Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Growing Chasm-America's Elites and Global Awareness

As the end of the first decade of the 21st century approaches--one kind of organizing theme that is going through my head at the moment is the gulf
that opened up more visibly than ever before --between the elites who basically run things and the rest of us.

Of course there have always been elites--and there has always been a gap between them--the question is why is the gap so wide today? The gulf started opening up quite rapidly after 9/11 when our President took the moment of great national unity and saw it as an opportunity to strike Iraq and "remake" the Middle East using the pretext of Iraq having WMD.

When shoddy evidence was used by Blair's government and by the bullied by VP Cheney and the CIA to justify the war was the result. The next major gulf was the refusal to acknowledge that fighting two wars would require fiscal restraint not fiscal excess--in the form of large tax give aways benefiting the rich and deregulated stock markets. A third issue was the inability by both governmental and corporate leaders to look beyond either the next election year or next quarter--in the case of the auto industry with near fatal consequences. Detroits' fatal attraction to SUVs led to systemic failure added and abetted by a government unable to provide leadership in the area of energy policy or health care which became a crushing burden on the big three's ability to compete overseas. President Obama's election promised to change all this--but there were a series of unexplained retreats from reality:

Despite his strong stand on the need to support middle class families-- Huge bailouts to banks and institutions like AIG that basically gambled away money they did not have without any consequences--while unemployment rose dramatically to the point where it is reaching 12% to 15% in many parts of the country.

Despite a pledge to end lobbyists control of the policy agendathe same big pharma control of the health care debate --see Dana Milbank's brilliant skewering in the Washington Post today of our representatives who should be wearing NASCAR like sponsorship badges.

Despite all the brave words on climate change --No hint of a gas tax or real possibility that we could do very much to reduce global warming through either a cap and trade bill or a treaty.

Meyerson points to the nub of the issue when he writes in today's Washington Post about the way that "America's economic elites.. thrived on the financialization and globalization of the economy that have caused the incomes of the vast majority of their fellow Americans to stagnate or decline. The insecurity that haunts their compatriots is alien to them. Fully 85 percent of Americans in that CFR-sponsored poll said that protecting U.S. jobs should be a top foreign policy priority, but when the pollsters asked that question of the council's own members, just 21 percent said that protecting American jobs should be a top concern."

The problem lies deeper than the failure of elites to understand the suffering of their fellow Americans--many have never bothered to recognize that the 21st century requires a differnt kind of understanding and politics from the 20th.
In the 20th it was still possible to argue that what was good for GM's balance sheet was good for the US and the world. We could also argue that elites and the rest of us benefited pretty uniformly from globalization in the 20th century. Elites have been slower to grasp that there are systematic adverse consequences to globalization in the 21st which can involve entire communities dependent on one kind of manufacturing from being decimated. They have been slow to realize that we need to expand rather than reduce the safety net as those at the top end of the income scale are disproportinately benefited. The consequences of globalization and global warming on emerging countries also has been less well understood. Instead the elites have played into the media's bias for focusing on issues that distract--hence the continued parade of misbehaving celebrities and wedge issues such as gay marriage and abortion.

It was amazing given all this that candidate Obama with his serious and nuanced message could break through the media fog and become President Obama. Now he needs all our help in assisting us all to realize that we all have to go to school concerning the key global issues. None of us can afford to duck our responsibilities to learn that simply changing lightbulbs or driving a hybrid or buying a green product will save the planet. We have to better understand who wins and who loses in the global talent race and why. We have to understand such things as why the current climate talks in Copenhagen are according to the latest AP report "deadlocked" and are being disrupted. See photograph at the top of this blog. In truth --we all have to ascend the steep learning curve if we are to become more successful in the next decade. That is our role and our mission should we choose to take it--we are all global educators now!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Cosmopolitianism --A Must Read Introduction to a Vital 21st Century Issue

I am grateful to Professor Fernando Reimers for recommending Cosmopolitianism: Ethics in a World of Strangers by Kwame Anthony Appiah. Appiah (the Laurence S Rockefeller Professor of Philosophy and the Center for Human Values at Princeton University)writes in an urbane introduction to the issues multiculturalism poses for our society and should be must reading for all those who want to really understand the complexity of our new century. After reading this book we might all be able to agree (to paraphrase what someone famously said about Keynes) that we are all cosmopolitian (ists) now. No one can truly escape into their own monocultural island --our cities, our media and most important our language and culture are infused with layer upon layer of global cultures whether we are aware of them or not. Appiah begins by examining the root meanings of cosmopolitianism--

"A citizen--a polites--belonged to a particular polis, a city to which he or she owed loyalty. The cosmos referred to the world, not in the sense of the earth but in the sense of the universe. Talk of cosmopolitianism originally signaled, then a rejection of the conventional view that every civilized person belonged to a community among communities."

Appiah's easy non academic style helps you understand the role of the Enlightenment thinkers such as Wieland--(once called the German Voltaire Appiah adds) who wrote
"Cosmopolitans..regard all the people of the earth as so many branches of a single family, and the universe as a state, of which they, with innumerable other than rational beings, are citizens, are citizens, promoting together under the general laws of nature the perfection of the whole, while each in his own fashion is busy about his own well-being."

Appiah's learning is worn lightly as he answers the all important question --what does it mean to hold the view that we are citizens of the world? What happens to local allegiances--for Virginia Woolf it meant--"freedom from unreal loyalties" and Leo Tolstoy wrote about the "stupidity of patriotism"--on the opposite side of the equation are people like Hitler and Stalin who are deep foes of cosmpolitianism and we all know how that ended up. Appiah's huge store of reading helps him navigate through the issue of loyalties which lies at the heart of the question. George Eliot's creation of Daniel Deronda-the very English gentleman who discovers his Jewish heritage only as an adult--explains his interest in studying his heritage in these terms, "I want to be an Englishman, but I want to understand other points of view. And I want to get rid of the a merely English attitude in studies."

The issue comes down to self definition and how we claim it--we have to be open to the idea that our cultural background creates a way we can connect with others--Eliot talks of the "closer fellowship that makes sympathy practical."

And this is just the introduction! The cluster of questions Appiah considers are truly wide ranging -but often remain invisible in debate--questions such "as what we owe strangers by virtue of our shared humanity?, can culture be "owned" ?

Appiah's essential model for negotiating all these points is a conversation--between people from different places and cultures--there are no absolutes but there are some places where people can meet--agree and discuss--that is the realm we can all in this globally connected world participate in.

