ERIC Identifier: ED370882
Publication Date: 1994-04-00
Author: Titus, Charles
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse for
Social Studies/Social Science Education Bloomington IN.
Civic Education for Global Understanding. ERIC Digest.
Preparation of young people for effective citizenship has been a major
concern of American educators. Today, however, when the world has been made
immeasurably smaller through revolutionary developments in communications and
transportation, and as the planet is threatened by a constellation of
transnational problems of staggering complexity, a different approach to
citizenship preparation seems needed. This approach--which might be called civic
education for global understanding--includes a renewed engagement with and
dedication to the civic needs of our nation. It continues to involve "explicit
and continuing study of the basic concepts and values underlying our democratic
community and constitutional order" in the United States (Butts 1988, 184). It
also incorporates, however, recognition that Americans are residents of a planet
that has become a global village. This development requires our civic attention
and action on a transnational and transcultural scale (Boulding 1988).
WHY DO AMERICANS NEED CIVIC EDUCATION FOR GLOBAL
Plainly, American civic involvement needs restoration. Stuart
Langton (1990, 305) has observed that post-modern life in the United States has
created a number of "alienating conditions" which have become "barriers to
healthy civic life today." These barriers, according to Langton, include an
unending and rapid cascade of change, especially in the amount of information
available and the speed with which it is handled; an enormous range of complex
problems at local, national, and international levels; and confusion about "the
amount of disinformation in advertising and public debate." Such factors
contribute to an "apathy and consumerism" which numb Americans and induce in
them a sense of helplessness "in the face of forces beyond their control."
This alienation has, according to Suzanne Morse (1989, 1), contributed to a
continuing decline in the number of citizens who vote in public elections.
Further, there has been troubling unfamiliarity of voters on key issues and
problems when they do go to the polls. Serious societal dislocation such as
crime, homelessness, and violence haunts America. These conditions call for
renewed civic education about the structures and functions of American
government and about a sense of community in America.
But beyond these very real demands for citizenship education devoted to the
internal civic requirements of the nation, there exists, too, a need for a
broader understanding that will equip young Americans to live effectively in the
complex and interrelated world to which their country is inextricably connected.
A host of transnational problems, including the disposal and regulation of
nuclear weapons, the world-wide difficulties of environmental pollution,
shortages of natural resources, and a rapidly emerging interdependent world
economy, has in one way or another transformed the lives of almost all
Americans. Our students need familiarity with what Elise Boulding (1988) has
called a "global civic culture." That familiarity would help Americans recognize
their obligations to their own nation and to the planet at large.
WHAT ARE THE COMPONENTS OF CIVIC EDUCATION FOR GLOBAL UNDERSTANDING?
The first component involves educating young Americans
about their nation's history and government, with emphasis upon the core
concepts of democracy in the United States. The core concepts reflect content
from four systems--political, legal, economic, and social--which when conjoined
form the substance of democratic citizenship (Jarolimek 1990). This first
component acknowledges American citizenship in a nation-state, which has its own
history, traditions, culture, national identity, and national interests.
The second component sharpens student awareness that the responsibilities of
citizenship extend far beyond national boundaries and recognizes that
irreversible global changes are challenging long-standing conceptions of
American civic education. It enhances a growing sense of a civic responsibility
to the planet at large. This second component of civic education for global
understanding involves "development of competent and responsible citizens whose
perspective, knowledge, and skills will enable them to participate more
effectively in local, state, national, and international affairs" (Branson 1989,
WHAT ARE THE GOALS OF CIVIC EDUCATION FOR GLOBAL
Included in the first set of goals is a revivified civic
interest and increased participation in community and national affairs by
citizens; an improved civic literacy which flows from a sound understanding of
the fundamental structure and operation of the American governmental system
(including the United States Constitution); and an ability to make reasoned,
reflective decisions about public policy issues. A renewed appreciation of
America's history and cultures is also included among these goals, as is a
heightened respect for an understanding of the bedrock of the American political
experience. Achievement of these goals will help insure that Americans maintain
and improve the democratic framework which has sustained the United States since
its founding more than two centuries ago.
The second set of goals encompasses an enhanced recognition by Americans that
their obligations of citizenship extend beyond the nation's frontiers; that all
people have a common identity as members of the human species; and that the
plethora of conditions once categorized as national problems are now, or very
soon will be, transnational problems that require a commitment to a "global
civic culture" if they are to be solved (Boulding 1988). Also included among
this second group of goals is a better understanding of this nation's changing
international role in a post-Cold War world and knowledge of the expanding
network of international connections which continues to tie nations ever more
closely to each other. Meeting this set of goals will contribute to an
enlightened recognition among Americans of the full range of this country's
global connections and involvement.
HOW IS CITIZENSHIP EDUCATION FOR GLOBAL UNDERSTANDING TO BE IMPLEMENTED?
Implementation of a meaningful and effective civic education
for global understanding requires changes from the way much civic education has
traditionally been carried out. One change involves how we teach. As William T.
