School of Education, University of Birmingham, UK
This paper looks at the concepts of cosmopolitanism and citizenship with regard to education. It asks what, if anything, a cosmopolitan education might be, and goes on to examine citizenship as part of the UK Further Education agenda.
Keywords: Cosmopolitanism; Citizenship; Further Education; UK
We cannot help but believe that the old hatreds shall someday pass; that the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve; that as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself…
(US President Barack Obama: Inaugural Speech, January 20th 2009)
On 4th November 2008, to unprecedented levels of applause and approval, Barack Obama was confirmed as the next President of the United States of America, the first African American to be so. This particular political position strikes a chord far outside the geographical boundaries of the US: all nations of the globe seem to hold that nation in esteem, either in a positive sense as a – sometimes dominant - ally, or as an enemy to be feared and despised. The power, influence and control that this position affords lends it the ever-popular nickname (or perhaps even moniker) ‘leader of the free world’ – a title not without some irony in recent years.
On that same day, in New York City, a Broadway revival performance of Arthur Miller’s powerful play All My Sons was staged. A critic from the Dublin Review of Books was in attendance, hoping to shelter from the hectic election-fever growing ever more ecstatic in the streets outside. As the play rolled on, it became evident to him that there were parallels to be drawn between the two narratives, more than may first met the eye, both in the one on the stage ahead, and in the other playing out on the somewhat grander world stage outside (Moran, 2009). Miller’s central character, ‘Joe Keller’, is a hard-working man whose intentions are honourable, but who, in business, tends to cut corners leading to catastrophic results. He simply wants to provide for his family, remaining useful and in gainful employment, but various machinations thwart his every move, preventing him from achieving his well-intentioned goals. Contrast this character with the real-life ‘Joe the Plumber’ (Joe Wurzelbacher), the middle-American everyman who so successfully barracked Obama over Democratic tax plans during the presidential campaign: this working-class hero was seized upon with great enthusiasm by Republican candidate John McCain, who recognised in him the basic need of many middle-class Americans to provide for their own, build businesses without penalty in the form of taxation and, as Wurzelbacher had insisted, fulfil the ‘American Dream’ (BBC, 2009). But this rhetoric ultimately fell on deaf electoral ears, as Moran concludes:
Of course it was precisely this attitude that, as we know now, the American electorate decided to reject overwhelmingly. The Republican campaign was obnoxious not because the Hockey Mom and Joe the Plumber sought to better themselves and look after their own families, but because the Hockey Mom and Joe the Plumber were a version of Joe Keller, who could only see the value of their immediate family at the expense of the rest of society and of any wider political engagement. According to this parochialism, it is OK to drill in Alaska, bar the poor from hospital, bomb the Middle East, and even – as we now know from in a leak from one of those who briefed [Sarah] Palin – remain ignorant of whether Africa is the name of a continent or a country.
This parochialism is, paradoxically, directly analogous to and the antipathy of the American Dream for which Joe the Plumber longs. The concept stirs images of acceptance, freedom from oppression, social justice, equality of opportunity and education; but all this lies firmly within the boundaries of one nation state. The Dream is limited in its scope, but is not the only instance of liberal parochialism and inward-looking pseudo-pluralism abounding in many states today. Ultimately, the concept of the American Dream can be viewed as an example of banal nationalism that unites small communities of immigrants; diasporas that would otherwise lack the jingoistic spirit to pull together for the greater good. For the US, as a nation state that was founded on mass immigration, this was understandable and undoubtedly necessary, but could there be a similar unifying force that might offer the same levels of understanding, inclusion and liberty to other nations? Would such a philosophy be welcomed? What is required for such global unification or collaboration? If such a plan is to succeed, there must be a scheme by which the idea of blurring national boundaries are broached and Global Citizenship Education (GCE) can be used as a tool for fostering empathy, understanding and concern for those who do not live in our immediate vicinity. In Changing Citizenship: Democracy and Inclusion in Education, Osler and Starkey (2005) use the reportage of the mass murders perpetrated by the Lord’s Resistance Army at a camp for the displaced in Lira, Uganda, to illustrate how media coverage ‘encourages citizens to feel implicated in some way in the lives of those whose story is being told’ (Osler and Starkey 2005, p7). In no time prior to this has the news been so graphic, up-to-the-minute or accessible in its delivery, showing the true horror of human plight in all its emotive glory. Despite the fact that the vast majority of viewers would never encounter these victims on a personal level, simple human nature dictates that they feel a tug of empathy when presented with suffering shown in this way. Having these feelings for those on the other side of the world in this way, being able to see the problems from someone else’s point of view is the first step towards a ‘cosmopolitan vision’ (ibid p8). The very same technique is used widely in advertising, especially for humanitarian concerns such as aid agencies and charitable NGOs. The sight of a starving and weeping African child, belly distended with hunger, is a familiar sight to anyone who has paid sufficient attention to television advertising since 1985, or ever tuned into telethons such as the BBC’s long running ‘Comic Relief’. By virtue of the cosmopolitan response to these images and reports, charitable funds are raised, and the problems seemingly quelled – at least to some extent. But, to those of us who live here, is this our role as citizens of the United Kingdom? Does the term ‘citizen’ necessitate the behaviour of outward altruism to strangers in foreign lands?
