Close
Stay informed: Sign up for eNews Subscribe

Globalization Culture and Education in the New Millennium

Read Chapter 1
Close

Chapter One: Globalization


Culture and Education in the New Millennium
Marcelo M. Suárez-Orozco and Desirée Baolian Qin-Hilliard

Introduction

Globalization defines our era. It is "what happens when the movement of people, goods, or ideas among countries and regions accelerates" (Coatsworth, this volume). In recent years, globalization has come into focus, generating considerable interest and controversy in the social sciences, humanities, and policy circles and among the informed public at large (see, for example, Appadurai 1996; Bauman 1998; Baylis and Smith 1997; Bhagwati 2002; Castles and Davidson 2000; Giddens 2000; Hardt and Negri 2000, Inda and Rosaldo 2001; Jameson and Miyoshi 1999; King 1997; Lechner and Boli 1999; O'Meara, Mehlinger, and Krain 2000; Sassen 1998; Singer 2002; Tomlinson 1999). From terrorism to the environment, HIV-AIDS to Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), free trade to protectionism, population growth to poverty and social justice, globalization seems deeply implicated in nearly all of the major issues of the new millennium.

While globalization has created a great deal of debate in economic, policy, and grassroots circles, many implications and applications of the phenomenon remain virtual terra incognita. Education is at the center of this uncharted continent. We have barely started to consider how these accelerating transnational dynamics are affecting education, particularly precollegiate education. Instead, educational systems worldwide continue mimicking and often mechanically copying from each other and borrowing curricula (from trivial facts about history in middle school to trigonometry in high school), teaching methods ("chalk and talk"), and assessment tests (short answer and regurgitation). These practices would have been familiar to our forebears going to school two generations ago (Suárez-Orozco and Gardner 2003). Yet youth in school today, whether in Bali, Beijing, Beirut, Berlin, Boston, or Buenos Aires, will encounter a vastly different world from that of our grandparents.

Throughout most human prehistory and history, the vectors that organized and gave meaning to human lives and human imaginaries were structured primarily by local geography and topology, local kinship and social organization, local worldviews and religions. Even a few hundred years ago, a minute in human evolutionary time, the lives of our ancestors were largely shaped by local economies, local social relations, and local knowledge. Prior to the transoceanic explorations and conquests, villagers were likely to be born, raised, and schooled (however shortly), to work, marry, reproduce, and be buried in the same locale. They were largely oblivious to changes taking place even a few hundred miles away. Then "the village was practically the beginning and end of his or her world: visitors were rare, few travelers passed by, and excursions from the village would, in all likelihood, have only been to the nearest market town. . . . Contact with the outside world would have been the exception rather than the rule" (Held 2000).

Today the world is another place. While human lives continue to be lived in local realities, these realities are increasingly being challenged and integrated into larger global networks of relationships. The forces of globalization are taxing youth, families, and education systems worldwide. All social systems are predicated on the need to impart values, morals, skills, and competencies to the next generation (see Gardner, this volume). The main thesis of this book is that the lives and experiences of youth growing up today will be linked to economic realities, social processes, technological and media innovations, and cultural flows that traverse national boundaries with ever greater momentum. These global transformations, we believe, will require youth to develop new skills that are far ahead of what most educational systems can now deliver. New and broader global visions are needed to prepare children and youth to be informed, engaged, and critical citizens in the new millennium. This book has been developed around the idea that education will need both rethinking and restructuring if schooling is to best prepare the children and youth of the world to engage globalization's new challenges, opportunities, and costs.

Education's challenge will be to shape the cognitive skills, interpersonal sensibilities, and cultural sophistication of children and youth whose lives will be both engaged in local contexts1 and responsive to larger transnational processes. We claim that two domains in particular will present the greatest challenges to schooling worldwide: the domain of difference and the domain of complexity.

The Domain of Difference
One of the paradoxes of globalization is that difference is becoming increasingly normative. Globalization and massive migrations are changing the ways we experience national identities and cultural belonging (see C. Suárez-Orozco, this volume). At the beginning of the twentieth century, W.E.B. Du Bois announced that "the color line" would define the social agenda for the United States. At the beginning of the twenty-first century, that line is complicated by the increasingly fluid political and cultural borders that once separated both nation-states and the people within them. These external and internal borders are increasingly becoming noisy and conflictive areas where cultural communication and miscommunication play out in schools, communities, and places of work and worship.

