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Putting the World into World-Class Education:


Putting the World into World-Class Education: Introduction Ms. Kagan and Ms. Stewart, guest editors of this

Ms. Kagan and Ms. Stewart, guest editors of this special section, present a discussion of the need to strengthen international education in American schools. Noting the gap between American students’ international knowledge and skills and those they will need to effectively navigate an increasingly interconnected world, the editors sound a call not only to promote international education in our schools but to rethink the intent of education in the 21st century.


A THE comments to the right clearly indicate, increasing global

interdependence, though a dominant feature of our age, has, until recently, been a neglected aspect of American education reform. What many know intuitively — but have not dared to admit —

that American students’ knowledge of other countries, cultures,



and languages has not begun to keep pace with the escalating im- portance of this knowledge to our nation’s economic prosperity and national security.

While shocking, this situation has some obvious explanations. In the past, for example, complex international transactions were the domain of diplomats and international policy and business experts. Educators were remote from the inter- national agenda. Despite periodic calls for more internationalized content, inter- national education was simply not seen as germane to the needs of most Ameri- cans, except in intermittent periods of national crisis. Today, however, globalization is driving demand for an internationally com-

petent work force. New security challenges require greater proficiency in world languages, and the increasing diversity in our nation’s classrooms and workplaces necessitates a greater understanding of other cultures. Ensuring basic academic

SHARON LYNN KAGAN is Virginia & Leonard Marx Professor of Early Childhood and Family Pol- icy, co-director of the National Center for Children and Families, and associate dean for policy, Teachers College, Columbia University, New York, N.Y., as well as professor adjunct at the Child Study Center, Yale University, New Haven, Conn. VIVIEN STEWART is vice president for educa- tion programs, Asia Society, New York, N.Y.

Illustration: Susan Todd

We live in a truly global age. To solve most of the major problems facing our country today — from wiping out ter- rorism to minimizing global environmental problems to eliminating the scourge of AIDS — will require every young person to learn more about other regions, cultures, and languages.

— U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell

Ours is a world of 24-hour news cycles, global markets, and high-speed Internet. We need to look no further than our morning paper to see that our future, and the future of our children, is inextricably linked to the complex chal- lenges of the global commu- nity. And for our children to be prepared to take their place in that world and rise to those challenges, they must first understand it.

— U.S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige

Our students are trapped in a kind of educational isolation- ism, which may have suited the Industrial Age but leaves students desperately under- prepared for the demands of the 21st-century global econ- omy. Every student will need a solid grounding of knowledge about the history of the U.S. and our vital democratic insti- tutions. But we must also inte- grate knowledge of world his- tory, geography, science and technology, world languages, literature, and international affairs into the school day.

— Former North Carolina Gov. James B. Hunt, Jr.

As diverse as America has be- come, it remains remarkably inward-looking. Without an educational and media estab- lishment that takes on the re- sponsibility of teaching and informing and respecting the riches of foreign cultures, this country could become a para- noid and parochial suburb of a vital global village.

— CBS News Correspondent Morley Safer, Co-editor, “60 Minutes”



skills for all students, the major focus of education re- form over the past decade, is certainly fundamental, but looking ahead in a rapidly globalizing world, we must consider what other knowledge and skills will be important to students’ success as workers and citizens in the 21st century. Among these will certainly be in- ternational knowledge and skills.


The term “international education” is used to de-

scribe a range of activities in different contexts. For ex- ample, international education offices in institutions of higher education deal with foreign students, stu- dent study abroad, and international research, among other things. In this Kappan special section, we use in- ternational education (IE) or international studies to refer to the intentional preparation of American stu- dents to be contributing citizens, productive workers, and competent leaders in the interconnected world of the 21st century. While definitions vary in the precise language used, IE is generally taken to include:

knowledge of other world regions, cultures, and

global/international issues;

skills in communicating in languages other than

English, working in global or cross-cultural environ- ments, and using information from different sources around the world; and

values of respect and concern for other cultures

and peoples. We do not see international education as an addi- tional, separate subject, but rather as an emphasis that is integrated into all the major curriculum areas.


Through the articles we have gathered for this spe- cial section, we bring to the attention of Kappan read- ers critical issues in international education. We and the other contributors will analyze why international knowledge and skills are critical for our nation in the current century. In the first part of this special section, the issues are examined from several different perspectives. First, two former governors, James B. Hunt, Jr., of North Caro- lina and John Engler of Michigan, discuss the connec- tions between international education, economics, and democracy. Then two educators, Ted Sanders and Vivi- en Stewart, provide an overview of new developments around the U.S., highlighting approaches to interna-


tional education that some schools and states are already taking and exploring what state and national policies are needed to build capacity. Finally, noted commu- nications researcher Susan Bales examines what the general public understands about this issue. The second part of this special section takes stock of how well American education is preparing students for the global age. We present articles on a number of different dimensions of this emerging field. With high school reform capturing increasing attention, Anthony Jackson outlines how a nascent network of interna- tional studies high schools aims both to promote 21st- century skills and to graduate more low-income stu- dents who are ready for higher education. Myriam Met examines the calls — coming primarily from outside the education system — for new thinking about the scope of foreign language education and synthesizes the research on what would make foreign language in- struction more effective. James Kelly argues that teach- ing about the world must become a required element of teacher preparation and analyzes the systemic issues that need to be addressed. Finally, since students may be learning more about world regions and issues out- side the school than inside, articles by Ellen Wartella and Gary Knell and by Linda Roberts discuss how media and information technology can transform not only the ways in which students learn about other cul- tures but our very notions of the classroom. As we grapple with ways to promote international education, many questions remain unanswered. In the third part of this special section, we guest editors step back and offer our reflections on how this critically im- portant field — one that lacks textbooks, a codified research base, dependable funding streams, and major professional capacity — can move forward. We sug- gest that in order for IE to assume its justified role in education, a rethinking of the intent of education in the 21st century is in order. The special section con- cludes with a guide to organizations and resources that support international education. Our goal in the articles that follow is to take hon- est stock of where American schools stand with respect to promoting international knowledge and skills and to share some promising efforts. We make no claim to be inclusive of all the efforts taking hold throughout the U.S., but we do raise some critical issues for con- sideration. We aim to provoke conversation and to generate interest in what we regard as one of the na- tion’s truly “high-stakes” issues, perhaps one of the most neglected issues of our time. K