Global citizenship lacks citizens

One of the most treasured things about Santa Monica College is the many different cultures, backgrounds, ethnicities and religions that students from all over the world bring to our school. It’s a mix of globalization and because of that, SMC has put forth an effort to make its students and faculty more globally aware for the past four years. A major part of that effort is for professors to integrate the concepts of global citizenship into their everyday curriculum, but most students don’t know about this effort.  The implementation of this concept of being a global citizen at SMC seems to be completely passive; it looks good on paper and on the SMC website, but what about on campus and in the classroom?

Oxfam, an international confederation that works to end poverty and injustice, defines being a global citizen as one who has a sense of their role as a world citizen, respects and values diversity, participates in the community (both locally and globally), takes responsibility for their actions, and takes up an ethical responsibility to those around the world. This is the idea that SMC wants to bring forth to its students through Global Citizenship.

Most organizations that support global citizenship, including the United Nations, are in agreement with how Oxfam defines being a global citizen and agree that it starts with education. SMC has also agreed that being a citizen of the globe is important, but why is there such a lack of knowledge about the subject amongst students? If SMC has made the commitment to bring global awareness to our school, then why does it feel like a secret club that no one knows about?

For instance, since its inception, the global citizenship effort at SMC has a theme each year that they focus on and bring awareness to.  This theme is voted on by students, staff and faculty. The first theme was water; then food, then health, wellness and the pursuit of happiness, and this year’s theme is poverty and wealth, want and waste.

With over 30,000 students in attendance at SMC, this year’s theme was chosen through only 765 votes. So, we had 765 students and faculty vote for this year’s theme out of tens of thousands of students. This isn’t very impressive.

When asked what a global citizen was, SMC student Kouran Lockheart said that it was a person well versed in the cultures of the world. However, he did not hear that from any of the professors or faculty at SMC. Lockheart claimed to have never heard the terms  ‘global citizen’ or ‘global citizenship’ until being interviewed.

“I did not learn that anywhere, it’s how I feel,” Lockheart said.

But not all students are left in the dark about the term ‘global citizen’ or its meaning. There are some members of SMC’s faculty who make it a point to instill the concepts of global citizenship into their classroom.

Santa Monica College professor Amber Katherine, who developed Greening Philosophy—a philosophy course taught around the themes of sustainability and being a global citizen—finds it important to implement global citizenship into her classrooms.

“I strive to engage my students as members of an educational community committed to a pluralist ethic of “global citizenship.” In practice, in my classroom, debates and discussions give students from vastly different “worlds” and even conflicting values systems a forum to achieve common ground,” said Katherine.

“Every single student, whether they are seeking to be stretched intellectually or resisting the disadvantages of poverty, racism, homophobia, or suffering the setbacks of war, abuse, addiction or disability, has something to contribute,” said Katherine. “Walking the talk of “global citizenship” as a teacher means providing opportunities that help them develop the wisdom and courage they will need to meet their challenges, shine, and make a difference in the world.”

With the incredible exception of professor Katherine, I have yet to be introduced to this concept by any of my other SMC professors, and after attending SMC for two years and taking classes with 20 different professors, professor Katherine is the only one that has introduced me to the term last spring semester. Considering that the global citizenship effort at SMC has been in existence for four years now, I find that a bit discerning.

However, that doesn’t mean that other professors aren’t doing the same, but why aren’t there more activities surrounding this integrated learning system?

While SMC does have an event calendar for global citizenship, this October there were only three events listed, two of which were lectures, the other, a dance performance. This isn’t something that will excite students and make them want to be a part of Global Citizenship. There have to be more events to really bring everyone’s attention on the global theme.

The last thing that students want is to be lectured on why they should care about other people, or the earth. Instead, SMC should take its focus away from lectures and put global citizenship themes into action; make them more relevant to the students and not just slip pieces of the concept into the curriculum that we hardly take note of.

SMC should not tell us how to be better, more responsible, environmentally friendly, culturally aware people, but show us so that we can participate in doing something and learning from it at the same time. Action gets students going.

According to the Oxfam website, “for those willing to take up the challenge, all you need is courage, commitment, and a sense of humor.”