Globalization decisively unmakes the coherence that the modernist project of the nineteenth- and twentieth-century nation-state promised to deliver—the neat fit between territory, language, and identity (see Suárez-Orozco and Sommer 2002). Consider the following depiction of one of France's largest cities:

To enter the Rue Du Bon Pasteur in the heart of this Mediterranean port is to leave France. Or rather, it is to leave a France still fixed in the imagination of many, a land where French is spoken and traditions of a secular society are enforced. The Rue du Bon Pasteur—the Street of the Good Shepherd—is a haven owned, operated, and populated by Arab Muslims. Arabic is spoken here. All the women cover their hair with scarves. Men in robes and sandals sit together in cafes where they reach out to Arabia via satellite television. The kiosk on the corner sells a score of newspapers and magazines flown in daily from the Arab world. The Attaqwa mosque in the middle of the street calls so many worshippers to prayer every Friday that dozens of them are forced to lay out their prayer rugs on the street. That street reflects the political and social reality facing France. Demography has transformed the country, whose population is about 7 percent Arab and Muslim, the highest percentage in Western Europe. (Sciolino 2003)

As Clifford Geertz has poetically noted, "all modern nations—even Norway, even Japan—contradict themselves: They contain multitudes" (Shweder, Minow, and Markus 2002, back cover). These "multitudes" challenge the structure and practices of the nation state (see Shweder, Minor, and Markus 2002) but may invigorate democracy's best promise when difference engenders serious engagement and debate.

Managing difference is becoming one of the greatest challenges to multicultural countries. From France to Sweden, Brazil to Bolivia, Indonesia to Malaysia, the work of managing difference calls forth a new educational agenda. Children growing up in these and other settings are more likely than in any previous generation in human history to face a life of working and networking, loving and living with others from different national, linguistic, religious, and racial backgrounds. They are challenged to engage and work through competing and contrasting models, such as kinship, gender, language (monolingual and multilingual), and the complicated relationships between race, ethnicity, and inequality, in new ways. It is by interrupting "thinking as usual"—the taken-for-granted understandings and worldviews that shape cognitive and metacognitive styles and practices—that managing difference can do the most for youth growing up today.

Take, for example, the widely shared Western idea that individuals ought to autonomously and freely enter marriage agreements predicated on individual agency and love. A Swedish youngster might find it odd, maybe even bizarre, that for her Kurdish classmate, the idea of "love marriage" would be culturally incomprehensible. Working through the cultural models and social practices that structure the idea of love marriage—a historically new and, until very recently, ethnographically rare practice—and the idea of "arranged marriage"—the preferred marriage practice found in most ethnographic and historical records—can open up more nuanced and sophisticated understandings of human nature and culture, history and kinship, social organization and values. If the child learns nothing else, she should know that there is nothing natural about love marriage!

Negotiating differences requires energy—the kind of energy that can be recycled and harnessed to bolster a cornerstone of human intelligence: the ability to consider multiple perspectives (Piaget 1936; Gardner 1999; Vygotsky 1978). Taking multiple perspectives, reversing mental routines, and articulating multiple hypotheses from a common set of facts and working through the logical and rational vectors that would best explain those preexisting facts are crucial features of human intelligence.2 When distinct cultural models and social practices are deployed to address a common set of problems, youth gain the cognitive and metacognitive advantages inherent in examining and working on a problem from many angles. Freely, fully, and respectfully arguing within a framework of difference is likely to better equip youth to deal with the complexities of the day.

The Domain of Complexity
Globalization engenders complexity. Throughout the world it is generating more intricate demographic profiles (see C. Suárez-Orozco, this volume), economic realities (see Bloom, this volume; Coatsworth, this volume), political processes, technology and media (see Jenkins, this volume; Battro, this volume), cultural facts and artifacts (see Watson, this volume; Jenkins, this volume), and identities (see Maira, this volume; C. Suárez-Orozco, this volume). Many countries are indeed undergoing intense demographic transformations. Sweden, a country of nine million people today, has a million immigrants, roughly half of them from the Muslim world (for other examples, see C. Suárez-Orozco, this volume). Economies likewise must adapt to the new, complex forces brought about by global capital. Local politics, too, are stretched in new ways—for example, when "absentee citizens" in the diaspora exercise political power in the communities they left behind.

