An 8 Year Old’s America

A student of mine handed me this today – announcing; “This is why I don’t like America.” 

America

We had been discussing holidays, and dream destinations – so this wasn’t exactly part of the lesson plan…but I couldn’t exactly fault him, as he was so well informed for an eight year old…particularly as he is Korean, and consequently English is not his first language.

I had him explain his illustrations; gun possession, terrorist attacks, assassinations, drones, gangs, police brutality, and obesity. That is the image foreign parts have of America, a country I know first hand to be a lovely place, filled with positives.

Perhaps more needs to be done to highlight the good, not just the bad – I did what I could with him, but he said he had watched it on the news, and called me a liar. Therein lies the problem, I feel…what do you think?

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73 thoughts on “An 8 Year Old’s America

  1. oh boy oh boy. i’m an american living overseas for 10 years. first in italy, now in europe. generally, my experience is that folks have an extremely positive notion of the states. (particularly in italy. it’s a bit over-the-top — the love of “America”) But boy, when someone has a negative view of the states, it seem quite extreme as well.

    What I tell people is: “There are many Americas.”

    by the way, what do you teach? and where?

    Anyway, when i can, i come take a peek at your blog and i like it. i’m new to blogging so it’s still all a bit overwhelming for me.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Dale,

      Sad but true. “If it bleeds, it leads.” The media have a vested interest in keeping disasters on center stage. Hey, it’s all about ratings.

      And we, the public, aren’t exactly innocent in all this. We demand constant entertainment, and what’s more exciting that juicy scandals or shootings? Give us dirty laundry!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Dale,

      Sad but true. “If it bleeds, it leads.” The media have a vested interest in keeping disasters on center stage.

      We, the public, aren’t exactly innocent. We demand constant entertainment, and what’s more entertaining than a juicy scandal or shooting? Give us dirty laundry!

      Like

  2. He’s a bright kid. Although it’s disappointing that he can’t see the positive aspects of the nation, can’t blame him for feeling the way he does. After all, this is all he sees through the media.

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  3. Hi,
    I would to chuck my pennies worth into the comments here.

    I am English, and like the majority here consider Americans to be our ‘Cousins’. A historical view that still holds true today. So on that basis I have to agree that in the west & most of the, dare I say, civilised world, the positive image of the USA far outweighs any negatives.

    I am also an armed forces veteran, so I have first hand experience of the most negative aspects which those opposing freedoms and liberty hold.

    The sad fact is the entire world is divided into various factions, even nationalism is divisive by its very intention and nature, Therefore it is clear that each fractal division will portray and promote another as a lesser entity.

    The media is influenced by those both in political power, (include here Religion, as religion was first devised as a means to control the masses), and financial control. It just depends on whose side of the fence you were born to which proper gander you have been subjected to for your entire life.

    It is that total conditioning and brain washing that influences your views on everything.

    Nuff said, Paul.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Whatever the mind perceives, it will believe. If I want to paint blue dolls as toxic, I simply focus on this topic in the media (magazines, television shows, news, etc). If I want you to believe one group is oppressed when in reality they are not, we focus on issues that impact all groups, but cater to this one group as if the issues impact them SOLELY, because they are part of this oppressed group. He might be young, but he was far beyond me at that age, because I did not become aware of this until I graduated high school. LoL. He is one observant student. My wife and I discuss the bias on news coverages, the propaganda of doctored wartime videos, etc. it is disgusting how far the news/government will go to influence. I am grateful to see through the fog of lies. Great post

    Liked by 2 people

  5. I can agree with Bogssake here. I’m English and can say that many people here have a very positive view of the US. There are also some who don’t share that opinion, of course. What is often referred to as ‘the gun culture’ is one of the things often criticised – yet in some areas here we have a huge problem with knives. Yes, there are many Americas and there are many Britains. The same could probably be said for every other place in the world. The child’s sketch certainly presented an excellent topic for debate.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m English, and completely agree with regards to knife/gun culture comparisons. I grew up in a rough area, but went to a school just outside of it so was often attacked, and harrassed…a friend of mine gave me a knife…which terrifies me now, even to think about.

