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Mind Bending: Education for Global Activism

February 16, 2015

By Carl Teichrib

Note: UNESCO is now pushing hard to bring “global citizenship education” to schools around the world. This report, first published to Forcing Change members, examines part of the global citizenship agenda.

Support Note: If you appreciate the research work involved in this report, please consider donating through the Pay Pal button on the right side of the page.

Special Note: This was not written in support of Global Citizenship Education, but to inform you regarding its techniques, emotional leveraging, and overall thought pattern.

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The first “internationalist” event I attended was the Global Citizenship 2000 Youth Congress, held in Vancouver, British Columbia, back in April 1997. It was an audacious gathering of educators, community leaders and students, inspired by the United Nations “prophet of hope,” Robert Muller.

The point of our gathering was simple yet profound: To embed the principles of global citizenship into Canada’s educational system. We would become global.

What did this mean? It represented the desire to create a new mind, a new way of thinking and thus acting. A globally pertinent change in values and beliefs were presented to us. This planetary approach, passionately communicated by Muller, was built around the ideology of “oneness.”

We are all interconnected was the message; to the Earth, to the energy of the universe, to each other. To express this unity we each received a symbolic “Global Citizenship” passport. The words on the inside back-page encapsulated the purpose of our Congress; “A good inhabitant of the planet Earth, a member of the great human family… You are the Earth become conscious of herself… Unite, global citizens, to save and heal planet Earth.”

As the author of the World Core Curriculum and one who had a personal hand in creating eleven UN agencies, Muller was in an unparalleled position to motivate planetary action. Our task was to flesh out tangible expressions of unity as we focused on the core of his UNESCO-awarded educational philosophy; “A new world morality and world ethics… global management… [a] vast synthesis… to make each human being proud to be a member of a transformed species…” Managing the world, and thus advancing humanity’s collective evolution, will bring about our ascension as “universal, total beings.”

Here are a few of the activism ideas shared by participating groups during the Congress.

– Promote global citizenship clubs in schools.

– Create a “global citizenship” theme park to promote planetary thinking.

– Call for an international water management regime.

– Declare a “Global Citizenship Day.”

– Launch school-based interfaith clubs and groups.

One school team proposed a big idea: To zero-out world debt and issue everyone a biometric card with a money-replacement points program based on your occupation and its value to the planet. At the table next to mine, a group of junior high girls exemplified the new paradigm in a one-act play. “Mother Earth” sat on a round table with pine boughs held aloft, then, one after another, students laid hands on Mother and made confession; “I’m guilty… of wasting water… wasting electricity… killing animals by wearing leather sandals… polluting the environment when I’m fully aware of the oil leak in my dad’s car.” In turn, Gaia – Mother Earth – forgave each child as they vowed to redeem their eco-sins through positive actions.

Muller shared his achievements and vision of unity. He told us about planting the seed of the United Religions Initiative during the 1993 Parliament of the World’s Religions and then again, in 1995, at the 50th anniversary of the United Nations. “I almost cannot believe they listened to me,” he beamed, “I will be the father of the United Religions!”

Muller, who since passed away in 2010, elaborated on his dreams for a politically managed planet. He suggested different approaches to world order and encouraged the pursuit of each; Empower the United Nations into a “United States of the World,” form a constitutional World Federation, integrate continental regions – creating an American Union and an African Union – and then bring these together with the European Union into a “World Union,” establish communities around dominant terrestrial features such as a Pacific Community, an Atlantic Community, an Arctic Community, etc.

“So you have a fantastic future,” announced the prophet of world order. “Just come up with an idea.”

Muller pressed the need to “acquire new values and behaviour.” If we didn’t change for the global good, then “all life on this planet will extinguish.” The weight of the world’s salvation was placed on our shoulders, and it was an emotionally charged call-of-duty. “Either you change your values, or you don’t… if you change, if you consider the Earth as being number one your Mother, then it will change.”

The flip side was that if we continued to consume and hold the wrong values, “you will be the responsible generation of having to put an end to all life on this planet.”

