Skills Kids Need – Global Citizenship

Thomas Friedman, author of The World is Flat, once said, “In a flat world there is no such thing as an American job. There is just a job, and in more cases than ever before it will go to the best, smartest, most productive, or cheapest worker – wherever he or she resides.” This is the foundation of globalization.

Globalization is defined as the interaction between people on a worldwide scale due to advances in transportation and technology. These advances, as Friedman points out, have made it possible for jobs to transcend any boundary, be it age, race, gender or geographic location.The candidate who can also transcend these boundaries is therefore most likely to get the job.

According to Investopedia.com, the past 20 years have seen an increase in globalization due to the removal of trade barriers and the digitalization of both information flow and financial transfers, a trend that is expected to continue. Today globalization is prevalent in manufacturing, medicine, education, finance and even politics, where advancements are a byproduct of information sharing.

As the world becomes more connected we exchange ideas and information with more frequency. However, for information exchange to be successful on a global scale we must become adept at communicating with people who have different perceptions and cultural beliefs, and who speak languages other than our own. This means embracing diversity.

Diversity enhances the “humanizing” effect of education, enabling students to engage in civic discourse with mindfulness and tolerance (Kelly, 2016). When people from diverse backgrounds including gender, racial or socioeconomic status share information and perspectives, they enhance their understanding of the world around them, thus “humanizing” other points of view and increasing opportunities for collaboration.

Diversity has positive implications for decision-making, and the most innovative companies deliberately establish diverse work teams (Fine/Handelsman, 2010). In fact, research found:

  • Ideas generated by diverse groups are found to be of higher quality
  • The level of critical analysis was higher in groups exposed to minority viewpoints
  • Scholars from minority groups offer new perspectives, and raise new questions, challenges and concerns

In other words, diverse groups help us see a broader array of perspectives, and the resulting collaboration leads us to develop more effective solutions.

Collaboration is already happening on a global scale, and as society continues to pursue advancements in technology this will increase. Those who can communicate globally, across different cultures, genders, generations and races, will be the most sought after employees. This begs the question, what can we do now to prepare today’s students to be the Global Citizens of tomorrow?

 

The School’s Role

Globalization is rooted in communication. Technology facilitates this communication, but at its core the global marketplace revolves around our ability to work with others, particularly those who have backgrounds and beliefs that differ from our own. Thus, to inspire global citizenship schools should encourage their teachers to promote thoughtful interaction between students from various backgrounds.

This interaction may be as simple as engaging the entire class in discussion. Consider asking each student to share their perspective on a current event, their interpretation of a story read in class, even a family tradition or how they celebrate a holiday in their house. Something as simple as giving each student the opportunity to share their opinion helps them find their own voice, and demonstrates to the class that each voice has value and therefore should be acknowledged (Great Schools, 2017).

When we accept different perspectives we can better engage in thoughtful interaction, a critical foundation for collaboration. However, understanding how to work with others is equally important. This is where group projects can help prepare students for a future where collaboration is commonplace.

Groups, particularly diverse ones, allow students to look at problems from different perspectives to create more effective solutions, and to learn new life skills from people with varying backgrounds (Somers, 2017). Group work also forces students to practice communication so they can identify project goals and deadlines, and assign responsibility based on their unique skill sets, much like what they will encounter in future careers.

Collaborating with others results in better communication and problem-solving skills, which will ultimately benefit students in their future workplace. However, learning is inherently social, (Heick, 2018) thus working in groups can both facilitate the learning process and enhance social skills, which in turn can help increase self-esteem.

Group assignments can have multiple benefits, but they are often frowned upon by students and parents alike when all members of the group don’t pull their weight. To a degree this will be encountered in a professional setting, and learning to deal with challenging situations now can help prepare students for managing these situations in the future. However, care should be taken to ensure the “group” doesn’t take away the voice of the “individual” thus eliminating any benefit to exposing the students to diverse perspectives.

Service Learning Programs are another avenue to teach students to work with others. Community service activities, where students work with each other and local organizations, promote feelings of usefulness and purpose, resulting in a more positive attitude toward civic responsibility and citizenship. Learning the value of community in the local sense can be a foundation for learning it in a global sense, inspiring students to collaborate with diverse groups of people, share perspectives and be respectful of others’ ideas to achieve a common goal.

Lastly, when we say globalization is rooted in collaboration with diverse groups it’s important to note that diversity does not refer only to different cultures. As a global community we are comprised of different ages, religions, socioeconomic backgrounds and genders. All of these factors, in addition to our geography and cultural background and environment, contribute to our collective diversity. To prepare students for globalization we must promote acceptance of diversity in all its forms.

