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American exceptionalism: a delusional concept

By       Message Michael Payne       (Page 1 of 3 pages)     Permalink

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opednews.com Headlined to H3 11/16/09

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American exceptionalism: a nationalistic belief that the people of America occupy a special niche in the world community of nations; that we are exceptional because of our unique system of beliefs and principles, because of our historical evolution, and our political and religious institutions. There's only one problem with that concept; it's no more than a myth.

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We Americans have been deluding ourselves into thinking that we are the exceptional society in the world. What extreme arrogance, how egotistical to believe that we are the superior nation and people, above others in the world, better at everything we do. This is reminiscent of the old saying that if you say something often enough and loud enough you may begin to believe it.

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For those who may take issue with my premise, let's examine several important elements of our society and, thereby, judge how we rank in the world relative to our achievements and what value we contribute to the world:

Manufacturing: How about manufacturing, the former foundation of America? We led the world for decades after World War II. In 1950, manufacturing was about 30% of total U.S. GDP but since then it declined to only 13% in 2008. Manufacturing employment, as a share of total U.S. employment, was 34% in 1950 and has dropped to less than 10% in 2008. Sure, a substantial part of the decline in employment is due to the recession, but we need to keep in mind that many of the manufacturing jobs lost will never return. Are we the exceptional manufacturing nation in the world? Not any more.

Education: America has the best and the brightest, right? Numerous studies continue to indicate that this nation is losing ground in world academic rankings, most notably in science and math. UNICEF, the United Nations Children's Fund, in a recent study involving 24 major countries, concluded that South Korea and Japan were #1 and #2 in overall quality of education. The U.S. placed 18th.

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Scores from the 2006 Program for International Student Assessment showed that U.S. 15-year-olds trailed their peers from many industrialized countries. The average science score of U.S. students lagged behind those in 16 of 30 countries in a study by the well-known Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. The U.S. students were further behind in math, trailing counterparts in 23 countries. The United States now ranks eighteenth in education among the World's industrial nations.

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Michael Payne is an independent, progressive activist. His writings deal with social, economic, political and foreign policy issues. He is a featured writer on Opednews and Nation of Change and his articles have appeared on many other websites (more...)

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