Are Massive Online Courses (MOOCs) changing the university classroom for better or for worse?
Could we say that the MOOC is to the university what the Kindle is to the book? Or what the TV was to the radio? This is not after all, the first time the arrival of something new has brought about discussion on the threat of the traditional. Both the radio and the book, however, are still faring fairly well in our modern, televised reality, despite the dismal prediction that once were made.
I see MOOCs becoming an addition to the traditional university, not its replacement. In this regard, therefore, it can change the classroom for the better. Online courses can supplement and improve instruction, but I doubt it can ever take the place of the traditional university altogether. Anath Argawal (2013) claims that healthcare and transportation has gone through transformative changes, while education remains the same. I disagree with his view. Yes, healthcare has changed through discoveries such as the X-ray machine, nano-technological surgery, and electromagnetic measurements…but we still talk to a doctor, don’t we? We still need human hands to control, explain, and analyze. Similarly, we might be driving cars instead of carriages, but there’s still a human behind the steering wheel/reigns. New technology has the potential of improving efficiency and access greatly, but I see it as enhancers of a human system. Will the professor become obsolete? Will the classroom disappear? I refuse to believe that, at least not until the doctors and their offices disappear as well.
Critical theory fills a gap in terms of action. Not only can (must) we criticize the unbalanced world order; we must intervene.
I see critical theory as a kind of ‘fight-back’ approach to comparative education; an opponent to the (rather patronizing) modernization theorists. As we learn from van Heertum & Torres’ (2009) well-formulated article, critical theory emerged as the need to assess one’s own system arose. Other theoretical frameworks do not encourage criticism or questioning of the system in which we reside. Instead, theories like positivism or modernization focus on how to measure, improve and compare education systems without diverging from the concept of ‘us’ and ‘them’ (usually with the added notion that we are better than them).
While dependency theorists critique what they see as neo-colonialism through education and economic systems, I feel critical theorists span even broader (and delves even deeper). Critical theory fills a gap in terms of action. Not only can (must) we criticize the unbalanced world order; we must intervene. This is where I find this theory especially compelling. Educationalists like Paulo Freire— who incidentally introduced critical theory to the realm of education— called for research as an emancipatory force, and not just a tool for interpretation. What good does interpreting the world do, if we don’t change it for the better?
To recap, therefore, I think critical theory evolved as a way for researchers to ‘research’ and critique the very system that produced them in the first place (i.e. the Western knowledge system). In addition, critical theory grew out of the desire to put words into action, to emancipate the oppressed, and to change the world order.
Educationalists like Paulo Freire— who incidentally introduced critical theory to the realm of education— called for research as an emancipatory force, and not just a tool for interpretation. What good does interpreting the world do, if we don’t change it for the better?
This last point— change the world order— is a bit difficult to grasp, though I found Morgan’s (2003) article helpful in this regard. He basically questions every single aspect of the system I am entrenched in to such a degree that I struggle to free myself from it. He even goes as far as challenging the Western culture’s abstract conceptions of time (past, present, future). Here, critical theory provides a way to fill the gaps of the many internal paradoxes in Western culture: by looking to indigenous frameworks (emancipating the oppressed), we might find better explanations of reality. One of the paradoxes Morgan (2003) mention, is the one between the culture of absolute proof (true/false dichotomy) and religious fatalism. This is such a good point. I feel many are unable to see the flaws within their own systems, yet are quick to label indigenous knowledge as ‘superstitious’ or ‘back-ward’. By examining systems from a critical framework, I believe we might be able to avoid such labeling, and consequently digging ourselves deeper down in the rut.
Go Critical Theory!
Morgan, D. L. (2003). Appropriation, appreciation, accommodation: Indigenous knowledges in higher education. International Review of Education – Internationale Zeitschrift für Erziehungswissenschaft – Revue Internationale de l’Education, 49(1-2), pp. 35-49.
Van Heertum, R. & Torres, C. (2009). Globalization and neoliberalism: The challenges and possibilities of radical pedagogy. In M. Simons (Ed.). Re-reading education policies: Studying the policy agenda of the 21st century. Netherlands: Sense Publishers.