Citizenship means belonging to a particular community, usually defined as a national state or other large political establishment. Citizenship promotes feelings of belonging, of status and, to a large extent, of nationalism. There are clearly stated terms to which both the state and the individual citizen must adhere – rights and obligations to be maintained. In this way, it constitutes a binding contract between these two agents, each holding up their end of the bargain. It is an inward-looking concept, one that is concerned with self-governance and internal issues within the nation state. The study of citizenship as an academic subject was first introduced into the British national curriculum in 2002, its broad aims outlined in Education for citizenship and the teaching of democracy in schools, also known as ‘The Crick Report’, in 1998. The most salient principles of this study were those of social and moral responsibility, community involvement and political literacy (Crick et al., 1998). Such skills were seen as the backbone of civic involvement and the most likely to foster a responsible, politically capable and informed adult population, active in the democratic process and willing to be counted. However, is this process of educating young British citizens as far as we ought to go in preparing them for a rapidly changing and shrinking planet? It is one thing to understand one’s own nation state and the place one occupies within it, but quite another to elevate this understanding still further and see one’s position globally. While national citizenship education is undoubtedly a step in the right direction, we should ask if this is really enough.
Osler and Starkey make a sharp distinction between national citizenship and cosmopolitan citizenship. Cosmopolitanism is a notoriously difficult concept to define. It is thought to date back to the Greek philosopher Diogenes of Sinope who, when asked what country was from, uttered the immortal words “I am a citizen of the world” (Bartelby.com). Shunning society, he spent his days living a vagrant’s life, alone in a barrel, seemingly having no time for people or social status of any kind. It was this antisocial attitude that worked its way into the canon of literature, spawning the fictional ‘Diogenes Club’ in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes novels – an upmarket club for the misanthropic gentleman, whose golden rule was that members must not interact with one another under any circumstances under pain of expulsion (indopedia.org). Osler and Starkey do not explicitly defame the concept of national identity, but argue that it is a way of transcending those imagined boundaries, stating that ‘Cosmopolitan citizenship in a liberal democracy is not an alternative to national citizenship. It is a way of being a citizen at any level, local, national, regional or global’ (Osler and Starkey 2005, p23). The philosopher Martha Nussbaum stresses this in her 1994 essay Patriotism and Cosmopolitanism, stating that ‘one does not need to give up local identifications’ (Nussbaum 1994, p3), but instead similarly encourages a number of affiliations; to be ‘surrounded by a series of concentric circles’ (ibid) ranging from the self at the micro-level, up to the global macro-level. This approach suggests a hint of universalism between all peoples, a shared human understanding reached at some stage of self-identifying affiliation: in order to identify with other individuals, it is necessary to have a learned empathetic understanding of their situation, historical and present. This seems, in a rudimentary fashion, to be the primary function of cosmopolitan education: to train citizens to recognise and engage with the culture, problems and plights of people outside their immediate circle from an early age; to plant the seeds of universal respect and acceptance, and to nurture these attitudes and behaviours in order to foster tolerance and peaceful co-existence.
Despite this, Nussbaum’s detractors would lead one to believe that she posits an entirely universalistic world view, disregarding and rejecting any kind of local identity in an irresponsible fashion. The essayist Lindsay Phillips argues that ‘Nussbaum's Cosmopolitan education system is flawed because it entails the abandonment of identity and therefore lacks any foundation for correct moral conduct’ (Phillips 2007). On the contrary, Nussbaum clearly and stoically states that ‘one does not need to give up local identifications,’ (Nussbaum 1994, p3) and that the acceptance of other world viewpoints should complement, nourish and enrich the notion of citizenship, not curtail it. Other cosmopolitans reinforce this idea, suggesting that the need for a group identity which is smaller than species-wide is a deep-rooted and primal one (Hollinger 2001). If this is the case, then Nussbaum’s detractors need not worry: the family, community and the state may well be hardwired into the social human brain. What the cosmopolitan suggests is merely an extension of that camaraderie to those of us who live quite radically different lives. With cross-cultural migration, integration and communication on the rise and international travel and business taking centre stage, we have unprecedented opportunities and obligations to expand horizons through education.
