In 1782, a French-born immigrant to New York, J. Hector St. John de Crévecouer, published a series of letters intended for the European audience in which he posed a famous question: “What is an American?” As the author celebrated the quintessential characters of American society and its people, he triumphantly declared, “We are the most perfect society now existing in the world.” To modern international readers, Crévecouer’s assertion may sound ludicrous and arrogant, especially considering what has happened in America so far in 2020. America appears to be nothing but a disaster as it has failed to contain the raging coronavirus pandemic while the police brutalities against African-Americans have plunged the nation into civil unrest. On top of these grim situations, President Donald Trump relentlessly utters and tweets eyebrow-raising soundbites, which continue to shock and amaze international communities. Kiwis are no exception to the rule when it comes to America’s odd peculiarities or strange culture, of course. For instance, on the topic of America’s intransigence to pass more strict gun control laws, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern once said in a CNN interview that “To be honest, I do not understand the United States.”
Unfortunately, such reactions only perpetuate the notion that America is the unknowable and unchanging entity shrouded in mystery rather than clearly see and understand the reality as it is. In addition, international viewers tend to view America through tinted lenses of their own political and cultural baggage or even worse make conclusions based on the news media as the actual representation of the entire country. As Crévecouer noted more than two hundred years ago, however, roughly three millions people “scattered over an immense territory” makes it difficult to capture an accurate snapshot of America back then and even more so today as the nation has become incomparably diverse and expansive. Therefore, we need to examine and analyze America’s past carefully in order to make sense of the present instead of simply shrugging our shoulders in resignation or shaking our heads in disgust.
In this course, we will explore historical contexts behind America’s recent affairs such as the upcoming 2020 US presidential election, the U.S-China trade war, Black Lives Matter protests, the politicized American responses to the pandemic, and much more.
By the end of this course, you will walk away with a slightly deeper understanding of America but also likely even more confused and bewildered than before but that’s okay! As long as you realize that America is more than a collection of Trump’s caricatures and Hollywood movies, you have actually taken a meaningful first step into understanding the multilayered fabric of American society, history, and culture!
Please note: All courses need a minimum number to go ahead. If your course does not have enough enrolments, we regret that we will have to cancel and will let you know either by email or text. Courses are usually cancelled, when necessary, 1-2 working days prior to the scheduled start date.