Since I made a trip to New York City to visit the SUNY Center for Collaborative Online International Learning (SUNY COIL) last week, I’ve been thinking about and trying to find and read any scholarship on how writing teachers in colleges/universities in the US incorporate the element of “global citizenship” (GC) into their teaching.
I knew that the concept of GC is defined and perceived in a wide variety of ways, including as a terrible idea (one that promotes world governance and undermines local cultures and values), as a proxy for imperialism and commercial globalization, as a fancy buzzword that is ultimately empty of practical use and meaning, as a useless ideal, and as a “chimerical idea” (as one professor called it when rejecting my proposal for a seminar paper in graduate school; maybe he saw that I hadn’t done enough research yet and thought that I couldn’t fully engage the complex debates surrounding the topic, or maybe he thought that I took the term at face value–whatever it was, he was the professor!).
But until this week, I didn’t know that there is actually a lot of scholarship in my own discipline that is more or less relevant to the topic. You know this is why I love my discipline, Composition and Rhetoric. The field is diverse, it is interdisciplinary, and if you start looking for resources, you find good ideas about almost anything. But I digress.
So, I went to New York City last week, and was inspired. I met with the Director of the COIL Center, Dr. Jon Rubin, whose idea of connecting his students here in the US with students studying the same/similar subject somewhere else in the world had in the long run become the basis of this wonderful project. And this is why I love the US academic culture. If you have a good idea, you are passionate about it, and you commit yourself to making a difference, your idea and passion will be recognized/rewarded sooner or later. But I digress again.
I was saying that I came back from the city very inspired. I have always been incorporating the element of multicultural and transnational perspectives in my writing courses whenever feasible. The very first assignment I remember creating on my own when I first started teaching writing at a US university was this: pick a concept that seems to you or is generally considered to be universal and writing a paper showing how different cultures around the world define, perceive, and put the idea into practice by conducting some research online, using the library, and by talking to people from different countries and cultures. Asking students to explore/present multiple perspectives (and often deliberately disallowing students from making a one-sided, preconceived argument) generally characterizes the way I teach. I have also pursued my interest in transnational perspectives by presenting conference papers on non-traditional rhetorical traditions, by writing papers when I was a student on transnationally or cross-culturally significant issues (no one else called it chimerical, and I’m sure I made better sense when I talked about it with other teachers!), and at this time I am not only reviewing and serving on editorial boards of journals touching on subjects of transnational perspectives in education but also (at this time) starting work as a guest editor for a special issue of the Journal of Globalization, Technology, and Emerging Pedagogies.
After I learned about SUNY COIL, I’ve been thinking that there may be professionally significant reasons to learn more about the idea of global citizenship as a teacher, scholar, and researcher. Learning about organizations and systematic efforts and reading scholarly works on a subject of one’s deep and genuine interest can be very encouraging and powerful. That encouragement gave me the urge to share some thoughts and reflections about the idea of enhancing our students’ reading, writing, and communication skills by helping them look beyond local realities, values, and perspectives when they need to do so. Some of things I say on this blog have better shapes because I know what I want to say before I sit down to write; but this time, I just have a lot to say without having a focus or organization to what I want to say. I hope that you will skip and skim things as they interest you. (That is, sorry for the lack of good organization and focus in this entry).
To make this thinking aloud a little more worth reading than it might otherwise be, let me add two things in the following paragraphs. First, I’d like to share my thoughts about why it is important, especially for writing teachers, to inculcate in their students the desire to understand things on the basis of more than one and more than a local worldview. Second, I’d like to share some new sources that I found since last week about how teachers within and beyond the discipline of writing studies have tried to engage in the scholarship and/or bring into the classroom the idea that a sense of global citizenship in the sense of the ability to expand one’s knowledge and sensibilities beyond one’s national and cultural borders adds tremendous value to one’s education.
