Global Identity and Globalization in 2017: Thoughts and Resources


A Syrian family, a month from home, pauses to rest in a makeshift shelter in Croatia, as they await a train for Hungary. We cannot hide the images and stories of migration from our students, but what do we want them to learn? Image from Global Oneness Project.


As 2016 draws to a close, those of us who teach about global issues, global competence, global skills, or global citizenship are trying to figure out how to proceed. Here is a partial list of relevant issues in the news this year:

The meaning of nationalists, often ethnic nationalists, taking power, or assuming greater political roles, across the global North;

The impact of the migration crisis on politics in Europe;

The withdrawal of Gambia, Burundi, and South Africa from the International Criminal Court;

The fate of the European Union after the Brexit vote and the success of Euro-sceptics across the continent;

The impact of the election of Donald Trump on international agreements, especially regarding climate change and Sino-American relations;

The fate of the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Here may be the central question for educators that arises out of the year’s news: Does the advent of Brexit and Trump foretell the decline of global identity and global citizenship?

It goes without saying that many politicians in the global North and elsewhere are seeking power by invoking populist themes. In many developed nations, political passions have shifted and venerable anxieties about economics, immigration, crime have settled around the issue of national sovereignty. This means that issues such as ocean acidification and air pollution–topics which don’t privilege nationalism–are pushed aside by politicians and the press alike in favor of talk of terrorism and borders.

In our everyday lives, however, we experience globalization in a number of sometimes-contradictory ways simultaneously. While politicians warn about terrorism and “open borders,” marketers and business consultants prepare brands and companies for a global marketplace and worried citizens seek relief on Facebook and Instagram. Even those that vote for nationalist candidates enjoy their access to an ever-increasing array of consumer goods and media. This isn’t hypocrisy–it’s our current condition. But how can political nationalism–or in some places religious fundamentalism–coexist with globalization in nearly every other aspect of life?

A case in point in US President-elect Donald Trump who, according to CNN,  “has about 150 companies that have had dealings in at least 25 countries outside of the US, including Turkey, China, Saudi Arabia, and Azerbaijan.” Yet as a politician, Trump says this:

We hear a lot of talk about how we are becoming a “globalized world.” But the relationships that people value in this country are local. Family, state, country. They are local. …

There is no global anthem. No global currency. No certificate of global citizenship. We pledge allegiance to one flag and that flag is the American flag.

From now on it is going to be: America First. Okay? America first. We’re going to put ourselves first.

1024px-photo_of_earth_flagIt is not Trump’s job to square these facts. He has business partners all over the world but his rhetoric uses nationalism and nostalgia that is exclusive and exclusionary.

The rhetoric our schools use to talk about these issues matters. Are we preparing “global citizens?” Are we readying our students with “21st-century skills” to compete in a global market? The latter here appears more palatable to the powerful in American education: there is no threat to populist emotion to assert that students will be trained to outperform others from around the globe in terms of innovation and entrepreneurship. American leaders then try to thread the needle, seamlessly connecting personal and national success.

On the masthead the White House’s page on education, President Obama is quoted as saying, “If we want America to lead in the 21st century, nothing is more important than giving everyone the best education possible — from the day they start preschool to the day they start their career.” In terms of primary and secondary education, the Obama White House argues that, “To create an economy built to last, we need to provide every student with a complete and competitive education that will enable them to succeed in a global economy based on knowledge and innovation.” Not empathy or justice or service, but competition and economic success. Even American progressives funnel global identity into the rhetoric of business.

This is not so everywhere The Finnish National Board of Education defines education in strikingly different terms:

The key words in Finnish education policy are quality, efficiency, equity and internationalisation. The basic right to education and culture is recorded in the Constitution. The policy is built on the principles of lifelong learning and free education. Education is seen as a key to competitiveness and wellbeing of the society.

Finns then don’t deny the reality of economic competition, but it isn’t rooted in a zero-sum game that leads to treating the education of the young as a race to prepare workers to fend for themselves in a cut-throat and now global race.

It is clear that people’s work is interconnected as never before.  Smartphones and shipping containers, logistics and free-trade zones have connected producers, marketers and consumers together as never before and these processes don’t appear to be slowing. Culturally, the same platforms have similarly linked us. My students in Oregon listen to K-Pop and Hindi Pop while teens in Korea and India watch “Game of Thrones” on Netflix.

As a teacher, I am wondering where the world is headed. What skills and knowledge do my students need in order to work in a global marketplace–of ideas as well as products. And how will the shifting political and economic sands alter their sense of self, of identity?