As the need for multiculturalism in education grows, so does the necessity for a more sincere inclusion and acceptance of ‘the other’: the other belief, the other opinion, the other experience of events. Could a feminist approach be better equipped at addressing the need for multicultural education?
Feminism represents the empowerment of ‘the governed’; groups who historically have been ignored, misunderstood, or discriminated against.
While I previously have been unfamiliar with the implications of feminist culture in educational research, I now see clear benefits of adhering to this type of viewpoint. Feminism represents the empowerment of ‘the governed’; groups who historically have been ignored, misunderstood, or discriminated against. Thus, feminist educationalist does not only seek to eliminate gender inequalities, but also inequalities based on ethnicity, religion, class, and age. At the very core of feminist theory, lays the belief in true diversity— not merely through the superficial teaching of ‘other’ cultures, but through the implementation of multicultural practices. When schools and education systems are investigated, interpreted, and evaluated in a male-dominated climate, there will inevitably be disregard of the views and needs of minorities and women.
For me, a feminist approach puts new hypotheses and questions on the table, and expands our area of investigation: In which ways are internal dynamics in schools perpetuating social divisions? Can open-mindedness and acceptance be taught? How can students’ silence be interpreted? As feminist theory emphasizes the use of ethnographic methods, I am especially partial to a stronger influence of feminism in educational research methodology. Although objective quantitative inquiry can provide useful information on, say, educational testing methods, I see subjective research as the most reliable way of gaining a more comprehensive understanding of educational systems.
Feminist methodology opens for deeper investigations into internal dynamics and power structures in schools; structures that often work against official curricula, and perpetuate undesirable patterns in society
In a global community tainted by religious conflict, terrorism, and exploitation, ensuring cultural awareness and acceptance among citizens should be a top priority for governments. More specifically, I believe that tolerance of ‘otherness’ must become a vital part of national curricula. Feminist approaches hold significant potential for meeting the moral challenges in educational planning. Also, feminist methodology opens for deeper investigations into internal dynamics and power structures in schools; structures that often work against official curricula, and perpetuate undesirable patterns in society.
The average person is not aware of their cultural lenses, or that their view of the world is shaped by a set of acquired “cultural truths”. We learn this through our society, our schools, our news, our entertainment, but rarely do we reflect on it.
Unless, of course, we are researchers, in which case such reflexivity is crucial.
According to Lincoln, Lynham, & Guba (2011), “reflexivity is the process of reflecting critically on the self as researcher” (p. 124), and in my opinion it is important to engage in this in every step of the research process. When doing educational research, it is useful to clarify our own cultural lenses, and how we feel about education.
We cannot escape our culture or our perspectives. All we can do is be aware of them.
Our own experiences shape our views whether we are aware of them or not. Denzin and Lincoln (2011) refer to these views as perspectives, stating that while “paradigms represent belief systems that attach the user to a particular worldview (…) perspectives are less well developed system, and it can be easier to move between them” (p. 5, emphasis added). If we are made aware of our cultural lenses, we can change them (or at least attempt to see the world through the eyes of the other).
We cannot escape our culture or our perspectives. All we can do is be aware of them. Research without personal perspective is impossible, and any positivist that claims differently is simply not self-aware enough. I studied biology and chemistry, and have done a lot of “pure scientific” research. Even in this type of research, however, we must take into account the cultural lens of the researcher. No research is neutral, in my view. This is not necessarily negative, however. What is hard data without interpretation and analysis? And how can anyone interpret and analyze without automatically carrying with them their worldview in the process?
Denzin, N. & Lincoln, Y. (2011). Introduction: The Discipline and Practice of Qualitative Research. In Denzin & Lincoln (Eds.) The Sage Handbook of Qualitative Research. London: Sage.
Lincoln, Y., Lynham, S., & Guba, E. (2011). Paradigmatic Controversies, Contradictions, and Emerging Confluences, Revisited. In Denzin & Lincoln (Eds.) The Sage Handbook of Qualitative Research. London: Sage
It is ironic that while our society as a whole is globalizing, we as individuals are so disconnected from each other. In the West, we find products from the developing world in our supermarkets, and in the South they listen to American pop songs. On the surface, it does indeed seem that we are approaching a unified global community. How is it, then, that we as consumers can be so removed from those who produce our goods? How is it possible, that in a world where information crosses the globe in a few seconds, we in the developed world remain so unaware of the conditions of our fellow global citizens?
perhaps are we too far removed to realize that we are in fact part of the perpetuation of an exploitative and unjust system.
