Friday, October 21, 2005

America...The Beautiful?

Yesterday, in a discussion of WWI and the Sedition Act, some of my students got involved in a defense of America as the "greatest country in the world" with the best economic opportunity and the highest standards of living.
I hear people say this all the time, and I never have that experience of America myself. After all, I'm on the low-side of the middle-class salary for NYC, and I spent years living in the ghetto in Minneapolis. I never felt we had it so good. A lot of my students presumably live in pretty wretched conditions, and yet they insist that they live in the land of opportunity, especially for the working class. I don't know where they get this idea? Not from their own experience, that's for sure, and not from the papers,either. So...
Just in case you were wondering, here are some numbers. We certainly didn't have the highest standard of living in 1991, when these statistics were calculated. For more recent findings on international living standards or "quality of life" go to the OECD's factbook for 2005. Here you will find that the US ranks the highest in both GDP and poverty rate for all industrialized nations, that Americans spend almost twice as much on health care as people in other industrialized countries, and that US workers work more hours than everyone else, but that they have the lowest rate of real compensation as all the other European countries. Why my students think this is good for the working-class, I don't know.

1 comment:

bartelby said...

I was ina course called "The Languag of Propaganda" a while back.
The first days discussion was supposed to be people talking bo their own experiences and knowledge of propaganda. It took literally about 2 minutes for it to turn into a discussion of how homeless people lie to you to get some spare change. This discussion of supposed 'propaganda' went on for about 15 minutes. Apparently this was the only experience of propaganda that anyone in the class had experienced or even read about. It was a little creepy being in that classroom.