American 'exceptionalism'? Get over it [Letter]

January 30, 2014

I appreciated Dan Rodricks recent column about American "exceptionalism" ("Expecting the horrible is the American way," Jan. 25).

Some years ago when I conducted student travel-study semesters in various European countries with, among other things, well-functioning transportation systems, my students had no problem recognizing that some things were indeed better in Europe.

After our return I asked them about this, and their answer was: "The U.S. is still the best country."

The ancient Greeks used to say that "nemesis follows hubris" — roughly equivalent to "pride goes before a fall." I hope that won't happen to the U.S. We need to realize that in some other countries things truly are better and that we can and should learn from them.

Citizens' safety is one striking example. Periodically, I lecture in a mid-size German university town. When I talk to citizens there and ask them about their homicide rate, they just stare at me because murders there are such rare events.

Coming from the academic world I might also mention that education in Germany's public universities is totally tuition free. Talent and discipline are rewarded, to the ultimate benefit of the country. But can you imagine that we would ever have tuition-free universities in this country?

Armin Mruck

The writer is professor of history emeritus at Towson University.

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