Teaching For Global Mindedness

F. Gene Miller, Michael G. Jacobson

In social studies, as in other areas of the curriculum, we are concerned with teaching content and skills, and also fostering those attitudes and behaviors which reflect good citizenship for the expanding multicultural world of the 21st century. Given the nature of the world in which children will live, we must view the teaching of social studies from a multicultural/global perspective. There are diverse views on the relationship between multicultural education and global education. Global education may be perceived as a vehicle for the examination and delivery of global equity whereas multicultural education is a vehicle for examining and delivering national equity. The case has been made in the literature for their merger, or at least for their partnership; certainly, they share similar concepts. Doni Kobus (1992) outlines this position, and Banks (1991) in his stages of ethnicity (goals for multicultural education), conceives of a Stage 6 which he calls Globalism and Global Competency. If we take a multicultural view of social studies and the education of social studies teachers, then it is our role to build students’ global perspectives. The materials children examine, the activities in which children engage, and the examples used in the classroom should consider the multicultural nature of our country and the world in which we live.

Children’s stories and games often originated in another nation. Many holiday customs such as those associated with Halloween, Christmas, or Hanukkah came to us through ancestors from many lands. The foods enjoyed by children and youth, including their favorite candy bar, likely contain ingredients from many nations. The clothes they wear and the toys they play with are more often than not manufactured outside the United States. The corporate symbols recognized by American children and youth such as the Disney characters, the golden arches of McDonald’s, the beverages of Coca Cola, or the footwear of Nike are recognized around the world. Such global connections are as pervasive as the air we breathe, and often go unnoticed.

A number of thoughtful authors have outlined fundamental ideas related to the understanding of global connections: Charlotte Anderson (1982), Lee Anderson (1991), James Becker (1988), Willard Kneip (1989), Steven Lamy (1991) Barbara Benham Tye (1992), and Kenneth Tye (1990). A useful starting point for instructional planning is to select some of these fundamental ideas to form an organizing focus. In his monograph, An Attainable Global Perspective, Hanvey (1976) writes about five dimensions necessary for a global perspective. According to Hanvey a global perspective is neither something you quantify, nor something you either have or don’t have. Rather it is a loose assemblage of modes of thought, sensitivities, and intellectual skills. We suggest these dimensions as a helpful framework for teachers.

Five Dimensions of a Global Perspective

Hanvey (1976) calls his first dimension Perspective Consciousness. He defines this dimension as:
The recognition or awareness on the part of the individual that he or she has a view of the world that is not universally shared, that this view of the world has been and continues to be shaped by influences that often escape conscious detection, and that others have views of the world that are profoundly different from one’s own. (p.4)

Diverse points of view from our past include those concerning our Revolutionary War and World War II. For example, there were a substantial number of colonists who viewed the goal of independence as unwise, if not downright foolhardy. The perspective of these Tory colonists is often given scant attention in our study of this period in United States history. More recent are the differing views of the United States and Japan concerning the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. As we approach the fiftieth anniversary of World War II, it will be interesting to see what perspectives are presented.

Additional examples include Russia’s move toward a market- oriented economy. Although widely applauded in the West, recent elections in Russia have shown that this perspective was not shared by a substantial number of voters. Our involvement in Somalia has been seen as a humanitarian effort, an effort to rid the land of ruthless warlords, and a commitment to bring democracy to this African country. These differing perspectives have led to a shift in political support for our nation’s involvement in Somalia.

State of the Planet Awareness is the second of Hanvey’s dimensions. He defines it as:
Awareness of prevailing world conditions and developments, including emergent conditions and trends, e.g. population growth, migrations, economic conditions, resources and physical environment, political developments, science and technology, law, health, inter-nation and intra-nation conflicts. (p.6)

This dimension calls for an understanding of the dimensions of our changing planet. The world population was estimated at 5.2 billion in 1990 and was growing at about 1.8 percent annually. Population projections differ, but demographers for the United Nations have projected that the world population will likely reach 8.5 billion in the year 2025 (McFalls, 1991, p.19). One billion people are now being added to the population each decade (McFalls, 1991, p.33). Knowing something of this growth and its consequences for the environment, the world economy, and global peace and stability are essential if we are to be “...masters rather than victims of our behavior...” (Fersh, 1993, p.12)

It is not enough to recognize that this is a time of rapid social and technological change. We must ask ourselves some serious questions about the implications of these changes. What are these changes, and what is their impact on our lives? What are the consequences of a national or global electronic communications highway? What are the consequences of biomedical discoveries, especially those in genetics? What are the consequences of increasing demands for the recognition of ethnic and national identities? Dealing with this dimension must go beyond the usual platitudes and truisms. What is happening in our world, and what does it mean for all of us?

