What if I could change history?

What does it take to change history? The present and the future are not set in stone. This flux and uncertainty is a wonderfully powerful idea. Change one thing in this interconnected world, and the outcome of history can be completely different.

A Sea Change Lars Bo 1963

A Sea Change by Lars Bo, 1963

This blog post is inspired by the excellent BERA (British Educational Research Association) post by Luke Billingham https://www.bera.ac.uk/blog/could-the-study-of-historical-contingency-help-to-enliven-students-critical-citizenship based on his article in The Curriculum Journal, about using historical contingency to enhance the teaching of critical democratic citizenship. As Billingham writes, “to say that something is contingent means that it “could be otherwise” – it is not necessary or inevitable for it to exist in its current state (or at all)”.

I started thinking about how we could use this concept in primary and secondary classrooms. Moving beyond the rights and responsibilities of national citizenship, the applications to global citizenship education are exciting. When all of our actions now have a global impact, historical contingency could be a significant component in combatting apathy and cynicism to engage students to create a better world.

World_Globe_clip_art_small

I was a secondary history teacher for many years and well aware that understandings of historical contingency are part of scholarship in the subject, but haven’t previously thought of connecting it directly with teaching democratic citizenship. In itself this is a good lesson in why educators must keep reading, learning, sharing and discussing! It also shows how skills crossover and synthesizing cognitive competencies are important in trans disciplinary learning, an increasingly important feature of 21st Century education. Billingham effectively transfers the historical skill of analyzing the past, with added philosophical thinking, to consider what it means to be a citizen today and the impact we have on the future.

The idea that we can challenge historical inevitability is empowering and encourages student agency. By thinking ‘what if?’ in historical narratives, students can understand causation and argue why things happened in the past. When we apply the question of ‘what if?’ to today, it enthuses student voice and action with the power to change the current narrative. Our history is being written now. And we can actually create an alternative.

Historical contingency for critical citizenship can be integrated within history or citizenship curricula in secondary classrooms. In primary classrooms it can be a cross-curricula component in global citizenship education. It includes deliberations of philosophical problems of free will and cause and effect. I have put together two primary school lesson ideas below which integrate historical contingency.

Back to the future

If I could go back in time, what would I change?

This is a hypothetical writing and discussion activity. If you could go back in time, would you change anything? This activity could be done in conjunction with a history unit or as a stand-alone exercise. I have made a graphic organizer as a starting point.

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Why did you come to school today?

This activity, based on causation, could be adapted for written or oral skills development. Ask students to make a chain of cause and effects which led to them to arriving at school. It encourages deeper thinking about the past and their own history, and place in the world. How does the country you live in make it possible to go to school?

cause and effect chain

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Being local and global

Who are you? If you are a teacher, part of your job is to help students to recognize and understand their identity as they develop. Yet how many teachers have taken the time to examine their own identity and how we understand ourselves within a wider community of humans?

This is an activity from the Kid World Citizen website that I have used in the classroom and remains an effective, practical exercise as a starting point for young children to think about how they see themselves in the world and celebrate the diversity of local identity whilst linking it to our global citizenship. It is presented as a bilingual activity in English and Spanish. My place in the world

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My Place in this World from Kid World Citizen

When I first considered using this activity with children, I saw that it related to the concentric circles of Stoic philosophy of the 1st-2nd CE. This concept is promoted by Professor Martha Nussbaum (University of Chicago) to consider our levels of belonging, our local and global identity, which allows us to recognize ourselves as local, national and world citizens.

 “The Stoics… suggest that we think of ourselves not as devoid of local affiliations, but as surrounded by a series of concentric circles. The first one encircles the self, the next takes in the immediate family, then follows the extended family, then, in order, neighbors or local groups, fellow city-dwellers, and fellow countrymen- and we can easily add to this list groupings based on ethnic, linguistic, historical, professional, gender, or sexual identities. Outside these circles is the largest one, humanity as a whole”. (Nussbaum, M. For Love of Country?)

concentric-circlesThis Stoic concept is a useful exercise for teachers and older students. It is even interesting to examine at different stages of our development over time, to witness shifts in local allegiances.

