Tuesday, August 25, 2015

10 Key Terms for Global Education

In order to really engage in global education, it is helpful to take a closer look at some key terms.  Here are ten key terms that pop up everywhere in global education discourse.

1.  Global Citizenship:  As much as I love this word, I’ve come to realize that this word has many different meanings and connotations depending on one’s culture/ethnicity/geographic location/political-leanings.  Nevertheless, in terms of practical application, Oxfam International has a curriculum guide that defines global citizenship as thinking critically about complex global issues, understanding how the world works, and being willing to take action to make the world a just and equitable place.  Another definition from a British education consortium brings in a local dimension to the global citizenship concept:  global citizenship, which is more than just an understanding of complex global issues, also includes the global dimension to local issues.   I really love the idea of including global dimensions to complex local issues, because it encourages students to adopt not only an outward gaze towards the world, but also an inward gaze (toward themselves as part of the world).  In one project in our 9th grade Global Studies program, students study local indigenous land/water rights issues (we are in northern California and have several tribes in our community) and connect them to indigenous land/water rights issues abroad

2. Global Perspectives:  In the context of global education, imparting global perspectives means to push our students beyond binary ways of thinking about the world (us vs. them, good guys vs. bad guys).   It’s about ensuring that students are able to identify, understand, and perhaps even empathize with a variety of complex perspectives about issues of global significance.   When we study the Israel-Palestine conflict, for example, one goal is for students to understand that conflict is never two-sided in that within each “side” of the conflict, there are myriad perspectives.

3.  Cross-Cultural Education:  One of the major themes of our 10th Grade Global Studies class is “Understanding + Communication = Trust,” which we borrowed from Nawar Shora’s Arab-American Handbook and applied to our course, and I think that it speaks to not only the goal of cross-cultural education (i.e. trust), but also the methods through which that trust is built (i.e. understanding and communication).   The “understanding” of the Arab world comes from our study of Arab history, culture, literature, art, and music.  The “communication” piece comes from our cross-cultural blog project in which students in northern California and students in Tangier, Morocco, complete mutually-assigned writing prompts and then comment on each others' writing.  It’s a transformative experience, especially for students who come into class with stereotypical and highly negative images of Arabs and Muslims.  So cross-cultural education goes beyond an awareness of the holidays and traditions of another culture; it is about engaging, understanding, and communicating with another culture in ways that teach us how to remove our own cultural lenses.

4. Global Competencies:  I really like Asia Society’s definition and approach to global competency, because it goes beyond the traditional neoliberal economic competitiveness rationale for global education and is it truly interdisciplinary and adaptable.  At my school site, we “investigate the world” by posing a problem and researching solutions through the Gulen Institute’s Youth Platform essay competition that focuses on problems and solutions to pressing global issues.  Our cross-cultural blogging project with students in Morocco invites students to “recognize perspectives” and “communicate to diverse audiences,” and our Act Global club is an avenue through which students can “take action” on issues of global significance.

5. Trans-nationalism:  One way we approach trans-nationalism is by looking at the broad theme of movements of people, push- and pull-factors of migration, the reasons for and the impacts of migrations of people throughout history and throughout the world currently.  Students are able to make connections over time and geographic location, and it then enables them to view current domestic immigration issues through a broader, more global lens.

6.  Cosmopolitanism:  In the context of our school, cosmopolitanism means that we try to impart a sense of mutual respect of varied ways of life and belief systems despite our vast differences.  Stories really enable kids (and humans in general) to relate to each other and discover our shared humanity across cultures, so we love to use literature to accomplish this goal:  Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart, Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis, and Elie Wiesel’s Night, to name a few.

7.  Transferability in my school context means that the skills they develop in one class can be transferred to other disciplines.  Aside from analytical and critical thinking skills, the skill of working collaboratively has the potential to be highly transferable across academic disciplines.  I struggle with how to explicitly teach student collaboration, and I’m always excited to learn new approaches.

8.  Globalization:  Although it’s a modern-day buzz-word, it has existed since early migrations of people and the beginnings of mercantilism.  At my school site, students learn about the historic and contemporary manifestations of the globalization of economic and political systems, as well as cultural diffusion, throughout the two years that they are in the Global Studies program.  They investigate both neoliberal economic perspectives on globalization, including the negative consequences of globalization found in many developing-world perspectives, such as Jean-Bertrand Aristide’s “Globalization:  A View From Below.”  But we also expose students (on a daily basis at the beginning of class) to the globalization of music around the world through our “Global Groove,” as well as many other positive examples of increasing global interconnectedness found in art.  Our definition is:  “the increasing interconnectedness of the world’s economies, political systems, cultures, ideas, problems, and solutions.”  We very much view it like a spider web; when one touches one part of it, the rest of it moves.

9.  College and Career Readiness:  Now here's another ed buzz word for you.  However, analytical reading, writing, listening, and speaking skills are crucial for both “College and Career Readiness” and global engagement.  So although Common Core State Standards emphasize college and career readiness, at my high school, we view college/career readiness and globally competency in a similar light. 

10. Interdisciplinary Education:  Interdisciplinary education means taking subjects (and teachers) out of their disciplinary boxes.  This is a work in progress at my school site.  It takes years of communication, trust, confidence-building, and collaboration among staff.  It takes risk-taking; all of us have had to leave the comfort-zone of our own disciplines, make mistakes, and learn new skills and content.  Since our students will have to find solutions to problems that don’t even exist yet, we have to prepare our students to make connections between all disciplines if we ever want them to understand and engage with the complexity of global interconnectness.


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