22 January 2012

Educational Standards and Global Learning

As No Child Left Behind is left behind and Common Core Standards make their way in to US educational policy, global learning has become the hot topic of educational dialogue. The big question is ‘how will our nation’s children fare in the ever diversifying, ever globalizing world?’ It is becoming more and more obvious that the problems our younger generations are going to have to solve will be global problems, whether it pertains to the economy, demographic shifts or the environment. Many believe that the way to prepare our students to take on these challenges is through global learning.

To me, global learning is learning that creates and enhances 1) student awareness of different cultures, globalization and its impacts and 2) the ability to interact effectively in an increasingly global world; that is, global learning is learning to be a better global citizen. Yong Zhao notes that these global “citizens must be able to competently negotiate cultural differences, manage multiple identities, comfortably interact with people from different cultures, and confidently move across cultures as well as the virtual and physical worlds” (“Education in the Flat World: Implications of Globalization on Education”, EDge vol 2, no 4). To master these skills, students must become more aware, more tolerant and more appreciative of cultures other than their own. As other countries move toward preparing their students to speak multiple languages, travel across national borders, be more emotionally stable and promote creativity and individuality, the US needs to move in the same direction. Zhao notes that much of what motivates US movements toward a more global education is worry about international competition. If the US wishes to compete with other countries, then it should consider the competing training methods and move to improve upon them in creating its own standards.

What the recent US standards of education point to is that those concerned with how our students perform in international competition are short term strategists. While they seem to be economically motivated – what will keep the US ahead in the sciences, maths and technologies so that we can keep an economic stronghold on innovation? – their vision is short-sighted. No Child Left Behind focused on high stakes testing at the elementary, middle and high school levels. Unfortunately, none of these demographics are particularly money-earning, money-spending or money-creating. Are those test scores really indicators of how much these students will contribute to that demographic in adulthood? I think not. US educational policy makers must come to the understanding that the long term success of the US in innovation was not achieved by those with high test scores (Einstein reputedly did not score well in math, but without his innovative ideas, where would our understanding of physics be?), but by those with the creativity and interest to pursue problems to the end. These are the money-creators (those that create the ideas/businesses that increase profit, jobs on the market, jumps in technology, paradigm shifts, etc). These are the people that change the times, rather than changing with the times. Right now, these people are expanding their ideas and businesses into the growing global community, aware that it is already the frontier to be on. This is the community in which our current students will have to live and work.

US Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan commented in May 2010 about international engagement and collaboration through education, but still seemed stuck in Cold War terms: he compares investing in education as “our generation’s ‘moonshot’.” He goes on to say that “like the space race, it involves a healthy rivalry with other advanced nations.” It seems strange enough to call Cold War competition “healthy rivalry”, but to compare this to the developing education program of engagement and collaboration is flat out counter-intuitive. While I believe that “healthy” competition can add urgency and interest into the system, it is better to avoid Cold War terminology that could easily move the dialogue to memories of cultural superiority and paternalism, which undermine international cooperation and collaboration. Despite this awkward diction put forth, Secretary Duncan did heavily stress the movement of education to prepare students for building international relationships and fluency in other languages to support future international and collaborative ventures.

With these goals of international collaboration and cooperation in mind, what must global learning become to achieve those goals? The most obvious global learning facets – awareness, tolerance and appreciation of different cultures – tend to come to mind, but for students to succeed in increasingly diverse communities, the ability to interact with internationals and those with cultural differences will be equally important. Two of the major skill sets involved in that ability are multilingual and cultural fluency. One can speak a language, but without the cultural fluency to be able to interact with native speakers of that language, it will be hard to grasp the full meanings of things such as idioms and body language. Another is skill set understanding how to be a critical and creative thinker in unfamiliar or collaborative environments. Without these interactive components of global learning, international collaboration and cooperation would be impossible.

What is your definition of global learning? How do you think students need to be prepared for an increasingly globalized world? Leave a comment!

This entry was also posted at Global Learning Dialogues. Please visit for more entries on Global Learning. This post is also being submitted to YeahWrite, so please go vote later this week!