As a writing teacher, I am always inspired by experienced teachers and scholars in my field who have addressed the idea of being in the world (as well as in local settings) and done so in very inspiring ways. One of the most inspiring scholar in my field in this regard is Jacqueline Royster, who gave a powerful speech at the National Writing Project meeting of 2009. Let me quote at some detail from her speech, titled “Responsible Citizenship in a Global Environment”:
As teachers of language, writing and related skills, rhetoric, literacy, literature, and digital media; as teachers of other subjects who make good use of writing and related skills, we don’t just teach students to use and appreciate language, as if writing is just clear, precise, socially appropriate, “beautiful expression.” If we do our jobs thoroughly and well. . . . by helping our students to develop their language abilities—their powers of observation and critical thinking; their problem-posing and problem solving expertise; their reading, writing, speaking, and listening skills; the forms and functions of language use through various media in various contexts for various purposes—by helping our students to develop such abilities, we are really helping them to develop a thoughtful and critical perspective on the world in which they find themselves. . . . We’re helping them . . . to develop the capacity to operate within their communities—far and near—with agency and authority over their own lives. . . . Perhaps most powerfully of all, we are helping them . . . to use a broad landscape of language resources and technologies to excellent effect, instead of setting aside these powers in the face of the easy seduction of an ever-broadening horizon of hubris, self-absorption, despair, violence, destruction, and incredible ignorance.
Among other inspiring scholars in this regard is one of my wonderful professional mentors, Cynthia Selfe, who (often in collaboration with other wonderful scholars of writing and rhetoric) has been putting the idea of global citizenship front and center in her scholarship, projects, and teaching about digital media and literacy. Here is a multimodal book project that she’s done with Patrick Berry and Gail Hawisher, titled Transnational Literate Lives in Digital Times. All the way back in 1999, Selfe and Hawisher edited a collection titled Global Literacies and the World Wide Web. Let me copy the book’s blurb from Google Books where it’s possible to read quite a good portion of the book. The blurb says, the authors have
brought together scholars from around the world, including: Mexico, Hungary, Australia, Palau, Cuba, Scotland, Greece, Japan, Africa and the United States. Each represents and examines on line literacy practices in their specific culture. / [The book] resists a romanticised and inaccurate vision of global oneness. Instead, this book celebrates the dynamic capacity of these new self defined literacy communities to challenge the global village myth with robust, hybrid redefintions of identity that honour ethnic, cultural, economic, historical, and ideological differences. This is a lively and original challenge to conventional notions of the relationship between literacy and technology.
I’m not done yet with Selfe and company on the subject of a global/translocal view of literacy, technology, and education at large. In 2006, Hawisher, Selfe, and two other authors wrote an article titled “Globalization and Agency: Designing and Redesigning the Literacies of Cyberspace” for the journal College English (the best I could find online for this was just a preview of the first page from a database). One more, “Globalism and Multimodality in a Digitized World: Computers and Composition Studies” published in Pedagogy (again, could only add the view of first page behind an old wall) is another piece that is a must read on the subject. Finally, I must add the most recent work by Selfe and company (okay, this time it includes me, and I’m not just creating a plug because this work is really interesting), a multimodal edited collection titled Stories That Speak To Us,” in which Selfe and Ulman, Scott, DeWitt, and Selfe present curated exhibits of digital literacy narratives submitted to the Digital Archive of Literacy Narratives (DALN) by people from around the world.
I am yet to find books and articles specifically on how to incorporate the component of global citizenship, global awareness, or cross-cultural and transnational perspectives into college writing courses. I know that these are very common terms in the discipline: many writing teachers do consider a diversity of perspectives and an awareness of cultural and epistemological differences a basic ability for writing and communicating well. So, it seems that we are yet to shift from theoretically, broadly, and generally discussing the ideas into developing specific pedagogical models, teaching methods, and resources to help students develop a cross-cultural perspectives that go beyond the traditional idea of multiculturalism and embraces a more transnational and global view of cultural and epistemological differences and the need to learn them. Or it may be that as I read more of the scholarship on “globalization” broadly defined, I will get to the more specific works that I want to read. As you can see in this fairly extensive bibliography on Rebecca Moore Howard’s bibliography of the discipline website, there is a lot of the broad/general scholarship. This is a very extensive bibliography, so if I were to point out one article in it that stands out to me (even though it only addresses a range of theoretical issues including research methodologies in composition/rhetoric and globalization, and even though much of the discussion is rather too political for my taste), I would pick one written by Wendy Hesford for the PMLA.