For the Third Culture Kid (TCK) growing up in a different culture or nation to their official citizenship, the local affiliations may be across national borders. We can be local in more than one area. This is also true for people who have lived and worked in different places. We feel at home and local across places, national borders and citizenship.

This idea is expressed well in the TED talk by Taiye Selasi Don’t ask me where I’m from, ask where I’m a local

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“We’re local where we carry out our rituals and relationships, but how we experience our locality depends in part on our restrictions. By restrictions, I mean, where are you able to live? What passport do you hold? Are you restricted by, say, racism, from feeling fully at home where you live? By civil war, dysfunctional governance, economic inflation, from living in the locality where you had your rituals as a child?” – Taiye Selasi

When we examine our allegiances and levels of belonging, we begin to see that the way that we view the world is through a particular lens. And it is a shifting lens and not absolute. What we feel is ‘normal’ is not normal for everyone. It also emphasizes the sense of global belonging that we all share.

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To understand Global Citizenship, you can’t go past Kant

 

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Paul Klee- May Picture

Immanuel Kant was born in 1724 and died on February 12 1804. Now, on the 212th anniversary of his death, it seems the world needs his philosophy of international cooperation more than ever.

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Immanuel Kant

And Kant’s philosophy, based on respect for human reason rather than a divine being, is apt for a world divided by ideology, religion and an overwhelming fear of those who are different from us. Let’s look for the thing that connects us, says Kant- the major feature of the human mind, its capacity for intelligent rational thought.

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Daan Botlek

Kant believed that we should respect the dignity of all people no matter who they are. Because they are humans with the same power of reason just like you. Foreigners have the same freedom to think just like you. And you might actually be that foreigner if you had been born in a different place.

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Leonardo Da Vinci

Kant’s philosophy states that this respect for humanity transcends all borders. So we can have a connection with people in different places all over the world. Before Kant’s ideas came along, it was very unusual for individuals to think they could have a global identity. Only royalty were allowed an international perspective. But Kant wants every one of us to know that we are all equal in rights, irrespective of status or nationality.

So does Kant want us to be in a world state? No. Kant saw this was a very impractical idea. However, he did believe that nations should work together.

Respectful cosmopolitan societies can work together to strengthen universal justice. And then all individuals are able to become more competent and powerful.

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It’s obvious to see how Kantian philosophy has influenced international organizations and international law. Kant’s ideas can also be directly used in education. Exposing children to this philosophy and making it a basis for global citizenship education is a very good place to start. Beyond our globalized economy, we really do have a moral duty to respect all humans as we would expect to receive respect.

 

 

 

To learn more about the philosophy of Immanuel Kant have a look at these links:

 

Philosophy Bites http://philosophybites.com/2008/09/adrian-moore-on.html

 

School of Life

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nsgAsw4XGvU

 

 

 

 

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Raising Cosmopolitan Global Citizens

Global citizenship is not meaningless utopianism. It’s a real priority. UNESCO has made Global Citizenship Education a strategic area for their education programme. When you look at school mission statements, you’ll see that so many schools aim to create 21st Century Global Citizens. It is incorporated into school curriculums through global awareness, foreign language and service learning. Yes, it is a utopian vision of people globally working together, but we need to strive towards an ideal. This means we also have to do the messy work of continual questioning- like what does a better world look like? And what skills and competencies do our children need for global responsibility? Are global citizenship skills measurable?

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Human Rights Education in action. Image from Amnesty International http://www.amnesty.org

Cosmopolitanism is the basis of global citizenship education. It is a philosophy that we are local and global at the same time. We are part of a wider community. That’s not to say that we have to abandon our national responsibilities and local identities- for these are an important part of who we are. Cosmopolitanism is recognizing that we can have local affiliations and we keep our various identities, but at the same time see ourselves as human with the same needs for rights and dignity as people everywhere.

