When news broke out of the Dutch elections, where the far right party, Party for Freedom, was defeated, I rushed into my friend’s room eager to discuss the major event, as we would normally do with any eye-catching headlines.
“Did you see the results of the Dutch elections today?” I asked my friends. “Geert Wilders and his far right party failed to win the majority of the seats in parliament!” To my dismay, my friends stared at me as if I had just spoken to them in a foreign language. “Who is Geert Wilders?” asked my best friend, who seemed to always be on top of every piece of news.
In our Deerfield community, we are so constantly bombarded with work to fit into our tight schedules that it may seem difficult to find the time to read multiple news articles everyday. However, based on the recent successes of the “current events quizzes” preceding school meetings, a majority of the student body seems thoroughly informed on important headlines that dominate media outlets in the United States. For many students, smartphone notifications offer convenient access to these recent headlines. Curated news headlines from US media outlets provide only snippets of information, often leading to limited knowledge of major issues, especially those concerning international issues.
In a nation where any mention of the recently elected American president will grab the headlines of media networks, the news many Deerfield students consume tends to focus on political and social issues in the domestic sphere of the United States. I wish not to downplay the importance of American news in the era of President Trump, but rather to urge a further exploration of events beyond American borders.
One of the largest conflicts of our generation, the Syrian War, is an ongoing civil war that began in 2011 and has displaced over 10 million people, according to the United Nations. I have full confidence that the student body is thoroughly aware of the destructive conflict in the Middle East. However, the extent of knowledge on the issue seems to be restricted to American efforts in the war. The recent chemical attacks by President Assad on his own Syrian people led Trump to launch cruise missiles against the Assad regime, immediately dominating headlines in major US media outlets. Not to soften the importance of Trump’s controversial decision, but it may be additionally beneficial to read about the impact of President Assad’s decisions on the relationships between Middle Eastern countries or about the perspectives of European nations on the humanitarian crisis. A further apprehension of the impact of the Syrian War allows for a better understanding of the potential solutions to this massive issue.
This year saw the Dutch general elections take place in mid-March, while two other major elections in France and Germany are set to follow in April and September respectively. In the Netherlands, Geert Wilders’s right wing party failed to win the majority of seats, with Mark Rutte’s People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy taking the victory instead. Following the UK’s controversial decision to leave the European Union, the next two major elections in Europe could play a massive role in determining the fate of the EU. In these elections, we see a continuation of the trend of governments moving towards the right wing, where major parties are pushing for their respective nations to leave the EU. The dismantling of the EU would create massive implications for the rest of the world, bringing into question the economic security of less stable European economies as well as the prospect of peace between major powers of Europe and countries such as the United States and China.
The list of major international issues that receive considerably less attention than domestic events continues: the famine in East Africa affecting millions, the conflict over the territorial dispute of the South China Sea, and mounting tensions with North Korea’s nuclear threat. All of the aforementioned issues can dramatically shift American foreign policy, as President Trump decides the role that America will play in these issues. I believe in the added benefit of taking the time to read more about international issues, from sources such as Al-Jazeera to the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). Both learning about these issues and gaining foreign perspectives on the United States’ role in them leads to a much more thorough understanding of major events.
It can be difficult to stay up to date on the events that take place well beyond the bubble of our community while our schedules are being consistently piled on with work. But the impact of these issues on current American foreign policy and our future lives cannot be adequately conveyed. In its own mission statement, Deerfield stresses the importance of “leadership in a rapidly changing world that requires global understanding.” Our highly globalised society can no longer have its constituents isolated with their minds focused only on domestic events.
Today, with unprecendented access to technology and information, there is great potential for youth to drive social change. It has always seemed that the interconnectedness of our world would lead us to a time where international news equals the importance of national news. Our generation has the agency to turn this idea into a reality as no epoch in history represents the aforementioned time period as brazenly as our own era.