The role of international organizations and MNCs
In the movie, “The Great African Scandal” (2007), we are introduced to the working conditions of farmers and miners in Ghana.
As I watch the rundown wooden huts, the barren farmland, and the extreme poverty, I ask myself: “Is this my fault? Am I responsible?” The program host, Robert Beckford, is quite direct in his accusation, saying, “we are screwing them.” (Beckford, 2007). But who are ‘we’? It is easy for us as individual consumers to point the finger at multinational corporations (MNCs) and the ‘evils’ of neo-colonialism, but it is not helping the situation to take on the role of powerless pawns when in fact we have the power to influence the current system. The genius of the capitalist system is that the ultimate power rests with the consumer, yet we seem to be too comfortable in our blissful ignorance to bother making an effort. Or perhaps are we too far removed to realize that we are in fact part of the perpetuation of an exploitative and unjust system.
What we see in Ghana today is a result of what Beckford refers to as ‘economic imperialism’. Ghana might have gained its political independence, but in economical terms, the country is still highly dependent on the West. The lives of many Ghanaian farmers are being dictated by international corporations and financial institutions like the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank. The sad fact is that the very institutions that should be helping Ghana are in fact increasing the gap between the industrialized West and the impoverished South. According to Beckford this is all a part of a calculated political process. The current inequalities we see in so many developing nations today, are a direct result of the capitalist agendas of Western MNCs and international financial institutions.
Paradoxically, it’s not only financially driven agendas that are ‘screwing’ the developing world; it is aid organizations as well. In the documentary, we learn that the American rice given as aid actually undermined the local rice farmers. Today, this continued import has nearly driven the Ghanaian rice farming to the ground.
From the empirical evidence in Ghana, we see that international organizations often can do more harm than good. In my opinion, this ties back to the point I made earlier, about us as consumers being so removed from the producers. Had the officials in the aid organizations had an in-depth knowledge of the reality ‘on the ground’, would they still have imported rice into Ghana? Often, I feel like Western companies and aid organizations simply throw money at poor nations in an attempt to redeem themselves from the mistakes made during colonialism. Instead of tackling the problem head-on, and humbly investigating the true causes of modern-day poverty, they design development programs and policies from their offices in the developed world. When visiting local villages, and witnessing how farmers live, it is evident that the development programs are not always working. There is still child labor on the cocoa plantations, there are still violations of human rights in the gold mines, and only 3% of fair trade produce is being bought from major export companies (Beckford, 2007). What are ‘we’ doing wrong?
Impeding and facilitating factors
In my opinion, the main impeding factors to development and education are (1) the lack of liability for non-national corporations, (2) the lack of economic protectionism, and (3) the dependence on foreign aid.
When the distance between worker and consumer stretches across continents, it is important that there are clear laws in place to make sure that the physical detachment does not also lead to a moral detachment
Firstly, there are not strict enough laws in place to ensure that MNCs take responsibility for their plantations, factories, and workers. An inherent problem with multinational corporations is, of course, that they feel no direct accountability towards the country in which their workers live. When the distance between worker and consumer stretches across continents, it is important that there are clear laws in place to make sure that the physical detachment does not also lead to a moral detachment.
Secondly, there needs to be more economic protectionism, at least in the growing phases of development. While an open market economy works well for a developed country, it endangers a developing country based mostly on primary production. If they allow cheaper international products on the market, it will damage the local industry, and increasing poverty.
Thirdly, I feel the classic mantra ‘trade, not aid’ still holds true. Small aid packages will not lead to sustainable development. Only through establishing a strong foundation within industries and education, can developing countries truly become independent.
In a country like Ghana, the abundant natural resources should be a facilitating factor. I believe that if a proper set of laws were put into action, the wealth from gold would benefit the country instead of enriching MNCs. As we know from countries like Botswana, a certain amount of government control can ensure that the revenue from natural resources goes back into developing the country by creating and improving public services, and strengthening national business.