What follows are resources compiled with educators in mind, to further investigate these issues. Some of this material is taken from Here are the categories:

discussion questions on global identity/citizenship and their challengers;

links to recent journalism on these topics;

links to readings on global education and global citizenship; and

links to organizations that support global identity and citizens, especially in terms of education.

Discussion Questions

brexitvotebyageLook at the age breakdown of the Brexit vote: why are young Britons apparently so much more international in outlook than those over 50? Might it suggest that the vote may someday be reversed?

Is it possible to choose which globalizations we want? In other words, can we have the global flow of capital and information without the global flow of people and identities?


Can teachers educate students to succeed in a global economy without altering their identity as citizens? Can we have a global economy and globalized culture without global citizenship?

Are global and national identities at odds? Does an increase in one mean a decrease in the other? And does dedicating oneself to putting one’s nation “first” help or hurt people abroad?

Recent Articles on Challenges to Global Identity and Globalization

BBC News Hour, “Trade Wars: The End of Globalisation?” 25 Nov 2016. A good primer on economic globalization and its current challengers.

Jim Butcher, “Global Citizens Versus the People,” Spiked, 7 December 2016.

Daily Star (Lebanon), “Will the Assault on Globalization Continue in 2017?” 17 December 2016.

The Economist, “The New Nationalism,” 19 November 2016.

James Hitchings-Hales, “A Global Citizen’s Guide to Proper New Year’s Resolutions,” Global Citizen, 16 December, 2016.

Readings on Global Education and Global Citizenship

Richard M. Battistoni, Nicholas V. Longo, Stephanie Raill Jayanandhan, “Acting Locally in a Flat World: Global Citizenship and the Democratic Practice of Service-Learning,” Journal of Higher Education Outreach and Engagement, Volume 13, Number 2, p. 89, (2009). This article offers useful examples of colleges connecting the global and the local, especially in terms of service learning.

Michael Byers, “Are You a Global Citizen? Really? What Does That Mean?” The Tyee, 2005. Byers is a professor of political science at the University of British Columbia. This essay may be a good way of thinking about how global citizenship is and isn’t defined.

Tara Nuth Kajtaniak, “10 Key Terms for Global Education.” This handy page offers definitions for words we hear a lot, including “global citizenship,” “global competencies,” and “globalization.” It offers links to authoritative sites where many of the definitions originate as well.

Jen Chavez-Miller, “Themes of Global Education in Finland,” 2015. This page looks at both the big picuture of global education in Finland as well as at a couple of specific school Jen visited as a Fulbright grantee in Finland.

Kyra Garson, “Ethical Considerations for Internationalization: Perspectives from Global Citizenship Education,” Canadian Bureau for International Education, CBIE PhD Research Series, 2012. Considers the ethical dilemmas and institutional barriers to meaningful global education at the college level.

Ronald C. Israel, “What Does it Mean to be a Global Citizen?” Kosmos Journal for Social Transformation, 2012.

“The National (Canada) Youth White Paper on Global Citizenship.” By the Centre for Global Citizenship Education, The Centre for Global Education and TakingITGlobal, 2015.

Fernando Reimers (Harvard Univ.), “What education for what world? ” at UNESCO Bangkok, October 2015 (video),

Global Identity and Global Citizenship–Groups and Organizations

Global Citizen. This is a great site for reading about global issues and for thinking about what it means to be a global citizen. It has thematic sections (Girls and Women, Education, Health, etc) and encourages activism in many ways.

Global Citizenship Institute. A week-long summer program run out of St. Mark’s School in Massachusetts in conjunction with the Salzburg Global Seminar in Austria. It’s goal is to “educate and support faculty and students from public, private and international secondary schools as they learn ways to become engaged global citizens actively working to solve problems of global and local significance.”

Global Collaboration Day’s Page on Global Education Resources is terrific. It has links to organizations. conferences, and other useful resources for teachers.

Global Oneness Project: “Founded in 2006, the Global Oneness Project offers free multicultural stories and accompanying lesson plans for high school and college classrooms.” The materials are aligned with US Common Core standards. They are also well organized into categories including migration, climate, vanishing cultures, nature, etc.

TakingITGlobal: “TakingITGlobal is one of the world’s leading networks of young people learning about, engaging with, and working towards tackling global challenges.” The site offers free, downloadable “action guides” on a series of topics, including climate change and HIV/AIDS. They are a bit out of date but offer some useful frameworks for a large-scale project.

