Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Creating a Good Society – The Other Reason for Global Education

The need to educate globally competent students for better employment opportunities and the needs of the global economy are not at all at odds with the “other” argument for providing students with the opportunity to learn about a world much larger than their own state or country. Indeed, when corporate leaders talk about their need for a globally educated work force, they emphasize foundational skills. They want their employees to be interested in other cultures, understand different points of view, and be able to communicate in at least one language other than English. I have argued elsewhere that a reduction of the goals for global education to a mere jobs argument may be short-sighted and overly narrow, and it seems that I am not at all at odds with the views of Wisconsin’s corporate leaders.

Howard Gardner of Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education argues in his preface to Educating for Global Competence that “what is needed more than ever is a laser-like focus on the kinds of human beings that we are raising and the kinds of societies – indeed, in a global era, the kind of world society – that we are fashioning.” “Young people,” Gardner writes, “need to understand the worldwide circulation of ideas, products, fashions, media, ideologies, and human beings.”

Gardner’s rationale, it seems to me, is highly compatible with what employers identify as needs for their prospective employees. Therefore, schools should create the broadest global education programs possible. Those programs should educate our students to be globally competent in all content areas and give them the opportunity to investigate the world, to recognize different perspectives, to communicate ideas (in as many languages as possible), and to take action to create a better world. Educating for Global Competence shows how that can be done.

The Global Wisconsin videos provide good examples of how Wisconsin schools give their students the opportunity to “do good,” as Howard Gardner puts it. Students, he says, “want to do the right thing.” Take another look at Connecting with Cuba and listen to what the fourth graders are telling us: “We know that our countries do not get along that well, and we want to change that.” It takes children to express in very simple terms what adults struggle with. But our children are our hope. Let’s give them the opportunity to create a world worth living in. 

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