Non-American Students Share What They Learn About The USA In School That Even Americans Might Now Know.
Ever wondered what schools teach about America in other parts of the world? Here are fifteen people sharing what they were taught about the USA that Americans might not have expected.
Many thanks to the Reddit user who posed this question and to those who responded. You can check out more answers from the source at the end of this article!
1/15. Aussie here.
It is taught and assumed, in hope I suppose, that the USA will come to defend Australia if we are attacked.
I remember drinking with an Aussie soldier who had done two tours of Afghanistan. He said he (and most of his mates) recognised that the Afghani fighters he occasionally had in his sights represented zero threat to Australia and that in reality they were just fighting for their own country like anyone else would.
Yet he had a very strong sense of fighting to defend Australia because by backing the US in a war half a world away the bond/obligation between the two nations was kept strong.
The same goes for domestic terrorism. Many Australians, if they stopped and thought about it, would recognise that our involvement in Middle Eastern wars supporting the US makes it far more likely that we will see civilian lives lost in this country due to homegrown terrorism. Yet I venture most would say the risk was worth it.
It is a pragmatism that might not be that evident to most Americans.
2/15. A lot of people in the UK think of the states like "Florida/California; fun in the sun, Washington D.C; Politics, Oklahoma/Tenessee; Southern fried chicken and country music, Texas; Guns, New York; Awesome city"
Every other state is basically totally pointless and just a name.
Also most people are baffled by the size of the USA, considering our country is the size of your regions. Whut.
3/15. I doubt you're really oblivious to it, but war crimes in the Vietnam war committed by some American troops.
4/15. Grandparents are British. They learned about the "American Revolt" in school, and while from our side we generally tell it as "and then we won and the British were forced to give us our liberty!!!!" It sounds like they learned it much more as "and then we got tired of the colonies being so annoying so we said 'screw it, whatever. Go away.'"
5/15. Raised in Canada. Canada definitely tells a much much different tale about the American Revolution and the War of 1812 than the US does.
A lot of the first English speaking settlers to what is now Ontario, Quebec and the eastern provinces were Loyalists from the US. So we tend to have a much different take on events. I'm 32, mind you, so maybe the school curriculum is different now. But when I was a kid, these are the main differences in learning about the Revolution that were pointed out:
the Boston Tea Party was not at all about tax increases, it was about tax subsidies.
American colonials paid far fewer taxes than British people in the UK.
Most of the fighting was done between colonials. It was more of a civil war than a clear America vs. Britain fight.
There were a lot of Loyalists. They outnumbered rebels in many of the 13 colonies. The only reason Quebec didn't join the rebels was because of the intense anti-Catholic tone of the rebels, and their protests against the Quebec Act. Still, the Canadians assembled two armies that fought for the Revolution, and they were key in the Battle of Saratoga.
Many states actively discriminated against Loyalists after the war including seizures of property, and even some lynchings.
For the War of 1812 we have a vastly different take because Canada was invaded by the US, and most people in Canada back then saw it as a completely unprovoked attack. Canadians see the US as losing the War of 1812, and I think with some justification. The Americans did not achieve a single war objective, the state of Maine actually capitulated to Britain, and although outnumbering the Canadians/Brits by a ratio of almost 10:1, the Americans were unable to successfully conquer Canada. Americans tend to focus on the few battles they won, including the Battle of New Orleans. A closer look at the war would have an objective person seeing otherwise. Nonetheless Canada does have its own insufferable myths about that war, like Canadian troops burned down Washington (which isn't true at all).
6/15. UK here, we aren't really taught about the US to be honest. I mean, we're aware of the influences on western contemporary music and arts obviously, but in an historical context we focused on our own country more. I live in Northern Ireland, so we got some Irish history as well, which included the famine and mass immigration to America, and by extension the poor treatment of Irish labourers. We've thousands of years of our own stuff to go through, and America is a foreign country at the end of the day.
In other classes we learned a little about the geography, but really our focus was elsewhere. Anything I know about your country really I learned outside of school.
7/15. The extent of American history in my school was "Then the colonies rebelled". We had a brief moment of silence for our lost tea, then dove right back into royal intrigue and beheadings.
My house is older than America; we have a lot more history to cover than they do.
8/15. In history we had minimal discussion of America. The revolution was tangentially discussed but only as a side note as to why Australia became more prominent as a settlement colony. First World War America was not really discussed, only as a late arrival. More stuff about League of Nations and the USA becoming more significant internationally. Obviously then a bit more in the Second World War, but really most focus was still on Britain.
We did a lot more in geography, where we dedicated an entire term to the United States. We did all sorts of stuff, human geography, physical geography, culture, the states, all sorts. Was a great term, fascinating. We had to give a presentation on a randomly selected state. I still feel an affinity to North Dakota, and this was 15 years ago.
9/15. I was just there last week, visiting for a month from Australia.
Okay, America is nowhere near as stupid as the world thinks you are. Seriously. Just half of you are and no one wants to go where that half is anyway.
