A New Vision for African Politics: The Obama Factor

by Sadiq A. Abdullahi

In 1986, the Board of Directors of the United States Institute of Peace (USIP), an independent organization, created to strengthen the country’s capacity to promote peaceful resolution of international conflicts and to promote and influence global peace and stability around the world.

The United States foreign policy direction has been an enigma to the rest of the world since the events of September 11, 2001. This perception has caused unnecessary representations and interpretations of the intent and motive of the United States. As a result, in 2008, Congress established the Strategic Posture Review Commission (SPRC) charged with the mandate to closely examine the long term strategic thinking and planning regarding deterrence capabilities, arms control initiatives and nuclear nonproliferation. Since then, the United States government has made serious attempts to reverse an image that has somewhat diminished its influence and significance around the world.

Africa has looked forward to the American style leadership and governance, even as an underdog of global politics. When President Barack Obama visited Africa in the summer of 2009, within his 100 days in office, signaled a new beginning in US policy direction towards Africa, although former President Bush made a significant contribution in that direction, ushering a new vision for Africa.

Today, there is a consensus that the world has become increasingly interconnected, interdependent and violent. Leaders around the world need to acquire the knowledge, skills and dispositions needed to inspire their nations in order compete fairly in a world characterized by globalization.

In March 2010, Springer Publishing will release a book titled: Global Pedagogies: Schooling for the Future in Globalization in Comparative Education and Policy Research, with a chapter I wrote Rethinking Global Education in the 21st century. The book is edited by Joseph Zajda. The main premise is that the new world order requires a fundamental shift in thinking and action as demonstrated by the new leadership in the United States.

Africa must take advantage of the new interest and redirect its resources for the future. One area is educating its youths. Africa has continued to struggle to educate its youths many of whom are uneducated and illiterate. Africa has also struggled to meet the United Nations Millennium Development Goal, a project aimed at eradicating illiteracy by the year 2015.

Global education, citizenship education and democratic education are taught through the social studies education curriculum. Many African nations have linked the goals and aspirations of its leaders with the creation of a free and democratic, just and egalitarian, strong and self-reliant, robust economies, and providing opportunities for all. Global education is a new curriculum framework that offers a new possibility for a democratic citizenship, national and global security and peaceful coexistence in Africa and around the world.

Many educational institutions and national/state governments around the world are internationalizing their curriculum to meet the needs of their institutions and the needs of their countries. There is an urgent need for students to acquire the necessary global knowledge, skills and dispositions that will enable them to develop the perspectives needed to compete in the global economy and to develop a sense of democratic citizenship. This knowledge is needed to help students develop a better understanding of the complexities of an interconnected and interdependent world and for them to develop ethical and moral disposition for good leadership and governance.

This new orientation and rethinking is driven by the need to adequately prepare today’s youths to develop the appropriate disposition for a meaningful engagement in political and economic dialogue. Many educational institutions and governments are reforming schools and institutions. Africa must do the same. Some of them have reexamining existing curricular to determine whether global content is being offered as a discrete subject or as part of other subjects. The idea also is based on the belief that there is a need to provide the human, scientific and technical infrastructure necessary to build strong and globally competitive economies (Abdullahi, 2010). Developing a global perspective will give young people in Africa the opportunity to develop their intellectual, moral, social and spiritual capacities and skills. They will also develop their ability to think in order to gain a better understanding of themselves and their relationship to others. They will learn how to think, act, work and live with others with different cultural backgrounds, habits, perspectives, custom, religious beliefs and aspirations. Because many leaders and governments are responding very rapidly to the exigencies of a globalized world, governors in the United States of America are also responding by reevaluating their educational system.