      I honestly don’t agree with the fact that overall there’s a positive view. People are shocked as one after another, shocking headlines hit the news.

      Liked by 2 people

      • You’re definitely right about reactions to news ittems, but as I inferred, most of them are linked to incidents with guns. Regarding the general way of life, though, many people here see America as somewhere with a better (financially) way of life. Perhaps some of those people should look more carefully at the ‘many sides’ of the US mentioned by 4blogssake. There are deprived areas in America, too, and so on …

        Liked by 1 person

  6. America, just like the rest of humanity, has messed up parts. But being born and bread here I know it’s got good too. We may have those things, but we’re not the only ones, a lot of the rest of the worlds has it too, or worse. And Owning a gun ain’t bad, if more good guys have a gun the bad guys have less of a chance.

    Besides I never watch the news, it’s full of exaggeration

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  7. A pity that he’s only been able to get this via propaganda/ideological vehicles (i.e. MSM poisonous headlines). How to pollute a young mind. Like and dislike from headlines: sad ignorance for the poor child but not only. The good America has stood for since its inception (with all imperfections and human failings) is so far greater than any evil within, but that no one cares to show and tell nowadays. It ought to be a challenge for you to set things into perspective, subtly and patiently.

    You might try using homespun realities and facts with him and the class. Show how people really live, really are, what they do: school children and families. Episodes from everyday life in all kind of settings – violence and evil is not what Americans or Westerners eat for breakfast on a daily bases. Surely you have access to interesting documentaries and films good enough for them to see LIFE, not news headlines. Also children storybooks that teach human decency and kindness and love…

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I find it very discouraging that the media sensationalized the bad and that is what the NEWS is. My family now living in Germany have a very negative view of the US. We do have all those things listed, but I feel they are a small part and truthfully are not representative in my worldly bubble. 😦

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  9. As an american, seeing this is like ‘hello wake up and smell the coffee’. Regardless of it this is the world’s foremost impression of the states, the fact that anyone can look at america and this is what enters their mind… is a bad sign (mostly because these are real things happening, and shown in the news). This country is an awesome place, but when the negative connotations outweigh the positive ones you know it’s time to fix something.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Tessa I love the place after my year there, and trust that I know some amazing Americans ~ on this blog included! But…well where do I start? The oppressive police presence which seems to become more and more regular a feature, wars, violence, and the like – yes we have some of that in England, but not to the same degree! And even if we did…it’s silly to say “well it happens other places so no big deal” that’s more childish a sentiment than anything the kid wrote down! Basically I totally agree…I hope the fix comes soon…

      Liked by 1 person

      • Totally agree that you can’t say ‘oh well it happens elsewhere too’. It scares me how many americans don’t see that the way things are is a problem, or they see our government as somehow superior and therefore entitled to it’s grievances. I’d have a truer sense of patriotism if my country conducted itself more admirably. I’m glad to hear you had a good experience of america despite all!

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  10. Wow! What a strong piece!! Thanks for sharing John, different from your usual comedic banter but food for thought. As I live in America, I can testify that there are all these negative things but positive things as well. These are all things that happen in other countries as well, not just the US. Hope you are able to influence the children to have a bit of a broader perspective. Just one of the perks being a teacher I guess!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah! I laughed when he first gave it to me, more so by pure awkwardness – was kind of caught off guard I suppose. My immediate thought was to poke a joke at it, but with all the madness in the news, I thought it was best to put it out, and enter a discussion. Because it’s pretty thought provoking.

      After living in the US for a year, I can certainly say with assurance that it’s a great place. But that doesn’t overlook the other concerns (of course!)

