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  • Letter from the Editorial Board
  • Hillary Parkhouse

With the recent emphasis on equipping students with 21st century skills, the notion of global competence is receiving greater attention (e.g., Council of Chief State School Officers, 2010; Longview Foundation, 2008; Partnership for 21st Century Skills, 2011). When speaking with teachers, however, we have observed that many are not sure what global competence means much less how to ensure their students are globally competent. Terms like global awareness, global competence, and global citizenship lack clear definitions and are often used interchangeably. In addition, some teachers have indicated that they have trouble figuring out just how to develop global competence in their students, or even evaluating their own knowledge and proficiency in this area. There seems to be much talk about the need for globally competent students but little articulation of how teachers are to facilitate this capacity (Zhao, 2010).

At The High School Journal, we have noticed that the discourses around globalization, broadly speaking, tend to focus on economic competitiveness rather than social justice worldwide. One of the four stated aims of Race to the Top, for instance, is “Adopting standards and assessments that prepare students to succeed in college and the workplace and to compete in the global economy” (U.S. Department of Education, 2012). Competition is highlighted over the aim of fostering students’ sense of responsibility to advance peace and equity within and across all nations. As teacher educators who believe the purpose of education is not only to prepare students for college and the workplace but also to nurture their capacity for an informed and participatory citizenship, we are concerned that schools may teach global competence as a means for students to compete with peers in China or India rather than develop “affection, respect, care, curiosity, and concern for the well-being of all living beings” (McIntosh, 2005, p. 385). Another, more immediate need for students to be globally competent is the increasing diversity of U.S. classrooms. As globalization allows the freer movement of people across boundaries, almost one-quarter of our students are now immigrants or children of immigrants (Haskins & Tienda, 2011).

Part of the aim of education, then, should be to foster an appreciation of multicultural communities and to prepare students for our increasingly interdependent world. The first step, in our view, would be global awareness, or the understanding of how and why globalization is occurring and what these changes will mean for the future, as well as awareness of global world conditions and current events. For example, students should know that differences exist in norms and patterns of communication across cultures and that some are privileged over others. They should continually reflect on their own perspectives and biases and understand how these influence their perceptions of world events and cultures. Thus teachers need not only to maintain this awareness themselves but also have the ability to advance it in their students.

As students develop global awareness, the next step toward global competence is a sense of global citizenship. Should we not ask students, who associate citizenship with the rights and responsibilities they have as residents of the U.S., to consider [End Page 167] the rights of citizens of other nations and responsibilities that cross national boundaries? Ecological challenges are one example of how individuals and corporations are now expected to preserve the well-being of citizens of other nations, in this case through abiding by environmental regulations. Equally important for the next generation is an understanding of the influence U.S. policies have on other nations. For instance, students should not only understand the U.S.’s rationale behind military and humanitarian interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan, but also the various interpretations of these actions, including those of Iraqis and Afghans as well as residents of other nations. Thus, education on national citizenship and patriotism should be paired with lessons on how U.S. policies affect the rest of the world, their perceptions of the U.S., and their potential responses to these policies. In sum, global citizenship entails the sense of responsibility for promoting social justice worldwide and the efforts to ensure that local and national decisions support this goal.



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