As a philosopher he can be skilled with applying some important distinctions--so for example when we talk about objective values we are really talking about desired values --some of which depend on certain facts--he gives the example of universal vaccination as being a value --but we are often prepared to give this value up when the disease has been eliminated. Where we often go astray Appiah argues is where we view an individual's moral vocabulary as belonging to one individual--all the important values-such as kindness, cruelty are public and shared across cultures. It is first and foremost evaluative language we are using--a way of communicating to each other our preferences--if your values were not shared in language --there would be no way we could refer to them. The reason why values are important in our society is that they allow us to get things done together--we appeal to those values in order to act in the public forum--whether it is building a road, going to the moon, or making peace. Our stories that we share embody our values and certain stories are more important than others in our national culture because they enshrine some key values. So one of the purposes of studying a foreign language and reading books in translation is to appreciate the nuances of other people's values.

Not all chapters are discursive essays--some are personal meditations based on growing up in Ghana and the ways that the culture and beliefs shape someone so that conversation sometimes becomes problematic. The author gives the example of medicine and how the conversation between someone who believes in witchcraft to accept the findings of modern medicine. Why should they believe in viruses--that you cannot see? Just because you said so? You can say that you can predict who can get well but not who will get sick. In the end you have to appeal to a community of people who can test the evidence that goes beyond the anectdotal and subjective.

There are insights all along the way--for example the independence movements in Africa and elsewhere that brought to an end colonial rule were arguments about values--not African values per se --but values embodied in the rhetoric that had
guided the Allies in their conflict with the Axis powers--"It was a conflict of interests couched in terms of the same values."

Important points are made about so called cultural purity and cultural contamination--we see so many examples of ethnic communities within hetrogeneous cultures choosing to live within their own cultural borders--but as Appiah so eloquently argues--"cultural purity is an oxymoron"--multiculturalism is in some shape or form in all our lives--in the Middle East, in China, in Ghana and in our own western world. The entire history of culture has been related to mixing one cultural strain with another--from the Roman through to the Alexanderian and British empires to the American century--cultures are continually reinterpreted and reinvented. Intolerance for others is bred of universalistic fundamentalist creeds whether they be Islamic or Christian or Jewish can as we know all too well lead to dangerous consequences--however as Appiah reminds us the truly toxic aspects of this are not so much in terms of those beliefs but their fear and sometimes prohibition of conversation. Without conversation they can extend their belief that "not everyone matters" and other equally savage ideas and not owe anyone a justification as to why. They don't want to be drawn into explaining precisely because they don't want to have to justify themselves or their beliefs to others--because they know that their values are not ultimately defensible. Reason is at the center of it all--"come let us reason together" should be the motto of every civilized person--it offers a ground for your thinking and my thinking.

In terms of the central question--what are our obligations to others--Appiah's answer is to be common sensical--it is to do "our fair share"--we cannot be required to do more. But what is our "fair share"? How do we deal with the fact that so many people are not doing their fair share? He discusses this and other issues--such as the paradox that one of the world's greatest capitalists is providing billions to help eradicate preventable diseases around the globe and our economic system allows the average cow to live on a $2.50 a day subsidy when 3 billion people live on less than $2 dollars a day. Appiah points out that Jeffrey Sachs has argued that we can eradicate extreme poverty for about $150 billion a year for 20 years. Clearly we can do better, as Appiah argues it is a "demand of simple morality" and we can also agree with him that this end might be more achievable "if we made civilization more cosmopolitan"

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Cultural Bridge Builders

Ethan Zuckerman is a man to get to know. He has been a fellow at the Berkman Center at Harvard University since January, 2003 and writes about how technology impacts the developing world. He is an original thinker who can clearly deliver an effective presentation and make his work accessible to large numbers of people. His recent brilliant talk talk at the Business Inovation Factory--and embedded below is about the importance of cultural bridge building.

The "TED style" lecture is a highly thought provoking exploration as to how we need to learn about other cultures not through learning them as if we were tourists--and referring to a phrase book or guide but through those who are rooted in one culture but have the ability and the generosity to reach out to those who want to learn the new culture. Zuckerman gives examples from his own visit to Ghana and his need for a cultural roadmap to how Paul Simon's interest in South African music got started. Interesting ideas of how we learn to trust others from very different backgrounds through playing video games with them. This is a video that is both entertaining and educational--and worth a series of conversations about how we might apply the ideas to our global classrooms.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

International Education Week--Calling all Global Teachers

Are you a global educator? Do you use technology to connect with classrooms around the world? If so we want to hear from you. The State Department and the Department of Education are co-sponsoring International Education Week --from November 16-20
and we (ISTE included) want to compile a list of educators doing truly amazing things that we can feature it and student work on relevant websites and for the benefit of media outlets. Email me at or contact me on Facebook on Global Education: Using Technology to Bring the World to Your Students.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Can We Predict a World Future? How do We Make It Come out OK?

If you have not heard of Bruce Bueno de Mesquita you need to--he is a futurologist--with a 90% track record of predicting international events. He consults with the CIA and world governments. We need to pay attention to his scientific analysis of issues.
He predicts for example that the climate change conference occuring soon in Copenhagen will come to naught. We will not do anything to cut back on our emissions because the politicians are afraid of taking the painful decisions to profoundly change our comfortable lifestyles. He is on the other hand optimistic about Iran at least as far as their decision to go fully nuclear and prepare weapons grade uranium. The science he relies on is game theory--a branch of math that first assumes that all players are rational and that they make self interested choices.

His analysis of the power structure in Iran makes him believe that there is consensus only on one item--the need to demonstrate their nationalism in some large symbolic way but not go to the lengths of isolating themselves from the International community and risking further domestic political instability.

Can any of this type of analysis be used in schools? One interesting exercise that comes to mind is asking students to really role play the countries that will need to be party to the new Climate treaty. In the last Kyoto treaty--many countries were able to look good before world public opinion ---and signed the treaty--knowing full well that there were no ways to hold them accountable if they did not deliver on their desire to cut carbon emissions--and so the treaty ended up being a large symbolic failure. Scientists have made the failure clear that Kyoto has done nothing so far to stem carbon emissions. The question is can the world media pay attention long enough to make sure that the countries that sign various goal statements are forced to make good on their pledges? Do we have the attention span to read the details and participate as "global citizens"? Can teachers explain to their students what the stakes are in Copenhagen this year and why it matters? In other words can we, first as a US community and second as a world community put enough pressure on our leaders to forego naked self interest issues and deliver something for the people who will be alive in the future? The great weakness of democracies is their inability to plan for long term results--can we be rational enough to know that now we have to place a higher value on our long term futures?

Check out his TED talk below:

Thursday, October 15, 2009

President Obama's Acceptance of the Nobel Peace Prize

There seems a general consensus that the Nobel Prize the President received was a bit premature. It was offered more in a spirit of hope that the new direction for American foreign policy are worthy of recognition--and that the courage that the President displayed to oppose the Iraq war, close Guantánamo, and give his historic Cairo speech
are worthy enough. In this respect --it was given equally as a reward to the US people for having the nerve to elect him as much as it was given to the President as a personal reward. Tom Brokaw's op ed in the Washington Post today reflects this general point.

