"Nuth, there is nothing you are going to be able to teach me in this class that's going to make me like Arabs," remarked Austin.
He was one of my more outspoken sophomores a few years back, and I distinctly remember him saying this rather enthusiastically immediately after I passed out The Arab-American Handbook by Nawar Shora, one of the many texts I use in my Global Studies/English class.
I hastily responded, "Austin, I bet you five bucks that you have a broader perspective by the end of year." He said, "It's on," and we shook hands.
On the last day of school, right after school, Austin came into my classroom and walked up to my desk. He asked me to put out my hand, and into it he slipped a $5 bill. I had forgotten all about our bet. He told me that I won, and that he would never be able to view people in same, narrow way again. He looked me straight in the eye, and Austin told me that it was our class he thanks for that. We hugged and had a little cry together. It was one of my most moving experiences as an educator.
Global education makes young people more aware of their cultural lenses and the ways in which their cultural lenses shape their beliefs and perspectives. It helps them understand that the nature of culture and conflict is complex and that there are never clear-cut "good guys" and "bad guys." It exposes to them the danger of single narratives of a group of people. It makes them aware of the ways in which adhering to singular sources of identity contributes to violence.
But you would have no way of seeing or experiencing this if you were not in the classroom. The dominant rationale for global education coming from policy makers, various private organizations, NGOs, and non-profits, is that we need to teach globally so that the United States can remain economically competitive in a global marketplace. I think that it must not be forgotten that there is a whole body of more compelling rationale for global education related to enabling our students to challenge their own assumptions, stereotypes, and single narratives, to challenge the idea of American exceptionalism, and to encourage our students to engage in important debates and conversations about the state of our democracy and human rights.