Teaching Current Events from a Global Perspective
We are living in a global village. In the end, with all of our separations and divisions, we are deeply dependent upon each other.
Ernest Boyer, President, Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, l986
Toni Fuss Kirkwood-Tucker
In todays classrooms, teachers and their students are struggling to comprehend a rapidly changing and increasingly interdependent world. Asking students to create their own reports of local, state, national, and international news in the social studies classroom helps them discover interconnections between seemingly distant people, places, and events.1 A current events project, taken from a global perspective, can also enhance students general scholastic skills (such as reading and writing, public speaking, map reading) and academic skills (as they work in small groups on projects that can be presented to the whole class and evaluated by their teacher).2 Such a project can be ongoing: while most classes focus on a required subject (like U.S. history or civics), one day a week or so could be reserved for students to examine current events from a global perspective. It is surprising how many opportunities then present themselves for integrating todays news with yesterdays history or government lesson.
To introduce current events from a global perspective, a teacher could provide a clear example, describing a recent news event and discussing how it might affect the lives of people at the scene and far away. The teacher could show, on a world map, where an event is happening. Some history and background information could be provided. Students could then be brought into the discussion by asking
> Who watches the news on television? Which network? How often?
> What other media provide news to the public?
> What does a newspaper provide that a TV report does not? (A fixed record on paper, and more in-depth coverage is often possible on paper because a TV report must usually be short.)
> What does a TV report provide that a newspaper does not? (Images in motion, live coverage.)
> Who listens to radio news reports? What are the benefits of radio as a medium? (People often listen while traveling in the car or performing other activities.)
> Is it important to learn about events in other places? Why, or why not?
> Who has recently read about, or seen a report about, a news event?
Next, teach or review basic geographic skills, with the use of a world map, discussing concepts such as absolute and intermediary directions, the equator and prime meridian, hemisphere, continent, country, capital, and latitude and longitude. One might also discuss the time zones, every 15 degrees of longitude marking one hour. Finally, describe the news reporting project to the students: what it is, the duration of the project, and how their work will be evaluated.
Forming News Teams
Group the students into news teams that will cover a continent or region of the world. Then, students choose their staff position. The chair is responsible for coordinating the teams work and substitutes for any absent staff member. The news reporter summarizes the basic facts (the who, what, where, when, how, and why of the event). The secretary clips related newspaper articles and tapes them on construction paper, citing the source, date, and page number. The geographer locates where the event is occurring, points out major geographic features of the region, labels the capital, and shows in which time zone this city is located. The news analyst appraises the wider effects of the event on people everywhere. Over the semester, staff assignments should be rotated so that students can practice the skills needed in each role. The region covered (the beat) should also be rotated; one team will not be able to cover all regions of the world during one school year, but it could be assigned at least one area in the developing world and one in the industrialized world.
Reporting and Analyzing the News
Once students have become proficient at reporting the basic facts of an event, they could develop questions based on the five dimensions of the Hanvey Global Awareness Model (summarized in the side bar).3 In doing so, students are exposed to the different points of view people and nations hold about the event (Multiple Perspectives), the effects an event has on other nations (State of the Planet), the influence of culture on the course of an event (Cultural Forces), the interdependence of people and nations (Global Dynamics), and how the choices people and nations make can influence what happens in the world today and in the future (Human Choices).
The lesson also could be extended by having teams produce a summary of the news (and the global implications of current events) in the form of a fictional, regional newspaper, such as The African Gazelle, The China Gong, The Russian Perestroika, The Middle East Oasis, The Euro Explorer, or The Latin Equator. Or students could create a world newspaper, The Global Rainbow News, which could include political cartoons, puzzles, maps, weather forecasts, foreign currency exchange rates, international travel, and editorials.
A Classroom Example
One seventh-grade Latin American team examined and presented the current event Nobel Peace Prize May Go to Children. The team had prepared seven questions and answers; the chair asked each question aloud and the rest of the team took turns reading the answers. The group had practiced the questions and answers beforehand. (The relevant dimension from the Hanvey Global Awareness Model is noted in parentheses.)
> What are some of the perspectives taken by people in this current event? (Multiple Perspectives)
The belief of children in Colombia that they could make a difference in bringing peace to their country; a young gir#146;s determination to change violence; the Swedish Nobel Peace Prize Committees consideration of the importance of a childrens movement for peace; the Colombian governments position on the grass roots movement.
> What are the facts and geography of the current event? (State of the Planet)
There exists a movement for peace organized by children in Colombia to reduce violence in their country; the children are holding regional and national conventions to plan peace activities; the geographic location of the capital of Colombia is 4 degrees north latitude and 74 degrees west longitude; the neighboring countries are Panama, Ecuador, Peru, Brazil, and Venezuela; the Caribbean Sea is to the north; I know Colombia is a major exporter of coffee and emeralds; Colombia is a country of physical beauty; it is the first time that the Nobel Peace Prize Committee considers honoring children; people have suffered a great deal in Colombia; guerrillas are fighting the government; people are getting killed.
