The topic of global citizenship is pervasive in the realm of education in the 21st century, as well as in our lives as modern Americans. As globalization continues at such a fast rate, the world is becoming more interconnected. It is important to think about the role each citizen will have in this new dynamic community. There are many definitions as to what it means to be a global citizen, as this term can be interpreted literally, figuratively, or anywhere in between. A global citizen is a person who not only feels a sense of civic responsibility to his or her local community, but also to the greater human race (Green). A community is not defined by borders and labels, but rather by the commonalities that all humans share. This particular way of thinking will develop differently for every global citizen, as it can develop through learning about global issues or a foreign language, traveling to other countries, or educating oneself on the effects that personal decisions can have on the world (Green). Global citizenship has nothing to do with erasing borders or creating one mega-nation, but rather, global citizenship is having and acting on an additional feeling of connectedness that encourages people to think globally, and allows them to diversify and expand their communities. Educator Svi Shapiero notes the prevalence of the “complex weave of interconnected communities” that are developing quickly, and points out that we must be prepared to discuss the challenges facing these communities, including disease, poverty, war, and the struggle for world peace. It is essential to be a global citizen in order to develop cultural awareness and empathy, to preserve the planet that all humans share, and to better prepare yourself to thrive in the increasingly global community.
Global citizenship is a way of thinking that helps to increase cultural awareness, resulting in a deeper sense of cultural empathy. First, increasing one’s own cultural awareness can help to add pleasure to life as well as positively affect the lives of others. This can be achieved by keeping up with current events, having meaningful conversations with people from other backgrounds, watching documentaries, trying new foods, or traveling to other countries. This awareness of differences and cultural appreciation could be towards a culture’s food, dance, music, or religion–anything, really. It is fun and exciting to experience new cultural festivals, see varying types of architecture, and learn how others live. Learning about other cultures by means of global citizenship is the most effective way to build bridges between what happens locally and globally (Green). Green explains that the commonalities among all humans are greater than the differences, and that this realization leads to intercultural competence and understanding. Therefore, once a person has had the pleasure of learning about other cultures, he or she can better appreciate the richness of each and every group of people around the world. This new perspective is vital in respecting and appreciating all human beings–despite differences in religion, race, or gender.
The primary goal of building up this cultural awareness is to develop a sense of cultural empathy. The more we learn about other cultures, the more obvious it is that we are all human beings and deserve to be treated as such. Shapiero discusses the education of global citizens in the school system, stating: “We must teach young people to be “border crossers”–comfortable with human difference and capable of seeing the world from the experience and perspective of others.” He continues to explain that issues like poverty, wars, diseases, and environmental crises affect the entire world. He calls on the reader to take some responsibility for these issues and to take steps towards resolving them (Shapiero). These issues have plagued humanity for centuries, and will continue to affect all of us until the global community is able to synergistically work together to find solutions. If people felt a similar compulsion to help global communities in need as much as they did their local community, then the world would be a much more peaceful place. Of course, it is not expected for a person to feel the same level of responsibility to others they do not know, but every effort will help. The idea is not that it is necessary to travel to other countries in order to make a difference. Instead, the idea is to think globally and act locally. The idea is to make daily decisions that benefit humanity as a whole, and then to implement changes locally.
The second reason it is imperative to become a global citizen is because we all live on the same planet; our actions not only affect small communities, but also the world at large. Although imagined borders may separate nations ideologically, there are no borders to protect the planet from harmful products, practices, or pollution from distant countries. All of the world’s nations share the same ecosystem and space, so pollution and toxic waste from one country will inevitably travel around the ecosystem and damage the environment for everyone. According to Patricia Montiel-Overall, scientists have proven that coal-burning is a great contributor to global warming. Coal burning is not only detrimental to the environment, but it is also harmful to respiratory health. According to the World Health Organization’s article “Climate Change and Health,” there also other factors contributing to health and environmental problems, including greenhouse gas emissions as a result of transportation, as well as food and energy-use choices. This is an indication that the daily choices we make can have a lasting effect on the environment, both locally and globally. If humans continue to pollute the environment and perpetuate the greenhouse effect, then the world may be faced with extreme heat, disruption of ecosystems, more unexpected natural disasters, an increase in allergies and other respiratory diseases, and more.