Beyond my particular discipline, there is more scholarship about global citizenship and cross-cultural/transnational communicative competency in the scholarship of general education. One particular nationally visible initiative that comes to mind is the project called Shared Futures: Global Learning and Social Responsibility, run by the American Association of Colleges and Universities. AACU has been trying to bring together the more conventional objective of general education, civic learning, and the more modern objective of global citizenship/awareness. The project’s introduction and overview page states that
The challenges our graduates will face with growing urgency are increasingly defined as global problems: environment and technology, health and disease, conflict and insecurity, poverty and development. Similarly, the goals of democracy, equity, justice, and peace encompass the globe and demand deep understanding from multiple perspectives. The interconnections and interdependencies of global systems have been mirrored in a surge of interdisciplinary research centers on campuses. Yet, many colleges and universities struggle to translate research and expertise into practices that help align general education curricula with expectations for educating students who can thrive in a global economy and become socially responsible and civically engaged leaders at home and abroad.
As a result of AACU’s concerted push toward inculcating in students the sense of global citizenship as a general education learning goal alongside the goals of civic education and service learning, there are dedicated projects and programs that many US universities have started establishing for promoting diversity, democracy, and global citizenship. A good example of this is the program at Texas A&M University. After many years of promoting and partnering with universities across the country, AACU now provides a rubric for assessment of programs and courses that attempt to incorporate and achieve those objectives into their general education. Here’s the rubric known as the Global Learning VALUE Rubric. In a special issue of its journal Diversity and Democracy, AACU published a range of articles and reports earlier this year, which included the above two articles and also this one, which described how to assess students’ perspectives on civic and global learning.
Related to the discourse about global citizenship within the scholarship and pedagogy of general education, there is a lot of literature on the subject within the discourse of service learning and civic education. If you want to get an overview of the idea in the context of service learning, the dissertation described here does a good job of focusing on global citizenship from a service learning perspective. The integration of global awareness as a learning objective is one of the more neutral and popular manifestations of the idea, as you can see in another dissertation that also focuses on globalization in the context of service learning.
If civic education and service learning sound like obscure ideas that only a few odd teachers talk about in college, there are more fun and practical ways for integrating global understanding into teaching. Here is one that uses Ted Talk videos as the basis of class activities on global citizenship and civic engagement. For teachers of literature, or teachers who use literature in their writing courses, one of the more respectable ways for broadening students’ intellectual horizons is to teach world literature.
Before I conclude what is becoming a longer-than-desired blog entry, let me emphasize that the idea of “global citizenship” is quite complicated and that it is often understood and used in really problematic ways. And I also want to note that those who reject the idea altogether (with whatever reasons) tend to pick up a bad interpretation of the idea in order to do so!
Yes, many of the ideas and applications of global citizenship that I came across seemed problematic because, for instance, the idea of a “global citizen” is often defined as “a person who places their identity with a “global community” above their identity as a citizen of a particular nation or place”! In fact, I found that some people have used GC for implying dangerous notions such as “world government,” giving more reasons for the skeptics to question the whole idea in any form or manifestation. You can see that the term is understood and applied in many and often problematic ways even if you just try to look up its entry on Wikipedia.
Just in case you want to start with some basics on global citizenship, I would recommend (other than Wikipedia entry, JK) looking at how teachers try to promote global thinking among students in secondary school and not only within the US but in Europe and elsewhere. Here is a summary of definition and debates about global citizenship written by a professor at the University of Birmingham, UK. As you can see from this overview, many educators interested in this subject tend to lean toward activism based on the idea of promoting but also “fighting” for peace and justice in the world. This guide on education for global citizenship outlines other important element of GC. Let me include the key objectives from the guide if you’d like to see a preview here:
1. knowledge and understanding: social justice and equity, diversity, globalization and interdependence, sustainable development, peace and conflict
2. skills: critical thinking, ability to argue effectively, ability to challenge injustice and inequalities, respect for people and things, cooperation and conflict resolution
3. values and attitudes: sense of identity and self esteem, empathy, commitment to social justice and equity, value and respect for diversity, concern for the environment and commitment to sustainable development, belief that people can make a difference
And, finally, here’s a wonderful guest post at InsideHigherEd by the director of NAFSA which almost made me think that I have nothing new to say here when I first found and read it; the writer does a great job of describing the idea of GC, discussing why it matters in higher education, and showing how universities and organizations have advanced/implemented the idea to enhance college education. So, the article is both a primer and a thoughtful article on the subject. I sat to write this entry even though I couldn’t come up with a focused idea and also felt like I should instead tweet a few links and leave it for now because I wanted to further explore and share what I found about GC and GNL “as a writing teacher.”
I hope that you found something useful or informative as you skimmed this long entry. Please share a thought in the comments section.