The consumer responsibility
A corporation is a dangerous entity, as it dilutes responsibility among several different board members, shareholders, and even consumers. In the end, who is responsible for 10-year-old Baba having to work for his uncle and not being able to go to school? Who is responsible for pouring toxic waste into the drinking water of miners? On one side, we find the head of corporations claiming the consumers’ demand for lower prices force them to cut down on production cost. On the other hand, we have consumers requesting fair trade. The message of the documentary “The Great African Scandal” is clear: individual consumers have the power. We can refuse to buy products that are not certified fair trade. We can educate ourselves and others on the living conditions of the people making our chocolate, clothes, and electronic appliances. We can demand more transparency in MNCs’ financial spending and earnings, as well as request a debate around the efficiency of aid. When we realize that it is our money fueling this unequal situation, we might also realize that we are controlling the situation. When our money stops being spent on unfairly traded products, the corporations will be forced to adapt.
I would argue that a lot of the people reading this post have grown up in relatively Western cultures. We have grown up with American movies and CNN news. We have attended schools where students sit by desks in square classrooms. Many of us think that majority rule (i.e. Western democracy) is a fair system – a system so fair, in fact, that it should be promoted in other parts of the world. The majority of us have completed a Western education, most likely taught in English. These are some features making up our culture.
We study minority cultures, we read about “exotic” life views and rituals. But why? What value does the study of unknown cultures hold, other than expand our cultural horizons; entertain us; make us reflect for a brief moment on our own view of reality? Will the study of groups like the Uyghurs (sometimes written with an ‘i’) ever lead to anything more than research papers circulated in a tiny group of academics?
Why do we read and write in English in graduate school? Because at some point in history, the English-speaking world won a “battle”.
We can say the same about studying Somali clan culture or Aboriginal knowledge systems. Yes, these are interesting facts and stories, but how (if ever) will they counteract the hegemonic influence of Western values?
Gardener Bovingdon (2004) notes that, “single-stranded narratives intentionally suppress evidence of historical alternatives [and that] they write competing narratives out of history” (p. 354). Why do we read and write in English in graduate school? Because at some point in history, the English-speaking world won a “battle”. The winners write history, as we all know, which is why we all understand terrorism as a bad thing. Suicide bombers, killing embassy workers in the Middle East are universally understood as “the enemy”, right? What, then, about the Western forces bombing Afghan villages, killing civilians, spreading fear, terrorizing the local population? How would the future history books read, if the villagers wrote them? The same can be said of the Uyghur civil/separatist movements. The US and UN agreed with China in 2002, in the labeling of such groups as terrorists.
History is not unbiased or true, yet the history books tend to portray them as such. It is easy to forget that, “official histories […] depend on tendentious interpretation of key terms and events” (Bovingdon, 2004, p. 356).
History is not unbiased or true, yet the history books tend to portray them as such.
The importance of studying unknown groups and narratives, then, is perhaps not to change policies or revolutionize systems. Rather, it is to continue reminding us that history is biased. The narrative of historic events that we learn in school; that we see in the news; that we read in books, are not true; they are a version of the truth. By studying the Uyghurs, we are not just learning about an alternative narrative of Chinese history, but we are also reminded that all history was once written by the “winners”. That, to me, is the most valuable argument in favor of the preservation and diffusion of indigenous cultures. I would never expect indigenous languages and cultures to challenge the current “ruling” systems, but I would expect them to function as reminders that there always are alternate perceptions of reality and history.
Bovingdon, G. (2004). Contested Histories. In Starr, F. (2004). Xinjiang: China’s Muslim Borderland. Armonk, NY: M.E. Sharpe, pp. 353-374.
Any intelligent debate on contemporary issues requires a thorough understanding of history. When reforming the educational system, are we looking to the past for understanding and inspiration? When updating the national curriculum are we sufficiently analyzing the history of the nation’s education, or are we rushing into a quick-fix mentality spurred on by the demands of the global economy?