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  11. This kid is a great mirror. I love America and I am there for several times a year. I love the variety of nature and the many beautiful places. I also love the people that I met by now. But there is also the other side of the USA which has nothing to do with the people living there. It is the politic side. And unfortunately this is what hear and see in the news permanently.

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  12. You student is smart. I didn’t pay any attention to the news when I was 8. I don’t follow it much now because it focuses on the negative. My mother watches all the talk shows, and news shows, with the result that she’s afraid to leave the house.
    My perception of the States is that outside of a few major cities it is just too damn conservative for me, but that perception is also based on the media.
    People are people everywhere and a world without New York, or Vegas, or even freaking DisneyWorld would be a sadder place.

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    • What did the US do to Korea? We know a person who was there before and during the war – in S. Korea – she says the Americans were their heroes and they rejoiced at the sight of an American plane flying overhead. They only wished MacArthur was allowed to keep going north so that all of Korea could have been freed.

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  13. I think it’s sad that we Americans (I was born Canadian but have lived in the States nearly half my life, so…) often don’t seem to care or even recognize that many other nationalities see us as bullies or a misguided, overcontrolling “big brother.” Unfortunately, your student is partly right. America has a lot of problems, many of which aren’t acknowledged. He could have added poor health care for anyone who’s not rich; rampant homelessness; segregated and underfunded schools, and more. But, as you told him, there’s plenty of good here too. If it comes up again, maybe you could add that the news usually doesn’t tell us about ordinary people. The hardworking, dedicated people who love and support their families. The teachers who care so much about their students that they spend thousands of dollars each year out of their own pockets to make their classrooms welcoming and well-provided. The strangers who quietly purchase soup and coffee at cafes “ahead”, so the cashier can give food away to hungry wanderers without losing money. Most people in America are goodhearted, kind people, which — you could tell him — means that America is a good place with a few problems.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. I agree partly with your 8 year old student. There may be positives in America but think about it he is a minority living there it is gonna be very hard for him to actually integrate into a culture where even African Americans and Spanish people face problems. Not everyone is the same but if you think what’s going on in Ferguson right now which is distinctive form of racism and also a defense on unfair stratification it is hard to view USA as only a great place. It has many opportunities but also a lot of tragedies. And those tragedies are usually if not always faced by people of different races.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Reblogged this on The writers bloc and commented:
    “…Perhaps more needs to be done to highlight the good, not just the bad – I did what I could with him, but he said he had watched it on the news, and called me a liar. Therein lies the problem, I feel…what do you think?”

    Like

  16. There is something to be said about the news outlets in America as well. I don’t blame him for being outraged, I am too. While I commend him for his conscientiousness, it shouldn’t trump having a childhood.

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  17. A serious post, I will leave a serious comment. Our first concern should not be how the media distorts the US to other parts of the world. It should be the fact that what this child drew is real. It is happening in our country. We as citizens should be concerned with standing up against the wrongs of our government and the others within our country involved in these acts and fighting against them with a voice. Not scapegoating mainstream media.
    Ask a child within the inner city of Chicago to draw circles of their life and I imagine you would see similar things. I was not laughing when I saw Chicago/Mafia. Everyone knows that connection. Organized crime does not wear signs letting you know who they are and what they are doing.
    The US is drone killing innocents weekly. Are we proud of this? If you can get a Veteran from the Iraq war with PTSD to be able to speak with you, ask them of what they think of the wars and our country. Ask of the Halliburton trucks that followed their tanks. Was this for our freedom?
    Not just those circles saddened me greatly but so does my country. There are many ways to get news. We as a country need to start looking for answers. To stop the rising police brutality. I see it all the time, I do not need to see the horror in Ferguson to know it exists.
    That would be my comment to all of the good Americans out there, let us start to use our voices. Maybe then the circles will stop.

