Is America Really That Great?

By Jadyn Cicerchia

I’m sure as a person living in the United States, you have been told at least once that “America is the best country in the world.” However, I feel that we are never really told why, everyone just assumes we are. So today, we are going to explore the facts. How does America actually compare to other modern industrialized nations? Are Americans actually surpassing everyone, or do we just have a really bad superiority complex? Let’s find out where we succeeded and where we may have missed the mark. 

Let’s jump into what I feel is the biggest debate first: healthcare. Currently, the United States is the only one of the 33 developed and wealthy countries without universal healthcare (Abadi). But what exactly does this even mean? Is this a good thing or a bad thing? Data shows that the average American spends more than 2x the average on healthcare than other developed countries (Infographic: U.S. Healthcare Spending). But hey, at least that money is going to all our hard-working doctors out there, right? Turns out, the answer is no! The Institute of Medicine has estimated that 30% of total healthcare spending goes into unnecessary, ineffective, overpriced, and wasteful services. That’s around 727 billion dollars! And even with all this money we are spending, our health and life expectancy is actually the lowest in the world of wealthy countries, because let’s face it, most of us would rather just get up and walk on a broken leg than pay $400 for an ambulance (Infographic: U.S. Healthcare Spending).

Now, some of the most common arguments I have seen are the ideas that universal healthcare will raise the prices of taxes and people do not want their own money going towards other people’s healthcare. The problem is that as Americans with private healthcare, we already live in an unfair system. “Middle-class workers in America are charged the same health insurance fees as upper-class workers despite the vast income differences between the two groups, and pay more of their earnings toward taxes and health care than workers in many wealthy countries” (Bruenig). Americans actually pay some of the highest and least progressive taxes in the world, and even if our taxes were raised, it would still cost less than paying through a private insurance company. In a Universal Health Care Comparison Chart from 2018, we can see that in the United States, there is a $9,892 cost spent on healthcare per capita. As opposed to a country that has universal healthcare, such as France, where that number drops down to $4,600 per capita (Amadeo). So yes, a revamping of the healthcare system would be a big money saver. However, the quality of healthcare also needs to be taken into account. Does less expensive mean worse treatment? Yes and no. It is more likely that the doctor will be rushed, or the wait times will be longer with universal healthcare. Everyone has the right to go to the doctor for basic needs, but that means that there will be more people visiting the doctors, and there is the possibility that people will take advantage of this system.

However, this is kind of a shaky argument, it really depends on how you look at it. Yes, with universal healthcare, it might be more of a hassle to catch a doctor without a busy schedule. Yet, this can also be considered a good thing because a busy doctor means that everyone who needs help is getting it. In America, there are fewer people going to the doctors because they just cannot afford it. Most just suck it up when they are sick or hurt to avoid the hefty price tag that comes with medical treatment. In the end, there really is no perfect solution. However, the way America’s healthcare system is currently functioning is really not up to the standards it is capable of. 

Now I would like to move onto education. First, I will state that I do not believe that smarter necessarily equates to better. Yes, the United States is ranked fairly low, currently holding the 26th spot in the 2018 ranking of countries based on education. However, China has taken the first place spot, and it is widely known that their educational practices are well, a bit too perfect. The school system there is extremely demanding and creativity is discouraged. Students often struggle with real life problem-solving abilities and communication skills (DeGennaro). So, maybe being super smart comes at a cost, and that is why the United States ranks lower. Could our ranking be a good thing? In order to do this fairly, we are going to try and explore some countries that have both higher scores, and a better, less stressful education system. I am going to focus on one country in particular, Norway. They are known for having one of the best public education systems in the world, and here is why that is possible. First of all, their grading system is slightly different, and students do not even start receiving grades until secondary school. (A Comprehensive Guide About the Education System and International Schools):

Letter Grade Description

A             Excellent

B             Very Good

C             Good

D           Satisfactory

E           Sufficient

F           Fail

This is much different from the United States where a C is usually considered a failing grade. This gives a lot more room for the students to grow and succeed. It lessens the pressure on students, while simultaneously pushing them to be better because they will not be left feeling discouraged, or like a failure as often. There is also a very strong focus on the enjoyment of life and the well-being of the students. School days last about as long as a typical American school day, from around 8am to 3pm. However, the students get three breaks during the day, lunch and two recesses. A lot of Norwegian schools even have students spend 10 to 15 minutes playing outside or in common areas as many as five or six times a day, or after every 45 min or so of lessons. (A Comprehensive Guide About the Education System and International Schools). They also do not even give out homework, so the students have their afternoon free as well.

This is very different from a typical American school, with one 20 minute lunch, a 5-minute recess that is only allowed until the child reaches around 12, and up to 10 hours spent some nights on homework. Now, a lot of this may seem unproductive to us Americans. Norway must be struggling to succeed if they’re letting people have this much free time and take so many breaks from all this work. But in reality, it is quite the opposite. The breaks and the happy environment that Norwegian schools encourage completely enhance the quality of learning.

As an American student myself, the amount of work I have been given throughout my life has burnt me out. I know that I, along with a majority of my peers find no joy in education anymore. A lot of American students find themselves failing classes and cheating because it’s just too much to handle. We are encouraged to compete against each other from a very young age, and there is a narrative pushed on all Americans that getting straight A’s is more important than dealing with mental and physical health.

Putting it quite plainly, the complexity of the subject or the number of hours you put into it does not matter if you are working for nothing. If schoolwork is making you depressed, or even suicidal, then what is the point? Norwegians are able to enjoy life, top almost every other educational system, and gain a higher educational success rate than America because happier, less stressed people are going to do better work. There is no reason for the United States to push students as hard as they do if clearly, this method is not working as well as others.

Now, in order to save you from another 5 pages of statistics, these are the only two subjects we are going to be exploring in extreme depths today. However, I would like to encourage everyone reading this to explore the mistreatment of workers in America, university prices, and why America has officially been played in the top 10 most dangerous countries in the world for women. Now, yes I’m sure we all know by now that America is a complete mess. But, at least from my own experience, there is an overwhelming amount of pros as well. And to be frank, what country is not a complete mess? So, do not take this as an encouragement to hate your country. I just find that stubborn Americans often chose to ignore the idea that maybe someone else is doing things a little better than us. Realize your flaws guys!