> What did we learn about other cultures from this event? (Cultural Forces)
There is a strong sense of family commitment in Hispanic cultures; Hispanics believe in living with the extended family; peace seems to be important to all cultures.
> How does the Childrens Movement for Peace affect Colombia? (Global Dynamics)
The children have received the governments attention; armed attacks are less frequent now in Colombia; the Colombians are proud of their children at the possibility of their children receiving the prestigious Nobel Peace Prize; more and more children in Colombia are joining the movement; students from other countries are offering help.
> Does the event affect people in the United States or other nations? (Global Dynamics)
The Childrens Movement for Peace has inspired some people to write letters to the Colombian government to stop the violence; generous gifts have been sent to the childrens organization; neighboring countries have sent student delegations to exchange ideas; immigration to the United States may increase, bringing Colombian children into South Floridas classrooms; the children of the movement are setting a positive role model for other children around the world.
> Does the Childrens Movement for Peace affect you personally? (Global Dynamics)
It inspired me; I want to do something important like this; I feel like hugging the organizer of the Childrens Movement for Peace; I hope my parents will never be killed; I will be alert to Colombian kids in case they come to our school; I have learned that children can make a difference in the world.
> Do you believe you can make a difference in shaping the future? (Human Choices)
Yes. I feed the homeless on a regular basis with my boyfriend; I encourage my friends to collect for UNICEF; my family has adopted a Big Brother; my temple collects food and clothes for the needy; the Childrens Movement can be a model for student involvement in my community.
Dealing with Controversy
The news item chosen by the student team in this example raises the question of how a teacher might address students questions that deal with partisan, unpleasant, or violent aspects of current events.4 In this particular case, the topics of parents being killed, guerrilla fighting, or Colombias reputation as an illegal exporter of drugs may arise. If the teacher is uncomfortable with this eventuality, he or she could pre-select the news by cutting out the articles and making only these available to students for discussion and presentation. However, my experience as a classroom teacher for many years indicates that seventh-graders often learn about violent events outside the classroom and are neither surprised nor overly concerned about their occurrence. It is my opinion that, by openly discussing sensitive topics and putting them in their historical context, students can conceptualize the events and place them in their proper perspective.
Learning about contemporary news from a global perspective informs students about their rapidly changing, increasingly interdependent world.
1. F. L. Anderson, A Rationale for Global Education, in Global Education: From Thought to Action, K. A. Tye, ed. (New York: Edward Brothers: Yearbook of the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, l991); J. J. Cogan, Citizenship Education for the 21st Century: Setting the Context, in Citizenship for the 21st Century: An International Perspective on Education, J. J. Cogan and R. Derricott, eds. (London: Kogan Page Limited, 1998).
2. M. M. Merryfield, Responding to the Gulf War: A Case Study of Instructional Decision Making, Social Education 57 (1993): 33-41.
3. R. G. Hanvey, An Attainable Global Perspective (New York: The American Forum for Global Education, l976). www.globaled.org
4. Handbook on Teaching Social Issues, Ronald W. Evans and David W. Saxe, eds. (Washington, D.C.: National Council for the Social Studies, 1996).
About the Author
Toni Fuss Kirkwood-Tucker is an assistant professor in social studies and global education in the Department of Teacher Education, College of Education, Florida Atlantic University, Boca Raton, Florida.
The Hanvey Global Awareness Model
1. Multiple Perspectives
Each person has a view of the world that is shaped by influences that often escape conscious detection. Other people might have views of the world that are profoundly different from ones own.
2. State of the Planet
To understand an event, we first need to learn about the basic facts surrounding it, answering the basic questions of who, what, where, when, how, and why. We need to determine the geographic location of the event in relation to the rest of the world. We also need some knowledge of large trends. Examples are population growth, migration, resource exploitation, climate change, and the rise and fall of local and international conflicts.
3. Cultural Forces
There is a diversity of ideas and practices found in human societies around the world, but there are also elements that are common to all. Cultural influences can be as powerful as physical factors in determining the course of human events.
4. Global Dynamics
Events are often interconnected because the world is a complex system, in some ways like a machine. When one part of the system breaks down, other parts of the system are affected. The systems approach shows the dynamics of positive and negative change that affect people and nations. Climate change, for example, could affect the weather, which would affect harvests, grain prices, and economic conditions in many nations. People and nations depend on each other for survival.
5. Human Choices
Events are shaped, in part, by people who make decisions about what should happen in a certain situation. Every day, such decisions are made at the individual, family, school, community, state, national, and international levels. As a result, the decisions collectively made by individuals, groups, and nations affect our lives today and will in the future as well.
©1999 National Council for the Social Studies. All rights reserved.