12 January 2012

Mini Food Rant

So here I am, taking a short break from work and browsing through Pinterest when I see a picture of lasagna. This is all fine and good (and even mouth watering) until I read the comment posted under it: "Best Lasagna. As good as any restaurant. Worth the time and effort!"


I'm good with the first and last statements in that comment. It's the middle one that kinda disturbs me. I'd like to preface this mini rant with the fact that I'm Italian. I learned to cook at home. There was good food there.

1) I believe that food at restaurants (of the normal kind - none of the 4 star ones of course), should be AS GOOD AS AT HOME. Not the other way around. Seriously - my husband pretty much won't eat pizza that isn't homemade anymore, because he considers it not good enough. I always tell people I know the best Italian place in town... it's my home.

2) If you've been to good Italian restaurants (funnily enough they're frequently owned by Greeks, if not Italians), then you know that the food is made with a care that shows in the outcome. If you've been to other Italian restaurants or restaurants that serve Italian food along with other fare, you know that much of the time your pasta comes to you mushy instead of al dente, the sauce has too much oregano in it and the sodium content is probably through the roof (which is a good reason on their part to cover it with cheese).

3) When did the standards of cooking become so low that restaurants quality is the goal? Much of what people eat out nowadays is fast food anyway.

Now I'd like to be fair - there are fabulous restaurants that are completely worth emulating, but when I think of the majority of the restaurants that I've eaten at in the past year (on a normal person's budget), I don't usually want to emulate their food.

I highly doubt the woman that posted that comment was thinking gourmet when she thought of restaurant quality lasagna. My guess is she was thinking more like Olive Garden. Their food is fine, but it's not something I run home to try to recreate. All in all, this comment makes me a little sad... I am such a food snob.

11 January 2012

Book Challenge 2012

Last year I did the Good Reads book challenge (though that website really annoys me) and I successfully achieved and surpassed my set goal of 30 books in a year. I actually read a few of them more than once, but I only counted a single read on any given book toward the goal, so it was more like 38-40.

This year, I plan on setting myself the same challenge, but I'm going to up my goal to 35 book in the year. This will probably be harder to complete than last year, because I didn't have a job last year until July, so there was plenty of time to get lots of novel reading in. This year, I'm starting out with a full-time job, three credit hours of classes for my Master's degree and studying for the Praxis I and II. Needless to say, I'm giving myself a real and fairly difficult challenge here, but I think I might be able to squeeze three books a month in.

As I said last year when I set this goal, I completely support and encourage others to set reading goals for themselves. We all tend to get busy and forget to take the time to do things we enjoy. So set yourself aside some time and set a reading goal this year! It's a New Year's resolution you might just stick to. :)

Goal set: 35 Books!

07 January 2012

The end of last year

This is the time and space in which people talk about their New Year's resolutions, but I think I need to finish wrapping up last year first:

1) The sudden loss of my uncle put a bit of a damper on the season and most definitely my want to post here for a while. He was a wonderful man with strong convictions: the community and his drive to help those around him, cooking (best rack of ribs in the world), his family, his religion. He was the kind of man that took the time to make those who might have felt forgotten feel remembered, feel loved. Losing him is a great loss to this world. He was always ready with a laugh, especially when we were children. He often confessed that he had not graduated from the "kids table" at my Nonna's house, which meant he was there to make sure dinner got eaten and no funny business was going on. It also meant that he made sure that every business was funny. He always had a quarter for your 25 cent words and he might even flick a bugger (pretend or not) at you. He is missed.

2) I did finish my Book Challenge for 2011, though I didn't post it in time. I finished Chill Out and Get Healthy. It's a book with a modern interpretation of Chinese medicine. It was okay - more a laugh (due to the language, not the topic) than anything else. I also read all three books in the Hunger Games series (The Hunger Games, Catching Fire and Mockingjay). The series was excellent and I'm looking forward to the films. That closes me out at 33 for the year. I've also read Out of Oz by Gregory Maguire. Fabulous ending to the series. Not what I expected, but I will leave the details for the actual reading. You have to read the series and it's best to go in order. :)

I hope that you all had a wonderful holiday season. I'll be posting a little less often than I was until we get settled back in Hong Kong - which should be fairly soon. Until then, good reading and Happy New Year.

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