Sunday, November 13, 2011

Wenche and Diversity

Wenche was a very engaging speaker--she always knew how to draw out those "class silences" until someone finally responded--and I appreciated her frankness about all the issues she touched on.

One thing that really ate at me though was not that she did such a job of pointing out America's flaws, but that she did not give the country credit as to why those flaws exist in the first place. The biggest thing that came to mind was America's sheer size and diversity.

Denmark is a small and relatively homogeneous nation in comparison to the United States, and so it is in poor taste to blindly compare the two countries' cultural, political, educational, and corporate policies with no reference as to why those differences exist. It's like saying a wholly mammoth an amazing creature but it is too hairy, bulky, and slow moving in comparison to this African elephant. Well, of course it would be! A wholly mammoth had to evolve and adapt in a different environment with different challenges. It's difficult to expect two organisms, if you can think of countries as one functioning unit, to evolve the same characteristics and habits if they develop in varied environments.

It's important to me for people to understand that it's ignorant to neglect America's shortcomings, but it's even worse to ignore why those shortcoming exist in the first place. For example, America's literacy rate, defined as the percentage of citizens of age 15 and over who can read and write, is actually 99%--giving a 20% allowance for new English speakers who would indeed have difficulty using the language at first. Wenche's comment about a nation wide 50% literacy rate was a bit ridiculous and I would like to see her source and reasoning for that. Perhaps she was looking at a specific neighborhood where the demographics and racial diversity do not lend itself to be predominantly well-versed in the English language. Denmark does not have this problem to the same degree because it has significantly more homogeneity in its population--though I'm sure I can find a neighborhood where the predominant language is Turkish or Somali and the Danish literacy rate would be 50% there too.

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