“Intercultural Competence.” That is the name of the class my university required me to take in order to graduate.
In this class I learned that other cultures are much more fascinating than ours, if we can even say we have one. Ironically, while I was taking this class, one of my good friends who is majoring in linguistics told me how sad and terrible it is that indigenous people and their languages are slowly disappearing from the face of the earth. I waited silently for her to explain how and why, and she said that the world is becoming too “westernized,” and that the English language is coercing these unfortunate peoples into abandoning their own tongues. I continued sitting in silence, but this time it was out of shock.
After reflecting on the class and on my friend's remarks, I decided that I strongly disagreed with both my professor and my friend.
See, people have flocked to this country to escape oppressive cultures and to live in freedom. They weren’t being coerced into abandoning their countries. Consider our relationship with Mexico. People are still immigrating to America for better opportunities.
If you were to ask people why they risked their lives to cross oceans and borders, I doubt you’ll find that they’re concerned with maintaining their favorite dish or song so that a few humanities majors and linguists can study them. Culture is the last thing on their mind. They come to America for its values, principles, and way of life. For its emphasis on the individual. Rights. Property. Protection of those rights and properties. The liberty to worship freely, to choose what food you want to eat, what songs you listen to, and what subjects you want to study in school, including culture. My friend doesn’t realize that she has the ability to study linguistics and other cultures because she lives in a society where she is free to do so.
America is dismissed in the classroom because we think that other cultures are better. And yet while the Western and American civilizations are accused of tainting the rest of the world, the truth is, our founding principles have enriched the world. All those dirty words like free markets and westernization have only given us longer life spans, higher education, and improved standards of living.
If culture is interesting to you, study it. If you enjoy learning languages, do so. But don’t let your “Intercultural Competence” professor fool you into believing that America has no culture. Don’t let peer pressure convince you that, somehow, our country is crushing culture across the world. The American culture values freedom, liberty, and the individual, and it, too, is worthy of appreciative study.