In the early 1980s I was in graduate school and the focus of my thesis in history was the "movement for international education during the years 1900-1925" in American high schools. The topic gripped my interest due to the fact that there had been a substantial "peace education" movement in the schools during the early years of the century just prior to and during the years of the most cataclysmic war in human history (WW 1). That contradiction was worth exploring.
My research was being done in the context of rather dramatic criticisms being leveled at our schools for not emphasizing the world enough in the curriculum. Ernest Boyer, for example, made the following stinging observation in his 1983 book, "High School: A Report on Secondary Education in America,":
"Today's high school curriculum barely reflects the global view. The world has shrunk, yet American young people remain shockingly ignorant about our own heritage and about the heritage of other nations."
Harsh words, but have things changed much since 1983? How are we doing with all this in 2009? If we believe in the power of education, then it follows that schools have a special responsibility in this regard. Note the following observation from Cyrus Vance who served as Secretary of State under Jimmy Carter:
"It is in our schools and in our universities that each generation first learns of its world. The complexities of this uncertain age thus impose special responsibilities on them to create a deeper comprehension of global issues that will make the years to follow more understandable to the body politic" ("The World in the Curriculum," 1981).
If we accept Vance's premise that schools have special responsibilities to "create a deeper comprehension of global issues," then we certainly have a lot of work to do. To those of you that are completing 21st Century World in November of 2009, or any others that may care to weigh in, I pose the following questions for your reflection and response:
1. Do you believe that we are doing enough in educating students about the wider "world" in our curriculum, or are we perpetuating "shocking ignorance" of the globe? Explain.
2. Can you select 2 or 3 things that you have learned about over the past 8 weeks that you believe fall in the category of "need to know" for ALL students? Explain.
3. Do you have suggestions for improving our approach concerning global education in our schools?
Have at it people. I hope to hear from many of you and you will receive some additional credit on your grade for your efforts.