Globalization's increasing complexity necessitates a new paradigm for learning and teaching. The mastery and mechanical regurgitation of rules and facts should give way to a paradigm in which cognitive flexibility and agility win the day. The skills needed for analyzing and mobilizing to solve problems from multiple perspectives will require individuals who are cognitively flexible, culturally sophisticated, and able to work collaboratively in groups made up of diverse individuals. In his contribution to this volume Howard Gardner claims that the complexity behind many of globalization's "big problems" requires deep disciplinary grounding as well as the ability to achieve multidisciplinary understandings, collaborations, and solutions. "Trends in our increasingly globalized society," writes Gardner (this volume), "have brought interdisciplinary concerns to the fore. Issues like poverty reduction, anti-terrorism, privacy, prevention of disease, energy conservation, ecological balance—and the list could be expanded at will—all require input from and syntheses of various forms of disciplinary knowledge and methods. Educational institutions seek, in their ways, to respond to the demand for this kind of skill; and the more adventurous students are attracted to studies that call for a blend of disciplinary expertises." Multitasking, learning how to learn, learning from failures, lifelong learning, and the ability to master and move across domains now have a premium.

An education for globalization should therefore nurture the higher-order cognitive and interpersonal skills required for problem finding, problem solving, articulating arguments, and deploying verifiable facts or artifacts to substantiate claims. These skills should be required of children and youth who will, as adults, fully engage the larger world and master its greatest challenges, transforming it for the betterment of humanity—regardless of national origin or cultural upbringing. This we term the convergence hypothesis: globalization is de-territorializing the skills and competencies it rewards, thereby generating powerful centripetal forces on what students the world over need to know.

In this book we examine how globalization is shaping the lives of the children of the world in and out of schools. Our aim is to stimulate new thinking, research, and policy work in a domain that remains largely ignored by scholars of education. Millions of children and youth are growing up in a world where global processes are placing new demands on educational systems that are traditionally averse to change (see Gardner, this volume). There is virtually no scholarship on globalization and precollegiate education.4 While there is some research on policy, administration, and curriculum that address globalization and primary and secondary education worldwide (see for example Burbules and Torres 2000; Quashigah and Wilson 2001; Stromquist and Monkman 2000), generally these works fail to foreground how globalization is impacting the experiences of youth in and out of schools. Likewise, there is a small but growing literature on youth and globalization (see, for example, Amit-Talai and Wulff 1995; Bennett 2000; Jenkins 1992, 1998; Larson 2002; Maira and Soep, forthcoming). Alas, most of these works also fail to emphasize the role of education and schools in the lives of youth.

A number of researchers have begun to systematically examine how globalization is changing the lives of youth in Latin America and the Caribbean (Welti 2002), in Arab countries (Booth 2002), in sub-Saharan Africa (Nsamenang 2002), and in Southeast Asia (Stevenson and Zusho 2002). More and more young people in these areas have access to global information; they copy the styles of U.S. teenagers (who themselves, as Jenkins [this volume] informs us, borrow from youth elsewhere), sing English-language songs, have more leisure opportunities for dating, and are more likely to be playing similar computer games. In many of these places, rural households shrink as a result of youth migrating to urban areas in search of work and other opportunities.5 Gender roles are also transformed. While many observers see globalization as positive, promoting economic development and intercultural exchanges, there are also corrosive developments, such as globalization's threats to century-long traditions, religious identities, authority structures, values, and worldviews (see Arnett 2002; Brown, Larson, and Saraswathi 2002; Stevenson and Zusho 2002). It is increasingly obvious that in many corners of the world the winds of anti-globalization are blowing strong (Naidoo 2003; also see Watson, this volume).6

In the remainder of this introduction, we review some of the dominant themes in the scholarship on globalization and propose a tentative definition of the term. Then we examine the basic topics that unfold in the following chapters. We claim that four domains are at the heart of the new global impulses affecting youth and education worldwide: the globalization of economy and capital; the globalization of media, information, and communication technologies; large-scale immigration; and the globalization of cultural production and consumption. Together these currents are reshaping the experiences of youth in and out of schools the world over. As a number of chapters in this book suggest, youth are active players in the making of new globalizing spaces in culture, economy, and society. The following chapters are devoted to exploring the complex psychological, educational, sociocultural, and historical implications of globalization for the future of today's children and youth.