Hanvey’s third dimension is Cross-Cultural Awareness which he defines as:
Awareness of the diversity of ideas and practices to be found in human societies around the world, of how such ideas and practices compare, and including some limited recognition of the ideas and ways one’s own society might be viewed from other vantage points. (p.8)

While humans are alike in many ways, differences abound. Not only do we differ in our preferred tpye(s) of food, we have differing definitions as to what is edible. The beefsteak one person enjoys, may be abhorrent to another. Dog meat or roasted termites may seem normal fare to some, but to call such items edible is revolting to others. Our ideas of beauty differ greatly as exemplified by our differences in clothing, make-up, and ornamentation. The meaning of gestures and facial expressions may differ drastically from one part of the globe to another. The houses we live in and the way we furnish them certainly differ from region to region (Spier, 1980).
What we regard as good, right, and natural may seem strange to others and vice versa. Cross-cultural awareness involves trying to understand why we are different as well as how we are alike. The importance of such understanding is made plain in the words of Ina Corinne Brown:
The notion that if people would just get to know one another they would be friends and everything would be all right is as dangerous as it is sentimental. Getting to know people is a necessary prelude to understanding and respect, but such knowledge alone will not resolve our differences or insure our liking people whose ways are alien to us....Nor does a common race, religion, language, nationality or culture insure friendliness and good will as numerous civil wars, rebellions, and intergroup conflicts attest. The sober truth is that peoples must learn to get along whether they like one another or not.

No matter how different other peoples may seem, their ways are not peculiar, unnatural, or incomprehensible.... To understand other peoples, then, we must have some idea of what culture is and how it functions and some knowledge of the variety of ways in which different human groups have gone about solving universal problems. (Brown, 1963, p.v)

The fourth dimension which Hanvey presents is a Knowledge of Global Dynamics. He defines this as: “Some modest comprehension of key traits and mechanisms of the world system, with emphasis on theories and concepts that may increase intelligent consciousness of global change” (p. 13).

When something new is inserted into a system, for example, all the changes that will result may not be apparent at the outset. Delayed and displaced effects go beyond our usual understanding of cause and effect. In their book, Global Geography, Alan Backler and Robert Hanvey (1986) describe a specific instance of this characteristic:
Malaria was always a serious problem for the population of Boreno. In 1955, WHO (the World Health Organization) decided to help. WHO sprayed a pesticide called dieldrin.

The dieldrin killed the mosquitoes and stopped the malaria. The islanders were delighted. But the dieldrin had other effects.

It killed flies and cockroaches that lived in the simple huts of the villagers. Lizards that ate the dead flies and cockroaches also died. The village cats ate the dead lizards and many of the cats died. So rats in the surrounding jungle came into the villages, and that posed a threat of typhus from the fleas on the rats.

Also, the dieldrin killed a species of wasp that eats caterpillars. Caterpillars were not affected by the dieldrin, and since there were no wasps around, the caterpillars had a population explosion. They proceeded to eat the leaf roofs of the people’s huts and the roofs fell in. Those were some of the effects of the dieldrin spraying program. (p.232)

Hanvey’s fifth dimension is Awareness of Human Choices. He defines this as: “Some awareness of the problems of choice confronting individuals, nations, and the human species as consciousness and knowledge of the global system expands” (p.22).

This dimension reflects a view of the world that is future responsive. It includes awareness of and responsibility for how things will be in the future. It acknowledges that our future is going to be shaped partly by things that have already happened, partly by things we are now doing or not doing, and partly by events that are not yet known. It makes prominent our role as a doer and calls for our active participation in shaping history. It calls us to anticipate and be responsible for outcomes resulting from our actions (Growth Implications and the Earth’s Future, n.d., p.29).


Hanvey’s discussion of human choices implies action and participation. The learners in our classrooms need to understand that individual behavior and choices can have global consequences in an interdependent world. We want to produce citizens who get involved and social studies teachers who are doers, modeling active civic participation for the betterment of the community and the world.

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About the Authors
F. Gene Miller is Professor of Social Studies Education and Michael G. Jacobson is Professor of Social Studies Education and Chairperson in the Department of Elementary Education and Reading at Western Illinois University in Macomb, Illinois.