Joel Spring (2012) notes that, “[h]uman capital economics is now the driving force in public school policies” (p. 99). Coupled with the panic in the wake of the 1983 A Nation At Risk report, the human capital theory has triggered the creation of policies led by a ‘back to basics’ approach to education. Despite previous ideals of educating ‘the whole child’, we now see that “[l]iteracy, science, and math have a higher priority in education for the global economy than other subjects such as history, social studies, and arts education” (Spring, 2012, p. 85). In watching the video on America’s educational history, I am led to ask what John Dewey— the progressive educationalist behind the idea of American child-centered education— would have to say to the current makeup of the public school system.
as high school enrollment in the US grew rapidly in the 1920s, the idea of tracking and ability grouping appeared. Students received different education depending on their future prospect: house wife, bank clerk, factory worker, farmer, and so on…
There is a conflict between the practical necessity of preparing youths for future jobs and the commitment to create good citizens and moral human beings. At the heart of this conflict lays the ‘purpose of education’, and when defining this, I believe it is imperative to go back to the past. John Dewey was opposed to career tracking in schools, as well as the measurement of IQ to place students in appropriate groups. Still, as high school enrollment in the US grew rapidly in the 1920s, the idea of tracking and ability grouping appeared. Students received different education depending on their future prospect: house wife, bank clerk, factory worker, farmer, and so on. A progressive new idea emerged, introducing the concept that human beings are not equal in intelligence, capacity and ability. As Joel Spring remarks: “people began to think of going to school as a way of getting a job, not as going to school to become a wise person” (PBS, 2001).
According to Spring (2012), “A 1991 study found that the use of ability grouping in […] the United States was two-thirds higher than in other countries” (p. 75). Are we returning to the career tracking of the 1920s? Is the pressure of the global economy in fact transforming American public school into an efficient ‘worker factory’ where the main goal is to provide the global market with competent workers? If this is the case, what are the implications for the American democracy and its values of freedom, equality, and human rights?
Arguably, history has proven that allowing the public school system to be influenced by external factors can be greatly beneficial. For example, the great influx of immigrants in the early 1900s encouraged the creation of public schools and the fight to abolish child labor.
Today’s educational policies— and the human capital theories that underlie them— could be interpreted as a return to the past. Despite efforts of educationalists like John Dewey to educate the ‘whole child’, public education seem more tailored to the needs of the economy and the market place than to the upholding and progression of democratic values. Many are welcoming reforms labeled ‘Back to Basics’ and ‘No Child Left Behind’, convinced that for the nation to grow, we must allow the Free Market (which indisputably is the driving force in much of Western society) to shape our educational system. Arguably, history has proven that allowing the public school system to be influenced by external factors can be greatly beneficial. For example, the great influx of immigrants in the early 1900s encouraged the creation of public schools and the fight to abolish child labor. Is it constructive, however, to allow globalization to shape school policies? Would closer correspondence between curriculum design and the world of business strengthen America’s economic and political position? What would John Dewey say if faced with the American public schools of today?
Spring, J. (2012). American Education, 15th Edition. New Yotk, NY: McGraw Hill. PBS (2001). “School: The Story of American Public Education” [Video file].
The pros and cons of colonial legacy in Africa and Asia. Was education the significant factor in sending the “Asian Tigers” on their way, while most of the African colonies sunk into poverty?
Discussing former colonies, Hassana Alidou’s (2004) states, “Political independence does not necessarily lead to educational or economic independence” (p. 195). We can especially see how former colonial powers has continued its economic influence through The World Bank’s structural adjustment programs in the 1980s and on. As the Human Capital Theory (HCT) linked education with economic growth, controlling and influencing national school system became more important. Not surprisingly, Tan (1997) notes that, “the first signs of a major reorientation in education policy appeared in the immediate aftermath of the Second World War” (p. 303). This was when the field of development truly accelerated, and as soon as education was seen in connection with national growth and development, schools became battlefields for power struggles. Now, several good things can be said both for HCT and Western influence on education in the Global South. For one, it brought legitimacy and validity to expansion of national education…
However, I see the (post)colonial influence on education as bittersweet: one on hand increased availability and the establishment of secondary and tertiary educational institutions, but on the other decreased local autonomy and relevance.
