|(Orlando Sentinel) What is the value of a global education? Over the past 20 years, I have traveled all over the world as an international lawyer, educator or tourist. In nearly every place that I have worked or visited, I found that the world knows more about us than we do about them. |
This truth is evident in the richest and poorest nations from Cape Town to Cairo and Calcutta to Calgary. Test: Can you locate Kyrgyzstan on a map?
The United States is no longer a world leader in secondary education, ranking 18th among 36 nations assessed, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Hence, not only do we comparatively know far less about the rest of the world than we should, we are also falling behind lesser-developed nations like China, India and South Korea in core subjects’ areas like math and science.
How can we adequately compete in the global marketplace and simultaneously remain ignorant about our competitors? Not only are we collectively ignorant about world geography, foreign cultures, languages, people and history; even more disturbing, we have yet to acquire a local or national appetite to learn about them.
This is a problem that has its genesis in American culture and supremacy, and the false notion that the world revolves around us. It often originates from and is reinforced in our K-12 and higher-education systems, given our excessive reliance on Western or Eurocentric perspectives and approaches on nearly every issue. Such perspectives filter into every facet of our educational, economic, social and political orders.
For example, why are we still teaching our children that Juan Ponce de León and Christopher Columbus discovered Florida and America, respectively, if Native Americans were living here when they arrived? Local perspectives do not create global outcomes.
We are a nation of immigrants — some by choice, others by force — with global histories and connections throughout the world. While our strength rests in our diversity and shared history, we have failed to harness them to forge positive relations with other nations. As we become more interdependent on the forces of globalization, whether it be economic, geopolitical, informational, cultural, social or technological, we must become more enlightened about how events and circumstances thousands of miles away affect our daily lives and vice versa.
In order to tackle today’s global challenges from, among others, reducing American indebtedness, combating terrorism, ending foreign wars, protecting the natural environment and effectively responding to humanitarian crises, we must reinvent educational approaches to produce a new generation of global thinkers, leaders and technocrats.
America’s parochial psychology has negatively impacted our global image, moral standing and ability to compete internationally. What are K-12 schools doing to prepare students to compete in the global marketplace? How many K-12 schools offer courses in Arabic, Mandarin or international studies? How many universities are training linguists and regionalists with expertise in Africa, Asia and the Middle East? How do you prepare American students to compete in a world where success necessitates global insight and collaboration if globalism is not a part of the curriculum?
These are the questions that we must begin to grapple with from primary school through college. At Florida A & M University College of Law, we, too, wrestle with these issues. Consequently, we have taken them head-on by developing academic and experiential opportunities that prepare our students to compete globally.
In the past two years, our students have immersed themselves in the study of international law, studied abroad on every continent and served as interns at the most prominent institutions in the world. They include the Caribbean Court of Justice in Trinidad and Tobago, International Criminal Tribunal of Rwanda in Tanzania, International Fund for Agricultural Development in Italy, Interpol in Thailand, North Atlantic Treaty Organization in Belgium, Supreme Court of Ghana, United Nations and the World Health Organization in Switzerland, as well as the U.S. intelligence and public-diplomacy communities and not-for-profit sectors.
The future of our economy rests in our ability to compete globally. Global education is vital to American hegemony. Are you doing your part?