Becoming global citizens


What are the important skills, behaviors, and attitudes that students need to become contributing global citizens? That is the question posted this month to the Top Global Teacher Bloggers – a group I am honored to be a part of. This is my answer.

Global Citizenship students Becoming contributing global citizens

To develop children into global citizens, we must let go of the traditional view of school as the place were knowledge is loaded into kid’s brains –however inefficiently- and then pass them on to higher education -or society- to continue with yet another step in the process for mass-produced humanoids. Here are four ways to challenge this view.

You don’t need to know everything. Which is not the same as to say that you are fine knowing nothing. We all need core knowledge, and now in ever increasing areas (technology, government issues, human rights and ecology pop from the top of my head) – but the era in which those who knew the most were the best is rapidly wearing off. The same rationale applies for teachers. We are no longer (and really, we never were) the all-knowing gurus with all the right answers. Any over-confident teacher could be easily and embarrassingly defeated by a child with a device connected to internet. Even if you are an educator savant, there is just no way you can beat Google.

Critical thinking skills are, well, critical. In the age of information overload, the real challenge is to be able to unravel the true and valuable from the garbage and inaccurate. Let our school days be full of the “structured serendipity” that will foster creative and disciplined minds.

You need to grow a larger sense of belonging. How can you embrace the fascinating diversity of the world without neglecting your own culture? How can you expand your mind to accommodate different viewpoints and ideas, without compromising your values? Cognitive humility can liberate us from isolating, self-serving bias –but it doesn’t come naturally. We need to incorporate failure into the teaching equation –there is much to be learned when things don’t go your way. Tolerance and empathy flourish. Being wrong reminds us of our frail humanity – and being human is what unites us all.

Global citizenship kids

The right to share the world we live in comes with responsibility. There is no such a thing as a free ride for a true global citizen. Many of the world’s problems come from the arrogance of humans and their sense of entitlement. “I am the King of the Universe and everything should always come my way. I am better than the rest so I deserve more” If we came to understand how limited and minuscule we really are –and at the same time, how precious and valuable each life is- we could do a better job of taking care of our planet and its inhabitants.

Children’s most significant and enduring learning will come from observing the world and people around them. The first step to help them become global citizens is to make sure we are already on that road ourselves.

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