Make International Education Week Matter
Tom Lehrer’s 1967 song National Brotherhood Week was a skillful satire of the many days and weeks in honor of worthy causes. “It’s only for a week, so have no fear. Be grateful that it doesn’t last all year,” sings Lehrer.
It is up to us, to everyone in the classrooms, in school board rooms and in local, state, and federal administration, to make International Education Week matter. Let us not just pay lip service to the value of educating globally competent students, let us actually do something about it.
It is in this spirit that we join both Secretary Arne Duncan of the Department of Education and Secretary Hillary Clinton of the Department of State in celebrating International Education Week this year, November 14 – 18.
“[And] with the world’s economies and societies becoming more and more interdependent, it is almost impossible to distinguish between domestic and international issues,” says Duncan. “Therefore, we must work together to give all of our students an outstanding education, which includes learning about our global partners – their cultures, histories, languages, values, and viewpoints. We must focus on integrating international perspectives into our classrooms. It is through education and exchange that we become better collaborators, competitors and compassionate neighbors in this global society.”
Gilles Bousquet, Dean of International Studies and Vice Provost for Globalization at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, emphasizes that “we must recognize international education not as an “extra” in our schools, but as a critical component throughout K-16 education. For the future of our young people, our employers, our state and nation, the stakes have never been higher.”
Global Wisconsin demonstrates that educating for global competence is not lip service in many of our schools. From the youngest of elementary students to college graduates, these documentaries make a convincing case that international education is both essential to students and easily integrated with what they are learning every day. The task at hand is to bring these wonderful local school programs to scale in all 425 Wisconsin school districts. School budgets are tighter than ever, and at this point we cannot be certain that global education and world language education programs will receive minimally adequate funding in the next federal budget.
Teachers are ready to meet the challenge of educating globally competent students as described by Arnie Duncan, Hillary Clinton, and Gilles Bousquet. The question is whether or not the spirit of International Education Week will generate sustainable efforts.
“We need students who are knowledgeable about the world and who have an understanding of how other cultures work and how other people think,” concludes Wisconsin’s State Superintendent Tony Evers.
Let’s make sure that International Education Week is “not only for a week.” Together, we will make it last all year every year.