If Citizenship is being taught as a mainstream subject in order to prepare young people for life within the British national political system, how is Cosmopolitan or Global Citizenship currently being advocated, if at all, in our educational institutions? For many years, British schools’ idea of international education was that of perfunctory language lessons – French and Latin, in the main, with German and Spanish for those with promise – which could be dropped along with Art at the third-year subject cull known ironically as ‘options’. Some more adventurous schools may have organised annual student exchange visits, or instigated coach trips to Calais. Arguably, such excursions hardly constitute the rich cultural empathy extolled by the promise of truly cosmopolitan education. So, how does a school engage in internationally collaborative projects?
While serving as International Development Secretary, Hilary Benn MP reported on projects being undertaken by schools across the length and breadth of the country (The Guardian 2006). The exchange programme still exists, but instead of visiting Pierre in La Rochelle, students were being treated to excursions to sub-Saharan Africa. The immediate difference here is obvious: as opposed to being exposed to another first-world European country whose only perceivable difference is the language and certain aspects of food, a truly unique cultural experience is cultivated. Students had the opportunity to engage with environmental differences, economic restrictions, religious practices and a pace of life entirely different to their own.
The Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF) now actively promotes links and partnerships with other schools and colleges abroad using its ‘Global Gateway’ initiative (globalgateway.org). This service, which has been running for just over six years, finds partners for schools in the UK from all over the globe. Once a school has been twinned, there are a multitude of lessons, cultural learning activities and opportunities at their disposal. Depending on the location of the twinned school, collaborative projects can be tailored to fit a wide range of issues including fair trade, eco-schools, languages and, most importantly, citizenship. A typical citizenship project involves partner schools agreeing to ‘present to each other a portrait of their home country’ (globalgateway.org). Each set of pupils examine in detail what it means to be a citizen in their own nation state, national identity, aspects of national pride, cultural practices and customs. In doing so, two distinct aspects of cosmopolitan education are realised: pupils are forced to look at themselves with a fresh pair of eyes, as strangers might examine them, and to compare both differences and similarities between the two cultures. Activities of this kind foster all-important critical thinking from an early age and, moreover, promote self-reflection; by deciding who and what they are, and what they amount to at a national level, it may be easier to extend this practice further out into Nussbaum’s ever decreasing circles.
In order to examine global influence on an educational establishment first-hand, a small-scale informal investigation was conducted at a UK College of Further Education. The college chosen is a large institution specialising in vocational and trade studies ranging from construction and auto-mechanics to textiles and hairdressing. It serves a wide community with more than 600 members of staff and 10,000 full and part-time students ranging in age from 14 to 65. The student body is ethnically diverse, adequately reflecting the demographics of the local community, with more than a third of students having English as an additional language. In terms of international outreach, the college is very active. Last academic year alone there was an exploratory visit to India, with the college being represented at other educational institutions in places such as Mumbai, Panchagani, Pune, Delhi, Chandighar, Jalandhar and Ludhiana. In addition, there have also been visits to educational fairs in both Morocco and Kazakhstan. In all cases, the primary aim of these trips was to promote study opportunities at the college to potential international students, or to raise awareness in these institutions as to the benefits of collaboration on issues concerning curriculum. In particular, courses in travel and tourism, management and IELTS (International English Language Teaching System) were suggested as possible targets for collaboration. In each case, the visits comprised a member of the college senior management team, the director of curriculum and a representative from the marketing department. No student or teaching staff involvement was recorded. Aside from these, the college has also forged links with two institutions of further and higher education in Beijing, China.
The primary motivation for these excursions was student recruitment. The college is well able to support international students, having one of the largest ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) departments in the region. This active involvement of international students is laudable, but the question as to whether there is any provision for Global Citizenship Education embedded in any of the college’s courses presents itself. When asked, a member of the senior management team reported that the college’s main remit is to provide vocational training as far as possible, and to inculcate a sense of British cultural awareness in all international students during their stay. Further evidence to support this are planned summer school programmes, one in English Language, the other in IT and Business Studies which are presented in July each year. These courses combine short qualifications with cultural visits (Oxford, Stratford, the Black Country Museum and various mosques and churches in the region). It is apparent that the cultural elements of these courses are largely pointing inward toward British society and not specifically geared to a more comparative international approach.