So where did this idea of Cosmopolitanism come from? We usually attribute the idea to the Ancient Greeks and specifically to Diogenes the Cynic who rejected the norms of the city-state, lived in a barrel (amongst other unconventional acts) and declared himself a ‘citizen of the world’. But the truth is that Cosmopolitanism exists in philosophies from around the world like the Confucian teaching of Ta T’ung and African Ubuntu.

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Kandinsky, Circles in a Circle (1923)

That says a lot about how ‘cosmopolitan’ Cosmopolitanism actually is. The Cosmopolitanism that has influenced law, politics and education is far from an interaction of international ideas. Philosophical discourse is ethnocentric- in the past we have favoured white western literate men. I would like the conversation about Cosmopolitanism and what it means to be a member of the human family, to become more diverse and include a plurality of human voices. Because cosmopolitanism is central to our identities in a globalized world and raising Global Citizens to make the world a better place.

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Hossein Valamanesh, Open Book (1993)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Shifting the dominant culture paradigm in ESL/EAL- Teaching for a diverse, globalized world.

Look at materials designed to teach English as a second/additional language (ESL/EAL) and you’ll probably see a book or audiovisual texts not just about language but also about a host national culture. ESL teaching materials include cultural lessons through vocabulary and grammar teaching. This is because the traditional paradigm of language learning was to integrate immigrants or the colonized into a dominant culture.

One assigned ESL text that I used in the primary classroom presented a very clear target culture. It was published in England and the content expressed a goal of assimilating non-English speakers into a monocultural United Kingdom. The child characters in the textbook were white with Anglo-Saxon names. Their activities in the text determined the learned vocabulary for each unit- they visited ‘castles’, ate ‘roast beef and mashed potatoes’ and wore ‘tracksuits’ and ‘trainers’. On one page per unit, there was an attempt to internationalize the content, but these pages too often related to ethnic festivals or folk tales in lands far away- the type of oversimplified exploration that does not account for authentic traditions existing in a modern context.

The text did not acknowledge my international school students’ hybrid identities or concepts of national belonging. Nor did the text recognize that the students were not learning the English language in order to live in England. Furthermore, the stereotyped England in the material was far from the diverse multicultural reality.

Essentialized dominant host culture in ESL teaching materials is a nationalist wish for assimilation and not multicultural inclusion. Whether it’s kangaroos or maple leaves, ESL texts force-feed a fixed national identity. There are rarely any references to multiculturalism as a norm, except in a few resources that I have seen published in Singapore to explicitly facilitate multiracial harmony as government policy.

So how can ESL teachers inject a global perspective into teaching and learning? To create some lessons that transcended the stereotypes of national culture, I used the concept of “cosmopolitan citizenship” (Hugh Starkey, Language Education, identities and citizenship: Developing cosmopolitan perspectives, Language and Intercultural Communication 7,1, 2007). Language learning is a good opportunity to teach global responsibility and common humanity.

For this sequence, I integrated material from international development organizations plus some commercial resources. The sequence also included an essential element of active citizenship- concrete action for responsible global citizenship.

 Here is my introduction lesson to a primary ESL learning sequence for Grade 2-3 on the topic of PLAY. The focus of this first lesson is that humans are the same around the world and all children need to play. At the end of this learning sequence, students could donate unwanted toys or even hold a toy swap to encourage environmental sustainability and social justice.

Whoever You Are by Mem Fox, HMH Books for Young Readers, 1998

Whoever You Are by Mem Fox, HMH Books for Young Readers, 1998

  1. Book reading Whoever You Are by Mem Fox
  2. Discussion: Humans are all the same. We all need the same things. List the things humans need. Vocabulary and sentence structure will be reinforced.

