Humans struggling with ethnocentrism around the world, not just United States

April 23, 2012

April Wefler
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Since the 1998 release of the book, “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone,” in the United States, a constant battle has been going on about its name. Known as “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone” outside the United States, many believe that the name should never have been changed.

Tumblr, a social networking and blogging site, recently experienced this argument yet again when a post indicating that it was “Philosopher’s Stone,” not “Sorcerer’s Stone,” appeared in a “Harry Potter Confessions” blog. Immediately, responses to the confession came slithering in.

The post initiated a fight that escalated into British and Australian people pointing out how ignorant Americans are, despite the fact that the American public had nothing to do with Scholastic choosing to change the title. Some of the elitist Brits and Aussies also referred to Americans as idiots.

This, ladies and gentlemen, is defined as ethnocentrism. We Americans are often ethnocentric, but as indicated in the Harry Potter blog post, we are not the only ones.

Ethnocentrism is explained by the Encyclopedia of the New American Nation as “the belief that one’s own nation and its values are superior to all others.” I think Americans do struggle with this problem; more importantly, I think everyone does.

My sister’s high school, and my alma mater no longer requires a foreign language to graduate. I think this is ridiculous. Learning a foreign language not only helps in business matters, but it also allows a person to step out of his or her comfort zone and be able to communicate more effectively.

It is my belief that making foreign language optional fits with the mindset that if people from other countries come here, they ought to know English, and there’s no point in us learning anything else. However, did you know that many people all over the world are required to learn English?

For example, my friend in Sweden has studied the traditional math and science classes, as well as English, her whole life. I have several friends in the Philippines that also speak English well. If they are required to learn English, why aren’t we required to learn another language?

On the other hand, most of these people speak British English, which, contrary to the English Potter fan’s belief, is not the same as American English. Does this mean we’re dumb? No, just like Mexicans aren’t dumb for speaking Mexican Spanish rather than traditional Spanish.

I don’t know if this happens for you, but when I listen to a French or Spanish song, people want to know why. Why does it matter, if the song is good and I like it?

Just because we’re technically still a superpower doesn’t mean we’re better than any other country. Just because British English is more widely-known than American English doesn’t mean England is better.

Many Americans often think they’re better than Canada, Mexico, Iraq and a whole list of other countries. Several of the English like to refer to us as idiotic; the same English might think they’re better than Australia.

No one country is better than another. We, as the human race, need to learn to accept other cultures, languages and values, whether they might be different or not.