Culture? What's that?
My students hear the terms global citizenship and globally competent often, beginning from the first day they enter my class. Since I teach social justice as a part of my curriculum, I frame global citizenship as a way for us and all people to recognize, take responsibility for, and understand that we are each called to make the world a better place. From the lens of social justice and human rights that responsibility usually falls under our Christian responsibility to sure that all people are treated justly, and have what they need to live a happy, healthy, an sustainable life, no matter where on this planet they happen to live. Social justice themes of the Catholic Church are very explicit and teach that each person on this planet is a citizen of the world and humanity, regardless of what country, tribe, religion, socioeconomic standing, etc. etc. The Church's teachings focus on making special options for the poor and vulnerable, the assurance that people can move and live wherever they choose for what ever reason, that workers rights are assured, that humans have responsibilities to participate in local, regional, and national debates and politics to make sure that all people are assured their basic human rights. The church also teaches that it is our responsibility— all human beings — to take care of this planet. So these precepts begin my students’ understanding of the world.
I quickly tie in cultures, similarities and differences, otherness, and project after project in my classroom we explore different countries and their cultures to get a better understanding of how people live in other parts of the world. I frame the word culture as the traditions, Celebrations, Beliefs, music, Artistic expression, and stories that are beloved in each country to each person individually. Culture should not be thought of in stereotypical terms. Culture is a montage of who we are as a people and by learning about cultures in other parts of the world our understanding and appreciation of the people themselves is deepened and enriched.
As I ruminate on the videos and articles we have read for this weeks lesson, I must first address the two TedTalks. First, Prime Minister Gordon Brown of Britain was eloquent as he explained that people do not have to give up their national pride or their dedication to their nation in order to become a global citizen. His explanations of the many, many ways countries must be globally competent in order to take on the huge issues, such as climate change and nuclear proliferation and terrorism, poverty and inequality, made a case for how important it is for all nations to come together and to be globally competent global citizens before it's too late. PM Brown explained, “So, you've got to have a healthy sense of patriotism; that's absolutely important. But you've got to realize that this world has changed fundamentally, and the problems we have cannot be solved by one nation and one nation alone.”
Hugh Evans TedTalk, “What does it mean to be a citizen of the world?” Was so moving that he made me cry. (And that doesn't happen very often!!) His passion in his years and years of working so hard to explain global citizenship to the world was one of the most inspiring stories I've ever heard. But as he talked I could not help but think that teachers need to come together and bond by the same passion for global competency and human rights. I'm sure that within the membership of his multinational organization there are teachers. But since our educational system is in such dire straits and in need of a major reorganization and overhaul, if the teachers, (probably dragging administration along kicking and screaming,) could organize in such away that our voices would be collective, our passion evident, our determination so strong that even the highest educational Directors in Washington would not be able to quiet our roar, real, positive change could be achieved. I am skeptical that a few passionate teachers like us will be able to do much in our individual schools to create that much passion and determination. But if we, all of us and the alums who have already been through this program band together with a directed effort to change the minds of the powers that be, we might be able to bring about some positive change. Surely, we would need voices who could preach it from the mountaintops, inspiring with every word and syllable, and who could communicate effectively the power and enlightenment of understanding and accepting multiple perspectives, all the while creating a sense of wonder and curiosity about our world that will inspire the same in others and create within them the passion to want to take action in our world, but more immeditely in our schools.
On the downside, I disagree strongly with many points in the Washington Post article. “A global community or citizenry cannot exist, because to love everyone and everything is to love nobody and nothing.” Are you kidding me? This writer has some serious issues and was not very convincing in his argument against global citizenship. I could speak for days about the negative tone of this article but by the time he said, "According to a global-citizenship education guide issued by Oxfam, it is important to teach students that the world is unfair and unequal, and that they can and need to change it. Those terms are, by and large, empty vessels to be filled by the holder of power or the ideological flavor du jour, but most often they refer to a version of the argument that the North is richer than the South and this social injustice (another common term) must be addressed,” I was seething. I searched for some redeeming factors, but since his views were so opposed to mine, I just gave up. Lastly, his jab about Global citizens knowing to only drink fair trade coffee lattes sent me over the edge. Yes he has his right his opinions, However, they were not opinions with which I agree.
I will end this post with a question about this national (specifically designed for US education system) teacher movement to bombard, convince, and insist that global education and global competencies be taught in all schools so that our students will be prepared for jobs that don't even exist yet and will most certainly be multinational positions that will demand globally competent individuals to take on those challenges… Yes, I realize that wasn't a question. The question is : Can we do it? Is that what this is all about? Are we the movement? Or, I guess I should say, are we the tiny flicker of the movement? I'll be interested to hear your comments.
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