British students are well aware of U.S. influence— why isn’t the opposite true?

Danial Naqvi

Donald Trump won the United States presidential election. Headlines infected the global media ten months ago with the news of the incoming president-elect. British media news outlets recognize that his presence and international importance is integral to the British political welfare. 

As a British student from London, I know more about Donald Trump than I could care to, but I feel as though Americans are less educated on political and geographical affairs back home. 

An American international relations education, both in academia and in the media, should educate students more broadly about the world, not just domestic politics. Brits rightly perceive that Americans have no preference on the outcome of British political affairs. Studies show that this perception could be true. According to CNBC in 2016, 72 percent of Americans had no opinion on the Brexit vote. 

Computer science freshman Radhika Nune says the American media only reports on British affairs for “major things like Brexit or if it has to do with American politics.” On the other hand, Freya Stewart, an international business student from the University of Edinburgh, says, “I think it’s hard not to be aware in Britain, as any of the major news publications and channels are constantly reporting on what’s happening in the American political environment.” This suggests that American news populates much more airtime overseas, while the same is not reciprocated for Americans about international affairs. 

In the same interview, Nune failed to recognize the main two political parties in British politics and when asked about the two parties in the British coalition government, she said, “I really don’t know.” On the other hand, Stewart answered all questions about American politics correctly, highlighting how the influence of a strong political education has lasting effects on global understanding and appreciation.  

The National Geographic-Roper Report in 2006 showed that only 94 percent of young Americans could identify their own country on a map. In the same report, only 36 percent of Americans could locate their neighbors across the pond. As geography is the study of the world, these figures indicate Americans are poorly educated as a whole in this department. Therefore, it can be suggested that if Americans fail to recognize their own nation, then it would be common to see ignorance abroad.

The U.K. once sat relatively equal in political importance to the United States. London still remains a major economic hub, along with cities like New York and Tokyo. The American media should report more often on the British political environment, and educators should take a less Americentric approach in teaching international affairs. 

The American media and education system should follow the lead of its international counterparts and do right by a public greatly influenced by what they read, see and hear.

Naqvi is a geography exchange student from London UK.