Global scholars such as Kenneth Tye (1991), Lee Anderson (1991), Thomas Friedman (1999) and Merry Merryfield (1991) have written extensively on the importance of developing a global perspective. For example, Tye (1991) has argued that “in the 1990s, our populace and leaders will need attitudes and behaviors that recognize and promote interdependence and cooperation among nations” (p. 1). Friedman (1999) also has supported Tye’s claim and has argued that nations that failed to join the bandwagon of globalization will be left behind. Today, the benefits and costs of globalization are too well documented for a meaningful discourse and decision making. Furthermore, Anderson (1991) provided a strong rationale for global education in a section on Globalization of American Society in the book Global Education: From Thought to Action. In it, Anderson argued that “the recent convergence of growing global interdependence, eroding western dominance, and declining U.S. hegemony has substantially accelerated a broad process of social change” and sums it up as “the globalization of American society” (p. 21).

The new international education framework will focus on the understanding of: (1) state-of-the planet, (2) global dynamics, (3) cross-cultural sensitivity, (4) perspective consciousness and (5) human choices and decision-making within the context of national security and democratic citizenship. Merryfield (2004) has argued repeatedly that a good global education curriculum must address emerging global issues and problems, and teachers must prepare students to be effective and responsible citizens in a global society. Students need to practice real-life skills, gain knowledge of the world and develop expertise in viewing events and issues from diverse global perspectives. Therefore, teachers should endeavor to help their students to develop an understanding of global dynamics, perspective consciousness, cross-cultural awareness and the understanding of globalization and its impact (Abdullahi, 2004).

If Africa hopes to reposition as the continent of the future, and hopes to compete in the global economy, she must respond and make the necessary adjustments that are critical to her future. Schools and other institutions must be revived. In the United States, for example, state governors are taking the lead and making adjustments. According to Osfield (2009), the “internationalization of the U.S. educational system is an emerging trend and which is not yet a part of the fabric of what we do” (Osfield & Associates, 2009, p.3). Take for instance, the governor of the State of Ohio issued a proclamation in an effort to redirect and refocus the state’s priorities, and by taking a progressive and forward-looking stance to promote international education amidst the economic challenges it faces, is doing the right thing.

Many states have attempted in the past to introduce international or global education but have run short of full implementation. For

example, in the late 1980s, William J. Clinton, then Governor of Arkansas and former president of the United States joined other state governors to form a task force to discuss the challenges and the importance of international education in American schools. The Task Force concluded that international education is as important as economic prosperity, national security and world stability. Consequently, the Task Force issued a report in which it argued that it is time for governors to take the lead in creating an international focus for the U.S. educational system. Other pressure groups such as the National Governors’ Association (1989) also pointed to inadequate teacher preparation in global education and international studies as a major constraint in building students’ capacity to meet the economic, political, social, and ecological challenges in today’s world.

The Governors Task Force on International Education made seven specific recommendations: (a) international education must become part of the basic education of all of our students; (b) more of our students must gain proficiency in foreign languages; (c) teachers must know more about international issues; (d) schools and teachers need to know about the wealth of resources and materials, other than textbooks, that are available for international education; (e) all graduates of our colleges and universities must be knowledgeable on the broader world and conversant in another language; (f) business and community support of international education should be increased; (g) the business community must have access to international education, particularly information about exports, trade regulations and overseas cultures (America in Transition, 1989). Today, the Task Force recommendations have become the basis for curriculum development in many colleges and universities. These recommendations may be used to strengthen the rethinking process.

Globalization is changing the global political, cultural and economic landscape. Globalization is an ongoing process by which national and regional economies, societies, and cultures become integrated and interconnected through the global systems of networks of exchange (Abdullahi, 2004). Friedman (1999) argued that globalization feeds on three democratization processes: (1) technology, (2) information, and (3) finance. But warned that globalization is imperiled without the informational technology, the flow of capital, and improvement in other institutions. Friedman also argued that “globalization is global in the sense that almost everyone is impacted directly or indirectly. The pressures, constraints and opportunities that globalization provides offer opportunities for the adaptation of the democratization of technology, finance and information.