As Brokaw argues, "what better way for him to respond than to share this distinguished prize with those who have been doing just that without sufficient recognition?" Brokaw would have a number of luminaries join him on the plane to Oslo--among the dignitaries he selects are

"Greg Mortenson, the author of "Three Cups of Tea," who has spent years working for education and literacy (especially for girls) in mountainous parts of Pakistan and Afghanistan. Field representatives from organizations such as Refugees International, the International Rescue Committee (where I am a volunteer overseer), CARE, Save the Children and other groups doing the hard work of caring for the victims of war. Bill and Melinda Gates should be in his delegation, as well as Republican Sam Brownback, the senator from Kansas, who's been a tireless advocate of greater U.S. involvement to stop the genocide in Sudan."

We could all add to the list--but that is a good start--the limelight and the prize should be shared and widely celebrated. Perhaps Tom Brokaw should also be on the trip and do interviews with the entire cast so that the message of a new more globally aware America can really sink in back home as well.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Going Green More Complex than it Appears: The Key is Awareness

Daniel Goleman, the author of the bestseller Emotional Intelligence, has authored a new book entitled Ecological Intelligence: How Knowing the Hidden Impacts of What We Buy Can Change Everything.. The premise of the book is essentially that we need a lot more information about the right green choices than would first appear. It is not enough in other words, Goleman convincingly argues, to stick a "green label" on something and think you are doing good by the planet. Did you know for example:
* It takes more energy and pollutes more water to make paper bags than plastic ones?
* Even recycled glass jars create serious pollution and takes 659 different ingredients to produce?
* Organic T-Shirts made of cotton also cause their share of harm--it takes 2,700 gallons of water to produce one cotton T-Shirt, (the Aral Sea evaporated into desert largely because of the prodigious thirst of surrounding cotton farmers). If the organic T-Shirt is dyed it then causes a number of other toxic chemicals to be consumed because cotton resists absorbing dye and those chemicals end up in rivers.
*Buy a bag of crisps--its carbon footprint is 75 grams--(by jumbo jet flying from Frankfurt to New York City emits 713,000 grams per person.

Only 28% of food products surveyed out of 25,500 by a reputable group of nutritionists received a commendation of "healthy choice." Most foods were too salt and sugar loadded to receive any stars.

Basically, as Goleman says "green products" are overhyped and the idea that there can be some 100% green products is a complete PR hallucination--often a carefully constructed mirage in fact. Goleman makes a passionate case as to why we need far greater transparency in the green marketplace. He gives an example of what could happen. In 2007 HSBC in the UK ran a promotion to recruit business from college students by offering free checking and no fees for overdrafts.
Then someone at HSBC cancelled the policy deciding it was too expensive. Wes Streeting a VP at the Cambridge University Student Union stated a facebook campaign against the "rip off" and thousands of students joined the protest--needless to say HSBC changed their policy back within weeks.

It seems from Goleman's research that while 25% of consumers don't care about what global havoc was caused in a product's production--10% do care and will go out of their way to shop for a more ethical item. Roughly 2/3rds of shoppers are in the middle--they care but want the decision to be easy--these are the true swing voters.
Goleman wants the decision making of these consumers in the middle to be easier.

Goleman wants to see companies become more responsible but they will only move in this direction with public pressure. We are about to enter that period--with the "dawning of ecological transparency in the marketplace."

The companies that will survive in this new era will be those capable of doing continous R&D. But we have to be ever careful about the tendency for companies to engage in "green washing" and for empty PR gestures. Robert Reich, former Labor Secretary is skeptical that companies will sacrifice profit for looking good in the public eye and favors stronger regulation. Goleman is not so sure that regulations will achieve the victories that we need now and argues that "radical transparency" is the way out of the dilemma--"making goodness pay."

Goleman suggests that "an informational fix" is needed to make consumers from Bejing to Berlin aware of the hidden choices they are making--and so "changing the rules of the game for business." It is an optimistic thesis and one I wish I could believe in. What is missing for me from Goleman's argument are the corporate forces around that have a vested interest in keeping us content with the status quo.

For me what would make this book even more valuable is a focus of the choices others can make--particularly journaliss in reporting stories that provide a fuller context related to business news as they touch ecological and globalization issues and the role that educators can play. Surely students could be charged with doing some of this investigation into the products they consume as teachers help them to become more globally aware. This is not preaching to them--they just have a right to use their critical intelligence and the tools they have --and the disciplines they are discovering (math, geography, science) to bring their lessons alive and find a personal connection to what they are studying-rather than believe that the world exists as a remote object for study removed from their own lives and the consequences of the decisions they and their families make. The state of the planet is a critical one--surely we must martial all available resources to assist in the solution. The marketplace --transparent or not will not take solve this problem as we found out to our cost last year with the global economic meltdown--there is a place for regulation, education and the media to be far more responsible about doing right by the world they share with all of us than they have done in the past.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Monday, September 21, 2009

The Story of the Paper Plane: Hollywood Movie in the Making?

You thought that the story of the red balloon you watched so many moons ago was moving. Wait to you hear this one. A poor stateless boy pleads with the authorities of his adopted country to let him compete in an international paper airplane contest--after his airplane stayed aloft for 12.5 seconds and winning in his age bracket "for an expenses-paid, global paper airplane competition held Sept. 19-20 in Chiba, Japan." He was refused his prize--the reason? According to the Global Post "Mong, was ineligible because he was born to Burmese construction workers in the Thai city of Chiang Mai." As a result of the decision he cried all day. As a "a citizen of nowhere." because "Thai law insists that, by parentage, Mong belongs to Burma — a neighboring country that does not even recognize his birth." Mong was a temporary resident at constant risk for deportation. Someone in the media got hold of the story and through a tearful display on TV news and public opinion Thailand's Prime Minister intervened and Mong was allowed to compete.

Apparently there are over two million stateless people in Thailand the result of laws that place immigrant workers at their peril when they leave police states like Burma. It turns out the boy finished the 3rd place and feels proud of his efforts. The larger question is whether the story will bring renewed pressure to ensure that other stateless people are given pathways out of their often desperate situations.
My guess is not until a Hollywood film director gets hold of the film rights. There is no doubting that the film could be a runaway success--what after all could symbolize better what freedom means than a simple paper airplane expertly crafted by a stateless boy?

