Ethnocentrism is a way of examining the world in terms of our own culture. Often an ethnocentric view will lead one to ignore what is important in other cultures while focusing on what is important in theirs. This tendency to be ethnocentric can result in viewing one’s own culture as superior to another and can cause lack of ability to see other cultures without judging them on the basis of one’s culture. These effects may be why in American schools there is little world history that is taught, in my day there was none.
Lahiri invents a family which is common in America, a family with a diverse background. As one reads When Mr. Pirzada Came to Dine, they are struck by the lack of concern given to Pakistan’s war by the American media, and the grade school teacher who thinks if it is not relevant to the student’s report, it is not important.
American schools are known for only teaching American history. But Lilia’s father insists she is not getting a good enough education. The Das family and Mr. Pirzada are very concerned about the situation in Pakistan. Lilia’s father wants to know if she knows about the situation in Pakistan, Lilia’s father, when realizing she does not know of the situation, states "What exactly do they teach you at school? . . . But what does she learn about the world?" (26-27). This is a valid concern because American culture often centers on only their own history, ignoring the history of the world. Later Lilia talks about what she is learning in school "We learned American history, of course, and American geography. That year and every year, it seemed, we began by studying the revolutionary war. We were taken . . . to visit Plymouth Rock . . . to walk the Freedom Trail . . . to the top of Bunker Hill Monument" (27). Lilia’s school shows a large bias toward American history, while ignoring the rest of the world’s history.
Mr. Pirzada and the Das Family are very concerned about what is happening in Pakistan, but as the war continues there is less news coverage about what is happening. This shows a lack of social concern on the part of Americans who steadily lose interest in the Pakistan war.
A kind of bonding occurs between the Das family and Mr. Pirzada. This is not a lasting relationship, since once he leaves they do not keep in contact. But this relationship is built around commonalities and shared expressions of concern. While few Americans knew about, or cared about the situation in Pakistan, those people whom it effects directly-as Mr. Pirzada for being worried about his family- and indirectly-as did the Das. Family because of their Indian heritage, were very interested.
America is very ethnocentric, concentrating on only those virtues which we deem important, teaching only the history we are a part of and even then leaving out many people who were important in the history of America. Too often in America world history is ignored and often only learned if one chooses to do so in college. The writer makes an important point of how American students are often undereducated in the field of world history, and current events. I find, when reflecting at my own education that the basis I have for history is very biased toward American history. My education of history contained only knowledge of America.
Especially in times of political unrest, people who are being educated should be done so in a whole world approach. In America we would do better to teach a multi-national history and include in American history all the peoples who came here and struggled to survive.