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?
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.
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.