With roots in the colonial system, the school system is often hierarchical and didactic, undermining the value of local languages and ways of life
In Palestine, for example, the restriction of access to education has been a way to control the population, both through limiting access to higher forms of education, and by threatening teachers and students. The Israeli policy on targeting education as a method of punishment was first seen during the second Intifada (Abu-Saad & Champagne, 2006).
In much of post-colonial Africa, Western influence has brought about the establishment of universities, and a massive expansion of public schooling. However, as Alidou (2004) points out, all these improvements have been built with European templates and languages. With roots in the colonial system, the school system is often hierarchical and didactic, undermining the value of local languages and ways of life.
Unlike Africa, a lot of Asian school systems opted for national languages of instruction and locally relevant textbooks. Indeed, we learn from Tan’s (1997) article that Hong Kong and Singapore both made efforts to localize the curriculum. Could this choice be the reason “The Asian Tigers” prospered, while large parts of Africa suffered from negative economic growth?
Abu-Saad, I. & Champagne, D. (2006). Introduction: A historical context of Palestinian Arab education. American Behavioral Scientist, 49(9): pp. 1035-1051.
Alidou, H. (2004). Medium of instruction in post-colonial Africa. In J. W. Toellefson & A.B.M. Tsui, (Eds.), Medium of instruction policy: Which agenda? Whose agenda? NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum (pp. 195-214).
Tan, J. (1997). Education and colonial transition in Singapore and Hong Kong: Comparisons and contrasts. Comparative Education, 33(2), 303-312.
Internationally recognized as a founder of peace education, Betty Reardon’s work has inspired a generation of peace educators, including Dale T. Snauwaert. In this short essay, I will compare and analyze the views and contributions of these education theorists.
According to Reardon (1988), “[e]ducation is a social enterprise conducted for the realization of social values” (p. 23). The central questions, then, when re-imagining education systems is what values should be included, and how these values might be transmitted. When applying this definition to peace education, another question arises: What is peace? Enthused by Reardon’s work, Snauwaert (2012) asks whether or not peace is a fundamental value. Both educators recognize the significance in defining peace as such a definition will determine the legitimacy of peace education.
While there is still contention on the definition of peace as a human right, Snauwaert and Reardon provide compelling support for peace being a global moral duty. Snauwaert, in particular, promotes the notion of a moral community and all human beings having a moral standing, deserving moral consideration (Snauwaert, 2012). This view springs from cosmopolitanism, defined by Reardon as “the value of universal moral inclusion grounded in respect for human dignity” (Snauwaert, 2012, p. 50). The challenge for education is to help each individual identify him/herself with the global community. Echoing the ideas of Paolo Freire, the individual must be enabled and made to realize his power to change his surroundings. Furthermore, the individual must find meaning and power in relationships.
Between Reardon and Sneuwaert, the former has a more refined view on the importance of relationships in creating peace. Her concept of peace is based in feminism, specifically the importance of wholeness, integrity and interdependence (Reardon, 1988). Snauwaert, on the other hand, pulls his definition of relationship and peace from the Earth Charter. He understands peace as “the wholeness created by the relationship with oneself, and then with others” (Snauwaert, 2014). Again, education plays a pivotal role in fostering such relationships, and is therefore an essential tool in creating and promoting peace. As James Smith Page (2004) states, “[p]eace is ultimately about relationships, [so] peace education itself is also about relationships” (p. 10).
within a cosmopolitan philosophy of peace education, pedagogy must be inquiry-based, dialogical, value-based, and empowering
Moving on from peace and peace education, the last point of analysis is pedagogy. In a co-authored article, Reardon and Snauwaert (2011) conclude that within a cosmopolitan philosophy of peace education, pedagogy must be inquiry-based, dialogical, value-based, and empowering. Reardon is especially well-defined in her vision of a dialogical model of learning, referring to the teachers as an “edu-learner”. I see this term as an urge to move away from dictatic, hierarchal learning practices, and in the process leaving behind cultures of obedience and dehumanization, both of which serve as fertile ground for war and violence.
This comparative analysis has highlighted how Reardon’s work has served both as a foundation and a continual source of inspiration to Snauwaert, among others. Peace education as a field is still in progress, but the concepts of a global moral community, peace as relationships, and the “edu-learner” stand out to me as cornerstones in its future development.
