Sunday, December 22, 2013

Signs of Hope at the End of 2013

As we close out 2013 a remarkable thing happened, Peggy Noonan, former Reagan speechwriter, Wall Street Journal opinion writer and Republican darling tells the startling truth about what might be passing through the minds of the world's thinking billionaires. While many  dream of ever bigger houses and yachts some worry about the market continuing to rise. Noonan overheard a New York billionaire say these unlikely words,   "I hate it when the market goes up. Every time I hear the stock market went up I know the guillotines are coming closer."  Noonan reflects that self-made, broadly accomplished was concerned that the gap between the ever richer haves and the increasingly poverty line and below have nots "has become too extreme, too dramatic, and static," and "fears it will eventually tear the country apart and give rise to policies that are bitter and punishing, not helpful and broadening." What is arresting apart from the stark choice of imagery is the fact that this commentary is published on capitalism's flagship newspaper, the Wall Street Journal. There maybe some hope that the financial and political captains of the country (more or less the same people) maybe having second thoughts about the increasing unfairness of a system that keeps rewarding those with the wealth and will think again about continuing to fray the  safety net that keeps millions of people from destitution. Liberals who propound such views are usually vilified by the right wing media machine as well "liberals" who know nothing about the need to run profitable businesses or some such tired put down,  but they are in reality capitalists best friend, trying to make an inherently unequal system slightly more humane and by extension less unstable. Thus for example initiatives such as passing higher cost of living related minimum wage laws are designed to keep the system from not breaking down so completely that families cannot get properly fed and clothed and people cannot afford to live in dignity.  Obama with nothing left to run for but a legacy as a change agent to protect, should be dedicating his presidency to closing the wealth gap.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Global Education At A Crossroads

Since the 1970s, there has been a long struggle to have global education accepted as part of the curriculum and as a subject for serious study. Since 9/11, despite the upshot in interest all things global, the states and the federal government have lacked sustained interest to push for more global education in the curriculum.
In 2008 the standards of only two states, Maryland and Mississippi, contained the term “global citizenship.” Remarkably, the Common Core standards pay only a glancing attention to global issues. Maryland was the only state to receive “Race to the Top” funding that included international education and global citizenship in 2011.
Generally, what has occurred over the half century that spans the term’s first use in the 1970s until today is an increased number of teachers who are experimenting with making their classrooms more global -- but no commensurate increase in the number of schools or school districts that could be termed fully global in nature. Nowadays, when schools or districts reference global issues, it is often done in the context of promoting something referred to as “global competence” or even more nebulously "21st century skills." The terms sound appealing, particularly to the business community that sees both as embracing the need for workers equipped with both foreign language and STEM skills. But it strips out the core meaning why many of us first got involved with global education movement: the need for students to truly understand people from other cultures.
To do this effectivelyas much of the research since Hanvey wrote his masterful essay, “An attainable global perspective,” bears out, is to collaborate with people from other parts of the world. Following the growing sophistication of online tools such as Skype and services such as iEARN and ePals, these approaches are now more widely available but to tend to require a deeper, longer-term commitment on behalf of teachers than many of them can nowadays afford to give. Such teachers are in danger of becoming marginalized, as classroom time is ever more taken up with teaching only what is measurable and they find alack of support for the more difficult to quantify cultural skills that students only learn through such longer term collaborative efforts. As a result of these developments, the global education movement faces an uncertain future.
For global education to grow as a field and not just survive, individual teachers who care about creating the next generation of world-minded students need to collaborate together through social networks or forums such as the global education conference affords to make clear their core principles. They need to work with their colleagues to help their entire schools become global, with sustained partnerships that help enrich the curriculum across disciplines and grade levels. To make progress we will need to extend and expand our discussions from beyond our fellow “true believers” to include our fellow teachers and school leaders as well as parents and community leaders. The field will need to examine areas where it can have greatest impact. Working towards an aspirational goal of creating global 21st-century citizens will require entire schools to develop partnerships with counterpart schools around the globe that can be sustained -- so that when one globally minded teacher leaves, the entire program does not then disappear.
For this type of vision to be sustainable, we will also need university partners who can evaluate the harder-to-measure metrics connected with what it means to move from an awareness of different cultural perspectives to a willingness to act as a global citizen and provide the all important preservice and inservice professional development that is today so noticeably lacking.
Activities such as those during Connected Educator Month and the Global Education conference are a start in the right direction.