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Education in Global Education

The Development Of Global Perspective In U.s. Education

The progressive education movement of the twentieth century included several components, one of which was the emphasis placed on the democratic educational approach, accepting the interests and needs of an increasingly diverse student body in an increasingly interdependent world. In the 1920s this was reflected in the rebirth of comparative studies. In the 1940s, progressive education was reclassified as intergroup education. In the 1950s it focused on area studies, race relations, and ethnic studies. In the 1960s, it added peace and conflict studies, human rights education, international studies, intercultural studies, and open classrooms.

In the 1970s, the women's liberation and African-American liberation movements blossomed in both positive and negative terms. In the field of education this was reflected in the introduction of multicultural and environmental education. The 1980s saw the introduction of global education and world studies. From the 1980s to the early 2000s global education as well as multicultural education remained constant in the historical context.

Thus, global perspective in education is not a new idea. Yet, while efforts in this direction can be traced in earlier history, World War II is something of a watershed in its development. After the war, a widespread movement began around the world to foster education for "world understanding" with the purpose of preventing a third world war. Children's books in war-torn Europe, Japan, and the USSR featured peace and antiwar themes and empathetic stories about children of other lands.

In the United States the Cold War chilled and slowed the movement for a time, especially in the 1950s, when McCarthyites saw "communism" behind every effort to increase international cooperation. But even in this climate, some educational leaders foresaw that the United States could not remain isolated forever from the rest of the world and that "international education" was in the national self-interest. The Soviet launching of Sputnik in 1957 was a spur not only to improved science education but also to increased pressure in the United States for international education. A year later Congress passed the 1958 National Defense Education Act (NDEA). Under Title VI it mandated the teaching of foreign studies, languages, and cultural understanding. However, practice did not match the preaching; allocations were minimal. Years of effort followed, as groups of educators and others in the United States pressed for congressional support for substantive international and global education programs. For a time, under the Carter administration and the leadership of Ernest Boyer as commissioner of education, major breakthroughs seemed imminent. Boyer condemned education that failed to acquaint students with the interdependence of all humans and the fragility of life in an unstable world. In this period, fourteen states adopted global education guidelines or programs. And although the notion of global education came under fire during the Reagan administration, support was growing among some U.S. business and educational leaders.

But even among those who did accept the need for global education, there was no widespread agreement on its definition, purposes, or objectives. Phrases such as education for world understanding; intercultural, international, global, or foreign affairs education; global perspectives in education, or transnational or planetary perspectives; or education for spaceship earth—these were used interchangeably, even by professionals, blurring important distinctions. This ambiguity may be symptomatic of the new and tenuous nature of thought in the field and of the different emphases of different persons and institutions at a given time.

The various terms also reflect a certain historical development. References to "global," "interdependent," "transnational," and "planetary" education emanated in part from a new perspective of the planet—as seen from outer space—in which national political boundaries were seen as artificial human creations, the real subject being the life and functioning integrity of the planet as a whole.

Perhaps most important, the different terms are symptomatic of changing—and sometimes conflicting—worldviews or paradigms. For example, phrases such as foreign-affairs or international education suggest a state-centric vision in which the major actors are seen as governments. In contrast, terms such as global, planetary, transnational, or interdependent education suggest a frame of reference in which a variety of actors—economic, environmental, cultural, and popular as well as governmental—are considered for their impact on the world as a whole. National interest here is seen as inseparable from world interest.

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