A Political Perspective and Global
Because schools and education systems affect many different stakeholders, it is to be
expected that the interests of those stakeholders should be crucial to the fate of any
efforts of educational change. The two obvious implications of this truism are that
the ﬁrst step in designing a program of global education is understanding how key
stakeholder groups are positioned vis-a-vis the program. The second implication is
that a political strategy to implement change requires mobilizing as much support as
possible and demobilizing detractors. Collaborative negotiating strategies can help
widen the support for a program. In a recent compilation of reﬂections of former
ministers of education and other education leaders on their own efforts to produce
large scale change most made reference to how crucial the politics of the process of
policy design and implementation were to reform (Reimers 2019).
In the United States, for example, analysis of history textbooks shows that publish-
ing companies distribute different versions of the same history books in ways which
are responsive to prevailing political views of the school boards in various states. As
a result, history is taught in a way that reﬂects the existing political divides in the
country, reproducing such divides. For instance, gun regulation is a divisive issue
in American politics, whereas textbooks in California include information about the
rulings on the Second Amendment to the US Constitution which have allowed for
some gun regulation, textbooks in California omit this information (Goldstein 2020).
Similarly, the politicization of discussions of climate change leads teachers to
teach content which deviates from the scientiﬁc consensus. A recent study of the
National Center for Science Education of how teachers teach climate change in the
US found that while three-quarters of the science teachers did address climate change
in the curriculum, only 54% did so in ways which were aligned with the scientiﬁc
consensus, whereas 10% taught incorrect knowledge, such as the ideas that recent
increases in temperature are due to natural causes and to teach that it is not the case
that the scientiﬁc consensus that recent global warming is primarily being caused
by human release of greenhouse gases from fossil fuels; an additional 31% of the
teachers sent mixed messages in their teaching, correctly teaching that the scientiﬁc
consensus that recent global warming is primarily being caused by human release
© The Author(s) 2020
F. M. R ei me rs , Educating Students to Improve the World,
SpringerBriefs in Education, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-981-15- 3887-2_7
122 7 A Political Perspective and Global Education
of greenhouse gases from fossil fuels, but incorrectly teaching that many scientists
believe that recent increases in temperature are likely due to natural causes (Plutzer
et al. 2016, 16).
Tools like political mapping can be helpful in identifying and determining the
interests of key stakeholder groups, and in guiding a process of coalition building,
negotiation, and mobilization in favor of change. Communications is an indispens-
able element of a change process, as is viewing the process of designing a global
education program as a negotiation that attempts to reconcile as many interests of key
stakeholder groups as possible. This is the reason beginning where people are makes
for good politics, as does using participatory approaches that allow various stake-
holder groups to bring their interests to the process of developing a global education
program. Sometimes opposition to global education change reﬂects lack of clarity
or misinterpretation about what is expected. I have found that providing opportu-
nities for teams to collaborate in the design of curriculum and actual lesson plans
can facilitate communication, clarify misconceptions, and provide opportunities to
productively negotiate various perspectives.
A study of two district-based programs of global education in North Carolina
found that both relied on strong support from district leadership, including the
superintendent, from communication, engagement, and mobilization of school board
members, school administrators, teachers, and community members, including stake-
holders planning the initiatives, and building pockets of success (Tichnor–Wagner
However, there may be limits to what inclusion, participation, and communication
can deliver as there may be genuine interests that diverge with global education.
An emerging populist nationalism, with strong xenophobic undertones, is creating
veritable divides within many societies, between those who see themselves as part of
a global community, with shared responsibility to address some of these challenges,
and those who do not see themselves as global citizens. A survey administered by
the Globescan-BBC in 2016 in a range of countries1shows that while the percentage
of the population that sees themselves as global citizens is growing over time, there
are clear splits in the population in most countries in this respect. On average, 22%
of the population strongly agrees with the statement that they see themselves more
as a global citizen than as a citizen of their own country, and an additional 29% agree
with the statement. On the other hand, 20% strongly disagree with the statement, and
an additional 23% disagree. The population is, therefore, split in the middle, with
half of the population divided between two extreme views (Globescan-BBC 2016).
There are also differences among countries in the percentage of the population
that sees themselves as global citizens. Whereas those who strongly agree or agree
with the statement that they see themselves more as global citizens than as citizens
of their own country represent 45% in Spain, 35% in Greece, 39% Nigeria, and over
20% in Canada, the US, the UK, Peru, Brazil, Kenya, Ghana, China, India, Pakistan;
1The survey was administered in Canada, United States of America, Peru, Brazil, Mexico, Chile,
Spain, Greece, United Kingdom, Germany, Russia, Nigeria, Kenya, Ghana, China, India, Pakistan
7 A Political Perspective and Global Education 123
Fig. 7.1 Percentage of the population who sees themselves more as global citizens than as citizens
of their own country in several countries in 2016 (Globescan-BBC 2016)Source GlobeScan/BBC
World Service Poll (2016). Reproduced by permission of GlobeScan for the GlobeScan/BBC World
Service Poll (2016)
in contrast, less than 10% of the population agrees with that statement in Mexico,
Chile, Germany, Russia, and Indonesia (Globescan-BBC 2016) (Fig. 7.1).