To understand global or international education, one must first acknowledge that global education is interdisciplinary and inherently controversial. The second thing is understand its nature and its historical evolution in the 1950s. Global education may not have a simple and single definition. One of the early definitions was offered in 1982 by the National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS), a pioneer in global education. The NCSS defines global education as “the efforts to cultivate in young people a perspective of the world which emphasizes the interconnections among cultures, species, and the planet. Many studies in global education and global studies have found that American schools are not preparing young people to participate effectively in a world characterized by globalization, conflict, pluralism, change and global interdependence.

The new global education framework will integrate different models and pedagogical frameworks of global education. Students will develop a deep understanding of negotiation skills, critical and reflective thinking, analytical skills, and moral and ethical dispositions to address emerging local, national, regional, and global, (social, economic, ecological and political) problems before they leave elementary and secondary school, (Abdullahi, 2010, K irkwood, 2001; Merryfield, 2001). As a result many students remain apathetic about, and ignorant of past and present global issues, problems and events (Kirkwood, 1995; Merryfield, 1992; Tucker, 1983; Tye & Tye, 1991). They believe that global education curriculum should include: (a) teachers’ awareness of the attitudes toward global education that are present in the schools and communities where they teach; (b) teachers’ awareness and use of (either exclusively or in an integrated manner) the following models as frameworks for organizing global knowledge – the Hanvey, Kniep, Merryfield, and White models; (c) an emphasis on heterogeneity, not homogeneity; (d) the pedagogical involvement of the cognitive, affective, and participatory domains; and (e) the discussion of some controversial issues.

The new global education for the 21st century will focus on the moral, ethical and spiritual dimensions of in global education (Abdullahi, 2010). The current global financial breakdown has had a profound effect around the world, and it has attributed to greed and selfishness. Although, there are other global issues such as global warming, environmental pollution, population growth, hunger, refugees, poverty, conflicts, inflation, and diseases that will be addressed in the new framework, the new global pedagogy will deal with normative and human realities. The lack of widespread understanding of how democracy works, greed and corruption, intolerance, religious extremism and the spread of nuclear weapons have been connected to some of the major global problems where solutions require considerable collective human efforts.

This new approach will foster a cross-cultural understanding and interaction, open-mindedness, interdependence, interconnectedness, anticipation of global complexity, resistance to stereotyping or derision of cultural difference, perspective consciousness, awareness of global dynamics, and awareness of human choices, are some of the fundamental values and curricular outcomes in global education. Africa can learn from what Samuel Huntington has described in his controversial book the Clash of Civilization and the Remarking of World Order (1996), an emerging new global politics of the new century. Globalization, with its many advantages and disadvantages, has a fertile soil in Africa.

Abdullahi, S. A (2010). Rethinking global education in the 21st century. In Joseph Zajda (Ed), Global pedagogies: Schooling for the future: Globalization, Comparative education and Policy Research, Vol. 12. (pg xxx) Springer Publishing
Abdullahi, S. A. (2004). Teachers’ Knowledge, Awareness, and Pedagogy of Global Education in Secondary Schools. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, Florida International University, Miami, FL.
Merryfield, M. (2001). Moving the center of global education: From imperial worldviews that divide the world to double consciousness, contrapuntal pedagogy, hybridist, and cross-cultural competence. In B.W. Stanley (Ed.), Critical issues in social studies for the 21st century (pp. 179-208). Greenwich, CT: Information Age Publishing.
Merryfield, M., & Kasai, M. (2004). How are teachers responding to globalization? Research and Practice Social Education. 68, 354-359.
Merryfield, M., Jarchow, E., & Pickets, S. (1997). Preparing teachers to teach global perspective: A handbook for teacher educators. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.
Osfield, K., & Associates. (Eds) (2009). Introduction: internationalization of students affairs and services: An emerging global perspectiv

e. Washington, DC: NASPA

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