15 Questions About Teaching About Globalization and Terrorism

In the first edition of Globalization: a Very Short Introduction (2003), Manfred Steger uses a photograph of Osama bin Laden to help define globalization itself. In the photo, bin Laden holds a microphone and, visible below the hem of his shirtsleeve, is a digital wristwatch. The terrorist’s watch, Steger points out, and his use of video equipment, the Internet, and the global media, demonstrate the extent to which even the anti-modern al-Qaeda is part of the hyper-modern, globalized world it otherwise critiques.

Ten years ago, the fact that al-Qaeda had attacked the World Trade Center seemed to make the connection between globalization and terrorism pretty darn clear. And now?

I have been thinking about the link between the terrible violence in Kenya, Lebanon, France, and Belgium and wondering how the study of globalization might help students make some sense of it. Honestly, I have more questions than answers.

The other night, my family watched “Lawrence of Arabia,” which is sprinkled with references to Damascus. Most media references to the Paris attacks begin history with the 2003 invasion of Iraq (where Emir Faisal, played by Alec Guinness, became king in 1921). 2003 is the point at which MSNBC begins its narrative in its article, “ Everything You Need to Know About Isis.”  Is this the best place to start?

Another way to think about ISIS might be to broaden the scope historically and think about the relationship between globalization and nationalism. There are a couple ways of looking at this. One would be to think about the Pan-Arabism of Nasser and its similarity to (or coincidence with) the emergence of the Common Market in Europe. Now we see the potential break-up of the EU and the rise of stateless Islamism. Is the era of post-nationalist integration over? Because of the history of imperialism in the Middle East and Africa, is there an indirect variation between nationalism in European and in its now-emerging ex-colonies? Or should we note that it seems that as globalization has advanced, so has tribalism. How can students make sense of this?

Would it be wiser to focus on the new imperialisms that arose after the end of the Cold War? Should we even see ISIS as primarily anti-Western? Or is it chiefly “talking” to other Islamist groups, specifically al-Qaeda?

Or is ISIS in fact nationalist? In the West, the media focuses little on its desire for a Caliphate. Writing in the Atlantic, Graeme Wood argues that, “In fact, much of what the group does looks nonsensical except in light of a sincere, carefully considered commitment to returning civilization to a seventh-century legal environment, and ultimately to bringing about the apocalypse.” Perhaps we need to know the historical and political context in which ISIS arose and the ideology that motivates it. Wood also makes me wonder if it’s useful to argue that use of the Internet reveals a lack of sincerity about hatred of the West.

I find myself drawn toward thinking about nationalism. Will anti-Western, anti-democratic violence revive hyper-nationalism in Europe and the US? Are both nationalism and internationalism everywhere then enemies of ISIS? I also think about the relationship between digital technology and peace. Will Anonymous try to come to the aid of Western governments? Will this work, if it continues, become another argument for openness or secrecy?

What is the relationship between terrorism and globalization? Is ISIS significantly different than al Shabaab, and Boko Haram in this respect? I would love to hear how other teachers of globalization are thinking about teaching these topics to their students.

Thoughts and Resources On Teaching About Climate Change

I have taught about climate change for a decade now; it occupies an ever-expanding unit in my Globalization course. When I began, I was explaining the greenhouse effect. Now, students know the science by the time they leave middle school I have decided that teaching about the changing climate is most effective when organized around the concept of solutions.

youthclimateaction.smallWhat follows are thoughts on how this topic might be framed, followed by many links, a portion of which are specific to Portland, Oregon, and the Northwestern USA. But the idea here is to think about how to divide students’ study into layers of hopeful action, so the study of this daunting issue doesn’t merely make them feel helpless. (The flyer above is from an evening hosted by my class in the autumn of 2014.)

In Portland, then, thinking about climate change on a local level means looking at what the city government is doing in regards to transportation, waste management, growth, and, perhaps, a binding resolution for the city.  On a state level, a lot of energy in Oregon is focused on a carbon tax or a cap-and-trade scheme. The Northwest Economic Research Center at Portland State University has made a compelling proposal to the state legislature and a carbon tax bill is coming (slowly). For students, the next movement is divestment, especially at colleges. (This is something my school will likely think about in the next few years as well.) In the Northwestern US, there are also ongoing fights over coal export terminals and the like.  These places are both symbolic and important: do our students think it’s a good idea to send dirty coal to China?