 

The Parent’s Role

Given that globalization is rooted in communication, parents are on the front lines. It is a child’s earliest interactions with their parents and family members that shape how they communicate with others going forward, meaning the lessons they learn at home are the ones they will bring to school and career. Thus, parents should take note of how their own actions, beliefs and biases shape their interactions.

For example, how do you manage differences between siblings? Do you listen to each child’s viewpoint and suggest a solution, or do you ask them to come up with their own solution? One method suggests resolution comes from a superior, and one suggests a resolution can be reached through dialogue. Neither of these examples are right or wrong, but each sends a different message about how to work with others.

How do you talk about work at home? Do you project a positive or negative attitude about working with others? Do you talk about the collective achievements of the team, boast about your contributions or downplay your role? Do you talk about what you learned from others or what you had to teach people? Again, these examples reflect a wide range of communication characteristics that are representative of a typical workday, and as such none are inherently right or wrong. However, the attitude and tone used can color a child’s perceptions about working with others.

How do you communicate with your family, your co-workers, or your neighbors? Do you talk in person, pick up the phone, or type on a keyboard? Technology has made communication easier and faster, but also less personal. Children today, many of them modeling their parents, communicate primarily via text. They use slang and emojis in place of words, and in the process are losing the art of dialogue.

Consider, when was the last time your child called a friend to play? Many families have done away with the landline, many parents don’t want their child’s friends calling their cell phone, and not all children have cell phones. Thus, play dates are often arranged between parents, leaving children with little to no experience talking on the phone. Those children that do have phones typically send texts to one another, again eliminating verbal conversation altogether.

As we delve further into the digital age understanding technology and using it to communicate will be a critical skill. However, we need to teach children that verbal dialogue has value as well. Encourage them to use phones for talking. Play a game of Pictionary, so they have to verbally communicate with a team to solve the puzzle. Sign them up for activities that promote collaboration without technology such as drama club, band or sports.

Sports are an excellent way to introduce the concept of collaboration. Different children have different skill sets, and when they work together toward a common goal they learn to pool their collective talents through preparation and communication to successfully execute a task. Win or lose children learn about teamwork, and how their individual roles contribute to the bigger picture.

Some teams may include children of different ages, races or even genders, teaching respect and acceptance for all members of the team. The sports themselves can also be opportunities for expanding a child’s horizons. For example, football to the rest of the world is soccer to the U.S. Understanding this helps children realize that even in the midst of cultural differences we can find similarities.

 

Join The Conversation

These days it’s relatively easy to find people who are similar to ourselves. Technology has made it easier to find, communicate and collaborate with like-minded people, and we find that comforting.

Similarities give us a sense of familiarity. They give us a foundation for building relationships with others who on the surface seem different than ourselves, and in many ways our similarities should be celebrated, just not at the expense of our differences.

Our differences are what makes it possible to experience the whole world, not just our corner of it. As defined by Google, Global Citizenship is “a way of living that recognizes our world is an increasingly complex web of connections and interdependencies.” In other words, a global citizen has no borders, and no limit to what they can accomplish by working with other global citizens.

How are you advocating for global citizenship in your home/classroom? What exercises or life lessons do you share with children to teach them acceptance for things that are different or unfamiliar?

 

References

Fine, E. & Handelsman, J. (2010). Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System, Benefits and Challenges of Diversity in Academic Settings (https://wiseli.engr.wisc.edu/docs/Benefits_Challenges.pdf)

Great Schools Staff (2017) – Great Schools, How Important is Cultural Diversity in Your School? (https://www.greatschools.org/gk/articles/cultural-diversity-at-school/)  

Heick, T. (2018) – Teachthought.com, 5 Characteristics of Global Learning (https://www.teachthought.com/the-future-of-learning/5-characteristics-of-global-learning/)

Investopedia staff – Investopedia, Globalization (https://www.investopedia.com/terms/g/globalization.asp)

University of Charlotte Staff – Queens University of Charlotte, The Benefits of Diversity in Schools (https://online.queens.edu/online-programs/medl/resources/benefits-of-diversity-in-school)

Somers, D. (2017) – Peterson’s Blog, Why Diversity Matters in Your Classroom, (https://blog.petersons.com/2017/02/17/top-of-the-class-why-diversity-matters-in-your-classroom/)

 

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