The percentage of the population who sees themselves more as global citizens than
as citizens of their own country has increased considerably in Non-OECD countries,
from 44% in 2001 to 56% in 2016, but has declined slightly in OECD countries,
from 44% to 42% during the same period (GlobeScan-BBC 2016) (Fig. 7.2).
Some of the developments characterizing globalization, particularly in the area of
communication technology, are enabling individuals to organize in unprecedented
ways. This includes those with intolerant views and hate groups. It is also possi-
ble for various organizations, or states, to spread misinformation, creating “echo
chambers” in which “alternative facts” are given the same credence as the truth. For
124 7 A Political Perspective and Global Education
Fig. 7.2 Percentage of the population who sees themselves more as global citizens than as citi-
zens of their own country in OECD and non-OECD countries over time (GlobeScan-BBC 2016).
Source GlobeScan/BBC World Service (2016). Reproduced by permission of GlobeScan for the
GlobeScan/BBC World Service Poll (2016)
example, there is emerging evidence that groups with ties to the Russian govern-
ment are using social networking sites as tools to viralize information that creates
racial discord and anti-immigrant sentiments in the United States (Becker 2019).
Two independent reports commissioned by the US Senate demonstrate that Russian
agents used social media to exacerbate racial tensions in the United States and to
discourage African Americans from participating in the 2016 election (Howard et al.
2019; DiResta et al. 2019). Participation in extremely intolerant groups (hate groups
or white supremacist) is increasing in some countries. In the United States, the Fed-
eral Bureau of Investigation has reported an increase in the number of reported hate
crimes in recent years (a 17% increase in 2017). The most common bias categories
focus on race/ethnicity/ancestry (60%), religion (21%) and sexual orientation (16%)
(FBI 2017). This climate can clearly inﬂuence local communities and their support
for global education.
Contention with respect to global education stems also from other priorities for
schools. State mandates and state-mandated assessments reﬂect the prevailing views
of the most powerful groups with respect to what should be emphasized in schools.
Those standards and assessments are important, a reason to see them as a lever to
advance global education. When they don’t do so explicitly, global education needs
to be negotiated within the context of those standards. A study of the implementation
7 A Political Perspective and Global Education 125
of a global education program in two high schools in Massachusetts found that in an
urban high school, the pressure to focus on state mandates competed with the desire
to implement the program of global education:
Four teachers, including one who is also a parent, noted that while the richness of the urban
high school provides students with an opportunity to be exposed to multiple perspectives and
experiences, the focus on achievement in the area of basic skills remains the most important
priority (Kilpatrick 2010, p. 194).
While teachers acknowledged the pressure created by the tests, particularly in the urban
school, they were nonetheless supportive of them because they believed they had helped
raise standards in the school. Administrators thought teachers should ﬁnd a way to infuse
global education within the existing standards and curriculum, even though opportunities to
develop the capacity to do this were absent (Ibid, p. 200–201).
The politics of global education need not be all politics involving governments.
Civil society organizations can play an important role in favor, as well as against,
global education. A study of programs of professional development building the
capacity of teachers to educate the whole child found that civil society organizations
had the capacity to provide continuity and support, overcoming the cycles of inter-
mittent support from government (Reimers 2018). In the United States, for example,
the Asia Society has played an important role over many years supporting global edu-
cation through a variety of programs, including a network to support internationally
themed high schools, a program to recognize effective global education practices, and
a program of publications that has produced standards, frameworks, and exemplars
of good practice.
In Australia, the Australian Association for Environmental Education lobbied the
Federal Government to educate effectively about climate change, which resulted in
the creation of an Education for Sustainable Development program, which included
curriculum and block grants to help reduce the carbon footprint of schools (UNESCO
2012, p. 13).
Similarly, professional organizations can provide support for global education.
The association of social studies teachers in the United States has contributed to
shape an understanding within the profession of the importance of teaching American
history in the context of global events.
The Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents lobbied the state with
partial success for more attention to global education in 2009, advocating for dedi-
cated attention to global studies in the Department of Education, educating the public
about global education, and funding the education and foreign language fund.
International governmental and non-governmental organizations can also pro-
vide support to government and groups advancing global education, demonstrating
the cosmopolitan nature of the global education movement. The United Nations
and UNESCO, for example, were created to advance human rights, and have made
global education one of their longstanding priorities since the Universal Declara-
tion was adopted in 1948 and since UNESCO was created in 1945. A cornerstone
of that global advocacy is “The International Recommendation concerning Educa-
tion for International Understanding, Cooperation and Peace and Education relat-
ing to Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms”, adopted by member states at
126 7 A Political Perspective and Global Education
UNESCOs 18th session in 1974, which recommends that member states teach peace,
human rights, international understanding, tolerance, and other humanistic values
(UNESCO 1974). In the United Kingdom, Oxfam played a crucial role in advancing
global citizenship curriculum, developing curriculum and advocating its adoption.
The Council of Europe Charter on Education for Democratic Citizenship and
Human Rights Education was adopted by 50 countries in 2010. Two years later 90%
of the countries reported that they were promoting democratic governance through
participation of students and parents in school decision-making (UNESCO 2017,
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Goldstein, D. (2020, January 12). Two states. Eight textbooks. Two American stories. The New York
Howard, P. et al. (2019). The IRA, social media and political polarization in the United States, 2012–
2018. University of Oxford and Graphika. https://comprop.oii.ox.ac.uk/research/ira-political-
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