    Liked by 4 people

  18. No news is good news. If anything good happens in this country, there is rarely a report of it. All the bad stuff is aired and the good stuff not. I try not to watch the news. I have better health by closing my eyes and ears to nothing but bad news incessantly. Does good news not exist? Yes, it does. Great post, John. Blessings to you…

    Liked by 1 person

  19. In a way I am sadden by this young man’s point of view but I can understand. There are a lot of things in this country that I find embarrassing. Like bigotry, hypercriticism, hypocritical, double standard way of life, etc. I do feel sorry for this young man because he is only seeing one side of the story. I mean I could say that Korea is scary. It sounds scary with threats of nuclear war a few years back. I know South Korea is friendly to Americans but North Korea…um yeah, not so friendly. Would I want to go there, not really. That is why I can understand his point.

    I as an American wish that this young man could see the greatness that the average Joe/Jane has done for my country. Its the everyday people who take a stand, rise above to make a difference. That is what makes this country what it is! Can this young man say that about Korea? Can he really stand up against the grain of his country and say; “Screw you!” if he does not like what his government is dishing out? Can he make a difference in Korea? Can he make Korea a better place for his future when his time comes? Ask him what it is about Korea that makes him proud to be a Korean? If he answers yes and why, then tell him that what it is to be an American. Teach him our patriotism, teach him our spirit, teach him our kindness, teach him all the good things we have to offer, and do it a way that it compares to Korea. It may not change his mind overnight but it will take one person to direct this young man in the right direction. That person could be you John!

    The first thing I would teach him is how we practice selfless act of kindness and how to pay it forward. Its the unsaid actions that can make a difference sometimes.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hello, my friend! I am English, but had strong views, and an impulse to help him see the positives as I spent a year in your country as a student a few years ago. Had a lovely time – and I am blessed to know a number of wonderful people from there (which honestly I would fly back, and hang out with if I could!)

      I loved your idea about comparing what makes each country proud. South Koreans are very proud people, due to their history, which I think is a great thing. They shouldn’t be confused with North Korea…that’s a whole different story! But anyway, I have another class with him this week I believe. So wish me luck.

      Like

      • You know what…that is a good idea. Better yet put it more on the scale of what makes you (this young man) proud to be a South Korean, why are you thankful to live in South Korea, and what embarrasses you about your own country. Then you could put the comparison of how folks like myself feel about my country and even your pride as an Englishman. It would be interesting to read it from this young man’s point of view about how he feels about South Korea. And yes, good luck!

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  20. Are you familiar with the saying ” out of the mouths of babes”? I have the unique privilege of spending a great deal of time with children. I think what strikes such a cord in most of us is their ability to speak without first filtering their thoughts. Truth is perspective, but no one can deny the unfiltered thoughts of a child are powerful. 😉

    Liked by 2 people

  21. A sad commentary, but given that your student hasn’t traveled to the US yet, to be taken with a grain of salt.

    I’m an expat living in the Netherlands. My guilty pleasure is reality TV, particularly Crime and Investigation. If I’d never been to Central Florida, the C/I shows would have me scared out of my wits to go there. Central Florida! Geez. We vacation there for a month every year. It is a nice place, but based on what you’d see on any given day on C/I, you’d think you were taking your life in your hands just going out the front door.

    You can learn a lot about a place from the Media, but nothing beats going someplace to see for yourself.

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  22. It is sad that at 8 someone could already be indoctrinated to hate another countries people. Perhaps, being exposed to other cultures is the only thing that can fight this kind of prejudice and then only if the person is willing to change their ideals in the face of reality. At 8 he may not have the opportunity or maturity to do so.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Kids are very stuck in that way, hate to generalise like that – but for the most part it is true..you know, in the stories there is good guy, and bad guy, powerful, and weak…and so on. Naturally the HUGE problems that go on in the USA, or seem to stem from the country are way more present in a child’s mind. (This is horribly unfortunate, but I do hope he will outgrow it.)