I was in NYC, California (few places) Philly, DC, Pittsburgh, Buffalo, Boston, to name a few (Yes all almost all upper Eastern seaboard blue strongholds (save for PA)), and did not encounter a single brain dead idiot that we all think you are.
NYC and DC are identical to Sydney in terms of person. Just a normal, reasonably well-educated person trying to get by. No psychos, no gun toting religious crazies, nothing. Few creepy bumper stickers here and there, but that's it.
A guy in a bar I went into summed it up best:
"America is not one united country, it's more like 6 or 7." And he's right. Where I went may as well have been Australia save for the side of the road and the fact you have to work out the tax yourself. I kept thinking, "this is really the country that elected Trump?" (Yes I know popular vote, but he won anyway).
10/15. Iranian here.
The revolution began much earlier than 1979. It actually was instigated by US involvement regarding the 1953 Iranian Coup, to further centralize power as a monarch as opposed to a democracy.
What are officials so hesitant to release 60 YO records if it wouldn't significantly risk the perspective the world has on what happened? All at the cost of the young Iranians and their damaging economy.
Iran is a country of such rich culture that has been historically had to fight to retain its sovereignty against the Arabs, Russians, Mongols, Brits, and now the US. Yet, they still manage to hold on to their identity through the defying poetry, art, and passion. Iran is the gateway between East and West, centrally located on the silk route. Everyone wants a piece of it.
So when people ask me what was it like living in Iran, it's nearly impossible to adequately articulate the complexity of the emotion deeply integrated into the environment. The best I can describe it, is that it's just complicated.
11/15. Based on what I've seen from people from talking to Americans (I'm from UK), the rest of the world doesn't celebrate thanksgiving that much. A guy I know from New York was genuinely surprised that we didn't do anything on thanksgiving (go out to eat or something).
12/15. German here. We didn't talk at all about the US prior to WW2. It was basically Spanish colonialism, French revolution (very extensively), industrial revolution, Russian revolution and of course Germany's entire history. WW2 and the cold war played an important part, but it was still only one semester. I actually felt a bit disappointed because it was rather superficial. When talking about WW2, teachers never really differentiated between certain countries, it was always Germany vs. the allies.
We did speak quite extensively about the US during our cold war lessons. But we didn't take any sides. They taught it quite neutrally and often emphazised the danger for Germany.
To get to the real question: I don't think they taught us anything you don't know/realise yourself. I'm quite sure your teachers taught you about war crimes in Vietnam and Americas role in South America and the cold war. I'm not sure to which extend Russia gets vilified.
Now to the culture: There are certain stereotypes. Note: This is not necessarily my opinion, I just list them.
Americans are superficial
Americans are individualist
not so much stupid, but rather naive and oblivious (concerning other cultures and countries)
That's what we're "taught" by society. Not by teachers but by parents, grandparents and media. My grandpa (WW2 veteran) for example always made fun about Americans chewing gum all the time and used the term "Amis" (kind of like the equivalent to "krauts"). He didn't hate Americans, but he didn't like them either (maybe because his brother was killed by one, maybe because of propaganda (more likely), I don't know). My parents generation on the other hand had no bias against the US, but still "taught" those stereotypes.
13/15. In Germany I was taught that how much you earn is a common small talk topic in the US even with people you barely know. An American told me that this question is considered as rude in the US as it is in Germany. So I'm not sure what the truth is. Maybe this one American was just untypical or I was taught wrongly.
14/15. I'm Australian and we didn't hear much about the Vietnam War in school, other than what conscription was and how it worked. I spent some time living in Vietnam and learned a lot about the Vietnam War I wouldn't have known otherwise.
The obvious difference is that Vietnam are obviously a bit sour about what happened to their people (Can you blame them?!) and the grounds on which the war started.
What I found interesting though is that the Vietnamese people (In general) really, really like the American people. They are taught pretty early on that the people of America protested heavily against the occupation, and there was a strong anti-war sentiment that existed in many parts of the states. The museums have large sections dedicated to letters/articles/photographs produced by civilian Americans in support of the Vietnamese resistance.
Unless you live under a rock, you know about "hippie" culture as a response to the Vietnam War and the political environment. I just found it interesting that this movement was recognized by a country like Vietnam, and that the American people weren't demonized, just their shitty government at the time.
15/15. It seems, that most Americans believe that the main reason for their civil war was abolition of slavery. In Swiss high school, we were taught that the main reason for the South's secession was their rejection of protectionist policies the North favoured in order to boost their young industry, but which would have hurt the South, that relied on trade to sell their agricultural products. I don't know the details, so I'm not going to take any sides.
"It wasn't me!"
There's not much you can do when the righteous fist of the law comes down on you. Call it a mix-up, or call it a mistake, if someone's pegged you at the scene of a crime there's not much you can do but trust the justice system to prove you innocent. However, that's a gamble, and just because you've been given a "not guilty" doesn't mean the effects won't follow you for the rest of your life.
Reddit user, u/danbrownskin, wanted to hear about the times when it wasn't you, seriously, it was someone else, when they asked: