Global Issues, Problems, and Challenges
identify major global issues, problems, and challenges, we examined
75 documents on global and international studies education to locate
common topics. These documents spanned the last five decades and
included several reports and surveys not written by citizens of
this country. Unfortunately, few authors prioritized their recommendations.
Thus, our compilation of global issues, problems, and challenges
reflects only the frequency that a topic received mention. In some
cases it was necessary to interpret the author's exact meaning or
intent. Some collapsing or rearranging of topics was also necessary
to hold the categories to a reasonable number. However, the ten
resulting categories include virtually everything intended by those
whose work provides the basis for this compilation.
ten categories form a working list meant to be scrutinized, reacted
to, and refined by those responsible for improved teaching and learning
about the international dimension in K-12 schools. The ten categories
should students learn about global issues, problems, and challenges?
All evidence indicates that global issues and problems are growing
in magnitude and will neither go away nor resolve themselves. They
require action. In turn, that action--if it is to be effective--requires
citizens who are trained and willing to deal with difficult and
complex global issues. Students should leave school reasonably informed
and concerned about one or more of the major global issues, problems,
or challenges facing the human race.
No one can claim to know with certainty what students in over 15,000
diverse school districts should study, know, and understand about
their world now and in coming years. Nor can any student be expected
to master more than a small fraction of the information available
on any of the major issues facing our world; each is vast, complex,
and changing constantly. But expert opinions, as well as all projected
trends, indicate that few of these issues or problems will be resolved
in the short run; probably most will not even be partially resolved
in the long run. Nevertheless, those responsible for determining
curriculum at the district and state levels need to address the
following knowledge objectives as best they can.
will know and understand that global issues and challenges exist
and affect their lives. Awareness is a necessary prerequisite
to understanding. If we expect today's students--tomorrow's leaders
and voters--to make intelligent decisions in the marketplace and
at the ballot box, they must have a degree of literacy regarding
the global problems, issues, concerns, and trends that increasingly
impact their lives. Global literacy does not require in-depth
expertise. Rather, it entails reasonable familiarity with a number
of global issues that dominate the news, coupled with a working
knowledge of the basic terminology and fundamental concepts of
these issues. It means knowing enough about some global issues
to intelligently analyze others.
will study at least one global issue in-depth and over time. When
studying any complex issue, "a little knowledge is a dangerous
thing." Students may be left with the false impression that they
have somehow become experts without expending the time and labor
that genuine expertise necessitates. Schools may inadvertently
contribute to this condition when they insist on coverage rather
than depth. To be effective, the serious study of any global issue
requires time and depth.
will understand that global issues and challenges are interrelated,
complex, and changing, and that most issues have a global dimension.
Students should be encouraged to find the relationships between
different domains of knowledge in order to gain a realistic perspective
about any global issue. They should become familiar with some
of the mechanisms available for managing global problems and to
what degree those mechanisms have functioned successfully in the
will be aware that their information and knowledge on most global
issues are incomplete and that they need to continue seeking information
about how global and international issues are formed and influenced.
Global education is a lifelong process. New global issues will
emerge in the future, and new insights into current global challenges
will be generated. Opinions and attitudes about international
topics are influenced by different channels: parents, peer groups,
the media, and private and public interest groups. Students need
the skills and abilities to examine and evaluate new information,
including understanding the biases of the source.
Because global issues and challenges are not static, students need
to develop the following skills to help them analyze and evaluate
today's global issues and to be able to analyze and evaluate new
issues in the future.
will learn the techniques of studying about global issues, problems,
and challenges. The study of any global problem or issue requires
time and depth. Having students learn how to learn about global
problems and issues may be as important as learning about any
will develop informational literacy about global issues and challenges.
In our over rich data environment, our chief concern should be
to help students, in Charles McClelland's words, "develop criteria
for discriminating, evaluating, selecting, and responding to useful
and relevant data in the communication flow of reports about conditions
and developments in the international environment." In other words,
we must help them to become effective at processing data.
will develop the ability to suspend judgment when confronted with
new data or opinions that do not coincide with their present understandings
or feelings. When information or beliefs about global issues conflict
with students' present perceptions, students must be able to demonstrate
thoughtfulness and patience if genuine understanding is to result.
Global problems and issues are complex and constantly changing,
often reflecting strongly held divergent views. Students must
learn to respect such views while maintaining their own right
to respectfully disagree.
"Education is only worth the difference it makes in the activities
of the individual who has been educated," said George Drayton Strayer
in his 1912 textbook on teaching methods. Unless
the study of global issues, problems, and challenges leads to some
positive action, such study is difficult to justify, given the multiple
demands already facing today's schools. To be effective, action need
not be limited to the physical activities students often engage in
to help maintain or improve their local environment. Action also means
caring enough about global problems and concerns to become and to
stay informed and to act intelligently when civic action is required.
Further, it means practicing active U.S. citizenship in an increasingly
interdependent, conflict-prone, and changing global arena. Some actions
that students should be able to perform when confronting the effects
of global issues and challenges are noted below.
will approach global issues, problems, and challenges neither
with undue optimism nor unwarranted pessimism. The study of any
global issue or challenge can become stressful, particularly for
younger students. Depending on the topic, such study can leave
them fearful or guilt-ridden. Neither fear nor guilt are good
motivators, and neither will lead to civic action. Thus, classroom
teachers must select issues that are within both the research
capabilities and the maturity level of their students. Leaving
students frustrated by the enormity of a global problem or feeling
guilty because of their inability to "solve" it serves no purpose.
will develop a sense of efficacy and civic responsibility by identifying
specific ways that they can make some contribution to the resolution
of a global issue or challenge. School systems have the obligation
to foster effective civic action. Despite the complexity of global
issues and challenges, students can contribute toward resolving
or ameliorating their effects.
for Global and International Studies Education:
Culture and World Areas