It is important that humans are aware of these potentially deadly effects, as well as ways to reduce their carbon footprint: “The enormous challenges that we face as a planet demand a different kind of focus for what we do with our lives — one in which community, connection, caring, the ending of violence, and the well-being of every life become central to a purposeful existence” (Shapiero). Shapiero calls to all people to approach solving global issues with an open mind, in pursuit of creating a more peaceful world. Whether we like it or not, we all share the same planet. Furthermore, we do not have another chance at creating the same healthy environment once we have destroyed it. Liu, a very ardent opponent of the term global citizenship, admits that, “[m]ega-problems like climate change and financial panics know no boundaries.” He claims that despite this fact, nations are invaluable, in that they are “the most workable vehicles for collective, large-scale problem-solving.” He continues to explain that the human race will only survive a catastrophic climate change if nations work alone to solve the problems, and then unite. Why, I ask, do nations need to wait for a catastrophe to occur in order to work together? We are an intelligent human race, and we should act accordingly. Nations should unify now to anticipate possible catastrophes and brainstorm solutions. We all live on the same earth, and we should not sit back idly and wait until it is too late to unify. We must join together and educate one another so we can make responsible decisions for ourselves, our children, and humanity.
Advances in technology have greatly affected the interconnectedness of the world with each passing year, and it is in the best interest of every person to prepare himself or herself to succeed in this new era. Patricia Montiel-Overall, author of Students as Global Citizens: Educating a New Generation, plainly states that the world is changing and schools should prepare students to critically think about global issues using an inquiry-based curriculum. In this article, Montiel-Overall focuses on how becoming a global citizen will benefit the individual as well as the global community. Montiel-Overall explains that preparing students to be global citizens will help them to perform better in the workplace, to contribute thoughtful possible solutions to some of the most harrowing issues facing humanity, and to be instruments for global and social change: “Global citizens must be culturally competent in order to recognize different ways of perceiving, promoting, debating, disputing, and approaching global issues.” Educating young children in this way would provide each and every child with a true gift–the ability to think critically about global and local issues, while also holding the ability to apply these skills to other aspects of their lives.
The future of America–and the world–needs strong and capable leaders to guide their communities through this unchartered territory on the global front. Strong leadership will lead to ecologically and socially sound decision making, while simultaneously inspiring younger minds to stand up and make a difference in their own ways. If making the world a better place in this sense does not fit into one’s idea of being a citizen, then he or she can fulfill this plea for the sheer pleasure of one’s own workplace and career advancement. This approach to education, which aims at achieving global citizenship, has the potential to benefit the entire world. Global development is fast approaching and cumbersome (Vaidya). It is a very complicated topic of discussion, as it is a weighted term and affects nearly every aspect of our lives. Furthermore, global development is closely tied to global citizenship, as it affects economic growth and expansion, life expectancy, education, poverty rates, health, and more. In order to ensure that global development is positive and beneficial to humanity as a whole, it is extremely important to be conscientious and aware of the world that we are living in. The world is changing, and we must adapt to these changes and prepare ourselves to help build a better tomorrow. How can you become a global citizen? You must set aside time to enjoy learning about other cultures, to appreciate each culture for its differences, and to reflect on the commonalities that it has with your own culture. You must consider the effects that your daily decisions have on the planet. Finally, you must prepare yourself to thrive in this inevitable and fast developing network of interconnected nations. The global community is growing daily. Don’t miss out on your opportunity to make a difference.
Liu, Eric. “Why There’s No Such Thing as Global Citizenship.” The Atlantic. 14 Aug. 2012. Web. 11 Mar. 2014.
Green, Madeleine. “Global Citizenship: What Are We Talking About and Why Does It Matter?” NAFSA’s Trends & Insights for International Education Leaders. January, 2012. Web. 11 Mar. 2014.
Montiel-Overall, Patricia. “Students as Global Citizens: Educating a New Generation.” Library Media Connection.Nov. 2012. Web. 12 Mar. 2014.
Shapiro, Svi. “Education for Citizenship.” Tikkun. Jan/Feb 2009, Vol. 24 Issue 1. Web. 17 Mar. 2014.
Vaidya, Ashish. “Global Development: Outlook.” Issues: Understanding Controversy and Society. ABC-CLIO, 2014. Web. 13 Mar. 2014.
This essay was composed by Elyse Wallash for a sophomore-level course (called English 1C Critical Thinking) that she is completing at WVC.