations do. 2 weeks a year means it doesn't make as much sense to travel really far as 4 or 6 weeks does.

    And culture is hardly the only reason people travel, and if you want to spend a nice day at the beach and you are in the UK in winter you are going to go to Spain, where I could drive 13 hours and be in sunny southern California from my home high in the rocky mountains. It isn't realistic for me to go anywhere interesting internationally unless it is by plane. I suppose when I was in Seattle I could have gone to Vancouver but really how eye opening would that be? And the US is a huge country, and when I moved to Louisiana it certainly felt like a different country to me.

    And lowie I'm super jealous I really need to go back to Mesa Verde. Last time I went I was probably 12, and each time I've tried to go since some big snowfall or other random event happens that prevents it. Or last time I decided to see the Grand Canyon instead.

    But again us Mormons have a pretty large percentage of us who have served 2 year proselytizing/service missions in foreign countries, and I know I grew a much wider perspective while I was in the Dominican Republic, so it is certainly useful. I just think Europeans don't understand how difficult it is to travel when you are a 2 hour train ride from Paris. Oh and yes I did just insinuate that the British were European. ;)

    Of course I'll admit when I lived in Texas and would meet people who hadn't left the state, it boggled my mind a bit.

  19. Obi Anne FF admin Celebrations, Europe

    Administrator
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    Nov 4, 1998
    star 7
    And not all Europeans live close to other countries, it's just those people in central Europe who likes to pretend that you can get anywhere within two hours.
  20. Lowbacca_1977 Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jun 28, 2006
    star 6
    Yeah, but barring Russia, anyone in Europe is closer to another country than a large portion of Americans are to another country. And the point is more when one wants to look at overall averages. Granted, my whole initial point isn't to say "therefore, Americans shouldn't leave the country", but to say that on average, an American traveling outside the U.S. is needing more effort than a European traveling outside their country. And obviously, the destinations play a role, since while that holds in general, a European in Asia is clearly going through more work to travel than an American in Mexico.
  21. Mr44 VIP

    Member Since:
    May 21, 2002
    star 6
    There is much to see in Europe itself, many of the nations have a grand history and great achitecture, cuisine etc. Europe is a continent consisting of many countries, the USA is one country. I would think plenty of Europeans travel around Europe, I see plenty of European tourists all the time. I travel when I can, it's not that expensive these days.[

    But as others have already pointed out, this applies to the US as well. Someone could travel from rustic New England, to the metropolitan New York, to the bluegrass of Kentucky, to the sunny tourist attractions of Florida, to the open plains of the Midwest, to the Black Hills of South Dakota, and end up at the opposite coast in California and never see the same thing. I think Lowie asked the right question, because I think the reverse question also holds true, and is probably a more accurate comparison, but how many Europeans have traveled to the US? This isn't a "good or bad" comparison, but logistically, it's easier to take the Eurostar train from London to Paris, and onto Brussels, etc.. than it is to travel from London to New York.

    In fact, to compare, the distance between London and Paris is about 340kms, while the distance between New York and Chicago is about 1300kms. The London-Paris journey itself can be done in about 3 hours, certainly achievable in a weekend. The travel time from New York to Chicago takes about 11 hours, which is a day in itself (probably 2, depending on how many stops one makes)
  22. firesaber Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Mar 5, 2006
    star 3
    I think compulsory Military service in the US is an interesting debate for a different thread maybe but I'll say that I think having an all volunteer military force has a huge number of benefits when it comes to operations and effectiveness. It's alot easier to motivate people who already want to be there than someone who doesn't.

    Travelling abroad for any nation I do agree can lead to a number of personal paradigm shifts that one would only hope someday translate into cultural ones. I've had the opportunity to travel abroad several times both in the military and working for the military as a contactor. For me personally, had I not met certain people from certain cultures I think I would have retained alot biases that I started out with. Thankfully, they are no longer with me.
  23. WormieSaber Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Oct 22, 2000
    star 5
    Ben Skywalker writes:

    I may get a lot of flak for this but I think that your average Republican wants to lower taxes for one simple reason: keep more money for themselves. It doesn't matter how badly the national infrastructure is or the fact that we're fighting two wars. As long as they get to keep more of their money, the happier they'll be. Would people think differently had they spent two years living within a culture that had nothing? No schools within a 15 mile radius or a non-existant health care system? I'd like to think so.

    I'm not so sure about Republicans being the primary reason for people needing to travel, or the reason for America's new problems. The Democrats are not raising social security, and haven't been doing that for the past 2 years. The people who need social security the most are the disabled and elderly. Where does that leave the elderly and the disabled? On lower incomes because the cost of living usually increases. So, taking that into consideration, I'm not too impressed with Democrates these days, especially when Obama gave the banks a crap load of money but short-changed social security for the elderly and disabled. The money Obama gave away didn't help the people who really needed it, and instead, the banks are just shelving the money to collect the interest. I never thought the day would come when I would actually be wishing for those days of having Bush back in office, but the day is here.

    Aside from that, I do believe people should travel any way they can. As Lowbacca mentioned, not everyone has the luxury of being able to travel. I didn't until I finished college and got a real job. From there, I went to Europe (England, France and Scotland), and I went to New York and Florida; and I'm planning a trip to Canada this spring. No fault of their own if people don't have the money to travel. I live close to the border of Mexico, so I can go to a 3rd world country in just an hour and a half. Visiting Mexico has been an experience since my teen years, so location is also a factor.

    People often say that Americans are narrow-minded and arrogrant. That may be the case, or maybe that is just stereotyping. But as bad as this may sound, a country like Mexico has been around just as long as the States. 200+ years is a long time; but in that time period, just like the States, it was enough time to make something happen in terms of prosperity. Nevertheless, travelling will always broaden the mind of an individual. That is an obvious given, so I agree that all people need to travel as much as they can. It wasn't until my Master's degree that I finally got to visit Australia, and that was for a class. When I was working on my Bachelors my roomate was from Japan and she invited me to visit her during X-Mas vacation on a discounted ticket, and I just didn't want to go when I could have. I'm kicking myself now. All in all, I don't think rampant travel will solve all the worlds problems but it is educational and I would fully support it.
  24. Lowbacca_1977 Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jun 28, 2006
    star 6
    The reason that social security payouts haven't gone up is because the cost of living hasn't gone up.
    link
    "The cost-of-living adjustments, or COLAs, are automatically set each year by an inflation measure that was adopted by Congress back in the 1970s. Based on inflation so far this year, the trustees who oversee Social Security project there will be no COLA for 2011."
  25. WormieSaber Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Oct 22, 2000
    star 5
    Last year was the first time since 1975 that social security didn't get a raise, I suppose COLA has been the reason all these years. It's just suddenly a good excuse for a good enough reason not to, even if under the law social security is supposed to increase annually. If you have lived on your own before then you must know that rent increases every year, if you have you're own apartment. And even property taxes increase. If an elderly or disabled person on social security has a car that stops working tomorrow, usual wear and tear, then that is too bad for him or her, no way to keep their head above water. The whole point is that our President is spending more money than any other President I can think of. Instead of bailing out car companies Obama's administration isn't bailing out those who need it the most. Like I mentioned before, I'm slowly turning Republican.
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