Thursday, October 13, 2005

Creating Global Citizens

What is Global Education and Why is it Important?
Global education has many definitions, depending on who’s doing the defining. Here’s one I like:

“Global education is an approach to education that's based upon the interconnectedness of communities, lands, and peoples, the interrelatedness of all social, cultural and natural phenomena, links between past, present and future, and the complementary nature of the cognitive, affective, physical and spiritual dimensions of the human being. It addresses issues of development, equity, peace, social and environmental justice, and environmental sustainability. It encompasses the personal, the local, the national and the planetary. Along with these principles, its approach to teaching and learning is experiential, interactive, children-centred, democratic, convivial, participatory, and change-oriented.”
- David Selby, coauthor of In the Global Classroom 1 & 2

Global education is important, because we live in an era of globalization, and this has implications for our teaching; our students live in an interdependent and interconnected world, where their knowledge about the world and choices that they make in the world have ramifications for themselves and other people all around the world.

“It really boils down to this: that all life is interrelated. We are all caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied into a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. We are made to live together because of the interrelated structure of reality. Did you ever stop to think that you can't leave for your job in the morning without being dependent upon most of the world? You get up in the morning and go to the bathroom and reach over for the sponge, and that's handed you by a Pacific Islander. You reach for a bar of soap, and that's given to you at the hands of a Frenchman. And then you go into the kitchen to drink your coffee for the morning and that is poured into your cup by a South American. And maybe you want tea: that's poured into your cup by a Chinese. Or maybe you desire to have cocoa for breakfast, and that's poured into your cup by a West African. And then you reach over for your toast, and that's given you at the hands of an English-speaking farmer, not to mention the baker. And before you finish your breakfast in the morning, you've depended on more than half the world. This is the way our universe is structured, that is its interrelated quality. We aren't going to have peace on earth until we recognize this basic fact of the interrelated structure of all reality.”
- Martin Luther King, Jr.
Global Education Theory
(excerpts from The World in Your Classroom: Engaging Students in Global Education)
Graham Pike and David Selby describe global education as bringing together two “strands of educational thinking and practice,” one being “worldmindedness” and the other being “child-centredness.”[1] Worldmindedness is an attitude about the world that recognizes the interdependence of its peoples and ecosystems and the dynamic and systemic relationships that exist between the parts of the whole. In short, worldmindedness looks at pedagogy from the perspective of the biggest picture on Earth, that of the whole planet. On the other hand, child-centeredness focuses pedagogical awareness on the individual learner his or herself, building pedagogy on the student’s background, makeup, and perspectives as an individual. In short, global education is an approach to education that aspires to honor the individual learner, both out of respect and out of a sense of pedagogical efficacy, while facilitating that learner’s development into a global citizen, committed to the interests of the global village and capable of achieving success on that stage.

A Four-Dimensional Model of the Context of Global Education
Graham Pike and David Selby have constructed a model of global education that provides a useful framework for thinking about global education. It has four dimensions:

Spatial dimension: This dimension is an attempt to describe the complex and web-like system of relationships and interdependencies of people and ecosystems on Earth. It represents the environmental, political, economic, and social connections between people in the era of globalization.

Issues dimension: This dimension is an attempt to acknowledge the necessarily multi-disciplinary nature of many of the big issues that arise when one looks at globalization. It also recognizes the fact that such issues do not exist in a vacuum and are often interconnected and multi-faceted. On top of that, depending on one’s culture, values, viewpoint, and aspirations, there are a multiplicity of perspectives that one can take in relation to any given global issue or set of issues. The issues dimension gives global education an almost unlimited potential for integration in the classroom, because most global issues have obvious connections to learning outcomes in several subject areas and disciplines.

Temporal dimension: This dimension is an attempt to illustrate the connection between the past, the present, and the future. This dimension recognizes that events of the past have shaped the present, and, likewise, events of the present, including our actions, will similarly shape the future. The temporal dimension provides a justification both for global education’s future focus and its emphasis on authentic student action. A crucial aspect of the temporal dimension is the notion that there are three different classes of alternative futures:
  • probable futures are those sets of circumstances that are likely to arise in the future if present trends continue;
  • possible futures are those sets of circumstances that are possible to arise in the future, as long as certain conditions change; and
  • preferable futures are those sets of circumstances that we would like to arise in the future, because they match our values and aspirations.