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Unsung Hero of the Green Revolution

He may have saved up to a billion lives but it is doubtful if you would recognize the name. His name was Norman Borlaug and he died last week at the age of 95.
Greg Easterbrook writes a compelling tribute in the WSJ-- suggesting that he was possibly the greatest humanitarian of the 20th century. We don't have to deal in the ultimately meaningless game of superlatives to recognize that he was a truly remarkable individual;

"Born in 1914 in rural Cresco, Iowa, where he was educated in a one-room schoolhouse, Borlaug won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970 for his work ending the India-Pakistan food shortage of the mid-1960s. He spent most of his life in impoverished nations, patiently teaching poor farmers in India, Mexico, South America, Africa and elsewhere the Green Revolution agricultural techniques that have prevented the global famines widely predicted when the world population began to skyrocket following World War II."
He invented in essence "high yield agriculture"--and his contributions according to Easterbrook can be measured in these terms:

"First, absent high-yield agriculture, the world would by now be deforested. The 1950 global grain output of 692 million tons and the 2006 output of 2.3 billion tons came from about the same number of acres three times as much food using little additional land. "Without high-yield agriculture," Borlaug said, "increases in food output would have been realized through drastic expansion of acres under cultivation, losses of pristine land a hundred times greater than all losses to urban and suburban expansion."

Easterbook has the credentials to counter what has been considerable environmentalist criticism which he argues,

"was doubly puzzling because in almost every developing nation where high-yield agriculture has been introduced, population growth has slowed as education becomes more important to family success than muscle power."

Let the debate be joined on that one--but let it also be informed by the facts that Easterbrook presents in such a persuasive fashion.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Excuse the Interuption but a Press Release Just Crossed my desk!


Sept. 16, 2009

Contact: Marlene Nesary, ISTE, (541) 302-3789

Pat Walsh, The Ulum Group, (541) 434-7021

ISTE Book Highlights Importance of Integrating Global

Education in the Classroom

Washington, D.C. – Global literacy is an imperative U.S. schools cannot afford to ignore. Now, more than ever, schools must prepare future generations for a global society. To help students gain a more global perspective, “Global Education,” a new book available in August and published by the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE®), provides educators with the tools they need to prepare their student for an increasingly interconnected world.

Written by Laurence Peters, an educator who has held high-level education posts in the U.S. government, the book serves as a guide to help educators connect their students to the world around them. Educators will learn how to enhance learning and provide their students with a global perspective. The book includes hundreds of global education resources, a historical perspective on global education, and an introduction to valuable global networks such as iEarn, Global Schoolhouse and the modern-day pen-pal site ePals.

Recognizing that teachers have limited resources, Peters provides advice on getting started and integrating global education into the current curriculum. Case studies include specific examples of ways in which educators are collaborating and connecting with classrooms in other parts of the world: 11th grade students in Bangladesh exchanging video interviews with 10th grade students in Georgia, high schoolers in Illinois learning Japanese, Hebrew, Latin, Spanish, French and German using online discussion groups with members from around the world, and second graders from different countries exploring connections between their different lifestyles.

“Global Education: Using Technology to Bring the World to Your Students" is available online for $22.35 for ISTE members and $31.95 for nonmembers. More information about the book, including a sample chapter, is available at To watch the companion video go to, or to listen to an ISTE Cast podcast interview with Peters visit

About the Author

Laurence Peters is an educator committed to enhancing the classroom experience with a global dimension. He received his master’s degree in English from the University of London and his doctorate from the University of Michigan. After receiving a law degree, he served as counsel to a U.S. House of Representatives education subcommittee and held senior positions with the U.S. Department of Education from 1993 to 2001. Subsequently, Peters directed the Mid-Atlantic Regional Technology in Education Consortium. He currently teaches a graduate-level course on the integration of global perspectives for the University of Maryland University College and serves as an educational technology consultant and vice president of the National Education Foundation.

About ISTE

The International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) is the trusted source for professional development, knowledge generation, advocacy and leadership for innovation. ISTE is the premier membership association for educators and education leaders engaged in improving teaching and learning by advancing the effective use of technology in PK-12 and teacher education. Home of the National Educational Technology Standards (NETS) and ISTE’s annual conference and exposition (formerly known as NECC), ISTE represents more than 100,000 professionals worldwide. We support our members with information, networking opportunities, and guidance as they face the challenge of transforming education.

Visit to learn more about ISTE and its new initiatives—including the next generation of NETS for Students, Teachers and Administrators.

ISTE is the registered trademark of International Society for Technology in Education.


Questions about Empathy

"We live in a culture that discourages empathy. A culture that too often tells us our principle goal in life is to be rich, thin, young, famous, safe, and entertained."
--Barack Obama, speech, Jul. 12, 2006

I have been thinking a lot about the reason why we have such a difficult time as a culture realizing that other people's feelings are important--even those far away from us. But then there are times when we can relate --think of the overwhelming positive tide of giving that took place as a result of the tsunami event a few years back that washed away huge numbers of people and large parts of entire countries. Why was that? Because the images the media displayed where ones that we could relate to? Because of the massive nature of the tidal wave that hit all those coastlines in such an unprepared fashion? A similar outpouring of generosity from all around the world took place after Katrina. Could empathy maybe something that is visually triggered--it is the power of certain images --or certain narratives? To just talk or worst still lecture to students about abstract things like the suffering that took place during the great depression or this recent one--or how emerging economies throughout the world--particularly those in Africa and Asia have been harder hit as a result of this economic downturn is to not connect with the brain's empathy centers. We need to see the people, see what they are dealing with --as an entry point into understanding them and empathizing. Is the the fascination with celebrity and "image" is that we believe we can understand that image can hide as well as reveal them as people--do we enjoy playing the game of sorting out the image from their more authentic selves? How do we bring all of these insights into the classroom to inform and encourage the empathy muscle to grow?

I would be interested in a discussion of this--if you are reading me on your Kindle--welcome and please feel join in..

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

A World Flag Anyone?

Don't get me wrong, I admire the ideas behind this flag but it is a tapestry, not anything as bold and new as a world flag--however inventive and well researched it is (See the Ode Blog for where I first saw the flag and some of the background behind it.) How about a true world flag with a great noble symbol on it that really resonates as the famous peace symbol in the sixties resonated? You read it here first--yes-- I want to start today to create a new design we can all get behind! How about a challenge to all the school children of the world to design a new flag --could Google or UNICEF sponsor?
Ideas and comments welcome!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Back to School with Some Helpful Facts: Everyone can Help

According to Oxfam" The $8.42 trillion promised by rich country governments to bailout banks would be enough to end global extreme poverty for 50 years and a massive step towards ending it forever."

More than one billion people - approximately 1/6 of the world's population are hungry. And every day nearly 16,000 children die from hunger and related causes. We have the resources to feed the world. We just need the will. Learn about global hunger and what you can do to help.

World Hunger Facts:

•1.02 billion people in the world are hungry.
•1 billion people in the world live on less than $1 a day.
"World Development Indicators 2007." The World Bank.
•27 percent of children under 5 are moderately to severely underweight in the developing world. ("State of the World's Children 2007.)

