Educating for a Global Citizenship


Educating for a Global Citizenship

Theme: Global Citizenship

Debra Blanke
Assistant Vice Chancellor for Academic Programs
Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education, OK
Constituent Group:
CAO / Administrators
Kyle Dahlem
Director of Teacher Education and the Minority Teacher Recruitment Center
Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education, OK
Constituent Group:
CAO / Administrators

In 1807, nearly 200 years ago, William Wordsworth wrote, “The world is too much with us, late and soon getting and spending, we lay waste our powers.” Has much changed in the last 200 years? The answer to this age-old question depends on one’s perspective, but Wordsworth describes a dilemma that continues to mold the American culture. Indeed, the four “C’s,” creativity, capitalism, commercialism and consumerism, are such driving forces that any personal or corporate goal must be filtered through them. What the mind can dream of, the investor can finance, the entrepreneur can produce and the public demands.

From the youngest to the oldest, Americans are steeped in a message that “more” is desirable, and the timeline is “now.” From education to economic security, “more” is the goal and in achieving that goal, all too often, little regard is paid to the long term ramifications for self, which includes family, or country—or as Wordsworth put it, “…we lay waste our powers.” Every empire has met its demise. None has maintained supremacy. How long will America maintain its position as a superpower with influence over the globe? That question can only be addressed through education—preparing citizens with 21st century skills.

Despite the diversity of older and younger people, i.e., traditionalists, Boomers, Xers, Millennials, and the youngest, the Gamers, each has a responsibility to be forward thinking. In the twenty-first century, opportunities abound for those who understand the dynamics of the global connectivity and that understanding comes through education and international experiences. It would be an easy thing if preparing citizens for the 21st Century was the only goal to achieve and there were no proximal influences to distract. If our public schools and colleges had a clear directive to focus on global skills (i.e. language acquisition, creativity, flexibility, technology, world cultures and history, adaptability, etc.), the pedagogy and instructional path to get there would be more clear. But the fact of the matter is that immediate exigencies prevent clear focus for future opportunities. Case in point is the testing requirements of No Child Left Behind which have the potential of producing a lock-step generation who have little background or experience in the creative world.

In his book The World is Flat, Thomas Friedman makes the point that “In the future, globalization is going to be increasingly driven by the individuals who understand the flat world, adapt themselves quickly to its processes and technologies, and start to march forward…”

The clinical model, assess, diagnose, prescribe, modify and implement, describes the adaptive qualities of a 21st Century citizen. The foundation of this model is education —”life-long learning.” As John Wooden, 20th Century basketball coach, admonished, “Failure to prepare is preparing to fail.” Educating for global citizenship must be a priority if America is to continue to be preeminent.

Oklahoma’s Initiative


The Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education have embarked upon a mission in collaboration with other state entities to capitalize upon a myriad global initiatives to enhance Oklahoma’s global perspective and role in the next 25 years. Oklahomans have been actively engaged internationally for over 20 years through sister city and sister state relationships. In 1985, then-Governor George Nigh brought Oklahoma governmental agencies together with officials from Japan and China. In 1990, the Oklahoma Department of Commerce began opening offices in China, Korea, Nigeria, Israel, Vietnam, The Netherlands, and Mexico. Oklahoma was the first U.S. state to actively engage international governments in state trade initiatives at this level.

By 2000, it was clear that governmental efforts to develop trade relationships could not be successful in isolation. Oklahoma business owners were uninformed about their international partners, which limited success as business partners. Oklahoma leaders knew a more integrated understanding of global competitiveness was needed. That same year, the, Preparing Oklahoma for Global Competitiveness in the 21st Century: an International Strategic Plan for Oklahoma was approved. The plan included goals with objectives and strategic actions to make Oklahoma a leading state in the global community. Subsequently, in 2002, an invitation from the Asia Society to then-Governor Frank Keating resulted in a four member team, representing the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education, the Oklahoma Department of Commerce, the Oklahoma State Department of Education and the Tulsa Public Schools, determining that the fourth of the five goals would be the focus of a major effort to infuse international studies throughout the K-16 curricula. The five goals of the plan include:

  • To promote and expand Oklahoma’s international trade;
  • To expand foreign direct investment in Oklahoma;
  • To increase Oklahoma’s public awareness and active support for globalization;
  • To ensure a workforce prepared for global competition; and
  • To build advocacy for international trade in the federal, state, and local governments.