Callahan (1990, 338) has commented, "[G]ood citizens are made not born. The
repertoire of intellectual and interpersonal skills needed for effective civic
participation must be learned, and to be learned well they must be practiced." The skills, which include the ability to help shape public judgment, are created
by meeting, talking, and thinking with other members of the student's community
inside and outside of the school.
Benjamin Barber (1992, 245-261) has outlined a model program of civic
education at Rutgers University which teaches citizenship through a combination
of schooling and community service. A similar program, with some modification,
could be applied to secondary schools as well. Such efforts can help us renew
our commitment to the national community through service to the local community.
Elise Boulding has described how much progress toward what she has called "a
global civic culture" can be made through our individual participation in one or
more "INGOs"--international non-governmental organizations, such as sister-city
programs, Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts, sports associations, and other groups.
Such participation can help to shatter our narrow, national encapsulation and
expand our global understanding.
Implementation of civic education for global understanding calls for changes
in the traditional approach to social studies subject matter as well. A
revitalized history curriculum, which focuses on global connections in United
States history (and there are many of these) can illuminate both our own past
and our nation's continuing place in the world.
The study of geography is of paramount importance for it reveals where the
resources of the world--human and non-human--are located and how they are
related. It focuses on those geo-political factors which plainly will help shape
our own history and the history of others; and it expands our knowledge of
cultures beyond our own national boundary lines (Jarolimek 1990).
Economics too assumes a significant role in this new approach to civic
education. Improved understanding of economics, particularly in terms of
international trade and how such trade has been shaped by the development of
manufacturing processes and wage and labor considerations in many countries, is
of cardinal importance (Jarolimek 1990).
Achieving a new civic education for global understanding will be difficult.
Many factors mitigate against it. These include the inertia induced by what has
been called the "deep structure of American schools" (Tye 1992, 10) and
resistance by some who, alarmed by the term "global," may see such efforts as a
threat to national unity. Yet the future of American democracy depends in large
part on how well the citizens of our nation gain the competence of citizenship
needed to carry out their civic responsibilities, both here at home and in the
REFERENCES AND ERIC RESOURCES
The following list of
resources includes references used to prepare this Digest. The items followed by
an ED number are available in microfiche and/or paper copies from the ERIC
Document Reproduction Service (EDRS). For information about prices, contact
EDRS, 7420 Fullerton Road, Suite 110, Springfield, Virginia 22153-2842;
telephone numbers are (703) 440-1440 and (800) 443-3742. Entries followed by an
EJ number, annotated monthly in CURRENT INDEX TO JOURNALS IN EDUCATION (CIJE),
are not available through EDRS. However, they can be located in the journal
section of most larger libraries by using the bibliographic information
provided, requested through Interlibrary Loan, or ordered from the UMI reprint
Barber, Benjamin R. AN ARISTOCRACY OF EVERYONE: THE POLITICS OF EDUCATION AND
THE FUTURE OF AMERICA. New York: Ballantine Books, 1992.
Boulding, Elise. BUILDING A GLOBAL CIVIC CULTURE: EDUCATION FOR AN
INTERDEPENDENT WORLD. New York: Teachers College Press, 1988.
Branson, Margaret S. INTERNATIONAL AND CITIZENSHIP EDUCATION: NEED AND NEXUS.
Paper presented at the International Conference on Constitutional Government and
the Development of an Enlightened Citizenry, Los Angeles, CA, September, 1989.
ED 314 302.
Butts, R. Freeman. THE MORALITY OF DEMOCRATIC CITIZENSHIP: GOALS FOR CIVIC EDUCATION IN THE REPUBLIC'S THIRD CENTURY. Calabasas, CA: Center for Civic Education, 1988. ED 341 593.
Callahan, William T., Jr. "Conference Recommendations." In CITIZENSHIP FOR
THE 21ST CENTURY, edited by William T. Callahan, Jr., and Ronald A. Banaszak.
Bloomington, IN: ERIC Clearinghouse for Social Studies/Social Science Education,
1990. ED 329 450.
Jarolimek, John. "The Knowledge Base of Democratic Citizens." THE SOCIAL
STUDIES 81 (September/October,1990): 21-23. EJ 419 172.
Langton, Stuart. "Citizenship Participation and Citizenship Education in the
21st Century." In CITIZENSHIP FOR THE 21ST CENTURY, edited by William T.
Callahan, Jr., and Ronald A. Banaszak. Bloomington, IN: ERIC Clearinghouse for
Social Studies/Social Science Education, 1990. ED 329 450.
Morse, Suzanne. RENEWING CIVIC CAPACITY: PREPARING COLLEGE STUDENTS FOR
SERVICE AND CITIZENSHIP. ASHE-ERIC Higher Education Report No. 8. Washington,
DC: School of Education and Human Development, The George Washington University,
1989. ED 321 704.
Tye, Kenneth. "Restructuring Schools: Beyond the Rhetoric." PHI DELTA KAPPAN
74 (September 1992): 9-14. EJ 449 869.