•Nearly one in three people die prematurely or have disabilities due to poor nutrition and calorie deficiencies.
"Malnutrition." (World Health Organization (WHO))
•One in nearly seven people do not get enough food to be healthy, making hunger and malnutrition the number one risk to health worldwide.
UN World Food Programme

We know that the UN estimates that the cost to End World Hunger
It's less than 1% of the world's GDP or about $195 billion a year.

"Twenty-two countries have pledged to donate this money by contributing 0.7% -- less than 1% -- of national income to international aid, but the goal has yet to be reached. Five countries have already met the goal, while others are on target to meet it in a few years. Some, including the U.S.are lagging"

We could all help--there is one program that allows you to support the end world poverty cause by providing a donation everytime you swipe your card with zero cost to you! The End World Poverty offer is worth checking out.

But don't let the politicians off the hook. According to open democracy, "The US was in 2008 ranked seventeenth out of twenty-two rich states in the Center for Global Development's "commitment to development" index (CDI), which measures how far these countries help their poorer counterparts in building prosperity, good government, and security. There is big scope for improvement, but amid recession and large-scale unemployment there will also be big temptations (including protectionist temptations) to lapse"

Don't let them lapse! Remind your politicians of their commitments!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Passing of Senator Edward Kennedy

Senator Edward Kennedy will be mourned by people around the world who know that he held the banner for the kinds of causes that have been so identified with the Kennedy family. He was one of the most passionate and effective advocates for the rights of the poor and dispossesed around the world. His voice was one of the few that could be heard above the general noise--clear, articulate and most of all passionate for the values and causes that drove him. On NBC news this morning they showed a clip from the late Senators' eulogy for his brother Robert. In that remarkable speech (one I have to say I was not aware of) some powerful statements were made about the importance of global awareness. The section from the speech I quote below begins with part of a speech RFK gave in South Africa:

"There is discrimination in this world and slavery and slaughter and starvation. Governments repress their people; millions are trapped in poverty while the nation grows rich and wealth is lavished on armaments everywhere. These are differing evils, but they are the common works of man. They reflect the imperfection of human justice, the inadequacy of human compassion, our lack of sensibility towards the suffering of our fellows. But we can perhaps remember -- even if only for a time -- that those who live with us are our brothers; that they share with us the same short moment of life; that they seek -- as we do -- nothing but the chance to live out their lives in purpose and happiness, winning what satisfaction and fulfillment they can...

Surely, this bond of common faith, this bond of common goal, can begin to teach us something. Surely, we can learn, at least, to look at those around us as fellow men. And surely we can begin to work a little harder to bind up the wounds among us and to become in our own hearts brothers and countrymen once again. The answer is to rely on youth -- not a time of life but a state of mind, a temper of the will, a quality of imagination, a predominance of courage over timidity, of the appetite for adventure over the love of ease. The cruelties and obstacles of this swiftly changing planet will not yield to the obsolete dogmas and outworn slogans. They cannot be moved by those who cling to a present that is already dying, who prefer the illusion of security to the excitement and danger that come with even the most peaceful progress."

The Senator then went onto quote other deeply moving words from the speech

"The future does not belong to those who are content with today, apathetic toward common problems and their fellow man alike, timid and fearful in the face of new ideas and bold projects. Rather it will belong to those who can blend vision, reason and courage in a personal commitment to the ideals and great enterprises of American Society. Our future may lie beyond our vision, but it is not completely beyond our control. It is the shaping impulse of America that neither fate nor nature nor the irresistible tides of history, but the work of our own hands, matched to reason and principle, that will determine our destiny. There is pride in that, even arrogance, but there is also experience and truth. In any event, it is the only way we can live."

The words are no less true today as they were then. We must all continue the flame of hope that the Senator and the Kennedy brothers embodied.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Global Awareness : The Cost of Isolation and/or Pretending Not to See..

Jesse Kornbluth in a recent post on his blog, made some useful points about what isolation can do to people in the context of a book published in 1955--by a Chicago journalist, Milton Mayer, entitled They Thought They Were Free. The book focuses on ten representative Germans who were members of the Nazi party who he literally befriended in the 1950s to come to terms with why became part of the great evil that Nazi Germany wrought on humanity. Kornbluth summarizes some of the Mayer's key findings as follows:

"They did not know before 1933 that Nazism was evil. They did not know between 1933 and 1945 that it was evil. And they do not know it now [in 1951]. None of them ever knew, or now knows, Nazism as we knew it, and know it; and they lived under it, served it, and, indeed, made it.

And none ever thought Hitler would lead them into war.

Why not?

-- They had never traveled abroad.
-- They didn't talk to foreigners or read the foreign press.
-- Before Hitler, most had no jobs. Now they did.
-- The targets of their hatred had been stigmatized well in advance of any action against them.
-- They really weren't asked to “do” anything --- just not to interfere.
-- The men who burned synagogues did not live in the cities of the synagogues.

The isolation of Germany during this period is striking and we made me think of how those countries that live under dictators, or without access to the Internet are peculiarly vulnerable today to brutal dark chapters. We can think of North Korea, Iran and most recently of Darfur. Now thanks to the web and more specifically to Google Earth and the US Holocaust Museum we can now see the brutal evidence

"Using data from the U.S. State Departments Humanitarian Information Unit and working with the United States Holocaust Museum Memorial, Google now shows more than 3,300 villages (yes, entire villages) that have been decimated during the genocide. Google notes that while the numbers have been known for some time, actually seeing the decimation in more detail than ever before provides a clearer understanding of the devastation."

We must always remember the truth of this anecdote taken from Mayer's book
"Your ‘little men,’ your Nazi friends, were not against National Socialism in principle. Men like me, who were, are the greater offenders, not because we knew better (that would be too much to say) but because we sensed better. Pastor Niemöller spoke for the thousands and thousands of men like me when he spoke (too modestly of himself) and said that, when the Nazis attacked the Communists, he was a little uneasy, but, after all, he was not a Communist, and so he did nothing; and then they attacked the Socialists, and he was a little uneasier, but, still, he was not a Socialist, and he did nothing; and then the schools, the press, the Jews, and so on, and he was always uneasier, but still he did nothing. And then they attacked the Church, and he was a Churchman, and he did something—but then it was too late."

Sunday, July 26, 2009

The New Face of Global Participatory Democracy--Watch a You Tube Concept Morph into a Political Movement

Last year a moving video went viral on You Tube--it was called PLAYING FOR CHANGE and was conceived by Mark Johnson to use music to unite people all over the world. It was first brought to my attention by one of my students. In Mark's own words "Music has always been the universal language and we followed its path from city streets to Native Indian reservations, African villages and the Himalayan Mountains. I could never have imagined that we would discover a world with so much love, hope and inspiration. In a world with so much focus on our differences I am proud to have discovered that people everywhere believe in creating a better world together."
If you have not seen it --you can view it here:

Now as is the way with the web the idea of using the Song Stand by Me and combining the talents of musicians around the world is behind the Iran dissident movement. According to Ianyan

"Popular Iranian-Armenian singer Andy Madadian joined the likes of Jon Bon Jovi, Richie Sambora and record producers Don Was and John Shanks on June 24 to record a special version of the Ben E. King classic “Stand By Me” with lyrics in English and Farsi as a a musical message of worldwide solidarity with the people of Iran."