The spiritual outlook required to save the planet was to recognize the “basic truth” as given by “Jesus, by Mohammad, by these emissaries from outer space.” What was this basic truth? The cosmos incarnating itself through our collective divinity.

“You are not children of Canada, you are really living units of the cosmos be   cause the Earth is a cosmic phenomena… we are all cosmic units. This is why religions tell you, you are divine. We are divine energy… it is in your hands whether evolution on this planet continues or not…”

As an independent attendee I was assigned to a team of university students who were studying to become educators. This group was focussed on tangible ways to integrate the World Core Curriculum into the classroom. How? was the question.

Recognizing the spiritual nature underscoring Muller’s worldview, and that our quest for a global citizenship paradigm had entered the arena of beliefs and values modification, the talk turned to traditionally held parental convictions and how to “deal with parental pessimism.” It was noted that if a child’s values could be changed in the classroom, then family attitudes would shift too. This, the future teachers acknowledged, was a worthy goal. After some discussion it was agreed that creatively placing global citizenship values into all subject areas was the most important way to influence young minds. Global problems requiring global solutions – such as overpopulation – would be integrated into literature, history, and mathematics. Planetary awareness would thus be emphasized, along with the call for collective action. By embedding emotionally-charged global concerns into the lifespan of formal education, and in-turn facilitating the responsive values change, the correct Oneness philosophy would become profoundly infused within every facet of society. As one team member said; “Make it a virus, no inoculation, infect everyone.”

Education for Global Thinking

In the spring of 2014, UNESCO released its report meant to assist in the Education For All program, an ambitious movement to bring “education for all children, youth and adults” by 2015. The document, titled Global Citizenship Education: Preparing Learners for the Challenges of the 21st Century, explores the role of world citizenship education as a tool for social change.

“…there is growing interest in global citizenship education [GCE], signalling a shift in the role and purpose of education to that of forging more just, peaceful, tolerant and inclusive societies.”[i]

This is an interesting statement in that it admits to moving a traditional view of education towards a transformational approach. Arithmetic and language arts, history and science, will still play a role in the educational system, but the basic motivation is no longer the development of cognitive skills for the sake of knowledge growth – it is about a new framework, a new way of seeing ourselves as part of the global whole, “to deal with the dynamic and interdependent world of the twenty-first century.”[ii]

In working through the commonalities found within global citizenship education, UNESCO recognized five core elements. Note the collectivist approach.

1. An attitude supported by an understanding of multiple levels of identity, and the potential for a ‘collective identity’ which transcends individual cultural, religious, ethnic or other differences;

2. A deep knowledge of global issues and universal values such as justice, equality, dignity and respect;

3. Cognitive skills to think critically, systemically and creatively, including adopting a multi-perspective approach that recognizes the different dimensions, perspectives and angles of issues;

4. Non-cognitive skills including social skills such as empathy and conflict resolution, communication skills and aptitudes for networking and interacting with people of different backgrounds, origins, cultures and perspectives; and

5. Behavioural capacities to act collaboratively and responsibly to find global solutions for global challenges, and to strive for the collective good.[iii]

The above five points are not found in the paradigm of traditional education, which focused on core subject areas and the facts associated with them. World citizenship thinking, however, requires a new kind of learner – those emotionally aroused through “global problem” narratives and the stirring of “universal values.” Planetary equality and justice are thus demanded in the face of perceived wrongs and narrow views; wealth inequality and the “evils of capitalism,” climate change and “dirty energy,” intolerant religious beliefs, national sovereignty versus “global responsibility,” the bigotry of traditional sexual bounds, and the plight of the environment as caused by the greedy underpinnings of private property.

When the student’s emotions are sufficiently heightened within the shaped egalitarian mindset, then the real push takes place. “We must do something,” cries the curriculum. “We must do something,” demands the collective voice of globally-attuned youth. The need for a “democratic” and “global remedy” becomes the focus. “Change the world” and “we are change” are mantras that energize the classroom. Only through positive planetary deeds, finding “global solutions for global challenges… for the collective good,” can we hope to be the difference.

