Citizenship in Global Space: Convergences and Departures

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Education for Global Citizenship

“…increasing calls for educational provision to develop a more global orientation.” 

Mark Priestly, Gert Biesta, Gren Mannion and Hamish Ross (2010) introduce a network of policy drivers in the UK including departments of education, NGOs and political groups calling for schools to “equip children and young people with the knowledge, skills, and dispositions that will make them more aware of, and more engaged with, global issues and phenomena.” However, they note that “the reach of this global curricular trend has been largely homogenous within the UK and elsewhere,” a statement supported by recent British Columbia Ministry of Education Focus on Learning Forum: Rising to the Global Challenge.

Given this reality, the authors set out to define just what is meant by “Global Citizenship.” This discussion introduces two sets of inquiries:

  1. What is ‘global’ about global citizenship? What are the origins of this view, and how are these origins converging in our particular historical moment? Also, what are the implications of such convergences?
  2. How do we differentiate between Citizenship and Global Citizenship? “What kind of notion of citizenship is assumed in or promoted by the idea of global citizenship?”

In sketching out these various conceptions of what is meant by ‘global’ and ‘citizenship,’ the authors highlight distinct tensions between promoting citizenship as a competence (outcome) or as a social practice (process), as well as the distinction between citizenship as a social membership or political affiliation. And by looking at three sub-fields of education as points of convergence, these tensions and intersections are shown to represent areas of further discussion in educational policy discourses surrounding education for global citizenship, as each “appears to allow diverse meanings to converge while subordinating some aspects of the constituent meanings.”

Environmental, Development, and Citizenship Education

The authors present the lineages of environmental, development and citizenship education as the theoretical forbearers to our present press toward education for global citizenship. These lineages are raised for discussion with the caveat that “as each of the three traditions arrives and accepts or resists education for global citizenship, there are concerns, losses and points of departure” to consider.

Environmental Education

The history of environmental education “binds it to a struggle for the well-being of the planet that is essentially a global sense of responsibility and camaraderie with world populations. ” However, problematically environmental education is vulnerable to efforts of ‘greenwashing,’ or initiatives that allocate “significantly more money or time… advertising being ‘green,’ than is actually spent on environmentally sound practices.” As the authors point out, environmental education “is a highly attractive concept that is likely to appeal to even opposed interest groups.

As these themes are co-opted, education for global citizenship risks succumbing to “taken-for-granted assumptions that development implies in a Western [neoliberal] economic view,” and the potential to

“essentially [present] education as an instrument for the conservation of the environment, which is reduced to the status of resource for economic development, itself seen as an essential precondition and goal for societal development” (Sauve and Berryman, 2005 p. 230).

Thus we see that environmental education presents the possibility for education for global citizenship to “extend citizens’ rights across time, space, generation and species,” as well as the peril of an attempt to “close the circle” of discourse to exort a particular manifestation of neoliberal citizenship: commodification.

Development Education

Development education provides “a pedagogical reaction to the developmental state of the world society [that works] within the normative premise of overcoming inequality by being oriented towards a model of global justice.” Along with striving to teach competencies “for life in a society” emphasizing an uncertain future, and increased complexity, development education incorporates aspects of sustainability education and a perspective on global justice that may provide a meaningful point of departure which could be meaningfully synthesized by education for global citizenship.

By recognizing an essential relationship between global citizenship and development policies and constructs, governments, NGOs and others might seek to define a justice-oriented citizenship of global activism.

Citizenship Education

Globalization has compelled a response of “global citizenship” that might enable justice or promote a sense of duty and responsibility toward fellow citizens of the planet, even those who may be far away. In this view, the private sphere (in habits of consumption, for instance) becomes political in the manner of the public, as injustice relates to sustainability and democracy.

However, the risk exists that such consensus-driven notions of what is right and how best to achieve it will be difficult to arrive at, as well as the possibility that an emphasis on the private sphere and a voluntary duty to “do the right thing” will leave a western public sphere to continue unchecked. There is also the tendency for “global citizenship” to focus on the creation of a competitive workforce and contribute to economic growth.

Considerations and Concerns

A primary concern in looking at this type of global citizenship is the ever-present threat of meandering into hegemony, as

“it could be argued that the official take on the curricular global turn is, in fact, a localized feature of modern western countries that perhaps seeks to transcend and occlude other alternative local (non-global or anti-globalization) perspectives.”