Interdisciplinary Reflections on Globalization

Globalization is at the heart of any understanding of broad processes of social change taking place in disparate locales around the world. After September 11, 2001, some observers announced the end of globalization (Rugman 2001; Gray 2002). While globalization, especially when narrowly defined as free markets and free capital flows, has generated doubts (Sen 2000), it may be premature to dismiss its relevance for judicious social science, education, and policy work. First, it remains the case that the major predicaments of the future will not likely be contained within the boundaries and paradigms of the twentieth-century nation-state. The case of SARS forcefully illustrates this dynamic. Within a few months of its original appearance (probably in Guangdong Province in coastal China some time toward the end of 2002), it became a worldwide health threat with serious economic, social, and political consequences not only in Guangdong but also in Beijing and in places as far away as Canada and Chinese diasporas throughout the world.7

Second, despite the economic slowdown and new international travel barriers after September 11, the general momentum toward increasing global integration in economic, communications, and security matters will likely continue into the future.8 As the Foreign Policy Association has recently suggested, after September 11 "being there" is likely to be replaced by continued and growing communication and exchanges via means such as international telecommunications and the Internet. The association also notes that "the new global emphasis on fighting terrorism on military, diplomatic, and economic fronts could serve to increase levels of international political engagement over the coming years. Nor can forward momentum in the global economy be ruled out. Even as nations are struggling to pull themselves out of recession, they are continuing to strengthen the mechanisms for global integration" (Foreign Policy Association 2002).

Third, in a number of significant cases, nation-states continue to regroup in fundamental ways on supranational lines. For example, the European Union (EU) has grown from an original six-country entity in the early 1950s (including Germany, France, Belgium, Luxembourg, Italy, and the Netherlands) to the formal creation of the European Economic Community (EEC) and European Atomic Energy Community (EURATOM) in 1958. By the 1970s, it had added Denmark, Ireland, and the United Kingdom. Greece, Spain, and Portugal became members in the 1980s, and Austria, Finland, and Sweden in the 1990s. By the year 2004, ten new members are to be added, including Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, the Slovak Republic, and Slovenia (see European Union 2002). Finally, the potential for globalization remains quite high (see Coatsworth, this volume).

But before scholars of education can begin to mine the analytic potential of this new work, it is necessary to attend to basic definitional and theoretical matters. The term globalization in its current usage is quite broad and lacks well-defined boundaries. Some simply equate globalization with free markets.9 Others use the term interchangeably with such concepts as transnationalism or postnationality. Still others use the term as a proxy for imperialism or neocolonialism. In the popular mind, globalization is often a proxy for Americanization. Others use globalization to examine themes that in earlier scholarship came under the rubric of "development" or "world systems" theory.

Each scholarly discipline seems to privilege its own set of concerns. Anthropologists, for example, tend to approach globalization in relation to their inherent interest in culture (see Watson, this volume). Globalization tends to detach social practices and cultural formations from localized territories. One hundred years ago European and Euro-American anthropologists took long journeys to remote locations to study exotic social institutions and cultural beliefs. Today globalization delivers the "exotic" to the anthropologist's own backyard. Turkish cultural formations are, in plain sight, as ubiquitous in parts of Frankfurt as they are in Istanbul. Likewise, Mexican culture is now alive and well in New York—where by the year 2000 roughly half a million Mexican citizens resided, with well over 300,000 in New York City alone (Smith 2002).

But globalization also delivers what is "mundane" in the anthropologists' backyard to remote and out of the way places.10 This is sometimes referred to as the "Coca-colonization" or "MacDonaldization" of the developing world (indeed as James Watson indicates in his chapter, MacDonald's has emerged as the very incarnation of globalization in part because "on an average day the company serves nearly fifty million customers in over thirty thousand restaurants located in 118 countries. In the mid-1990s a new MacDonald's opened somewhere in the world every eight hours"). A cursory look through the programs of the American Anthropological Association meetings of the past few years suggests just how globalization has become a central concern for anthropologists. Indeed, over the past decade anthropologists have developed a taste for such topics as transnationalism (see Basch, Schiller, and Blanc 1995; Gupta and Ferguson 1992; Mahler 1995), cultural hybrids and dualities (Canclini 1995/1989; Inda and Rosaldo 2002; Zentella 2002), mass media (Michaels, 2002; Yang, 2002; Larkin, 2002), immigration (see M. Suárez-Orozco 1989, 1991, 1994, 1996, 1998, 1999, 2000; C. Suárez-Orozco and M. Suárez-Orozco 2001; and M. Suárez-Orozco and Páez 2002), and persisting cultural conflicts (Shweder 2000; Wikan 2000)—all brought about by globalization.11