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    3.Show children the UNICEF photo story Play Around the World http://www.unicef.org.au/Discover/Teaching-and-Learning-Resources/Photo-stories.aspx

    4. Use a Y chart graphic organizer (looks like, feels like, sounds like) to explore- what is play? Children will mention specific toys, which is important for ESL vocabulary but they will also think deeply about how play makes us feel and where we play. To scaffold this deeper cognition, language from students’ mother tongue was included. I used the Y chart from the book Thinking Globally: Global Perspectives in the early years classroom by Browlett, J.E. & Ashman, G.I., published in 2010 by Carlton Education Services Australia. Alternatively it can be found on the Australian Global Education website http://www.globaleducation.edu.au/resources-gallery/resource-gallery-templates.html

     5. Play or not play? In small groups, students look at photo cards of children playing and other children working. They will divide the cards into two piles- play or not play. Students will learn that not all children have the opportunity to play. Photos of children around the world playing and not playing are available from Browlett & Ashman’s Thinking Globally: Global Perspectives in the early years classroom or the images gallery at http://www.globaleducation.edu.au/resources-gallery/resource-gallery-images.html

     6. Circle time concludes the lesson by looking at the photo cards together and saying “play” or “not play”.

     7. Extension activity: UNICEF Australia children’s rights video 

     8. Extension activity: UNICEF Color-it rights http://teachunicef.org/explore/media/read/color-it-rights-coloring-book

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Global Citizenship and the Language of Immigration

This post is dedicated to International Migrants Day, observed on the 18th December. My parents were migrants. I am a migrant now, though mostly living with the more respectable middle class, yet often colonial, badge of ‘expatriate’. I have always insisted that immigrants are among the hardest working people on the planet. Migrants are global citizens.

A contradiction that is difficult to understand is how educational institutions and international organizations aim to create global citizens, yet the real world restricts these internationally minded 21st century citizens from moving. Migrants are vulnerable to exploitation. They become political scapegoats. And in senseless restrictions, governments prevent their own citizens from engaging with difference- inhibiting their economic cultural competence. And in curbing international students, strangle the power of cosmopolitan education.

A dehumanized language of exclusion is used to describe migrants. The mass media and political rhetoric reduces humans to numbers or refers to them as “illegal” and “scroungers”. The Migration Observatory at The University of Oxford analyzed more than 40 million words used by British newspapers to describe migrants. The analysis showed that words with connotations of water were used across print media, such as “influx”, “wave” and “flood”. The use of this metaphor is powerful in shaping public perception- it dehumanizes people and creates an imminent catastrophic threat.

<http://www.migrationobservatory.ox.ac.uk/press-releases/migrants-newspapers-influx-illegal-failed-economic-terrorists>

Juxtaposing the aggressive media immigration fervor, we have the cute popular culture icon of Paddington Bear representing the sanitized, yet still not human, migrant experience. Immigration lawyer, Colin Yeo, exposed the pretense of the popular fantasy in a brilliant review of the new film, making it clear that poor Paddington wouldn’t stand a chance of overcoming the legal hurdles.

<https://www.freemovement.org.uk/an-immigration-lawyer-reviews-paddington/>

So how do educators, particularly literacy educators who promote human rights and global citizenship, inject the humanity into a study of immigration? I suggest a primary focus on the language of migrants- real people with stories and feelings. This humanizes students’ production of knowledge.

Making contact with migrants in students’ families and communities strengthens understanding of commonality and transnational values. Students can compile oral histories from migrants. The language of these commentaries can be analyzed, student reflections can be made in journals and the histories even dramatized to encourage empathy.

Poetry provides an accessible exploration of the language of immigration through the eyes of people who have lived it. I have listed and described some useful poems about migration that could be used in the upper primary and secondary classroom. If you have any other recommended poetry by migrants, please leave a comment below the post.

Antigone Kefala’s The Alien expresses the fear and powerless isolation of the migrant experience, “I am naked, engulfed in tentacles of emptiness”.

