(This is a major concern of mine these days. My students are reading this introduction this week, I'm currently at the CCCC's conference in Chicago and will be presenting about this subject, expecially in relation to a duel concern with public spheres and public spaces. Anyways--what does it mean to be a citizen, such an important and misunderstood word? Can we move past our provincial obsessions? Can we remember though that it starts with us understanding who we are and where we come from--in knowing the places we live and work--in developing a concern with local politics--ever branching outward ... local<------>global.... still working it out...)
…from Nel Noddings’ "Introduction: Global Citizenship: Promises and Problems" from the book Educating Citizens for Global Awareness
What is Global Citizenship?
The words citizenship and citizen usually refer to a national or regional identity. One who is recognized as a citizen of a particular nation has the special rights and duties prescribed by the government of that nation. Global citizenship cannot yet be described in this way. There is no global government to which we as individuals owe allegiance, and there are no international laws that bind us unless our national government accepts them. Thus, we can’t look to the familiar, technical definition of citizenship to help us in describing global citizenship.
Sometimes citizen is used synonymously with inhabitant, as in “the deer is a citizen of the forest.” Although this statement is charming, most of us think that citizenship involves more than a reference to where we live and even more than the technical description of our national (or regional) rights and responsibilities. Educators have been trying for years to describe citizenship more fully and to figure out ways to promote it. For example, some social studies educators believe that the study of American history promotes American citizenship. Does it? (Thornton 2001) To answer this question, we have to say much more about what is meant by citizenship. In her chapter in this volume, Gloria Ladson-Billings points out that, even within a nation, some of those who qualify formally for citizenship do not feel as though they share fully in that citizenship.
Perhaps we can agree that a citizen of a place X has (or should have) an interest in, or concern about, the welfare of X and its people. Such a citizen cares about X and wants to protect its interests and way of life. This is a description with which Americans are familiar, and it is used often to arouse national pride and commitment. It would take us too far afield to explore all the ways in which people have described “American interests” and the “American way of life.” But we know that attempts at such description exhibit complexity and conflict. It is not an easy job to say exactly what is meant by “the” American way of life. We fall easily into slogans and clichés.
Consider, then, how much harder it will be to define global citizenship. Is there, for example, a global way of life? Some think that there could be—even that there should be—a global way of life, and it usually looks suspiciously like their own way. Advocates of globalization—“the removal of barriers to free trade and the closer integration of national economies” (Stiglitz 2002, ix)—come close to defining global citizenship solely in terms of economics. A global citizen, from this perspective is one who can live and work effectively anywhere in the world, and a global way of life would both describe and support the functioning of global citizens.
Many careful thinkers are critical of this approach, and international meetings of world financial organizations have been marked by riotous protests. What sparks the protests? What are the objections to globalization? First, there is evidence that present efforts at globalization have aggravated existing economic injustice. Good global citizens should be concerned about this, just as good national citizens are concerned about injustice within their own boundaries. This observation prompts us to think more about the idea of interest. It may be better for present purposes to use concern instead of interest. Interest too often conveys the notion of self-interest or concentration on the benefits to one’s own group. Indeed, when citizens of one nation speak of their interests, people of other nations are understandably wary. When our interests are truly global, this worry should be relieved. But for now, to avoid this problem, let’s speak of concern. When we are concerned with the welfare of X--our nation, region, or globe--we are concerned with the well-being of all its inhabitants.
Second, globalization’s emphasis on economic growth has led to practices that threaten the physical environment—the life of the Earth itself. The problems in this area are so complex that even scientists are unsure about the harms and benefits resulting from certain practices. It seems clear that global warming is a reality and that the reduction of carbon emissions is imperative. However, other practices—the genetic engineering of plants, for example—need much more study. Closely related to problems concerning the global environment are those that affect people in particular locations. What may be good for people in a large region (say, a huge dam designed to provide electricity) may be a disaster for those in the particular locality. Some global citizens may be willing to live anywhere, but others want to live in a particular place that they love. Is love of place compatible with global citizenship? At the very least, we’ve added another factor to the concerns of global citizens—the well-being of particular physical places.
Third, critics object to construing global interest entirely in economic terms. Even if it were possible and just to establish one world economic order, other aspects of life must be considered. If global citizens appreciate cultural diversity, they will speak of ways of life, not one way, and they will ask how a valued diversity can be maintained. But what sorts of diversity should we appreciate? If a culture wants to maintain the inequality of women or the slavery of children, should we accept these practices as tolerable facets of cultural diversity—as simply “their way”? When cultural diversity pushes us toward moral relativism, we must back away. And so we have to think carefully about the merits of diversity and those of unity or universality and how to achieve an optimal balance between the two. We should be interested in social as well as economic justice.
Fourth, because globalization points to a global economy, we have to ask whose economic vision will be adopted. As noted earlier, the powerful nations are likely to impose their own vision. At the present time, the most powerful view is that of the huge international corporations. Even if it could be argued that their vision is benign and requires only tinkering to be just, many of the world’s people harbor doubts and, while the disparity between rich and poor grows, it is predictable that groups (even nations) will protest violently. Moreover, nations of the First World often associate corporate capitalism with their own overall way of life, and this association adds a strong ideological component to the problem. Citizens of wealthy nations may feel it a patriotic duty to defend economic practices that seem inseparable from their way of life. These citizens then try to persuade or even force others to accept their own way of life “for their own good.”
We must ask, also, whether global citizenship--defined in part as the activation of the concerns so far identified--is compatible with national citizenship. Should we put the concerns of globe or nation first, or is this a bad question? Should our choice depend on the particular concern under consideration? Is there an inherent conflict between patriotism and global citizenship? Can patriotism be redefined in a way that removes the conflict?
It would seem that peace is a pre-condition of global citizenship. I cannot be a global citizen if my country is at war with others, any more than a loyal citizen of Virginia could be an U.S. citizen during the Civil War. One could argue, of course, that a progressive orientation toward global citizenship will promote world peace. This is a chicken-and-egg argument. However we arrange the priorities, peace education must play a vital role in the promotion of global citizenship. A global citizen must see war as contrary to all of the concerns we have identified—to world-wide economic and social justice, to the health of our physical world, to the preservation of well-loved places, to the balance of diversity and unity, and to the well-being of all of earth’s inhabitants. Yet, if war comes, the vast majority of us will stand—sadly, perhaps even angrily—with our own nation. Even our enemies, educated as badly as we are, would think less of us if we did not. This underscores our earlier claim that war cannot be reconciled with global concerns, and so peace education must play a vital role in supporting global citizenship.
Before exploring some of these issues in greater depth, we should return briefly to the question of what can be learned from our experience in educating for national citizenship. I mentioned earlier that some educators believe that the teaching of American history promotes American citizenship. As Thornton (2001) has shown, there is little evidence to support this belief. Perhaps we need a blend of history, geography, civics, and other studies to encourage good citizenship. Perhaps no amount of knowledge will accomplish that goal. We may need forms of practice and participation that we rarely offer in schools. Still, it seems clear that knowledge must inform practice. As we look at the issues involved in global citizenship, we must try to identify the knowledge and skills students will need to achieve this new form of citizenship.