Students uninterested in the world at large

“So, what do you think will happen between Japan and China in the South China Sea?”

When I ask a classmate this, I am often greeted with awkward laughter or a confused look. Friends brush me off, swiftly changing the subject to something more palatable, such as who will be going to the next “rager.”

Why do so many of my peers seem unconcerned with international events?

More importantly, why should we care about international events?

The gap between domestic and international news knowledge is far from a new phenomenon. In a 2008 study, only 39 percent of participants claimed to follow international news all the time, while 55 percent followed national news. Those in the 18 to 24 age bracket also gained less enjoyment from reading the news than older Americans.

Those who are uninterested cite numerous reasons for their apathy, including the media’s focus on domestic issues and international events that bear little relation to our daily lives.

In popular media, there is a narrow focus on domestic issues.

Primetime television features stories that highlight national issues, such as the “fiscal cliff” debacle in Congress. Most major news outlets publish many more articles on domestic affairs than on international events.

However, people remain interested when the media reports international events. CNN’s ratings jumped in 2011, the year of the Arab Spring and the nuclear meltdown in Japan. If the media were to cover domestic and global news more equitably, viewers seem as if they might tune in and follow the story.

It is difficult to find the link between far-off global conflict and our daily lives. While it is rational to think that national or local politics play a more direct role in our lives, assuming that international events are any less relevant is erroneous.

We live in an increasingly connected world. Economies and political systems are intricately intertwined. The events happening in the international community will undoubtedly affect all of our lives and our country’s domestic policy.

The consequences of possible conflict in the Balkans or the results of elections in Venezuela are long-lasting and highly relevant to our interests. Either could lead to instability in the U.S., especially as our government still determines the best path for the country in the case of conflict or tension.

I, too, am fallible. As students, we have scant free time. Our schedules consist of classes, studying, work and other extracurricular activities. I don’t spend every moment of every day paging through news articles, and I would never claim to be an expert.

We have a responsibility to inform ourselves about international news. Being educated on those topics improves us as citizens and members of our community: ones who can make better choices when voting or forming opinions on American foreign policy.

It takes little effort to get involved or to become more interested in global events.

The ASU website often covers news and events related to international involvement and different departments frequently host forums to discuss international issues.

It just takes a small step to become more informed about international events, but a small step can go a long way.

 

Reach the columnist at jelanza@asu.edu or follow her at @jentrylanza

 

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