Understand, the above five points are not about education per se, but about creating activists who seek the “common good” as an expression of their worldview – we are all one. And if we are one, then those who act outside of that parameter need to change or get-out-of-the-way. It’s the classic recipe for revolutionary “citizen democracy.”

Does the above sound too over-the-top? Surely “global citizenship education” isn’t about shaping a generation of global activists?

Consider that on page 20 of the UNESCO document, the report has a subsection acknowledging the fact that global citizenship education and activism are directly correlated. Moreover, page 20 recognizes that,

“citizens… showing active concern for global issues could be perceived as challenging local/national authorities if their actions are deemed to be in conflict with local or national interests. The role of education in challenging the status quo or building skills for activism may be a concern for those who see this as a threat to the stability of the nation state.”

The above statement is accurate, although written from the perspective of advocating transformation. The report goes on to say, “Although global citizenship education does entail resisting the status quo and imagining alternative futures, this should be considered and presented as a positive challenge that can enrich and broaden cultural, local and national identities.”

In the Western experience of ideas and social movements, the concerns regarding the progressive “alternative futures” of change-agents are warranted. Their visions and campaigns – based on emotionally charged ideology – are often couched in good intentions, yet show a lack of understanding for on-the-ground realities and a failure to grasp cause-and-effect. And as those imagined outcomes are frequently utopian in their social/political goals, when those structures-for-change are finally implemented and fail, to the detriment of many, then more systemic transformation is always called for. After all, their vision is never at fault. Instead, the conservative voices of concern are blamed.

More than just a failure to comprehend root causes and unintended consequences, many of the solutions recommended by activists openly require cultural shifts and value modifications that undermine the foundations of Western stability: Christian ethics and moral sensibilities, national sovereignty, laws framed on higher standards, independence, and free enterprise. These traditional building blocks, rather, are to be replaced by “participatory democracy” and its shifting cultural winds, entrenched political correctness, legal ambiguities and larger government bureaucracies, and always more spending – with recommendations that public funds be channeled into “advocacy.” In other words, tax money should be directed back into the activist community, for they have the “vision of the anointed.”[iv]

As social/political critic, Thomas Sowell, explains regarding the intellectual leadership that drives transformational activism,

“In their zeal for particular kinds of decisions to be made, those with the vision of the anointed seldom consider the nature of the process by which decisions are made. Often what they propose amounts to third-party decision making by people who pay no cost for being wrong – surely one of the least promising ways of reaching decisions satisfactory to those who must live with the consequences.”[v]

When one considers the social cost, it’s not unusual to find that liberties are being sacrificed for the sake of the “greater good.” Looking at the history of progressive activism, Sowell reminds us that “seldom have so few cost so much to so many.”[vi]

Examples abound of progressive activism in the classroom, giving a voice to tomorrows leaders today. One will suffice: In 2013, grade 8 children in Lakeview, Michigan, wrote letters to public officials as part of a classroom campaign against hydraulic fracturing (and one student received a letter back from President Obama). The source of their knowledge? The controversial documentary Gasland, an anti-fracking video that used fraudulent footage of “burning” water coming out of a tap. Did the teacher have any real or practical knowledge of hydraulic fracturing? No. And neither did the students, but their emotions had been stirred in light of perceived environmental injustices, and they did what any global citizen would do – “be the change.”

From fracking to gender identity to “global warming” to foreign policies to sustainable development to wealth redistribution and “taxing the rich,” to energy and industry to sexual orientation to… you name it, students are now activists on every front imaginable. Classrooms have become training grounds for experiential forms of “global democracy.” The ill-informed mob, without the constraint of higher standards and factual realities, exert the vision of those who have shaped their thinking. We demand change.

