Pencils, Backpacks, and Perspective: Globalization and Education

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Let’s talk about the world. It’s big and round, but more importantly, the countries of this planet are more interconnected and interdependent than ever before. I don’t feel like the printed word can get across the gravity with which I make that statement. It is incredible how far we’ve come, but sometimes I feel as though some Americans don’t recognize the consequences of globalization. What do I mean by that?

Well, I spent my early childhood in Washington, D.C., a city with a constantly changing population and a significant portion of foreigners. From an early age, experience taught me not only tolerance but also how important our relations with other countries really were. Fast-forward a bit, and I attended a high school that was part of a global network of schools. From Australia to Uganda, they were pretty much everywhere, and we did as much as we could to take advantage of that. We participated in exchange programs, hosted other students, raised money for our more disadvantaged sister schools. And all along, we were encouraged to remember how much we had in common with these students all around the world. This significantly influenced my decision to attend one of the most global universities and spend my first year of college abroad. I was educated to be a part of this very big, yet very small world.

It is not enough to educate students to simply be functional citizens of our country. More than anything, I think, it is important to educate them to be citizens of the world. Our country began as a melting pot, and it is no less of one today. Our economy is strongly connected to other economies in the world. The US is one of the big players in the world, yes, but that doesn’t mean we should pretend everyone else doesn’t matter. I am all for encouraging foreign language learning from a young age, teaching about the cultures and customs of other nations, creating a dialogue that spans continents. I simply cannot be convinced that a student is well-rounded if they have little or no worldly knowledge.

I think it’s important to remember that today’s students will be our future leaders. They need to know what it is to be a part of an increasingly small world. They need to know what it is like to discover commonalities with people you thought couldn’t possibly be more different from you. We inherently fear what we do not know or understand – so let’s show them! If we want to prepare students for their future, we’ve got to do it thoroughly haven’t we? Figuring out how to prepare them is understandably a big challenge, but here’s one component we shouldn’t have to think much about. We either accept the world as it is, chaotic and interwoven, or deny it, but only one choice will benefit everyone in the end.