Some of you may be old enough to have experienced the moment you realized you were becoming your parents. We find ourselves saying to our kids the things our parents said to us.
Here’s where I really start sounding like my parents: They have never had to sacrifice or do without. Most prefer to use the Internet as a source for news, forgetting that no one monitors it for accuracy or truth. Much of what we see is bogus and, worse yet, we only see what we are interested in. At least a newspaper affords a brief look at other stories, giving a broader understanding of what has happened that day.
I’ve been surprised by the number of college kids who have little interest in traveling or studying abroad. In the Sixties, it seemed we couldn’t wait to get away from home. Today, kids not only don’t want to travel, they expect to move back home after college! I went to Europe to study at the age of 18. I arrived having little appreciation for history or art. I returned richer for having seen Windsor Castle, the Eiffel Tower, the Vatican; for visiting some of the world’s greatest museums and learning a few other languages; for trying different foods and being self sufficient.
I grew up that summer, learned to budget my money, grew a little homesick and appreciated how lucky I was to live in America. The trip was so exciting and meaningful that I made a promise to myself to see the rest of the world. Upon my return, I came to study at Oklahoma City University and every year since I have traveled. I have seen everything from the Grand Canyon to the Golden Gate Bridge: Rome, Paris, London, Moscow, Athens, Sydney, Beijing, Hanoi, Cairo and, within the last year, Cambodia and Myanmar (Burma). Over the last 30 years, I’ve seen America and more than 70 other nations.
Studying abroad during high school and college adds inspiration and excitement to education. Oklahoma would do well to have some leadership on increasing the expectations of our kids in school and college, to see the world, new cultures and religions ” essentially see how the other half lives. Communities would do well to bring back a civics course in secondary school, show the news on television in the cafeteria and go on more field trips to sites such as the state Capitol or the Oklahoma History Center. Instead of a senior trip to Cabo, visit New York City.
In short, we should teach our kids to be more independent and well versed; we should teach them to see themselves as citizens of the world, as well as Oklahomans and Americans. Seeing our state, nation and world gives them a better appreciation of what we have and what is possible in life.
Taken together, these experiences make us better citizens, smarter when it comes to electing people to office, and better prepared to face the daily issues of life. Every generation seems to think those that follow them live an easier life. The difference today is competition. Thirty years ago, foreign exchange students came to America to study and, in many cases, stayed and became productive citizens. Today, they return home ready and capable of competing with American kids. If our kids are not prepared to take care of themselves, to understand how economies and governments work, to learn about other cultures, languages and ways of doing business, we’ll lose our position as the world’s superpower. It’s all about education and experiences.
Orza is dean of the Meinders School of Business at Oklahoma City University.