Reardon, B. A. (1988). Comprehensive Peace Education: Educating for Global Responsibility. New York, NY: Teachers College Press.
Reardon, B. A., & Snauwaert, D. T. (2011). Reflective Pedagogy, Cosmopolitanism, and Critical Peace Education for Political Efficacy: A Discussion of Betty A. Reardon’s Assessment of the Field. Journal of Peace Education and Social Justice, 5 (1), 1-14.
Smith Page, J. (2004). Peace Education: Exploring Some Philosophical Foundations. International Review of Education 50(1), 3-15.
Snauwaert, D. (2012). Betty Reardon’s Conception of “Peace” and its Implications for a Philosophy of Peace Education. Peace Studies Journal 5(3), 45-52
Globalization is an irreversible process, and discussing to which extent it is harmful on the local level, is meaningless at this point. Like an avalanche reshaping the landscape, globalization is well on its way to permanently changing the way we view the world, as well as each individual’s role in it. We cannot ignore globalization, much like we cannot ignore an avalanche. Our only option is to work on finding a way to ride on top of the immense wave of change, and redefine the new world on our own terms. Do we want this new globalized reality to be defined by multinational corporations (MNCs) and what the marketplace views as beneficial? Do we allow neo-colonialism to take root, and dictate the knowledge transmitted through multimedia and the Internet?
Kubow and Fossum (2007) point out that what we call globalization is in fact better described as a Westernization, and that it exits a risk that “global society develops predominantly in the image of the privileged developed world” (p. 292). While the global communication portals have been opened, it seems the flows of knowledge, ideas, and values are unilateral. The American brand Coca-Cola is commonplace in even the most underdeveloped areas of the world (Brooks et al., p. 311), and the presence of a McDonald’s restaurant has become a measurement for a country’s economic development (De Leo & Telasi, 2012).
Being global does not contradict preserving local worldviews and values; on the contrary, it should mean creating a platform for cultural exchange and sharing of knowledge and wisdom
I’m deeply worried by what I see as a loss of local cultures and practices. What concerns me even more is the assumption many people make, that this Westernization is inescapable. Many of us have settled with the idea that the erosion of traditions and culture is a natural – albeit regrettable – result of globalization. I strongly disagree. It is evident that the Western culture has not suffered, but rather has spread throughout the world at record speed, aided by what Friedman so accurately coined the “flattening of the world”. Why should we not allow – or at the very least encourage – cultures from Africa, Asia, and South-America to spread to the West? Must the global transmission of knowledge remain unilateral?
As an educator I fear that what we now call ‘globalization’ might turn into a ‘homogenization’ of the people of the world, as Kubow and Fossum (2007) warns us about. This is not how I wish to redefine the new world arising from the ‘globalization avalanche’. I call for a true globalization, where the portals of knowledge are multilateral, and all peoples and nations have a place. Being global does not contradict preserving local worldviews and values; on the contrary, it should mean creating a platform for cultural exchange and sharing of knowledge and wisdom. The main challenge in achieving this, of course, is educating the coming generations on global issues, and arousing a sense of global identity.
Upon entering a new era of “web-enabled global collaboration” (Friedman, 2005) it is crucial to steer the globalization process in the direction we as global citizens desire. As Friedman explains, the third era of globalization will be spearheaded by individuals: not countries or companies. It is down to each and every one of us to take an active part in sharing knowledge across country borders, religious beliefs, and ethnicity. Educators will play an important part in preparing young citizens to not only accept and understand globalization, but to recognize the potential it unlocks in moving towards a more peaceful, tolerating world.
Brooks, I., Weatherston, J., & Wilkinson, G. (2010). Globalisation, challenges and changes. In The international business environment (pp 306-336). Retrieved from http:// www.catalogue.pearsoned.co.uk
De Leo, P. & Telasi, F. (2012, May) McDonalization. (Unpublished dissertation). Università degli studi di Milano-Biccocia, Italy, Dipartimento di Economia, Metodi Quantitativi e Strategie di Impresa website: dipeco.economia.unimib.it