An Urgent Rationale

It’s a question any potential Global-Learning recruit needs to ask: Why would I want to globalize my (and my school’s) curriculum? When my December 2021 edition of The Atlantic appeared in my mailbox, I was reminded of my own answer. On the cover of the magazine: Maduro, Lukashenko, Putin, Xi, and Erdogan—five autocrats presenting five good reasons for globalizing my curriculum. In my admittedly limited historical perspective, the ideal of democracy hasn’t been in this much peril since the late 1930s. While I am not conventionally patriotic, I’m a committed pluralist and small-d democrat. Consider this passage from a paragraph buried at the end of an article I found in a July/August 2019 edition of Foreign Affairs, titled “Democracy Demotion”:

Beyond this, the United States must go back to being present in, and knowledgeable of, the countries on the frontlines of authoritarian states’ battles for hearts and minds. This means a dramatic ramping up of programs such as the Fulbright scholarships (which the Trump administration has repeatedly proposed cutting); the Boren Fellowships, which support U.S. students studying critical languages abroad; and other State Department programs that send Americans to live, work, lecture, perform, and study abroad. It must also go back to welcoming people from those countries to the United States—for example, by bringing many more journalists, policy specialists, civil society leaders, elected representatives, and government officials to the United States for partnerships and training programs. This is precisely the wrong moment for the United States to turn inward and close its doors to foreigners, claiming that it needs to focus on its own problems.

(Incidentally, I heartily recommend reading the entire article by Larry Diamond, here linked.)

The bold type is mine; the temptation to turn inward in our present peril is strong—but we must avoid it.

At the same time, reading The Atlantic is not a teaching strategy; it’s merely study. Staying informed is essential, but it is not action.

To spur myself onward, I will cite a surprisingly aggressive North Carolina Board of Education Task Force for Global Education report: “If it’s not sustainable, it’s not a strategy. Effective programs that are not affordable over the long run ultimately will not serve North Carolina [or New Mexico] students and society. Our state needs scalable approaches with ongoing support. Consistent communication about the competitive advantage and opportunities that a globally-informed education will offer to individuals, communities, and our state is critical.”

My takeaway from that report: Waving the banner for global ed will yield few results if teaching colleagues don’t see a globally-focused curriculum as significantly better than what they are offering their students right now.