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Guidelines for Global and International Studies Education: Challenges, Culture, Connections

Since the beginning of the 21 st century, new forces—cultural, political, environmental, and economic—have swept the world.  Americans are reexamining the role of their country within these new global complexities.  No institution needs to respond more to these changes than should our nation's schools.

Due to this concern and high public interest, the United States has an "open moment" to affect crucial changes in our education systems. With federal support, academic standards have been established for students, first in language arts, history, geography, mathematics, and science, and subsequently in civics, the arts, and foreign languages. Simultaneously, many states are incorporating national education standards into curriculum frameworks.

These efforts to develop education standards are laudable, and they contain global and international studies components. However, many important issues related to global and international studies are missing or are inadequately dealt with. What should all U.S. students be expected to know and understand about the world? What skills and attitudes will our students need to confront future problems, which most assuredly will be global in scope? How are the global and international dimensions of learning being addressed by the new academic standards? What do scholars from the international relations disciplines and experienced practitioners of global education believe students should know, and how can these insights best be incorporated into the existing standards? What global and inter-national education guidelines are appropriate for precollegiate education? How will schools implement these guidelines when confronted with so many other problems? What should students know about the United States and its connections to the world?

Since 1968, when the US Office of Education funded the Foreign Policy Association to develop a list of objectives for international education, individuals and organizations, united under the rubrics of world areas and global or international studies education, have asked similar questions. Their answers present an array of diverse approaches, objectives, contents, skills, methods, and values. Out of these efforts have come excellent ideas, materials, and programs.

To help elementary and secondary school educators responsible for curriculum development or revision at both local and state levels, we have attempted to provide a summary of what concerned scholars and educators have recommended that American K-12 students study in the international dimension of their education. These guidelines or intellectual filters are not "standards" as the term is being used by academic disciplines, but they can be used to validate local curriculum decisions and to assure that the international dimension receives attention.

We have limited our focus to three broad areas or themes: Global Issues, Problems, and Challenges; Culture and World Areas; and the United States and the World: Global Connections. No claims of infallibility are made for dividing the task into these three domains; others may legitimately divide the international dimension of education differently. Within each theme we provide the rationale for studying the theme, knowledge objectives indicating what students should know and understand about the theme, a list of skills that students need in order to understand the issues encompassed by the theme, and participation objectives, which indicate what actions students should be able to take in relation to the challenges addressed by the themes.

If the study of global issues and challenges, culture, and the United States' global connections are ignored by our schools, our students will be inadequately prepared to function in an increasingly interdependent and conflict-prone world. This would be a serious mistake. If the US electorate is to be equipped with the necessary knowledge, skills and, most important, willingness, to better understand international matters, K-12 schools carry the major responsibility for assuring that all of our citizens are sufficiently informed to act responsibly when these matters are discussed and voted upon.

Next: I. Global Issues, Problems, and Challenges

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