As mentioned, the fourth goal has been the focus of the educational community. One strategic objective under this goal is to increase understanding of international issues among K-16 students and faculty. This objective is supported by the following rationale:

Sustainable economic development requires the availability of a workforce that understands the economic threats and opportunities of the global economy and is prepared for productive performance in such a setting. Education is the key to such understanding. Attention must be directed both to current employees as well as students at all educational institution levels who will become the workers of tomorrow.

International Strategic Plan for Oklahoma, 2000.

To address this goal, there are efforts underway at all levels of Oklahoma’s educational system. Public schools, technology centers, colleges, and universities all recognize the global nature of their students’ futures and are working to address appropriate preparation. For public schools, the focus is on internationalizing the curriculum. Infusing international content and perspective into all subjects in tandem with required academic skills and content is key. The Oklahoma Associations Supporting International Studies (OASIS) is a collaboration of the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education, the Oklahoma State Department of Education, and the Oklahoma Department of Commerce, funded through a grant from the Asia Society and the Longview Foundation, to provide resources to teachers and students. Teaching tools and resources are available to add an international perspective to subjects that meet Oklahoma’s academic content requirements. The initiative promotes infusing international contexts into current teaching patters rather than adding “international” as another content area for teachers to try to fit into the current curriculum.

In addition to providing resources to current teachers, OASIS provides international opportunities to students in teacher preparation programs at Oklahoma universities. For example, Northeastern Oklahoma State University hosted a delegation from Sichuan Province China and plans are underway for course and faculty exchanges. The education faculty developed teaching and learning modules focused on Japan and collaborated with international students to present cultural lessons in local public schools. Additionally, teacher candidates viewed and discussed films which promoted an understanding of different cultures, i.e., Children of Heaven to Social Studies for Elementary Teachers classes, The Way Home and Not One Less to Language Arts classes.

Much work is underway, but the reality of this system wide initiative is that it is not a mandate. The impact of each of these collaborations, therefore, is difficult to assess at this early stage. On the positive side, the number of international/global related activities, the easiest to count, has increased. The type of activities varies even within an institution. The demand for accountability has seriously impacted teacher preparation and teachers’ practice. Accountability and mandates make it difficult for teachers to add anything else to the curricula. Assessing, collecting, and analyzing data which conform to set standards often have curtailed too much of the flexibility teachers need to be innovative. It was a conscious decision by the Oklahoma collaboration to encourage infusing international studies throughout the curricula rather than mandating.

Beyond teachers and teacher preparation programs, the Oklahoma global initiative is permeating other college and university programs. Many of our schools have some international students and study abroad experiences, as well as international events on campus. However, the campus investment into staff and resources for these activities varies greatly. The two research institutions have strong infrastructure in place for faculty exchanges, student exchanges, and sufficient populations for international student organizations and events. Unfortunately, many of our smaller campuses do not have the resources to devote to these efforts. In response, the State Regents have teamed with the Oklahoma Department of Commerce to leverage our resources together and promote Oklahoma colleges and universities abroad. As the State of Oklahoma, we are broadly recruiting international students to our institutions. In 2004, a delegation of 11 Oklahomans traveled to Vietnam and Taiwan to promote Oklahoma higher education. Individual schools, both public and private, went on the trip, and the State Regents’ staff represented the smaller colleges and universities that could not send representatives. Statewide materials were made available to students, parents, and business leaders. During this 14-day trip, the delegation made contact with 3,500 students at three student recruitment fairs, made faculty presentations to over 400 students and faculty, and conducted ten meetings with Vietnamese and Taiwanese governmental leaders, university officials, industry leaders, and U.S. diplomatic staff. Discussions included student recruitment, faculty exchanges, workforce training and development contracts, and articulation agreements. Our partnership with the Oklahoma Department of Commerce to open specific doors to business training needs in these countries has been invaluable. Linking education, training, and business ventures together in an integrated way has been a key to our success.

