After being away for the best part of the month, I had a fascinating discussion on twitter yesterday with a few folks scattered across the world. Asia, South America, Canada and the US came together for an hour long discussion. This is the best part of tools like this. This is why they are so hard to give up.
Among others, one topic we got onto had to do with the purpose of education. A small topic, I know. But what fascinated me was the idea of national egocentricity. Most national education systems (especially in North America) came about in an earlier time, during mass waves of immigration. For this reason, a big part of our systems in North America have always been to assimilate newcomers into our national stories. This is why things like national holidays, national values and beliefs often play such a large role in our systems.
But what about in today’s world where a much more global understanding of the world is needed? Is this a good idea?
This is an interesting question to me. In a backlash against globalization, many nations are reasserting their national stories, trying to ensure they have a place in the world. But is this right? Should education and educators be asserting national stories, or should we be looking beyond this? Should we be pushing our students to become trans-national?
Lets face it: education is often based around geography. My school is located in the town of Snow Lake, in the central Canadian province of Manitoba, in the country of Canada. Each of these entities has partial “ownership” of my classroom and the curriculum that is in that classroom. This is done through political mandate, funding agreements, etc. Each of these entities is egocentric. They each expect their own agenda to be imparted to students. Bascially, they pay the bills, they want their stories to be told to students. This is reasonable.
But in our trans national world, where environmental, social and economic problems, changes and successes are told through global stories, are we doing our students a disservice by focusing them onto our nation’s agenda? Art is created, stories are told, scientific brekathroughs are made by teams located in different parts of the globe. The value of those connections and the different perspectives that are brought to bear on a problem cannot be underestimated.
So where do our systems stand on issues like this? Is there any education system in the world that has moved beyond focusing on their own egocentric agenda? While many are striving to promote and implement collaboration, is there any where in the world that has brought this larger understanding into what they consider to be the underlying purpose of education? Not that I know of. I’d be interested to hear from people who know otherwise.
(One side bar on this issue has to do with international schools throughout the world. I believe spaces like these may be distinct in this regard. While many of them do follow a national curriculum of some sort (many following a curriculum from the US, Canada, the UK or India), many of these schools have students from many nations around the world, who have lived overseas for years. Many of these students have spent much more time outside of the nation they hold a passport from then inside of it. Many of these schools do an excellent job of looking at issues from a much more global perspective and deserve great credit for it.)