The new lyrics in English and Farsi are well worth listening to:

According to one report -since June 27, the video has generated nearly 500,000 views, "and just as many emails of support. "Within hours, we were flooded and we couldn't handle it," Madadian says of the "zillions" of messages of support he received from his fellow Iranians on Facebook, MySpace and his personal website. Madadian claims that he has yet to hear any negative reaction to the video."

So this is the new 21st century global village--in action---it looks as though participatory global web enhanced democracy is here to stay and will be a force for good. Let's hope!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

40th anniversary of the Moon Landing: Setting our Eyes On Earth

The 40th anniversary of the Moon Landing was a good time for those of us of a certain age to reminisce. We looked at that silvery orb in the sky that night
a bit differently. But we also looked at ourselves with new eyes too.
Norman Cousins, who addressed a Congressional hearing about what going to the moon meant, where he said, 'The significance of Apollo was not so much that man set foot on the moon but that he set eye on the Earth.’

We certainly had the wonderful photos to prove that the earth was indeed a tiny blue fragile looking planet set against a sky of infinite blackness. But after 1969 not much else happened. We still found ourselves in too deep in the VietNam war. Nixon did not change his policies as a result. The so called technological "victory" over the Soviet Union did not much to change the determination to confront their eastern bloc neighbors if they showed any signs of breaking free of their communist yoke.
Schools just added Neil Armstrong to the list of great American explorers who made history. Probably the best outcome was the use made by politicians to make us believe in ourselves as capable of solving enormously intractable problems such as world hunger. How many of us heard that phrase--"if we can go to the moon..then.."
and stopped listening to it after it was repeated too many times and issues such as radically unequal education and housing persisted.

The moon project was then dropped. I heard from one commentator recently all the technology was sort of placed in deep freeze, the teams of engineers that were assembled the variety of resources supporting a manned landing all were dissolved as if the entire enterprise had been nothing but a show. Funding for NASA sank like a stone. As Tom Wolfe wrote in the New York Times the moon landing was "one giant leap to nowhere"

As Wolfe writes the funding for NASA went "from $5 billion in the mid-1960s to $3 billion in the mid-1970s. It was at this point that NASA’s lack of a philosopher corps became a real problem. The fact was, NASA had only one philosopher, Wernher von Braun. Toward the end of his life, von Braun knew he was dying of cancer and became very contemplative. I happened to hear him speak at a dinner in his honor in San Francisco. He raised the question of what the space program was really all about. Therefore we must build a bridge to the stars, because as far as we know, we are the only sentient creatures in the entire universe. When do we start building that bridge to the stars? We begin as soon as we are able, and this is that time. We must not fail in this obligation we have to keep alive the only meaningful life we know of.

Unfortunately, NASA couldn’t present as its spokesman and great philosopher a former high-ranking member of the Nazi Wehrmacht with a heavy German accent.

As a result, the space program has been killing time for 40 years with a series of orbital projects ... Skylab, the Apollo-Soyuz joint mission, the International Space Station and the space shuttle. These programs have required a courage and engineering brilliance comparable to the manned programs that preceded them. But their purpose has been mainly to keep the lights on at the Kennedy Space Center and Houston’s Johnson Space Center — by removing manned flight from the heavens and bringing it very much down to earth."

But even had Werner Von Braun had better credentials to be the kind of Captain Kirk like visionary for the new age of space exploration it is doubtful that any air would have pumped back into the space program. If a venture is conceived as a PR victory it stays a PR victory. Kennedy's words we "choose to go to the moon not because it is easy but because it is hard"--an appeal to man's never ending search for challenge--rings hollow today--the reason --we have ignored doing some easy things because it is too hard to do the hard work of organize a vision around our common humanity--our essential brother and sisterhood. Without that vision the people indeed do perish as do missions however brave and magnficent as the moon landing.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

A Lesson in Empathy from the Supreme Court Nomination

Senator Sessions as part of his first day of questioning against the nomination to the Supreme Court made the following statement:

In Ricci, Judge Sotomayor’s empathy for one group of firefighters turned out to be prejudice against another.”

The implied predicate that if you are empathetic to one group you cannot be fair to another is not true. What empathy does is to help you see a person's side of a case from their viewpoint --it does not mean that if I see a problem from one person's view that I have pre-judged the case--in favor of one person or the other. The empathy is what we need from our judges and from our students when examining issues--empathy really describes a quality of attention that you can provide to a matter.
Bias and prejudice really are about negating any real attention to people or facts but simply in a knee jerk fashion to come to a pre-determined result.

Our ability to empathize with people who look don't look and talk like us is generally weaker --so a globally aware perspective dependsd critically on our ability to nurture our abilities in this area. My thesis developed in the book is that technology (particularly the Web 2.0 variety) allows us to use tools to overcome the natural barriers of distance to reach out and understand how despite superficial differences we share the same human qualities and aspirations. It requires teachers to be more open in pointing out the human issues involved in situations that otherwise seem remote to them. Sometimes these situations can only really be explored through following individual stories --so for example we can take on the tragedy of Darfur or a Rwanda (think Hotel Rwanda) through understanding and identifying with the individuals involved. It is a skill we can all develop and improve as we journey through life. We have seen the enormous social and moral catastrophes occur when an entire people's ability to empathize is lost--as politicians find ways to turn people into objects. Our duty as teachers, citizens and even judges is to recognize that empathy is a way to oppose prejudice and stereotyping.

Monday, July 13, 2009

A New Pedagogy for a New Age: Michael Wesch Challenges us to Think Anew

Michael Wesch is an web anthropologist -or to use his correct title
Assistant Professor of Cultural Anthropology at Kansas State
and as well as being a professor he is also a dab hand at creating some powerful YouTube videos that well illustrate his talents as a creative teacher and thinker for the new age we find ourselves in. In his four minute or so YouTube videos he can make us smile and think. In particular he has a good eye for what students have to go through these days to get an education-- and how they are stifled in this process by the 19th century concepts of knowledge and practices that the institutions they attend still practice. If you are not squirming with recognition after you see this then go back to your reading and sorry to have disturbed you. Take a look!

Now it is important to think through to the conclusions. Those students depicted in the video no longer want to be isolated from the world--they want to have an education that is relevant to it and to its concerns. How do they achieve it?
They need enlightened profs like Wesch to assist but they also need to say more clearly what they need out of the education and work collaboratively. Who is hosting such conversations that have to inevitably take into account the global nature of knowledge and the way the web has broken the paradigm of the way we create and share information. For this see his other dynamic video --The Machine is Us...