Economists, in contrast, study globalization because of their interest in trade, financial markets, and transnational capital flows (see Bhagwati 2002; Burtless, Lawrence, Litan, and Shapiro 1998; Feldstein 2002; Stiglitz 2002; and Rodrik 1997). Arguments over the economic causes and consequences of globalization are lengthy and sometimes polarizing. A plurality of economists see globalization—especially free trade—as the path to development and growth (Bhagwati 2002; Feldstein 2002; Burtless et al. 1998). Harvard president Lawrence Summers, an economist and former U.S. secretary of the treasury, argued in the 2003 Godkin Lecture that "the rate at which countries grow is substantially determined by their ability to integrate with the global economy, their capacity to maintain sustainable government finances, and their ability to put in place an institutional environment in which contracts can be enforced and property right can be established" (see Abrams 2003). Many other leading economists seem to agree. Burtless, Lawrence, Litan, and Shapiro (1998) argue that increased "economic interlinkages" around the world have generated wealth and "helped promote capitalism and democracy" in such varied places as Asia, Latin America, and Africa. These scholars claim that globalization demonstrates "the virtues of trade and markets" while helping alleviate poverty and create new opportunities for economic growth and well-being. The insertion of China into the global economy has been hailed as a paradigm of the virtues of globalization in promoting both economic growth and human welfare: "In 1960, the average Chinese expected to live only 36 years. By 1999, the life expectancy has risen to 70 years, not far below the level of the United States. Literacy has risen from less than 50 percent to more than 80 percent" (Rodrik 2002, p. 30). Economists who celebrate the merits of globalization generally reject proposed "globaphobic" policies because they would interrupt the expansion of free markets and create unnecessary detours en route to development (Burtless et al. 1998). For some economists, lack of globalization, not globalization itself, is the cause of poverty and misery in the developing world.12

A small but influential group of economists, however, has been vocal in questioning the economic consequences of globalization (see, for example, Stiglitz 2002; Sen 2001; Rodrik 2002). These criticisms have tended to focus on (1) globalization's failure to generate economic growth in large sectors of the world, (2) its role in increased economic inequality within and across nations (see Bloom, this volume; Coatsworth, this volume), and (3) its role in the increasingly desperate fate of growing numbers of poor and disenfranchised people throughout the world: by 2002 "1.2 billion people around the world live[d] on less than $1 a day[, and] 2.8 billion people [more than 45 percent of the world's population] live[d] on less than $2 a day" (Stiglitz 2002, p. 25).

These economists have also pointed out the unsavory fact that under globalization the fate of billions of people increasingly rests in the hands of the arbiters of global capitalism, especially the International Monetary Fund and financial interests in Wall Street, London, Geneva, and other global cities. These power brokers dictate the economic and social agendas of faraway countries with little accountability, huge asymmetries in decision-making powers, and a lack of concern for local institutional frameworks, needs, and priorities (Stiglitz 2002). Yet in the game of globalization, local factors may indeed be more important than ever before. Harvard economist Dani Rodrik (2002) has argued that free markets are not enough: "Economies that have performed well over the long term owe their success not to geography or trade, but to institutions that have generated market-oriented incentives, protected property rights, and enabled stability" (p. 29). Regardless of their beliefs about the economic consequences of globalization or their recipes for making globalization "work," nearly all respected economists agree that global "poverty is now the defining issue" (Rodrik 2002, p. 29). As the work of David Bloom (this volume) suggests, no serious debate on the economics of globalization and poverty can neglect the role of education in promoting development and well-being (see also Bloom and Cohen 2002).

Political scientists, for their part, have turned their attention to how globalization is challenging the workings of the state (Strange 1996; Waltz 1999; Berger and Dore 1996). Much of this scholarship focuses on the political consequences of global economic integration. Some have hypothesized that growing economic interdependence is inevitably generating certain similarities in the technologies, habits of work, and lifestyles that come to be privileged under globalization (Boyer 1996). These similarities would in turn seem to exert pressures on nation-states to "preserve distinctive social, political, and economic organizations" (Boyer 1996, p. 29). Some observers even "predict that the nation state will soon be obsolete and the government's room for maneuver will be limited" (p. 29). Yet other political scientists question the mechanistic assumption that growing economic interdependence leads to convergence in the political realm (Waltz 1999; Weiss, 1998).14 While some political scientists see economic integration as the very essence of globalization, others have come to see growing inequality as its most profound legacy, which should reaffirm the centrality of politics over economics. As "the distribution of capabilities across states has become extremely lopsided, . . . the inequalities of international politics enhance the political role of one country. Politics, as usual, prevails over economics" (Waltz 1999, p. 11).

Globalization challenges the nation-state in other ways. Transnational nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) are increasingly vocal and