So what of the full-time students? Do any of the courses contain an element of Global Citizenship? One course examined was the ‘Skills for Work and Life’ programme, a full-time basic skills and ESOL course for students aged between 16 and 19 years. Students study a mix of nationally recognised entry-level certificates in literacy, numeracy and ICT. In addition, they follow a BTEC programme which comprises units in Health and Safety, Rights and Responsibilities and Job Search skills. The Rights and Responsibilities unit was the one most closely resembling any kind of citizenship education available in the Basic Skills department. Disappointingly, assessed elements of this unit cover rights and responsibilities only in relation to the workplace: contracts of employment; health and safety at work; appropriate dress for work; trade unionism etc. However, after examination of various teaching staff members’ schemes of work, it was apparent that, in addition to the assessed coursework, classes are (in some cases) supplemented with exercises in international human rights, social justice and disparities in working conditions in other parts of the world to name but a few. Staff members reported that an insubstantial curriculum left room for ‘more interesting’ lessons to be added to the course, but the nature of these largely depended on the interests of the teacher rather than departmental policy. As a result, some students received no real citizenship education at all. Citizenship is compulsory for mainstream school students only, with no compulsion for FE colleges to filter this into their curricula, embedded or otherwise.
The college’s ESOL department runs a wide selection of full-time English Language courses for international students aged between 14 and 16 years, ranging from beginner to advanced level. These lessons contained activities most resembling Global Citizenship Education of all observed at the college. English Language lessons often had an overarching narrative either pertaining to life in Britain (cultural or practical) or encouraged students to draw upon and present stories and experiences from their native countries. Lively discussion centred on world events and cultures, with each student having a chance to give input and educate his or her classmates on some area in which they were familiar. Project work, while not in collaboration with other institutions, resembled those offered by the DCSF’s Global Gateway: notions of national identity were raised, as were global issues such as the environment, world religions and racism. Outside of formal lessons, the college has a more vibrant and cosmopolitan cultural presence. Every conceivable religious and cultural festival is celebrated in some way, with as many full-time students as possible encouraged to attend events.
If the goals of global or cosmopolitan citizenship education are to be fully realised in the Further Education sector, then they may have to be mandated as has happened in schools. This will likely prove difficult as most adult learners enrol on FE courses with the sole intention of enhancing their prospects of employment. When asked if there should be more inclusion of citizenship education in the college, a senior manager reported that, aside from providing courses for students with social, emotional and behavioural difficulties, the Further Education sector is more concerned with training the workforce than providing ‘moral instruction’ or ‘easing societal transition’. Following in this vein, it also appears to extend to academic instruction: the college has recently discontinued all GCSE courses, while A Level programmes disappeared several years ago due to a drop in student enrolment numbers, the majority of marketing geared towards its vocational avenues. The approach that UK Further Education is taking may perhaps best be described in terms of human capital theory. This posits that the ‘skills and motivation for productive behaviour are…imparted through formal education’ (Harber, 2000). It remains to be seen whether economic or vocational success is considered the only formal achievement targets by FE colleges. If this is the case, then it is little wonder that less emphasis is placed on such ‘soft’ outcomes as citizenship education.
However, while this college does not explicitly teach global citizenship there is, through the diversity of the student body and of the staff, an underlying cosmopolitan education at work. In order to get the most from time spent at the college, it may be necessary to extend one’s identity to accommodate different modes of cultural life. As Kaldor states,
the cosmopolitan ideal combines a commitment to humanist principles and norms, an assumption of human equality, with a recognition of difference, and indeed a celebration of diversity.
(Kaldor 2003 in Osler and Starkey 2005, p21)
Nussbaum’s ideals of cosmopolitan education may yet be some way off, but breaking down of various isolated diasporas through the mutual celebration of diversity and culture may mean that, in time, those lines of tribe will dissolve, and the more closely-knit community that remains will be the very definition of common humanity.
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[WWW] http://www.bartleby.com/100/720.74.html 12/04/09
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[WWW] http://education.guardian.co.uk/globalclassroom/story/0,,1946691,00.html 05/04/09
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[WWW] http://www.qca.org.uk/libraryAssets/media/6123_crick_report_1998.pdf 14/04/09
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[WWW] http://www.globalgateway.org/default.aspx?page=4168 05/04/09
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INDOPEDIA: Mycroft Holmes
[WWW] http://www.indopedia.org/Mycroft_Holmes.html 12/04/09
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[WWW] http://www.drb.ie/more_details/08-12-09/new_york_diary.aspx 14/04/09
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[WWW] http://www.bsos.umd.edu/gvpt/Theory/Patriotism%20and%20Cosmopolitanism.pdf 11/04/09
Osler, A & Starkey, H. 2005. Changing Citizenship: Democracy and Inclusion in Education.
From seminar handout 20/01/09
Phillips, L. 2007. Education Error in the Cosmopolitan Education System
[WWW] http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/218442/education_error_in_the_cosmopolitan.html?cat=4 09/04/09