Young People All Need to Become "Citizen Ambassadors"

Hillary Clinton joins President Obama's vision of young people helping to create a more humane and peaceful world. In her recent Commencement speech at New York University (July 10, 2009) after offering one or two examples of how young people have become a force for change around the world (I did not know about Columbia where "two young college graduates, fed up with the violence in their country, used Facebook to organize 14 million people into the largest antiterrorism demonstrations in the history of the world." she offers this encouragement to the new graduates to,

"Be the special envoys of your ideals; use the communication tools at your disposal to advance the interests of our nation and humanity everywhere; be citizen ambassadors using your personal and professional lives to forge global partnerships, build on a common commitment to solving our planet's common problems. By creating your own networks, you can extend the power of governments to meet the needs of this and future generations. You can help lay the groundwork for the kind of global cooperation that is essential if we wish, in our time, to end hunger and defeat disease, to combat climate change, and to give every child the chance to live up to his or her God-given potential."

So we as teachers have a special obligation to help our students become the "force for change they want to see in the world." We need to teach the skills and aptitudes for the new century which as Secretary of State Clinton acknowledges will be solved "by the 60 percent of the world's population under the age of 30."

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Iranian Protests, and "Students Without Borders"

If you thought the way social media is being used in the context of the Iranian protest movement was a flash in the pan--think again. The web and social media is changing our world and the world our young people are growing up in. A world where a twitter, a text message, a new facebook photo forms part of a continuing conversation with peers, the media and a planetary network of others they know are out there but who they may never meet.

As proof of this new set of realities and the way some creative teachers are realizing the educational potential of a fast moving world, take a look at this recent Washington Post article:"Ballou High School students in the District made a dance video to go-go music, and an Israeli school sent back a folk dance video. A New York class talked to French students about Barack Obama's July visit to France as a presidential candidate. Students in Montgomery County and Romania last fall shared ideas on whether cyberbullies should be punished. Harford County students -- including many who had never visited nearby Baltimore -- debated the merits of chocolate milk with peers in Uzbekistan and Morocco. (Chocolate milk, the students report, is popular in all three countries.) The sixth-graders from Harford's Magnolia Middle School also chatted with Iraqis and Slovenians about popular music. Eminem was a universal hit."

Let's hope that more teachers draw confidence from such accounts and begin to connect their classrooms with the wider world. Part of the reason is that we need to prepare our young people to use the new Web 2.0 tools in a way that extends our ability to create a community beyond our own geographical boundaries. We also need to help our students understand that people in countries like Iran share the same kinds of human aspirations they do. One simple human exchange can counter efforts by politicians,media and even textbook writers to prevent us looking at others as more like ourselves than not. It is clear that through the kinds of contacts that Post writer Maria Glod describes, these "Students without Borders" are beginning to see themselves (as one of their teachers remarks,) as "global citizens."

Monday, June 22, 2009

Responding to an I-Phone World

I finally got my iPhone for Fathers Day--(amazing how my family read my mind!)there was no telling my excitement when the great 3G version of the phone arrived in the highly seductive Apple packaging. I was very thankful to them and to Apple for giving me again a gadget that truly offers something mind-expanding in the same way that my I-Pod and my I-Mac have been at prior times in my consumer history.

Now I can 'tweet' and 'facebook' (no verb comes to mind here) and 'Google' to my heart's content from almost anywhere and certainly at any time. The reality of a globally interconnected world is here in this small and lightweight package with the famous astronaut taken picture of the blue earth on the front screen --before you slide the virtual switch to see your decorative looking 'apps.'

The iPhone enters a world built for all of its swiss knife capabilities--using all the new social media that demand real time communications. But does a world so tightly socially networked have room for both a Google and a Facebook? I was set to wondering this question the other day after reading an article in Wired (not available in electronic form just yet otherwise I would link to it--it is by Fred Vogelstein by the way) that suggested the same--that there was a battle between a Facebook and Google ruled planet. The underlying reason for the competition was that there were two ways of seeing the web--one Google--top down organization of information through mathematical algorithms and the other personal and human centered. Facebook believes that with their millions of users (carefully screened off from Google's big brother like crawling engines) they can deliver answers to people on what to read, visit, listen to etc than the impersonal Google.

On reflection I think the analysis is wrong --while both envy each others' market share we now live in a Google, Facebook and Twitter world--they all have a place in helping us to know it--know each other and come to terms with our interconnected realities in different ways. Even Twitter--that comes in for a great deal of knocks-(self indulgent time wasting)has proven itself in this latest Iran crisis to have socially redeeming value. I also agree with what Clive Thompson said that "the real appeal of Twitter is almost the inverse of narcissism. It's practically collectivist — you're creating a shared understanding larger than yourself. "

The challenge is out there for journalists just as much as it is for teachers, to make sense of that "shared understanding." It is too easy as teachers to pretend that the issue of the way the new media is changing our world can be put off until another day--but it is worth tackling now--not just because more and more students are getting their news through the new media and getting their content through Google (not to mention turning up at school with smart phones) but because it threatens our relevancy as teachers. We cannot prepare our students for a world that no longer exists. We have to acknowledge that the planet's rapid fire communications are in danger of rendering our traditional textbooks and libraries as dinosaurs --we need to provide our students with the global awareness and media literacy skills that can help them make sense of both the nightly news and their academic studies.

Friday, June 19, 2009

A Lesson in the Need for Global Awareness

According to a new book The Third Reich in the Ivory Tower: Complicity and Conflict on American Campuses by Stephen H Norwood,many American university academicians were complicit in the Holocaust.

Norwood describes in an interview, university leaders as unconcerned about the Holocaust because of their own anti semitism and policies to exclude Jews from entry into their clubs that they saw as an Anglo Saxon fiefdom, "They just didn't care very deeply about Jews and anti-Semitism because they were themselves involved in maintaining quota barriers against Jewish students. There were very, very few Jews on the faculties of American universities throughout the entire inter-war period. And there are whole fields that were basically off-limits to Jews," he says.

Norwood in the same interview sets out the larger context in which this was all taking place,

"As many working and lower-middle-class Americans marched in the streets and struggled to organize a nationwide boycott of German goods and services, American universities maintained amicable relations with the Third Reich, sending their students to study at Nazified universities while welcoming Nazi exchange students to their own campuses. American’s most distinguished university presidents willingly crossed the Atlantic in ships flying the swastika flag, openly defying the anti-Nazi boycott, to the benefit of the Third Reich’s economy. By warmly receiving Nazi diplomats and propagandists on campus, they helped Nazi Germany present itself to the American public as a civilized nation, unfairly maligned in the press.”

The period that Norwood studied came to an end in 1938 with Kristallnact. With that event , Norwood writes, "American universities become significantly involved in protest against Nazism. Even then, the initiative came largely from students."

