In January of this year, according to the State Department, 114,464,041, or 37 percent of Americans, held passports, meaning that about 2 of 3 Americans can’t even go to Canada or Mexico–or anywhere else beyond our borders.
The lack of volition to travel overseas corresponds to a shocking ignorance about other parts of the world.
A diet of Reality TV, celebrity culture, and inane text messaging contributes little to the growth of the imagination. How can you learn a foreign language or travel overseas if you can’t imagine ever doing it? How can we as a people solve our problems if we, too, lack the imagination to construct creative solutions?
Imagination, innovation, and creativity, of course, are cultivated through education, which is one of first areas that our politicians like to cut from their shrinking budgets. In my university system, state officials look at the “weak performance” of foreign language programs (number of students taught, number of majors, number of graduates) and threaten to discontinue them out in the name of “efficiency.” Such efficiency, I’m afraid, compromises our future.