For the past twenty years, the economics of globalization and the thaw of cold war sentiments have exacted a significant impact on not only transnational commercial activity but in migration and immigration. Although rates of immigration have gone down since 2005, the Population Division of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs of the United Nations Secretariat accounts for 28.8 million immigrants between 2005 and 2010 who have legally entered 21 mostly western countries (an average of 1.3 million per country). Together with the simultaneous rise and use of internet technology and access, people across a variety of cultures are now capable of communicating and interacting with one another (Norton, 2015). Indeed, it may be argued that the most open and common checkpoint today is a smartphone application.
Yet this recent dynamism is not without its problems. The lack of familiarity has at times seemed to breed contempt. Immigration and migration have unintentionally met increases in phenomena such as hate crimes, xenophobia and racism; global markets and industries have created exploited labor forces in developing countries, widened income gaps worldwide between the wealthy and poor, and produced pollution contributing to man-made climate change and the decimation of wildlife and natural resources. These, and other societal issues, compromise the very democratic implications of the aforementioned economic and technological gains that marked the dawn of the 21st century. Such dysfunction begs the need for a sense of citizenship responsible for not only the immediate present but also a future that ensures that there will be a 22nd century for humanity.
Similar to the ideological aspirations of the United States’ Common School Movement of the 1800s—whereby civic knowledge and responsibility were curricular principles that resulted in producing Americans aware of their position in maintaining a republic (Labaree, 1997)—the role of modern education, I believe, needs to address agentive responsibilities necessary in maintaining an intersectional, pluralistic, and environmentally conscious reality. The concept of citizenship—and implicit within this status are political, cultural, and existential identities—can no longer be restrained by what constitutes allegiances to the nation-state. While the old borders that once separated countries and countrymen dissolve with the tools of accessible wireless communication, the presence of migratory media, students and professionals, languages, and other influences, the present-day citizen requires an education and, consequently, an identity that reflects this dynamism.
Intercultural cooperation and adaptation, stewardship of the planet, negotiated progress towards human and economic rights; these values among other forward-looking ones, embody the construct of global education (Gaudelli, 2013) and need to be introduced into the classroom. Global education, I believe, not only reifies these principles in various manifestations of education policy (e.g. curricula, teaching methodology, access to intercultural educational resources), but also promises to give rise to that borderless ‘patriot’ known as the global citizen. In turn, the global citizen constitutes an amalgam of identities: neither one exclusively local or global, autochthonous or cosmopolitan. The negotiations of spaces and times that increasingly take place currently will necessitate the salience of accruing various forms of capital for the global citizen, whether it is cultural in nature (acquisition of languages, adaptation to emerging technologies), social (access to influential communities of practice, professional affiliation), or symbolic (the perceived and/or real face-value worth possessed by individuals and their cultural associations) (Darvin & Norton, 2015). Before exploring the consistent qualities and characteristics—or habitus (Bourdieu, 1994)—of the global citizen, a definition of global education relative to the learning environment will require a brief framing.
As a pedagogical construct, global education is often defined as a learning experience and approach wherein learners consider two perspectives of the world: their own and those of ‘cultural others.’ These perspectives are both ‘intracultural’ and intercultural: introspective and extrospective, yet with the end goal of realizing a cooperative, dynamic relationship between citizens of disparate countries, beliefs, and customs. The classroom in global education becomes a stage for the learner to inhabit a space with other actors. It is this stage whereupon socio-economic inequities are identified, environmental concerns are addressed, and languages are negotiated for meaning (Andreotti, 2010). Influenced by global education, the classroom becomes a place to address social justice in order for the learner to “understand and acknowledge the value of cultural and linguistic diversity, and possess the knowledge, skills and understanding to contribute to, and benefit from, such diversity,” according to The 1999 Adelaide Declaration on National Goals for Schooling in the Twenty-First Century (Commonwealth, 2008).
As a policy directive, global education can assume a broad set of concerns from a range of international governmental departments: whether these concerns are focused on matters of market advantage and national security (as in the policy paper from the US Department of Education International Strategy), or addressing social and environmental issues (as reflected in the Australian Government’s Global Perspectives paper, and the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals Report) (Commonwealth, 2008; United Nations, 2015). Despite my American roots, I believe in following the latter direction. Not only should national and, ultimately, hegemonic interests that perpetuate dysfunctional socio-economic models (viz. neo-liberalism, militarism), be avoided, they are necessarily discouraged by the democratic and cooperative values of global education. Additionally, The United Nations’ fourth Sustainable Development Goal advocates for broad and fair access to education for all ages and genders (United Nations, 20152); recognizing that each member nation must do so with respect to limited means and resources.
The global focus, though essentially founded in social studies, can be disseminated across learning levels and subject areas within the school curriculum. Examples may include: a mathematics course lesson plan might include tasks wherein students investigate statistics of food production in certain world regions, number systems and calculation tools from ancient cultures; an arts course might demand students explore contemporary crafts from people whose countries are war-torn, or tasks that involve creating cross-cultural visual or musical narratives; a language class might explore themes of social justice—as vocabulary or discursive exercises—relative to the country of the learned language and, in the process, establishing cultural comparisons (perceived identities) with the learners’ own background (Commonwealth, 2008).
Integrating global education in the curriculum assumes that the areas of identity and agency will feature prominently in the triadic relationships amongst the learner, the teacher, and the learning environment. Identity for the learner is an acknowledgement and an awareness of one’s place within a diverse world that makes sense to them (Darvin & Norton, 2015). This is also a process whereby incremental interaction with cultures outside their own positions students into viewing their beliefs, social practices, and ideologies with a more objective, self-questioning (and perhaps skeptical) perspective (Gaudelli, 2013). Active discourse in which students are free to express and challenge their ideas with their cohorts stimulates this progress towards establishing a new sensibility of their world (Andreotti, 2010).
Likewise, the global education curriculum needs to make allowances for this discursive environment. The ‘who I am’ of the learner’s identity is integral to a ‘what I am:’ the self-awareness of what motivates his/her desire to learn beyond the necessary criteria for quantifiable assessments. In other words, learners’ interests in their place within the world: what he or she deems important enough to change, improve upon, or conserve, needs to be assessed and addressed within the curriculum. In this scenario, the student negotiates power with the instructor in order to establish a learner-centered program. There are two consequences of this that promotes the student towards global citizenship: the first being that the learner’s agentive capacities and interests are acknowledged and integrated into his/her education; secondly, learners progress towards a perspective of self-discovery and perhaps kinship with others worlds away.
Global education promises to be just that: a learning opportunity for students to know about, and be fully connected with, the world and to appreciate her or his place in it. Global education correlates to teaching philosophies and methods that promote thematic applications within curricula: themes such as environment, social justice, or women’s education that motivate students to address them creatively across their program of courses. From pre-school to the secondary level, global education facilitates the creation of global citizens who—later as informed adults—will be more knowledgeable of, engaged in, and respectful towards people of varying cultures and socio-economic status, as well as being a generation with a shared awareness of the increasingly critical health concerns of our planet.