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Reflections on Global Citizenship

Global citizenship has become quite the buzzword throughout the education world over the past few years. It ends up in mission statements and visions in international schools worldwide. Yet, like many aspects related to teaching, there exists much ambiguity surrounding what the term means, what value the global citizen has, the best ways to nurture a global citizen, and what role schools have in developing and nurturing global citizenship.

Our Anglo-American School of Sofia is no different. In fact, we have an entirely separate section of our mission devoted to Global Citizenship which states, among other things, that, “At AAS, we recognize global citizenship transcends school approach, beliefs, and actions.” (AAS, 2022). With all of the above in mind, it seems only appropriate that we explore, investigate and engage with the challenges surrounding this ubiquitous term.

“Culture tends to argue that it forbids only that which is unnatural. But from a biological perspective, nothing is unnatural. Whatever is possible is by definition also natural”, so states Yuval Harari in his first novel Sapiens. As a science teacher and pseudo-scientist, I tend to view most aspects of the world through a scientific lens, looking at things like measurability, predictability, and observability. And so when I think about Global Citizenship, my approach is generally the same, how can science give us insight into global citizenship, and how does, or should, being a global citizen influence how science is carried out and taught?

I think that Harari’s quote is provocative and provides an interesting foundation for a number of questions and situations that demonstrate the challenges we often consider when facing the challenges of global citizenship education. We can look at three of these questions, with a corresponding issue

  • Discrimination through the AI algorithm: Why do we teach and develop tolerance, respect, and understanding for others’ humanity? Though pure science may seem to remove the cultural aspect from the human, it is far harder for the human doing the science to do the same. Living in the technologically advanced world that we do requires lines upon lines of code for computer algorithms. These directional paths for computers do everything from assisting in medical diagnosis to identity verification for police and banks. Although the tech is infallible, it does what it is programmed to do, the programmer themselves must be infallible as well, an unlikely scenario. A key fear here is that while developing the algorithm the data used does not encompass the full range of human diversity and thus “leaves people out”. When the foundations of the program are incomplete, or worse yet, biased towards a certain group of people, then the learning and development of the program will continue from an invalid foundation. How do we make sure that programmers and computer scientists are considering their own biases and how do we make sure that the programs that are working for us are developed for all of us? These are Global Citizenship questions.
    Further reading and inspiration- Managing AI Bias
  • Global Climate Change: How do we hope students will approach global challenges as global citizens? 2050 seems to be a good date. We have been exposed to the effects of climate change and our influence on its ever-increasing impact for well over 80 years, and yet, significant development and strong efforts to combat its causes and effects seem few and far between. It is a global issue by definition. Few other challenges affect such a range of peoples and places as climate change. The need for a global solution from a diverse, empathetic, and motivated source will be the only way that means by which we begin to take the steps necessary to create a reasonable future for future generations. How does education empower future generations with this knowledge and the urgency to take action as a unified force? These are global citizenship questions.
    Further Reading and Inspiration- Predictions of Future Global Climate
  • The Morals and Ethics of Nature: How do we reflect global citizenship in our pedagogy and curriculum? Students studying literature, writing, and social studies are broadened, deepened, and bolstered through the diversity of storytellers to whom they are exposed. The more expansive the range of the human condition represented, the more accurate the image of humanity created. Unlike its fellow core academic courses, science traditionally only cares about the outcomes, about the scientific knowledge produced. The identity of the scientist has very little to nothing to do with the science, as long as the science is “correct” in its methodology. With this in mind, a recent article from Nature magazine sets an interesting precedent for how the magazine will filter its featured articles from now on. The editors will put focus on the perspective of the scientist as well as the wording of the papers that are given for entry. While this is sensible at first glance, the wording seems to give a great deal of room for interpretation. Will this allow for picking and choosing based on the cultural aspects of the article
    over its scientific content? We don’t know yet, and only time will tell, but a worrying quote from the article, “Although academic freedom is fundamental, it is not unbounded” (Nat Hum Behav, 2022), speaks to what might be in store. Is this how we should approach our students in the classroom, should we be filtering based on the author or the way the article is worded? Or should we be working towards exposure to the best possible science? These are Global Citizenship questions.
    Further Reading and Inspiration: The Fall of ‘Nature’ and Science Must Respect the Dignity and Rights of All HumansIn looking at each of these scenarios my hope is that as we progress, we as educators, parents, mentors, and peers, are working to promote the ideals of Global Citizenship where we can, and in ways that are appropriate and meaningful. And while I believe that we are still a long way from a global society, I can always go back to Harari’s quote and remember that above all, science humanizes. In the eyes of science, the gender, race, and nationality of the individuals doing it don’t matter. If we allow ourselves, we can approach a shared reality together as collaborative equals. We, ourselves, and our own cultures are what hold us back, so if we are able to develop a global culture, then perhaps we can match our potential, this at least, is my goal in my efforts to develop and foster global citizenship.

    The Foundation: Sapiens: A Brief History of Human Kind by Yuval Noah Harari

Ian Harrington, MS Science Teacher 


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