Inner dimension: This dimension represents the paradoxical tension described at the opening of this chapter, between honoring the student as an individual while taking into account the global context in which the individual finds her or himself. It encloses two parallel journeys taken simultaneously by the student: the journey outwards to discover the world at large and the journey inwards to understand and tap into one’s potential as a human being. "Both journeys constitute a necessary preparation for personal fulfillment and social responsibility in an interdependent and rapidly changing world. In conducive conditions, both journeys can be undertaken simultaneously. Through encountering multiple perspectives, envisioning the future and understanding global systems, students are faced, inevitably, with challenges to their own beliefs, values and worldviews. Personal development goes hand-in-hand with planetary awareness. In this sense, global education is as much an exploration of the global self as of the global village."[2]

Four Principles of Global Education
The four dimensions in Pike and Selby’s model provide a basis upon which a principled approach to global education can be founded.

Principle 1: There Are Real Problems in the World
Despite the positive potential that globalization has, there continue to be suffering, injustice, oppression, and negative conditions and situations in the world. Some would even argue that many contemporary problems and much injustice is a result of certain aspects of economic globalization. Regardless of their root causes, injustice manifests around the globe, and profound troubles confront people in every nation. What are some of the “real problems” in the world?
There is an unequal distribution of wealth and the world’s resources, and, according to “Make Poverty History,” a global movement to reduce poverty around the world, “Every single day, 30,000 children are dying as a result of extreme poverty.”[3] There are also sweatshops, where workers are abused and exploited. There are racism, sexism, and other types of discrimination. Natural disasters, like hurricanes, earthquakes, and tsunamis, injure, kill, and uproot massive numbers of people every year. There are scores of armed conflicts going on in the world at all times, and war continues to leave its indelible mark on soldiers, civilians, children, and the environment.
In 1992, the “World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity,” a document signed more than 1600 senior scientists from seventy-one countries, said, “Human beings and the natural world are on a collision course.”
[4] It warned that current modes of human activity cause irreversible damage to the environment on which we depend for survival. At a 2004 biodiversity conference in Malaysia, the United Nations warned that thousands of species are being driven to extinction as a result of human activity.[5] From all credible accounts, humanity continues on a course of environmental degradation towards inevitable ecological crisis.
Of course, there are other problems and injustices in the world. The list can seem a little daunting, but as citizens of the world, we have an obligation to address the problems that face humanity. Of course, these issues must be addressed with sensitivity in the classroom. However, these issues are part of our students’ reality, so they must be addressed, or our teaching will not equip our students to effectively deal with these vitally-important issues.

Principle 2: A Problem Anywhere is a Problem Everywhere
Samuel Johnson said, “An injustice anywhere is an injustice everywhere,” and he was echoed by Martin Luther King, Jr. who said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” Pike and Selby’s four dimensional model of global education makes one thing clear: in the contemporary world of globalization, crisis and injustice cannot be contained. The world is a system that is characterized by social, ecological, political, and economic interdependence. The implication is that suffering, injustice, and negative conditions in one part of the world threaten positive conditions in other parts of the world.

"First they came for the Communists, but I was not a Communist - so I said nothing. Then they came for the Social Democrats, but I was not a Social Democrat - so I did nothing. Then came the trade unionists, but I was not a trade unionist. And then they came for the Jews, but I was not a Jew - so I did little. Then when they came for me, there was no one left who could stand up for me."
- Pastor Niemöller

For teachers and students, this has two-fold relevance. First, because of the profound impact that global conditions have on local conditions, crisis or injustice affecting a distant corner of the world could soon have a real impact in one’s own neighborhood, even if it doesn’t at first. An example is when domestic wages are driven down by market forces influenced by the cheap cost of labor in foreign countries that utilize exploitative labor practices. Second, and perhaps more importantly, because of the nature of our interrelationship with people in other parts of the world, we are accountable for the existence of suffering and injustice in other parts of the world, even if it doesn’t have a direct effect on us.
We make choices about how to act in the world, and those choices have impacts far and wide. We have the power to inform ourselves about the impacts that our choices have and to make choices that support justice rather than injustice. The essence of social responsibility is to take action and stand up for what is right.