On the national level, tailpipe regulations, a carbon tax, regulations on coal-fired power plants, etc. It also means using the Clean Air Act or the Public Trust Doctrine to compel the government to protect our common atmosphere. This is where Professor Mary Wood at U of O comes in. Congress is hopeless, so the courts are probably the way to go. That and direct protest, though teachers might find this route difficult. Globally, my hope rests with the IPCC at the UN and, believe it or not, the World Bank. Not much students can do there but learn where the bodies are buried and how it boils down to the global north, especially the US, telling China and India they don’t get to go through a carbon-based industrial age.

In the classroom, I can frame climate change in a number of ways. It is an environmental issue, but I have come to the conclusion that, in the US, this route is a loser. This argument has been made for 25 years and it’s getting nowhere in this country. Another way is as an economic issue. This is where William Nordhaus of Yale comes in with his Climate Casino book. It’s a tough read for kids but has some good graphs. You can pay now slow change and mitigate damage or pay much more later. That idea.

Another way to pursue a solution is to see this as a legal issue. The federal government, this reasoning goes, is breaking the law by not stepping in to regulate this obvious pollutant to a degree that will stave off disaster. I think this is likely to be effective in the long run.

That and framing climate as a moral issue. Like slavery or civil rights. It is a civil rights issue, the right to live in a safe world, the right to inherit a land not devastated by species movement and desertification. God made Adam the keeper of the garden but he didn’t tell Adam he could burn the place down. This angle has lead to the action by the Catholic Church and a lot of evangelicals. It is immoral to leave the world in tatters. I think starting here and then achieving change through the courts (aided by technological efficiency, etc.) may be the most effective path. But I am open to change on this account. I am not, by the way, a fan of geo-engineering. This sounds lazy and scary. Nordhaus has a good chapter on this topic.

So here are some links. For my students, seeing them this way is helpful. Forgive me if some of the links are dated.

Local/State Links

The big players here are the City of Portland, with its impressive Climate Action Plan. The problem is it is not the law. One graph worth noting is how Portland’s output started falling several years ago and it remains ahead of the national trend.

METRO: Climate Smart Communities

Portland CAP Update

PDX CAP Year Two Report, 2011

PDX CAP Executive Summary

PDX CAP, 2009

Apps for Climate Change

SB306 Carbon Tax Study/Proposal

Eugene Climate Resolution

Portland Rising Tide

At the state level, I am hoping that Governor Brown’s desire to be elected in her own right (she replaced John Kitzhaber who resigned during a corruption scandal) will mean bold leadership on climate. The major place for hope is the Carbon Tax plan. The first link gives a brief summary.

Carbon Tax and Shift: How to Make it Work for Oregon…

Regional Climate Action Plan

Our Opinion: Time to stop choking on dirty diesel (mentions Catlin)

Where Does Oregon’s Power Come From?

The Governor’s 10-Year Energy Plan

Hot of the press!: Climate Change Preparation Strategy published for public review

Keep Oregon Cool

National Links

EPA’s Climate page, include big polluters map

NASA’s Climate Change page

Blumenauer takes Congressional carbon tax helm

Carbon Tax Center

EPA home page on climate change

NOAA: State of the Climate

The White House CG Page

The White House Climate Action Plan

Northwest Earth Institute

XL Dissent youth movement

As Fracking Booms, Growing Concerns About Wastewater

Global Links

Obviously, the big player here is the IPCC.

Map showing elevation and population in Bangladesh

National emissions ranking and emissions per capita, 2010

Growing Clamor About Inequities of Climate Crisis

Is Climate Change Altering Storms? (nytimes.com)

IPCC 2013 Summary for Policy Makers

Global Emissions Breakdown (I love this one)


Map showing warming for any place on earth

C40 Cities: Climate Leadership Group


There are so many ways to attack the problems. One is through the development of new technologies. Others are by disincentivizing burning the bad stuff. This is where the debate between cap and trade, which CA has, and a carbon tax, which British Columbia has, comes into play.

Other actions include protest, petition, and lawsuits. The organization we worked with was Our Children’s Trust, which helps young people sue the government under the Public Trust Doctrine.

Solar Freakin Roadways!

New Yorker: A Star in a Bottle

Story of Stuff: Cap and Trade

Plan B 4.0

NOAA’s page on adaptation in the regional shellfish industry


The Guardian’s “Keep It In the Ground” Campaign

Pope Francis, “Laudato Si,” aka the Climate Change Encyclical


What Is Global Education?


