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The 3 Lenses of Global Citizenship Skills: Understanding the Interconnected World

Who is the Global Citizen?

We often find ourselves falling into identity politics for a sense of stability through the rapid changes of the world today. However, our oversimplifications are making it harder to navigate the growing complexities we have to face.

As citizens, we often want to see things as a simple cause and effect - from our financial markets to the state of our health systems and other dynamics. But we have to ask, is this that their true nature?

When we look at someone or something, we often don't see the many pressures that affect certain behaviors. And that's what global citizenship is all about – breaking the world down for understanding but also being comfortable with a sense of uncertainty.

We've seen that the growth of technology increases citizen's awareness of everything that is happening. It only takes minutes to get stories from across the world, and countless media stories are in the palm of our hands. And to add to this, information is being created at an increasing rate.

Our knowledge bases are growing, but so is our distance. Even though our awareness has increased, we have failed to draw any new wisdom from the fact. And as we create two different worlds, we find ourselves continuously divided.

This has created a dynamic where our world views become more nuanced in our own eyes. However, in comparison to the whole, they have actually made us more divisive – black and white.

Sometimes we aren't aware of how much our ignorance keeps us from opening to any opposition. This is where the global citizenship skillset comes in. The World Economic Forum defines it with three competencies (1):

  1. Awareness of the Wider World

  2. Awareness of Sustainable Solutions

  3. Understanding the Role In the Global Community

Lens 1: The Outcomes of Global Citizenship

These competencies can be broken down even further, but that list gives us a direction. We notice that these skills alone can put a damper on the divisive problems of today.

When we understand that just because we look at the same thing through different lenses, it doesn't always mean that one side is wrong. It's this nature of paradox that the global citizen should aim to understand.

And as we add the depth of multiple viewpoints, we are stronger together than we are alone - and in this cooperation, we can build resilience against the violations of human rights.

Understanding the wider world is more than just about seeing it. Instead, it's about understanding the roots of our differences. Diversity is unavoidable, and that includes our opinions. And so, being able to step in new shoes is a critical component of the global citizen.

We must find a shared commitment to sustainability and understanding. And this can go beyond the environmental perspective and bring it to a level that we can all agree on – protecting and working to better the world for our children's safety.

Finding this common ground can help us move forward as we look for a more holistic understanding of conservatism's stability and the forward motion of liberalism. And with it, we can push through the pressures of our differences.

Creating a truly global citizen – one that can see the wisdom of the countryside and the city's innovation will require finesse. But it's something we must do, as these forces push on us (1):

  1. Globalization

  2. Technological Change

  3. Inequality of Opportunity

  4. Market Concentration

Lens 2: Globalization and Tensions

During the Second World War, the United States emerged as an economic leader on the world stage. As the country opened itself from isolationist values, we could no longer ignore our interconnection with other countries.

With a push against a common enemy, a new era was signaled.

In the years following, John Maynard Keynes and Cordell Hull wanted to solve several problems that persist today. They created economic goals to solve the many dynamics at the international divisions' root (2). Dynamics like:

  1. Protectionism vs. Free Trade

  2. Universalism vs. Regionalism

  3. Non-Discrimination vs. Preferential Arrangements

Their economic philosophy of globalization stretched to the social world as well. And international bodies like the United Nations were developed to bring a sense of coherence for everyone worldwide.

This meant a new way of being, international law, and ensuring human rights far and near.

In the years that followed, Europe really began to set the framework for international cooperation. We see this with agreements like the Treaty of Paris of 1951 that established a European coal and steel community. And the Treaty of Rome of 1957 establishing an Atomic Energy Community (2).

This cooperation culminated in massive partnerships like the establishment of the European Union in 1993.

Beyond national ties, corporations have begun to intertwine a workforce that spans across multiple regions. This has called for these companies to reach equilibrium across cultures and for nations to find deeper cooperation.

In some cases, the scales tilted in the other direction because the post-war era wasn't one without tensions. And the benefits of collaboration were matched with the potential casualties on a global level. In the Cold War, two of the world's powers hovered over the nuclear codes, and the frontline of war moved towards the earth's atmosphere.

What we began to see is that, for better or worse, we have had to face some sort of international pressure.

The past few generations have seen this continue directly and indirectly. And most recently, this dynamic has played out multiple times – the financial crisis of the late 2000s and, most recently, the COVID-19 pandemic.

