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Posts Tagged ‘america

Call me a pedantic semantic, but “America“ does not belong to the USA nor should the names be used interchangeably.

I reflected on this at least twice [1] [2] in the past. I only had the benefit of inputs from the people I interacted with when I lived in the US. Now I also have this informative and funny video.

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The Map Men took a jaunty walk down history to explain why politicians in the US did their best to obtain a map that first labelled the Americas “America”. The US conveniently overlooked how the label of “America” was on what is now Brazil.

Sidetrack: If the US needs a name more apt, I would borrow one from the list provided by the Map Men — The Land of the Rising Gun.

Now “America” is practically synonymous with the USA. This ignores the fact that there are so many other countries in “America”.

A linguist might ask: If common use has redefined a word, why fight against it? Mine is not a linguistic or semantic argument. It is a philosophical and practical one.

For example, assessment is not the same as evaluation; gamification is not the same as game-based learning; the flipped classroom is not the same as flipping learning processes. I leave my previous reflections to define these terms and phrases for me.

The words we use can create shared meaning or sow confusion. I would rather do the former as part of my philosophy of teaching. We then act on what we understand and believe, i.e., there are practical consequences.

For example, a poorly informed instructional designer might develop a learning package that “gamifies” learning with a multiple choice quiz that rewards students with extrinsic rewards if they complete this assessment outside of class.

If this designer does this for an edtech company that sells the package as game-based flipped learning, they are selling lies. These lies become more common and acceptable if they are not challenged.

I might seem pedantic about semantics on the surface. But dig deeper and you will discover that my objections have pedagogical roots.

Two days ago, I reminisced on my family’s time in the USA. Yes, the USA, not America.

Earlier this year, I explained why I insist on using “the USA” instead of “America”. My fuel then was a combination of geographical technicality and social inclusion.


Now I have more fuel in the form of YouTube videos. “America” is tainted — selective lenses from the press and social media bubbles sometimes sow doubt and disunity about These United States.
 

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The videos above portray the USA that I knew and experienced. This was the combined efforts of individuals and communities that operated on kindness, hope, and basic human decency.

Are they the minority? Yes, perhaps. But when you add all the minorities up, you get a majority. When you join these separate jigsaw pieces, you get a more complete picture of united states and the United States.

The USA is not just a function of its current leadership, its movies, and its broadcast media. It is about its people and what they do. Like every other country on earth, there are nasty and ignorant people there that get a lot of attention. The good ones go about their daily business without glory.

Shift your gaze and focus on the good to get a more balanced and accurate view. It is not disunited America; it is these United States of America.

 
My blog entry two days ago about lazy writing received a large and disproportionate number of views from the USA. I wonder if this was because I insisted that “America” was not synonymous with “the USA”.

I shared some incomplete thoughts on this issue about three years ago. In that reflection I shared what I experienced as a Ph.D. student:

“America” has become synonymous with the “United States of America”, but they are not the same thing. When I was a graduate student in the US, I met a Venezuelan, Chilean, and Brazilian who pointed out that they were proud Americans too. South Americans to be precise. The same could be said about those in Central and North America.

Technically speaking, anyone from the Americas is an American. North America alone has native Americans, Canadians, US citizens, and Mexicans. Why should US citizens have exclusive rights to “American”?

If you are not convinced, then consider what happens at rallies and sporting events. The crowds chant “USA, USA, USA!” and not “America”.

When I was pursuing a Masters in the USA, one of my mentors told me a story about his wife. She was indignant about something at an airport and insisted on being treated properly because she was an “American”. My mentor corrected her and pointed out that they were US citizens.

Like most people before that, I saw no difference between “American” and “US citizen”. If I had not been in graduate school, I would have brushed off the distinction as trivial. My then Masters mentor and interaction with fellow Ph.D. students taught me to be a more critical and inclusive thinker.

I realise that not many share this perspective. You might say that I am nitpicking or that everyone else says otherwise. I say that precision is important and that the majority is not always right. Teaching this distinction is a gateway to questioning norms that are based on ignorance or indifference.

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This is a video of kids in Cateura, Paraguay, using musical instruments made out of recycled materials.

The kids live near a landfill and in conditions that those of us in the first world would not subject our animals to.

But this video is not about abject poverty. It is about creativity and hope. Say hello to the Landfill Harmonic.


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