In January, I am headed to Finland to build a website that can be used by teachers and students to collaborate on the study of issues related to globalization. Few would argue that economies are more inter-related than ever before. Cultures too, the pace of interactions sped by the growing international movement of people, ideas, and things.

When we study the results of these processes, we turn to questions about free trade and the role of organizations including the IMF and the WTO. We wonder about the Trans-Pacific Partnership and how it will change lives in the nations of its signatories. We consider whether outsourcing manufacturing jobs from developed to developing nations is a net positive for anyone. And we ask whether the advent of the Internet, which brings Hindi pop stations onto my iPhone, makes the experience of culture more or less diverse.

These are some of the topics my students consider when we pursue global education. This phrase and its sibling, global citizenship, adorn the mission statements of independent schools and the homepages of liberal arts colleges. But what do these terms mean? Is this a field of study or merely a reorganization of what educators were already doing?

We might conceive of global education as an opportunity to examine new webs of interconnectedness. Studying the history of the United States tells American teens a lot about how things got the way they are and how society works. Studying supply chains, the global response to crises with the oceans, or efforts to slow climate change simply shine a light on forces shaping our lives that a course in a national history cannot touch upon.

So global education is a part of the globalization it studies. The Global Education webpages of Fairleigh Dickinson College wisely note “that not everyone around the world in fact views global education with indifference – some may see it as a vehicle for promotion of globalization, which might itself be seen as the West’s effort to destabilize fragile balances in world economic and political systems.”

Whatever one’s feelings about globalization, we ignore it (in our curriculums) at our own risk.

If global education is the study of interconnectedness and its consequences, definitions of global citizenship are often based upon particular actions that emerge from a growing knowledge of global economic, political and cultural inequalities. Learning how coffee production impacts poor farmers and their communities in Central America, for example, may inspire us to embrace fair trade coffee or simply stop drinking coffee altogether.

Coffee.elsalvadorJames A. Banks of the University of Washington argues that, “An important aim of citizenship education should be to help students develop global identifications and a deep understanding of the need to take action as citizens of the global community to help solve the world’s difficult global problems, such as conflict and war, the AIDS/HIV epidemic, global warming, and world poverty. Cultural, national, and global experiences and identifications are interactive and interrelated in a dynamic way.”

Global citizenship then, like national citizenship, is activist by nature. A good global citizen is aware of the new set of responsibilities emerging in recent decades. Climate change is a powerful example of such an issue. There simply isn’t a local, regional or national “solution.” A well-educated global citizen then would advocate for policy on every level of government that do what can be done locally (from transportation planning to diet to recycling) while also advocating for other strategies on the national and international levels.

In the United States, there are right-wing attacks on the notion of global citizenship as being anti-patriotic. Is being a responsible inhabitant of earth contradictory with being a faithful American, Briton, Chilean, or Egyptian? Perhaps, if we consider the economic interest of one nation to be predicated on the dimming of all others. Or if we are an imperialist. Otherwise, it is convincing that a concern for the health of the earth, respect for differences between peoples and a desire for peace do little to harm one’s love for country. “Love thy neighbor,” advocates of global citizenship argue, can be stretched without altering its obvious literal power.

Some advocates of global education trumpet the need for (and usually their school’s provision of) “twenty-first century skills.” Beyond the silliness of the term—what would have been on a list of twentieth-century skills published during World War I?—it diminishes the importance of understanding global systems of commerce and politics in favor of monetizing global education for success in the workplace of multinational corporations. As Corey Robin notes at Salon.com:

“Global society, 21st-century skills: These are buzzwords for the international capitalism the students of these schools are being trained to lead. Far from being educated to dismantle privilege, they’re being schooled to perpetuate and preside over it.”

My students are privileged to attend a caring, rigorous, and wealthy school. I hope my forays into global education teach interconnectedness and responsibility and not merely some advantage to “succeed in the global economy.”




From the Washington Post: A view of classrooms around the world

There is something universal and truly moving about seeing students, some of them outdoors, sitting on the ground, ready to pursue their educations. The piece linked below is a beautiful gallery of children around the world at school. How I wish my students could talk to them all and hear their stories.


Moscow, Russia

How classrooms look around the world — in 15 amazing photographs


Jalalabad city, Afghanistan