Abdul Aziz Said
The Transformative Power of Learning
We now find ourselves,
as individuals, as states, and as a species, involved in a
period of intense and often bewildering change. The systems
of government, production, culture, thought, and perception
to which we have become accustomed are not working. Our experience
of the world is growing increasingly intertwined, while our
perception of the world is becoming fragmented and disjointed.
At the same time, our worldview is being constructed by increasingly
large gaps in access to knowledge, wealth, and political representation.
The next generation will see the political and
economic emergence of a global order. Whether this is a world characterized
by crisis, contentious politics, and resource scarcity or coexistence,
cultural pluralism, and the exercise of political freedom depends
in large part on how we work now to educate the first generation
of truly global citizens.
Education For Social Change
The role of education is paramount in our world.
What knowledge and ways of knowing will create new dimensions of
individual and social understanding that are mutually affirming
and dedicated to the possibility of a better future for all? The
first generation of global citizens will need a model of education
that is capable of constantly inventing and creating new solutions
to the world's increasingly complex problems. Such a shift will
require transcending the limits of present systems of education
- be they ideological, cultural, or spiritual - and engaging in
a genuine human dialogue based on the equal dignity of each individual.
A globally sensitive educational curriculum has
enormous potential as a catalyst for social change, improving the
human condition, and serving the whole human community. It would
address the structural and relational basis of inequity and social
polarization using processes that emphasize constructive criticism
and social participation and not the mere accumulation of knowledge.
It would also help us develop our capacities for logic, passion,
imagination, and intuition; global citizenship depends on the development
of thought and feeling, head and heart.
Educating a truly global citizen creates a space
where both teacher and student can ask what it means to be a citizen,
a believer, or a member of a changing community. Student-citizens
come to experience knowledge through questioning their surroundings
and their history, ensuring that societies maintain a national identity
grounded in pluralism and open to the reality of constant change.
Under such conditions, life itself becomes a path of learning where
we are constantly called upon to awaken each other and ourselves
to the search for freedom, truth, beauty, creativity, and above
Pluralism And Coexistence
To shift our understanding of citizenship from
a local to a global context requires the movement from a national
to a transnational consciousness. A twenty-first-century model of
global education will thus liberate us to interact with the magnificent
diversity and vibrancy of the many ways of knowing developed by
different civilizations, including reason (making tight sequential
connections), wonder (making connections of the random kind), and
images (making connections of the visual kind). Each of these forms
of thought and their expression as knowledge is part of the larger
search for meaning that encompasses human existence. Embracing multiple
forms of knowledge frees us from our illusions.
Such an education will expand the boundaries of
our perspective consciousness. The knowledge gained will help us
transform our presumptions about self, society, and our world. This
means learning to see and ultimately to accept the many faces of
humanity. Acknowledgment of differences is an aspect of appreciation,
which gains its wholeness through empathy. Empathy allows us to
recognize our shared humanity. Through empathy the new global citizens,
living within the context of a multidimensional and dynamic world
cultural system, imagine themselves or other nations not singularly
but synthesize in their hearts and minds the experience of all nations
and all individuals.
Throughout history, wherever a conscious decision
was made to integrate the many forms of knowing, a cultural renaissance
emerged. In medieval Al-Andalus, the coexistence of Muslims, Jews,
and Christians made it the intellectual capital of the world. The
Abbassid capital of Baghdad in the ninth century, where Jewish,
Muslim, and Christian scholars searched for truth in harmony, comprised
one of the most cosmopolitan cities ever known.
New Principles For Global Education
A system that trains for
global citizenry would be based on the following principles:
- Human values have primacy
in designing social spaces.
Accordingly, all education is grounded in a guiding ethical order.
This means ensuring that there is no relative deprivation based
upon class, gender, ethnicity, or religion in the classroom. It
also means honoring what can be learned from past experiences
- Solving social problems
requires a universal approach.
We should avoid the arrogance of ideological dogma or the educational
methodologies in the East (rote learning) and West (standardized
testing) that limit open, processoriented dialogue.
- Tools of technology
enable innovative solutions and facilitate global communication
- Educational techniques
are community- and socially - oriented, drawing from an individual
culture's unique strengths and history.
- The elimination of poverty
and restoration of dignity are prioritized. On the micro level,
pride and dignity are re-established through social development,
recognizing the worth of every individual and his or her perspective
in the classroom. On the macro level, poverty is acknowledged
asmore than just material deprivation;it represents a condition
in which dignity has been removed and traditional ways of knowing
are viewed as antithetical to modern progress.
- Tradition is honored. Each culture exchanges
its customs and richness and inherent knowledge with other cultures
to continually expand each other's horizons and evolve civil society.
In short, the whole world needs the whole world.
Essentially, we are living in a world in which
our traditional conceptions of borders, space, time, and distance
are quickly changing. Cultures and communities are exposed to one
another and interact in unprecedented ways. We are discovering that
our fates and futures increasingly depend on one another, making
mutual understanding, respect, and cooperation essential to realizing
the positive aspects of our growing interdependency. Our greater
capacity for learning and our broadening familiarity with the foreign
represent a powerful growth in knowledge that marks a turning point
in human civilization.
In this growing awareness of our diversity lies our unmistakable
unity--our humanity and our common values and needs. It is up to
us, at this crucial time in our shared history, to ask: How will
we know and relate with one another? How will we mutually define
and benefit from our relationship? How will we cope together with
the teeming diversity of our global community?
In the end, one does not create a global citizen.
Rather, we can create, restructure, and develop the realm of education
so that each human being can see himself or herself in a global
context. And when we develop the view that being is one, that human
consciousness comprises both the analytic and intuitive modes, we
begin to see the individual parts of humanity as well as the whole