      After all, I do love the US 🙂

      Like

      • Kids are very easily influenced. That is why truth is important. Is the USA flawless,of course not, is there a country that is? No. Hopefully you are correct and that your influence will have a positive impact on him.

        Like

  23. That kid is amazing! He sure knows a lot about news in America. I was most surprised about him knowing about the Kennedy Assassination!
    When I lived overseas, it was always hard to tell what people thought of our home country, but it became really clear when we went to this one hotel for a vacation. Our guide sat down to breakfast with us one time, and told us he’d like to go to America because it would be exciting. We didn’t understand so, he started trying to explain it to us.
    “You have people running around with guns, and shooting at each other across the street all the time.” Finally, my parents interpreted for me. He had watched a lot of crime shows, and he thought all the action parts were everyday life. We tried to paint a more realistic picture for him, but he refused to believe — because he hadn’t SEEN it.
    Occasionally, I will hear a very optimistic view about America, and what they see always astounds me, and reminds me of the potential America has, even if we don’t always fully use it.

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  24. I’m inclined to agree with the eight-yer-old here. With all the bad things happening, it’s hard to find the good. I’m no expert on children, but since you asked, I doubt I would have contredicted the kid. Instead, I would have agreed that bad things happen in this country but encourage him to ignore that and look for the good. If you can’t find it, create it. Help others. Do well in school so you can grow up to be someone good. That’s what I would have told him.

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  25. Somehow he has made the connection between Chicago and the mafia (as opposed to NYC or New Jersey?!). How many Korean/British 8 year olds are even aware of the existence of Chicago?

    But the thing that blew me away was the Kennedy assassination. WHERE did that come from? That’s not something you see on the nightly news, is it?

    Honorable mention to the Michelin Man depicting obesity.

    That is one interesting 8 year old.
    Keep an eye on that one, okay?

    Liked by 1 person

      • And in the form of a chart. How clever and interesting.

        I’m far more impressed than I am disturbed by the negativity. Some of the really bright ones have difficulty fitting in and can seem to act peculiarly. Like calling you a liar (wtf?).

        You might have a John Nash or a wee Einstein on your hands. Or a Ted Bundy. Seriously. Keep an eye on that one:)

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  26. News is no longer news – it is entertainment. Each venue has it’s own twist. Sad what has become of it and society. Where is the true picture of life and culture? But I must say – WOW! Incredible insight from an 8 year old……

    Liked by 1 person

  27. I could only say one thing : our world is a dark place we live in. As long as we show kindness, it will just spread and soon the generation will inherit it and won’t believe what the media portrays. Good share, John!

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  28. Is it merely coincidence that you posted this in tangent with the final verdict regarding the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO? What a sad time for America. When I was in High School there were the Rodney King riots — I watched them on TV and they were scary to me, even a half a country away. I hoped that my children wouldn’t have to be witness to the same madness. But, as history tends to repeat itself, my children now get to see it, too. Just from closer up.

    There’s a lot of truth to that child’s picture. How awesome it is that you get to help mold young minds! Cheers, John! 😀

    Like

  29. Okay, my 2 bits. What this kid needs is an 8 year-old American pen pal. Dealing with people one-on-one is how you learn that not everything you’ve been told is true or just that it’s not the whole story.

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  30. I worked in one of the Outrigger Hotels in Waikiki, and some visitors from Australia told me that Hawaii was as close as they ever wanted to come to the United States (mainland). When I asked them why, they said it was because everyone on the U.S. mainland is getting shot, mugged, raped, etc. They were also under the impression that our streets are filled with serial murderers waiting to make their next kill.
    When I asked them what made them think the U.S. mainland was like this—they said that they had been watching the news.
    I know they want to increase their ratings, but the media needs to focus more on the positive things that happen here every day, because people (adults and children) from other countries are definitely getting the wrong impression.

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  31. In response to the Weekly Daily above: The Americans were responsible for terrible war crimes in Korea that verged on genocide. Chomsky can explain it better than I can:

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