I have sought to teach and expose students to educational experiences intentionally focused on global citizenship development for nearly 15 years as an educator. I have worked with many colleagues to problematize this complex concept (Perry, Stoner, & Tarrant, 2012); uncover and illuminate solutions and criteria to reify it (Stoner, Tarrant, Perry, Stoner, Wearing, & Lyons, 2014); and determine the pedagogical conditions that seem to best contribute to a student’s development as a global citizen (Bell, Gibson, Tarrant, Perry, & Stoner, 2016). Through these efforts, we have struck gold. Not as much in the problematizing, reifying, and determining of the pedagogical conditions conducive to global citizenship development, but actually in the citizen-students who seem to understand what it means to be a global citizen. I think of Aaron Marshall (class of 2014, Western Carolina University), Bridget Williams (class of 2015, University of Canterbury), and my 8-year-old daughter Prescott Perry (class of “2035”, future institution unknown).
To be honest, I don’t think I ever fully understood the content and pedagogy for teaching global citizenship skills until I became a father. I often jest that I have been working to prepare a well-rounded global citizen since day one with my now 8-year-old. This eight-year experiment has been informed by my own research and lived experiences. I will discuss those core tenets of global citizenship development across four educational initiatives: Tools, Experiences, Goals, & Reflection.
- United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are the blueprint for achieving a better and more sustainable future for all. They address the global challenges we face, including poverty, inequality, climate change, environmental degradation, peace, and justice. To make these SDGs accessible, relatable, and actionable at the individual citizen level, Bead & Proceed exists to educate and inspire daily, collective and individual action towards the SDGs through creativity.
- Little Passports helps introduce youth (3-10 years old) to world geography, travel, cultures, arts, and much more. These subscription-based kits help meet children where they are, expose them to the world through creative, hands-on, and engaging activities that make the idea of the world and global citizenship accessible for everyone. My daughters love these experiences.
- Duolingo is a language learning app that is designed to be personal, universally accessible, and fun for learners interested in learning a new language from scratch or continuing a language learners’ journey to fluency. I currently have a 1,200 day streak learning Spanish.
- World101 is a growing library of free multimedia resources that provide an immersive learning experience in a variety of settings: in classrooms, corporate training rooms, and at home. World101 makes complex international relations and foreign policy issues accessible to learners —both inside and outside formal academic settings— and helps the American public understand build an understanding of today’s most pressing issues and how those issues are relevant to them, thus preparing them to make a difference.
- Learning another language can fundamentally change the way you view the world. There is so much beauty to be learned in the exercise of learning another language. For example, learning Spanish has changed the way I look at the context (e.g., el gato can mean cat or carjack depending upon the context it is being used), spirituality (e.g., regar means to water and rezar means to pray – to me, that is beautiful as I view prayer as watering and nourishing one’s spirituality), leadership (e.g., the verb facilitar means to make easier and to me, that is why leaders exist – to make our world an easier place to be yourself), and relationships (e.g., the word esposa means wife, while esposas means handcuffs). Language has a way of inviting you to think about things differently through the simple (or complex) translation of words and their associated meaning.
- While language can open your mind to new ways of knowing and meaning-making, traveling, witnessing, and engaging with — and respecting— cultures other than your own can change how you see the world and subsequently how you engage with it. As noted by Lord Thomas Dewar, a mind, like a parachute, works better when it is opened.
- Engaging with the World Within can happen where you are right now. In 2001, I was a freshman at the University of Central Oklahoma (UCO). On September 11, hijackers flew airplanes into the Twin Towers in New York City, the Pentagon, and a field in Pennsylvania, taking with them the lives of 2,977 people and the remaining innocence of a generation. I will never forget that within one week of that tragedy, UCO’s then President, Roger Webb, organized a program that brought every student on campus together to celebrate the nearly 2,000 international students on our campus representing countries and nationalities all over the world along with the almost 10,000 students from Oklahoma and other states across the USA. We came together to celebrate our cultures and find common ground in the wake of a national and global tragedy. In our small group breakouts, I was reminded that a conversation could rise to be a transformative experience.
Global Citizens will work to:
- Become an Awareican (a citizen of the world) in a world with blinders. An Awareican [uh-wair-i-kuhn] (noun) means of or related to being aware of what is going on around you and having a propensity or disposition to do something about it. Awareness and fostering a global mindset lead to the likelihood of doing something. Anyone can be an Awareican and overcome ignorance.
- Lend a hand, don’t point a finger. While being an Awareican is an essential first step, an attitude that will lead to action, “lending a hand,” is critical and expected of a global citizen.
- Become adaptable by stepping outside your comfort zones while staying true to yourself and your values — this is more easily said than done. Exposure to new information can lead a global citizen to step outside their cognitive comfort zone; experiencing an emotional dilemma can cause one to step outside their affective comfort zone; and being in new environmental conditions can lead to a departure from the behavioral comfort zone. All transformational learning is catalyzed by some form of disorienting dilemma (Mezirow, 1991). Anyone who is evolving into a global citizen will experience this disorientation.
- To be clear, reflection to me is that period when you can stop (the doing of life, for a moment) to think about the things going on around, to and through you so that perhaps when you restart (the doing of) life you can be more intentional, thoughtful, and aware of what is going on around, to and through you. Reflection, particularly as an imperative ingredient in the cuisine of learning — Example, abstract content, concrete experiences, contrasted with lived experience and expectation, and leading to an affirmed way of knowing and believing or catalyzing a journey towards a new way of knowing or believing — not only helps determine the meaning in and to our life, but it helps us pursue it further.
It is well known and well experienced that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step (Lao Tzu). The development of a person into a global citizen begins with a single decision. To strive to understand more, learn more, listen more, ask more, be more, and engage more with the world within, next to, and beyond oneself. The cornerstone to global citizenship is a person’s conscious choice to leave their world better than they found it. As Mother Theresa said,
"If you want to change the world, go home and love your family."