Oklahoma motives for these efforts are multiple. We see global relationships as critical for future growth in our state, both as individual Oklahomans, as business leaders, and as global community members. We see economic benefit to offering Oklahoma as a source for education and training. In economic terms, this is one of our leading exports. We also see Oklahoma alumni and global friends leading businesses and governments abroad, and looking favorably back to Oklahoma. Finally, we hope to develop citizens that can see past the Oklahoma state line, as well as the U.S. coastline to know and value the other peoples, cultures, and nations in the world we share.

How must international study change from traditional modes?

We live in an age when the amount of information is expanding exponentially. Not all of this knowledge is in traditional sources. Examine Wikipedia which is the sum of over 50,000 contributors in a hundred different languages (Wired, April 2006). That information is leveraged by unbelievable technologies and has the potential to expand the world of our campus, while not having to necessarily leave the campus environment. Most models of international study in Oklahoma have been microscopic in nature. A teacher in a public school will spend one week and examine one small segment of some country, as if under a microscope, showing a few words and numbers in the language, showing the national flag, and learning a few isolated facts and figures. Then, that segment is over. At our colleges, a few students with healthy resources will travel with a group on a whirlwind tour through Europe or well informed students will see the signs for free food at the international fair scheduled for two hours on a Tuesday afternoon on campus. These experiences have value, but are not always connected with any sustained program to change attitudes and perspectives about our global neighbors. In Oklahoma, we see international study changing from an “add on if time allows” to an integration and engagement. We see every student on a college campus receiving international perspectives in general education courses, in language acquisition opportunities, in campus mission statements, ongoing travel and study opportunities, lecture series by international faculty, and broader impact of international campus events to the local community.

A new initiative underway in Oklahoma is promoting the notion of “stewardship of place” and the value, along with responsibility, the campus has in relationship to its local community. To be a good steward of the campus and local community, there are things the campus should provide. Global understanding and practical ways to embrace globalization are issues the campus can contribute to its students, local citizens, and local business leaders. This would change the microscopic model of international study to an integrated model of collaboration and action.

What role should teachers and faculty play in incorporating international content throughout the curricula? How can students’ global experiences be incorporated into meaningful learning experiences which reinforce twenty-first century knowledge and skills, both at home and abroad?

How to proceed? To prepare individuals to understand and adapt to global perspectives can be accomplished through inquiry based experiences utilizing these new dynamic technologies. Inquiry based learning relies on skills which promote problem solving. Problem-based learning provides students with loosely structure real-life problems that form the basis for their exploration of various content areas. For example, video conferencing has been used be several universities and small school districts in Oklahoma to discuss specific topics or debate international subjects.

What will success look like some years from now?

Global understanding may be seen in concrete ways, such as increased numbers of international students, increased numbers of study abroad students, increased numbers of faculty participating in international faculty exchange programs, and increased participation in campus events and activities with an international focus. These will be the easy measurements of change. More substantive, yet difficult to measure, will be the individual changes. Would we not see less racial tension on our campus because more understanding of our global neighbor will provide more understanding of our neighbor next door? Will our graduates reminisce about their international experiences to others and spark conversations that ripple their understanding on to others? Will our graduates not seek offices as our local, state, and federal legislators and leaders, bringing their broadened view of the world with them to influence their decisions on our behalf? Will our international graduates not be leading countries and international businesses around the world, filtering decisions through experiences they had in Oklahoma? Will our campuses not be the foundation of international economic activity and provide resources to local businesses working globally?

These are just a few of the opportunities before us as we lay the foundation for global engagement in our public schools and colleges in Oklahoma. But the only way to realize this future is to commit resources, time, talent, and energy to this goal. Through these commitments, we will drive towards integrated engagement rather than episodic, microscopic, and fragmented efforts. In Oklahoma we have only begun this journey. We hope to share our successes, and learn from others about their successes that we might emulate.


Friedman, T. L. (2005). The world is flat: A brief history of the twenty-first century. New York: Farrar, Straus, & Giroux.

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