Principle 3: School is the Place to Address Real-World Problems
“It is noble to be good; it is still nobler to teach others to be good -- and less trouble.”
- Mark Twain

School is an effective place to address real-world problems for two reasons. First, to be effective and ethical global citizens, students need to learn about negative situations and injustice so that they can know about the condition of the world and make informed decisions. Second, students are motivated and engaged in learning when they learn about real-world problems and what they can do to address these things. Not only is it ethical to encourage students to make ethical choices and live ethical lives; it is pedagogically sound to do so. Moreover, contemporary curricula emphasize the importance of character education and social responsibility; addressing real-world problems and injustice is an ideal way to support such curricula through the exploration of and engagement in authentic issues. Therefore, school is the ideal place to introduce students to the notion of justice, to inform them about the state of affairs in the world, and to empower them to take action to address problems that exist in the world.
It is important to recognize that introducing students to real-world problems and injustice does not need to involve preaching or soap-box ranting on the part of the teacher. Since global education is student-centered, introducing students to the issues and facts is enough to give them an opportunity to make meaning for themselves and create their own worldview that naturally includes an attitude of wanting to address such issues in a meaningful way. The goal is not to have students adopt the opinions and perspectives of the teacher; rather, the goal is to have students explore the issues and a range of perspectives themselves, forming their own opinions and coming to terms with the issues themselves.
When raising the issue of the poverty that accompanies cocoa production in Africa, I have never ceased to be amazed by the spontaneous concern and generosity that arises on the part of my students. One student, impoverished himself, asked me whether he could give the store extra money when buying chocolate, in order to have that money sent to the cocoa harvesters in Africa. When introduced to the bare fact of the existence of Fair Trade chocolate, another student in another class spontaneously exclaimed, “Why would anyone buy chocolate that’s not Fair Trade?” Introduced to injustice and unfairness, students naturally yearn for justice and fairness and make meaning out of these concepts.

Principle 4: Global Education Addresses Real-World Problems in the Classroom
Through global education, students are encouraged to look at the world clearly and see the reality of suffering, injustice, and negative situations and conditions in the world. More importantly, global education encourages students to do something about the negative situations that they encounter in their studies. It encourages social responsibility by teaching students how to shape the future through their actions in the present and giving them opportunities to practice actually doing that. It does this effectively by:
taking the reality of globalization and the systemic nature of the world into account and incorporating this reality into the content that is taught, taking a holistic view of the student and allowing the student to authentically engage with meaningful subject matter, teaching students how to function as respectful and respected members of a peaceful, cooperative, responsible, and effective learning community, providing explicit opportunities to develop knowledge, skills, and attitudes that will prepare students for effective and ethical global citizenship, and emphasizing the importance of engaging in the world by taking action to improve the world and address injustice.

Global Education in Your Classroom
What this model looks like in the classroom is up the personality, style, approach, and needs of the individual teacher implementing a global education approach, as well as the needs of the community of learners in that classroom. Global education is eminently flexible to the needs of the learning community; you can do as little as you want or as much as you need. A global education approach can provide a focus for or an angle from which to approach an existing task, project, or skill block that one is already committed to or engaged it, or it can provide the foundation for a sustained, integrated unit on a complex, demanding multi-disciplinary global issue.
Global education is not an add-on to the curriculum or a set of new content to cover in addition to prescribed learning outcomes or objectives. Rather, it is an approach to covering established curriculum that enables a teacher to more comprehensively prepare his or her students for the realities of globalization while addressing prescribed and standard curricular outcomes in an efficacious and pedagogically-sound fashion. Rather than a set of additional outcomes to be addressed, global education is a lens through which to view the outcomes that one is already addressing in one’s classroom.
This lens allows subjects, disciplines, topics, and themes to take on real relevance and meaning, engaging students deeply and actively in the learning process. The focus on real global issues through authentic tasks, allowing students to learn content and develop and practice fundamental literacy skills in a real, meaningful context, allows global education to enhance and enrich the learning experience of teachers and students alike.
Endnotes
[1] Graham Pike & David Selby. 1999. In the Global Classroom 1. Toronto: Pippen Publishing Corporation at 11.
[2] Ibid. at 12-14.
[3] Make Poverty History at www.makepovertyhistory.org (visited on July 31, 2005).
[4] Union of Concerned Scientists, “World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity (1992)” at www.ucsusa.org/ucs/about/page.cfm?pageID=1009 (visited on July 31, 2005).
[5] Associated Press. 2004. “UN Warns of Massive Plant and Animal Extinction,” at www.ctv.ca/servlet/ArticleNews/story/CTVNews/1076334795145_117 (visited on July 31, 2005).