How to Greatly Increase U.S. Soft Power Worldwide
The United States needs to greatly increase its soft power in developing nations in order to defend and promote democracy and human rights, to end poverty, to prevent dictatorships and bad government, to achieve sustained economic and social prosperity. That requires producing generations of highly educated youths through creating a long string of truly excellent, prestigious Peace Corps schools abroad (tuition-free for low income students), from nursery through high school. They would be all-day schools, from 9 to 5 during the week, offering voluntary arts and sports programs on weekends. English would be the main language, with the local language as secondary language accompanied by courses on the local country’s history, art, and literature. Half of the teachers would be locals speaking perfect English and having passed a stringent training course in the United States. All teachers would have to be talented and committed, their salaries commensurate with the importance of their role. The leadership of the Peace Corps schools program would have to be highly educated, talented, and motivated, compensated accordingly.
The Peace Corps schools would adopt the formula of all successful private schools: strict class discipline; lots of homework/study hall; school uniforms, since “dressing the part” is essential for a positive school environment; individual attention for students having academic or psychological difficulties, in order to prevent them from falling behind and dropping out; and of crucial importance, an enlightened curriculum, adapted for the complex modern world and the global economy.
An enlightened high school curriculum is essential, providing a broad “liberal arts” education, beyond the basics of English and the sciences, since many youths do not go on to college and many college graduates have only a narrow education, focused on their profession. It is important to realize that just having a law degree, or business degree, or medical degree does not make one well educated in the broad sense. A narrowly focused education is not sufficient to be a well-informed person, or even to enjoy life fully.
To ensure broadly educated and psychologically well-adjusted youths, the high school curriculum would include the following four-year courses: 1) psychology (taught in conjunction with group therapy and good parenting workshops); 2) detailed, analytic 20th Century world history; 3) economics/finance/investing; 4) history of art/architecture/design; 5) history of music; 6) the United Nations’ Charter and its Universal Declaration of Human Rights; 7) the world history of human rights violations; 8) comparative religion studied through direct, analytic readings of the holy books along with the history of the major religions; 9) logic and critical thinking; 10) ethics and empathy; 11) foreign languages and cultures; 12) introductory and Constitutional law; 13) Latin; 14) the major mistakes in economic, social, and foreign policy of the past 100 years in the United States, Latin America, Europe, Africa, and Asia, and which would have been the correct policies. The courses would strictly steer away from propaganda and be objective, not shying away from any justified criticisms of the USA.
Such a Peace Corps schools program would be transformative, socially, politically, and economically for the developing nations, while greatly advancing the U.S.’ standing in the world. Its dramatic success might well lead our own public schools to adopt its template.
© Edward Sonnino 2023
January 2, 2023