Along with the rise of economic powerhouses like China, these dynamics have weakened the West's international leadership. And with the inconsistency of US foreign policy, the country is being forced into finding its identity – signaling a significant shift on the global scale. It is projected that by the end of the decade, 7 of the 10 largest economies will come from emerging markets (3). And it is this push that shaking the foundations of the world today.

With the latest technologies and the incoming development of 5G, the stage is only growing bigger. With this in mind, it is trending towards a more substantial need to develop global citizenship skills.

We have begun to move away from the binary option between isolationism and globalization.

Now, we must ask, how much do we have to participate in the global community?

Lens 3: Diversity and Sensitivity

We realize that even if we turn inwards and ignore the rest of the world, the American population is just as diverse.

And the American divide has split between the two worlds of liberals and conservatives, and the differences are apparent. One of the most profound issues is found in centuries of history, and that's the racial question many citizens face.

The history of racism isn't a straightforward storyline, and this is seen in narratives like Ibram X. Kendi's, Stamped from the Beginning. Voices throughout history have had little consistency when it comes to race, but the sentiments have rung through the generations.

During Slavery. During the Civil War. Reconstruction. Jim Crow. Civil Rights. The rise of black voices in pop culture during the '90s and the pandemic of black safety today.

No matter the era, the question keeps coming back, and each time it raises fundamental concerns. We must find new answers to this problem and others that all minorities have to face. And this means a new level of understanding that is increasingly lacking.

Campaigns that have risen against opposing opinions are seen on both sides of the line. We have witnessed cancel culture and the calls of fake news testing the roots of America's first amendment.

Gone are the days of the White Man's Burden, but it has only shifted into a new dynamic – the burden American citizens feel to save their country. Afflicting both sides has risen to a boiling point, and the only way to release the pressure is with a pearl of common wisdom.

Both sides have been comparing the other as enemies of the American people. The question becomes – who is actually the enemy?

Are the Democrats truly communist tyrants – the Republicans, fascist dictators?

I'm not here to call the case on which parties' divisive arguments are more damaging, but in many cases, it sounds like the echoes of the past rising from an aged demographic.

Is this a call for a more refined global citizen?

Though we may be reluctant to hear out the other side – doesn't understanding a wide range of views help us assess the world?

Possible Points of Cooperation

The world only stands to become more complex over the coming decades, and turning back may not be an option. The case for developing global citizenship seems to be more apparent as we head through the first quarter of the 21st century. But is this a task for the schools of tomorrow?

As we look to determine the school's position in developing tomorrow's students, we raise multiple questions. However, as we try to come to the same conclusions, we may be able to find some common ground.

National Security is a concern of all parties involved, whether seen through an isolationist perspective or by serving the international community. With a better understanding of diverse cultures, we can provide better messaging that ensures healthy communication either way. The same goes for our interactions within our border.

Building this skillset provides ways to solve national disputes that have developed with the Complexity of American Society. As many would lament, we will probably not be heading to an old sense of normal as we come to the pandemic's close. And so, ignoring the problems will not solve them.

Ultimately, we need to discover what it means to Make Better Decisions and provide better Risk Assessments of the world around us. Even though we are entering a new era, we have a chance to understand ways to better Protect Ourselves and Our Children.

Road to Implementation

Special Thanks!

(1) World Economic Forum. (2020). Schools of the Future: Defining New Models of Education for the Furth Industrial REvolution.

(2) McGarvey, R. (2016). Globalization Has Benefitted Corporations but Hurt Workers. In S. Armstrong (Ed.), At Issue. Corporate Corruption. Greenhaven Press. (Reprinted from The Corruption of Globalization, troymedia.com, 2014, October 20) https://link.gale.com/apps/doc/EJ3010462236/OVIC?u=nysl_ca_dmvacces&sid=OVIC&xid=3177d846

(3) The International Monetary Fund projects mediocre growth rates for Latin America of 0.2% and 1.8% for 2019 and 2020, respectively. International Monetary Fund, "World Economic Outlook, October 2019: Global Manufacturing Downturn, Rising Trade Barriers, 2019," https://www.imf.org/en/Publications/WEO/Issues/2019/10/01/world-economic-outlook-october-2019, accessed October 31, 2019.

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