I realize that the above is a generalization, but it is also a norm. I also know that not every educator works to make social change agents out of students. Some teachers I have spoken with are very disturbed by the trend they see; the push for “global citizenship education” and activism. But it nevertheless exists, and it is not isolated nor is it without context. In fact, there is a tangible history behind the idea of education as a tool for social/political indoctrination.[vii]

As the UNESCO report explained, “education for peace and sustainable development” seeks to create “empowered global citizens as an objective.”[viii]

As such, global citizenship education “aims to… focus on engagement in individual and collective action to bring about desired changes; and involve multiple stakeholders, including those outside the learning environment, in the community and in wider society.”[ix]

Accordingly, UNESCO notes that global citizenship education is “built on a lifelong perspective… not only for children and youth but also for adults.” Furthermore, it can be integrated through “formal and informal approaches, curricular and extracurricular interventions and conventional and unconventional pathways to participation.”

The words from my Global Citizenship 2000 Youth Congress come to mind; “make it a virus, no inoculation, infect everyone.”

“Collective identity” and working “for the collective good,” as preached by UNESCO, are paramount to an existence of global interdependence and interconnectedness; “the global challenges which cannot be adequately or uniquely addressed by nations states, sustainability as the main concept of the future.”[x]

Not surprisingly, the UNESCO text points to my province’s Grade 12 “Global Issues: Citizenship and Sustainability” curriculum. This Manitoba Social Studies unit explains that global citizenship education is activism-oriented and works to move the student from “me to we – from passive to active… from status quo to change.” The Take Action unit section explains it this way; “The goal is to move students from awareness through questioning, inquiry and dialogue, to critical consciousness and, ultimately, to praxis – engagement in informed reflective action for positive change… students should be free to plan small or large scale projects, with a local, national or global scope.”

To that end, Manitoba students are to pursue activism in the following areas of concern; Media, Consumerism, Environment, Global Wealth and Power, Social Justice and Human Rights, Biotechnology, Modern Slavery, and Gender and Identity. In pursuing those key topics, a number of sub-issues are listed; energy and resource depletion, global environmental governance, the Gaia Hypothesis, spiritual values in nature, climate change, population growth, consumption, alternatives to the free market, international debt, global equality, environmental justice, human trafficking, “abortion on demand,” controlling family sizes, sexual orientation and LGBT rights, and tactical activism.

Bottom Line

The bottom line is this: Global citizenship education is about ingraining the idea that we are all one, and we must become activists to that end. Spirituality becomes planetary, Earth loyalties are demanded, values are shifted, and global management to solve global problems are proclaimed. In other words, global citizenship demands planetary governance, planetary spirituality, planetary agents of change… planetary bureaucracy. Freedom and liberty in this paradigm demands that you conform to the global consensus. And it’s always for the “general good.”

What isn’t acceptable are the by-products and framework of traditional Christian principles, for this exemplifies social and religious standards that are now deemed archaic. In the name of tolerance, we cannot tolerate your “backward” views of ethics and individual responsibility. Global citizenship demands that we switch to broader mandates. No longer appreciated are the closed-minded moral limits of orthodox Christian principles, national independence which causes separateness, and troubling exclusive religious truth claims. Instead, we are firmly planted in the values of the New Age.

Without hesitation, it is safe to say that the final role of global citizenship education is to bend minds for a planetary correct society, one where students, spurred to action, become “agents for change.”

Robert Muller would be proud.

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[i] Global Citizenship Education: Preparing Learners for the Challenges of the 21st Century (UNESCO, 2014), p.5.
[ii] Ibid., p.9.
[iii] Ibid., p.9.
[iv] Thomas Sowell explores this concept in his books, The Vision of the Anointed: Self-Congratulation as a Basis for Social Policy (Basic Books, 1995), and Intellectuals and Society (Basic Books, 2010).
[v] Thomas Sowell, The Vision of the Anointed (Basic Books, 1995), p.129.
[vi] Ibid., p.260.
[vii] See, Brave New Schools (Harvest House, 1995), written by Berit Kjos.
[viii] Global Citizenship Education, p.11.
[ix] Ibid., p.16.
[x] Ibid., p.17.

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