How might American Ideology affect teenagers?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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This is an interesting question.  When I first read it, I was taken back to those Cold War debates about "American, capitalist ideology" filled with "decadent attitudes for the youth."

Humor aside, there are some significant issues of clarification needed in the question.  The first would be to offer up what exactly is "American ideology."  It seems to me that with the modern setting, there is less of an expression of American ideology now more than ever.  The emergence of information technology, social networking, and the emergence of a world that has become "flat" has helped break down national ideologies in favor of a more global view.  What used to define "American ideologies" is a worldwide embrace.  The old ideological debates are being put aside for a more practical view of how to corner a piece of the global market.  China, a perceived bastion of Communist ideology, has more capitalist ventures opening up than ever before.  The emergence of global business ventures is one where there is more sharing of ideas that are blurring the lines as to what is "American."  Students all over the Arab world are protesting for liberal democratic and economically empowering reforms, while the fear of terrorism that exists in so many parts of the world has currently held grip over Norway right now.  It seems to me that what might have passed off as "American" forms of ideological reality has become appropriated by so many.  It is global.

The second issue is more concrete.  With the proliferation of technology, this global view is more geared towards young people.  There is a definite understanding that younger people have all over the world, more in line with this global mentality than one that is culturally limiting.  Children all over the world, through the delivery of the YUM! brands of food, yearn for pizza and tacos.  This is something that has become global, embrace by young people.  The ideas of this global paradigm are more in line with young people's views of individuality, expressionism, and a sense of intrigue and interest regarding the blending of cultural lines.  The more seasoned of us have to adapt because as the young become older and more young take their place, it does not seem as if this is a passing trend.  When Zakaria talks about the "Rise of the Rest," he idenifies China, India, and Brazil as three markets of the world that will play a formative role in this new global paradigm.  These are young countries. Whether or not this is "American" is moot.  It is youthful and this is highly evident.

With this debate, I am reminded of the words of Vaclav Havel in his description of postmodernism:

This state of mind or of the human world is called postmodernism. For me, a symbol of that state is a Bedouin mounted on a camel and clad in traditional robes under which he is wearing jeans, with a transistor radio in his hands and an ad for Coca-Cola on the camel’s back.

If we replace the transistor radio with a cell phone or an iPod, it's a perfect representation of how this new setting is a young one, designed for teens and young people.  Whether it is American, we certainly can see roots of it.   In this particular context though, borders are developed to be crossed, and cultural identities merge so freely that I think the only constant can be the appeal to youth and all else becomes present in different forms, but not as dominant.

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