Check out these stats of a recent survey of employers about their employees international cultural awareness.
This is the gap that the Global World History Project is looking to fill.
I asked myself the question today...
"Should high schools get rid of history text books and rely more on internet based resources and inquiry?"
While the study of the history of the world is important, the study of current history that each of our students are a part of now is just as important, if not more important, for our students to be aware of the world that they live. Ask most American high school students what is going on in the world and their answer is more often than not, "I don't know." With all the power at a students fingertips in their cell phones, tablet PC's, iPads, laptops, etc this information should be more known now than it was in previous generations. However, most of our students are either not interested, because they don't see the implications in their own cultures of what is going on globally, or they don't know the best places to find the best information out there. I would challenge that along with this thought: students don't know how they can use this information as power to change the world. Only when a major event takes place do students take notice that it actually happened. The problem then comes when a month later that event is already left the news headlines and is forgotten. It is has been just over four months since the earthquake in Japan took place and when I watch the news each night there is no mention of it.
How powerful would it be to have students that are partnered up throughout the world and when a world event takes place the students understanding goes to a whole new level. Now this event isn't just news that will eventually be forgotten, it is news that will be internalized by the students who are not only watching it on television but CONNECTED to it because they are CONNECTED to the culture through the students that they could be studying with in their own classroom. An assumption that I have is that because the student across an ocean is now a part of what is going in the world they will want to be involved in what is going on. Who knows what this could eventually look like but the possibilities are endless.
My wife and I have friends who are in Haiti and have been there even before the earthquake that took place there. I have to admit my understanding of Haiti, even as a social studies teacher, was limited before the earthquakes took place. However, because I had a CONNECTION with someone their my understanding and education of Haiti changed. This CONNECTION even stirred an inner passion for the people of Haiti, this passion wasn't anything that was on the news but what I learned by being CONNECTED to someone there. I have never been to Haiti, but not being there doesn't change my greater understanding of what is going on and what is needed in Haiti. Little did I know that the people are so poor in Haiti that they have to give up their children because they can't afford to take care of them. Our friends happen to be a part of a project that worked to help the people of Haiti make jewelry to bring in an income that wasn't their before. Little did I know that something as simple as saving my empty cereal boxes and shipping them down periodically not only saved me from throwing these boxes into a dumpster to fill an overflowing pit of trash, but that it helped the people of Haiti to make the much needed income they needed to be able to afford to keep their kids. All of this because I was now CONNECTED to the people of Haiti.
This would have never happened without a CONNECTION, a CONNECTION that helped me and my family become more culturally aware of a place we knew little about. Because of the CONNECTION and the relationship with someone that is actually in Haiti even after the news stopped telling us what is going on their we are still a part helping Haitian people replace all that they have lost. Even our four year old daughter is CONNECTED and aware of what is going on. She now tells everyone she meets about what has happened in Haiti and shows them the beautiful jewelry that she got from Haiti to help them "get their stuff back" as her child like mind states it.
What kind of global impact could the students of the world have for each other if they not only learned about another cultures history in a book but lived it out with them through making a CONNECTION? How would the world change if we were CONNECTED to each other in ways never imagined before the smart phone? In an instant we can be CONNECTED.
The world we live in now is not the same world we lived in 15 years ago. We are more CONNECTED than ever before, however, in school our CONNECTION is limited because many people believe the best CONNECTION in history is a book. To truly CONNECT students to history we should tell them about the past while CONNECTING them to the present. Now history isn't just a subject it is a part of their life and something they can take with them for the rest of their lives not just for the years they are in school.