My fellowship is Teachers for Global Classrooms. I’ve been tasked with globalizing my curriculum. What exactly is globalization? In one of those rare moments of the universe aligning at just the right time, I was able to to overhear some impressive high school conversations on globalization yesterday.
While visiting the Colombio Armenia Center I observed an instructor and his intermediate level class. The instructors follow a set curriculum guide that provides plenty of opportunities for students to speak, listen, read, and write in English. These are high school students who have applied to the program and proved they are earning good grades in school. The ACCESS program at Colombo offers low income students priority registration to provide quality English instruction to a group of students who might not be able to afford other such programs. ACCESS is funded by both the U.S. State Department and Colombia.
The high school students I observed were starting to study, you guessed it, globalization. They interacted with one another discovering where common items were manufactured. The workbook provided five pictures and students took turns describing how each one depicted globalization. Then the students listened to recordings of English speaking people with varying accents explaining some globalization scenarios. The students had excellent observations about clothing and fashion spreading from other places. It was discussed that this was both a positive thing because more options and styles were available but there is also a loss of culture and identity in this process.
We discussed how these high schoolers were globalizing their own future and opportunities by dedicating themselves to learn English on their own time. Access to better education, imports from abroad, and experiencing the richness of other cultures are globalized impacts that were decisively agreed upon as positive. However, we also discussed how globalizing has made it somewhat difficult for Colombia to compete in a world economy. Entertainment can help spread awareness of other cultures, but their discussions of Jersey Shore made me realize that maybe MTV hasn’t done the U.S. culture any favors abroad! Also, shows like Netflix’s Narcos haven’t done Colombia, a nation languishing in a reputation of drugs and violence, any favors in efforts to reestablish themselves as a country that feels they have moved beyond.
It’s an interesting time to be considering globalization when we see nationalistic political movements in the United Kingdom and the United States. Regardless of politics, our world has globalized in ways that require us to educate our students to solve global problems. The pollution of one country affects citizens across the world. The political turmoil and terrorism of another country leaves much of the world figuring out how to deal with displaced migrants. The importance of understanding how a free trade agreement might not actually be beneficial long term for all
the countries involved.
The students in the ACCESS program are learning English to help prepare themselves for this world. How are we preparing our students to understand these social, scientific, technological, and moral issues? Teaching 21st Century Skills has been a good start for Smithridge. We are teaching students with an interdisciplinary approach, to think critically, and communicate their ideas with a variety of audiences. What are the next steps we can take to ensure that our students are being prepared our globalizing society?
Final thought: This group of high school students identified Spain and African culture as the top two influences on Colombia culture. What would you say are the top influences of U.S. culture?