This last point reminds us that it was largely student activism that forced many American universities to divest in South Africa during the apartheid regime. For example, according to a source from the Michigan State University education school (a leader in divestment) it appears that the divestment of University of California Berkeley's $3 billion in stock holdings "was particularly important" since in 1986 when this action occured "it was the largest public institution to take a stand." One important person at least remembered the event when Nelson Mandela, during a visit to the area after his release from prison, pointed to this event "as a catalyst that ultimately helped end white-minority rule in South Africa."

It would be nice if today that sense of moral and ethical responsibility for the planet and its people came from university leaders and not just from the students. One road for universities to take inorder to regain some moral high ground in this area would be to require global education and awareness as a core part of their curriculums.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Iran Crisis and the Rise of Twitter and Social Media

There is considerable chatter in the blogosphere right now concerning how the protestors in Iran are getting their words and images out in the face of media
prohbiitions. Twitter and Facebook have become ways that friends and families as well as the media are piecing together what is happening.

I read one piece asking whether Twitter is the new CNN. Brian Scobie reported for Techcrunch on a "140 Characters conference" to "explore how Twitter was transforming the process of news gathering and lead sourcing. Joining Scoble was Ann Curry (@AnnCurry)—News Anchor on NBC’s Today Show and host of Dateline NBC, Rick Sanchez (@ricksanchezcnn)—host of the 3PM weekday edition of CNN Newsroom, Ryan Osborn (@todayshow)—producer, NBC Today Show, and Clayton Morris (@claytonmorris)—anchor, Fox News."..

Robert Scoble (the conference host) said of his inspiration for the session, “I wanted to learn more about the election in Iran and the crisis and the violence that was spilling onto the streets. I couldn’t find anything on CNN. In fact, all I could find was Larry King talking to motorcycle mechanics.”

Can Twitter fill the vacuum? Yes and no seemed to be the answer. Yes --it is real time but no we cannot keep up with its furious pace--it takes time to validate what is being said and then form it into a coherent picture. As Ann Curry said the pace of the story is simply too fast for anyone to catch up. The other point she made seemed more important--Twitter --by giving us access to so many people we can choose to "follow" allows us to understand a story from a personal angle. This more personal approach to newsgathering is effecting old media. Ann Curry's "mandate"

"for news teams is that I want them to shoot every story like it’s about their mother, brother, sister, father, and cousin. Tell it that way. That’s the road to clarity, truth, understanding and fully becoming global.”

This brings the subject back to the need for all of us whether we are young and old to have a way of bringing different worlds into focus--as Jesse Kornbluth says In Head Butler (6/17/09)"politicians and pundits who, last year, wanted us to bomb Iran, no matter how many civilians we might kill, are now passionate defenders of the Iranian protestors and dissidents, many of whom would be dead if we had sent planes aloft." This is in part because we have through the magic of the media finally began to figure out these are people with hopes, dreams and aspirations like ourselves. As we get more of our news from Twitter, Facebook, Google, YouTube and all these other forms of social media--the ability to interpret, to judge, to evaluate sources is going to fall on the consumer and so we need to figure out better ways to help them build both global awareness and media interpretive skills.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

New Chapter in Global Understanding Beginning?

We could have avoided the financial mess we are in
according to incoming dean of Stanford University's Graduate School of Business, Garth Saloner--"If there had been more "critical analytical thinking" about the weirdness of the debt market among executives at financial services institutions, then maybe we wouldn't have plunged into the toxic mess from which we're still struggling to extricate ourselves. So the San Fransico Chronicle reports.

We know we could have avoided the Iraq debacle with a bit more global thinking --as just a symptom of the mindset --we only had a relatively few Arab and Farsi speakers at the State department and elsewhere for too many years. But it is not to recent history we need to look --Vietnam provides a prime example of cultural ignorance when we misunderstood the nationalist struggle that had been going on for hundreds of years in that region and insisted on pasting our own cold war template over it.

But now we are hopefully in a new era--not just signalled with the remarks of the incoming Stanford dean as we have mentioned but with the words of our new President
Barrack Obama. His Cairo speech hit all the right notes. His refererences to his own cross cultural history and his appreciation of the US complex ties with the Muslim world were especially noteworthy:

"I also know that Islam has always been a part of America's story. The first nation to recognize my country was Morocco. In signing the Treaty of Tripoli in 1796, our second President, John Adams, wrote, "The United States has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion or tranquility of Muslims." And since our founding, American Muslims have enriched the United States. They have fought in our wars, they have served in our government, they have stood for civil rights, they have started businesses, they have taught at our universities, they've excelled in our sports arenas, they've won Nobel Prizes, built our tallest building, and lit the Olympic Torch. And when the first Muslim American was recently elected to Congress, he took the oath to defend our Constitution using the same Holy Koran that one of our Founding Fathers -- Thomas Jefferson -- kept in his personal library. (Applause.)

So I have known Islam on three continents before coming to the region where it was first revealed. That experience guides my conviction that partnership between America and Islam must be based on what Islam is, not what it isn't. And I consider it part of my responsibility as President of the United States to fight against negative stereotypes of Islam wherever they appear. (Applause.)

But that same principle must apply to Muslim perceptions of America. (Applause.) Just as Muslims do not fit a crude stereotype, America is not the crude stereotype of a self-interested empire. The United States has been one of the greatest sources of progress that the world has ever known. We were born out of revolution against an empire. We were founded upon the ideal that all are created equal, and we have shed blood and struggled for centuries to give meaning to those words -- within our borders, and around the world. We are shaped by every culture, drawn from every end of the Earth, and dedicated to a simple concept: E pluribus unum -- "Out of many, one."
To read the entire speech click here.

Let us hope we will continue on this path towards greater understanding..

Monday, May 4, 2009

Introduction to the Blog

The first decade of the 21st century is likely (among other things) to be remembered when the west at least recognized that the word "global" referred to more than a pretty looking sphere that we occasionally touched and spun around in the comfort of our libraries.

The arguments to include a serious global dimension in the curriculum are becoming stronger with every month that passes. The "fear factor" is of course driving much of this interest ever since 9/11 --we have added to our collective sense of global insecurity--including flu pandemics, global warming and in addition to terrorism we now have of course a global financial meltdown. There is a danger in all this that in responding to the need to better prepare our students with a wider vision of the world they will inherit, that we maybe giving a negative tilt to the entire enterprise. How do we help our students think more positively about their global future--in terms of the new opportunities globalization presents? I will be blogging more about this topic and I also want to discuss the responsibilities we owe to each other when almost 40% are living on $2.00a day while many of us tweet, text and email each other using a device (that if monetized in terms of unit cost and internet service) would feed a village for more than a few weeks. At any rate much to talk about and welcome to the blog!