<http://www.poetrylibrary.edu.au/poets/kefala-antigone/the-alien-0059011>

Uyen Nhu Loewald’s ironic Be good, little migrants highlights the exploitation of immigrants.The poem conveys the frustration of knowing one’s place- that to be allowed into a country is not equal to inclusion.

“Give us your faithful service

sweep factories, clean mansions

prepare cheap exotic food

pay taxes, feed the mainstream”

<http://identities.asiaeducation.edu.au/resources/resources_landing.html?resourceId=2970>

Ruth Paddel’s collection The Mara Crossing unifies human movement with animal migration, making both a part of the ebb and flow of the Earth and history. In Time to fly natural images are listed next to human needs and hopes. Comparing humans to animals illustrates the natural order of movement “you go because you need a place to shed your skin in safety”.

<https://soundcloud.com/new-networks-for-nature/ruth-padel-time-to-fly>

James Berry uses the simile of a bird to describe migration in Black kids in a new place, “I’m like a migrant bird who will not return from here.” The tension of the trapped bird then shifts to permanence and hope with the metaphor of a tree “I am a transplanted sapling, here, blossoming”.

Peter Skrzynecki’s Migrant hostel also draws on images of birds to describe the migration experience, “We lived like birds of passage”. The theme of exclusion is expressed through images of obstructions, “barrier” and “gate”.

<http://www.poetryinternationalweb.net/pi/site/poem/item/17859/auto/MIGRANT-HOSTEL>

There is also an impeding image of the door in Adrienne Rich’s Prospective Immigrants Please Note. When a migrant goes through the door, a symbol of cultural assimilation, an identity struggle occurs “there is always the risk of remembering your name”.

<http://vimeo.com/39836802>

 

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The problem with Pisa

I was recently fortunate to be invited to talk with a group of Australian school principals from an AITSL (Australian Institute of Teaching and School Leadership) and Asia Education Foundation professional learning tour of high performance global school systems. The world’s governments are looking to countries such as Singapore and South Korea, to learn the secrets of success in the OECD Programme of International Student Assessment (Pisa). However, the Australian principals that I met with were far more questioning of the OECD results. Perceptive educators can identify the problems with the testing system that takes place every three years. I only hope that policy makers with short-term incentives feel compelled to similarly interrogate the OECD educational standards and testing methods.

What is Pisa?

 

Pisa results are limited. School systems occur within a pedagogical and wider socio-political context informed by cultural expectations. These cannot be replicated in other countries. The OECD results, which celebrate education in Singapore, South Korea and China, also hide significant aspects of education systems such as the shadow education industry- supplementary out of school privatised tutoring.

 

Hong Kong Tutor Kings

Some of Hong Kong’s celebrity tutor kings and queens (image from bbc.co.uk)

 

 

Competition for sessions with Hong Kong’s celebrity tutors, the myriad of after school academic classes that thrive in the spirit of Singaporean ‘kiasu’, all have an impact on mainstream performance and equity. The question remains to what extent the formal education system relies on the tutoring industry and how it alters pedagogy.

 

 

Comparative education is an enormously beneficial field of study within a large, open global and cultural framework. Yet the use of standardized tests, in subject areas easily evaluated in comparison, narrows the educational outcomes for children. The OECD Pisa tests do not measure education. Education is about more than a confined set of measurable knowledges. Moral and civic motives of education are not quantifiable by the Pisa tests. Does that conclude that they are not important? In a globalized world with unequal development and environmental crisis, a crucial educational aim must be international understanding and responsibility.

 

Dr. Yong Zhao expounded on the problems with Pisa in no less than 5 parts in his blog http://zhaolearning.com illustrating how, amongst other things, Pisa has halted the East Asian drive to reform education. Furthermore, on the 6th May 2014 an open letter from leading academics and educators was published in The Guardian, explaining how Pisa tests are having a negative effect on global education with suggestions for making the measuring process more meaningful.

http://www.theguardian.com/education/2014/may/06/oecd-pisa-tests-damaging-education-academics

 

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