The authors implore those who would promote such an idea of global citizenship to

“look closer and more critically to see if it is functioning as an ideological concept that travels well, but is working (sometimes inadvertently, but sometimes deliberately) as a tool of western modern imperialism; to homogenize and prescribe goals, thereby reducing ‘the conceptual space for self-determination, autonomy, and alternative ways of thinking'” (Jickling and Wals 2008).

This critical inquiry into global citizenship ought explore various dimensions of citizenship, and ask what sort of citizen education should be developing.

Would education for global citizenship promote a more social, or political citizenship? Is such community responsibility and cohesion driven by unity and common character, obedience and patriotism? Or a more democratic quality that seeks to govern expressions of our diverse perspectives?

Might we see the education of the global citizen as a set of competences or outcomes, or as a praxis of behaviours oriented toward an ever-evolving set of values and goals?

And if we are to find that we would like to proceed in this more democratic, process-oriented vein, we must seriously consider the question of whether such citizenship experiences are even possible within the school or institutional setting.

A Critical Citizenship

For their part, the authors suggest that education for global citizenship demands the development of an ongoing critical citizenship as opposed to one that would be seen as more compliance-based, noting that “more critical practices of education for global citizenship may serve to counter hegemonic views of globalization and narrow social conceptions of citizenship.”

The TALONS meet the Golden Spruce

The Golden Spruce won the Governor General's Award for English Language non-fiction in 2005.

“… a creature that seemed more at home in a myth or fairy tale: a spruce tree with golden needles.”

The TALONS classes have been beginning their study of English, Socials and Science with the Governor General Award Winning Golden Spruce, by John Vaillant, and begun their blogging year with a host of introductory blog posts – in poems, painting, prose and no shortage of personality – covering the first four chapters of a book that is about more than trees:
It is not simply a tale of a tree. It is the tale of a people, of the changes made to a land ‘west of west’ , the mixing of two very distinct cultures.  The tale of  a region, one of the most rugged and natural left in the world. Haida Gwaii exists not far from places such as Danger Island and Danger Passage, and the names were not given idly.  It is a place hard to understand for those who do not live there, and I certainly don’t.  It is the type of place you need to experience to fully understand.

Liam

I glower upwards through the murky water as the hull of a human boat passes over my head. Foolish humans, I think as I lay in the depths of a rocky and jagged bank, with my hands behind my back. So greedy,so malicious. These new comers with their intrusive floating crafts, how I despise them all.

Donya

Megan's Hecate Visions

Megan

As the days go by

do they sit and cry?

the loggers who cut

down the ancients?

Kelsey

We had begun our journey like any other ship and her crew; a group of courageous young men and a ship better than any other. We were going to conquer this wild land and use to its fullest extent. Little did we know, we were in for no easy adventure. We left our hometown over half a year ago. It was after braving Cape Horn and sailing northward for thirteen thousand kilometres when the nightmare truly began. At first, we were simply surrounded by a thick, opaque layer of fog. Then, we had to face heartless winds, uncaring currents, and frighteningly random whirlpools. My socks were the first of my belongings to be terrorized by this inhospitable environment. Then it was our ropes. And finally, our stomachs.

Iris

Donyas Wildest of the Wild

Donya's Wildest of the Wild

Every so often, an oddity is sent upon us. A twist to a seemingly identical fill of trees. John Vaillant reveals a truth to difference; that noticeable is none, unless it posses a difference which appeals to a set of human eyes. The “golden” spruce was extremely noticeable due to its colour. Other natural monuments may be noticeable due to identifying features. But as they say, beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder. In my opinion, beauty alone did not declare the golden spruce’s popularity.

Jonathan

They are gone now, the ancient chants that I used to hear, the heavy drum beats that would fill the night air with a pulse that could send shivers down your spine. It has come, and now it has gone. The houses they once occupied, bustling with life like an ant hill, have collapsed in on themselves. Now only moldering piles of wood that are giving in to the forests demands.

Megan

So now humanity (or rather, B.C.’s government) is faced with the decision of what to do with this natural resource. Do we chop it all down? (probably a bad idea) Do we leave it alone and make the mere thought of chopping down a tree a crime? (also, probably a bad idea) Personally, I think that there’s no simple answer to this question. Logging creates hundreds of jobs, and it’s one of B.C.’s primary ways of making money. However, we can’t just go off chopping down whatever we like. As you have no doubt heard before, trees are rather important to the environment, which, in turn, is rather important to us.

Nick