A Quick Historical Primer on Standing Rock for Teachers and Educators Outside the US.


This evening the Department of the Army in the US announced that the Dakota Access Pipeline would not immediately be completed. According to the New York Times, “the Department of the Army announced that it would not allow the pipeline to be drilled under a dammed section of the Missouri River.” This news has been welcomed with joy by the Sioux and their allies, but it is unclear if the pipeline will merely be re-routed away from the Standing Rock Indian Reservation or if its completion is in doubt.

The crude oil pipeline, called the Dakota Access Pipeline, stretches almost 1900 km across the north-central US, from North Dakota to Illinois, where crude oil is to be transferred to railroad and then refineries. One sobering thought for those who oppose the pipeline is that President-elect Donald Trump not only approves of the pipeline, he also owns stock in the company constructing it.

To those outside the United States, and for many in the US as well, the legal relationship between the federal government and the 562 federally recognized Indian tribes can be confusing. This is at the heart of this conflict, as is the history of the US government’s treatment of Native American rights.

To begin, there is the issue of the sovereignty of Indian nations. The Bureau of Indian Affairs describes the relationship between tribes and the government this way:

“The relationship between federally recognized tribes and the United States is one between sovereigns, i.e., between a government and a government. This ‘government-to-government’ principle, which is grounded in the United States Constitution, has helped to shape the long history of relations between the federal government and these tribal nations.”

Even so, tribal sovereignty has been eroded by the states and the federal government over the centuries and the text of the Constitution, which recognizes tribes as nations separate from the United States, has given way to a loose hierarchy of federal law over tribal law over state law. So tribal is usually considered superior to the laws of the states (in which Indian reservations are encircled), but this tribal over state supremacy has, by custom, become less the matter of innate sovereignty on the part of the tribes but more because Congress allows it.

At Standing Rock, the first treaty between the US and the Sioux that has relevance to the conflict today is the 1851 Treaty signed at Ft. Laramie. This was intended to bring to an end the violence between the US, its citizens, and the many tribes/bands who signed it. It reserved the area inside the purple line on the map above.

In 1868, another treaty promised the Black Hills to the Sioux forever. (Now they are home to Mount Rushmore National Monument and several other cities, towns, and parks.) More or less immediately after the 1868 treaty, more whites moved into this protected land in part because of mineral strikes. In the process, they killed so many buffalo that tribes clashed with each other as they moved around trying to find more bison on which their civilizations survived. As you can see (though the font is small on the map) these and other stolen lands, promised by treaty, were taken by the US between 1877 and 1910.

The Sioux have never ceded this territory. In 1980, “the Supreme Court awarded eight Sioux tribes $106 million in compensation–the 1877 value of $17.5 million, plus interest. This was payment for what the court called ‘a taking of tribal property.'” This money is still in the bank. The Sioux don’t want it. They want the Black Hills, which are sacred and, I would argue, legally theirs. By 2011, the money in the account was $1.3 billion. A resolution this year in South Dakota House State Affairs Committee to return much of the Black Hills to the Sioux instead was defeated unanimously.

Okay, to the north of the Black HIlls, there are two issues with Dakota Access as far as I can tell. First, it appears the northeastern boundary of the 1851 map is not agreed upon and some people claim the pipeline is slated to run on Indian land.


You can see Standing Rock on the map at the top of this post. The top right part does look a bit different than the map here. I’m not sure. A Reuters article I found helpful states: “The current route runs within half a mile of the reservation. Protesters on Monday said the land in question was theirs under the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1851, which was signed by eight tribes and the U.S. government.” Whether on or off the reservation, the construction of the pipeline apparently destroyed a number of culturally important sites and destroyed several gravesites, despite public testimony about the sites in federal court days before.

The other issue is water. Millions get their drinking water from the Missouri River, which the pipeline will cross adjacent to the reservation. Also, beneath the ground is the Ogallala Aquifer, on which many Sioux are dependent for water and over the which the pipeline runs. The same is true of the also controversial Keystone Pipeline and the Sioux and neighboring tribes were already fighting that pipeline for similar reasons.

The land ownership issue seems like it could be settled without rubber bullets. I don’t know how any new pipeline could be built in that part of the world without concern for subterranean water. But I can’t see the Sioux winning the long game here. The pipeline is almost completed and it is unlikely the US won’t find a way to let it go forward. The United States has such a poor record of recognizing Native American sovereignty, especially where valuable natural resources are involved, that it is difficult to be optimistic about the ultimate ability of the Sioux to control their own water.