Ask Reading Kingdom: How do we grow global mindedness in every child and youth in this country? Why does it matter?

Answers to this important question rightfully and typically focus on the globalization marking modern life—that is, the international integration across the world in products, ideas, and many other aspects of culture. From the perspective of our nation, however, some special challenges exist.

Since World War II, the United States has been the leading world power in many areas. This role has carried with it many responsibilities, but also many advantages. For decades other countries have turned to our country for models of programs in a wide range of areas. This power has unfortunately led to an insularity that does not serve us well.

The following example serves as a kind of metaphor for what has been happening. Years ago, I was on a speaking tour in Australia. I found that in every major hotel where I stayed, the rooms were set up so that the air conditioning turned off when the occupant left the room. It was an obvious and effective energy saving strategy.

When I returned to the US, I spoke to a friend who was high up in the management of a top hotel chain. After relating my experience– with the same chain– in Australia, I asked why the practice was not in place in our country. He responded, “The idea is excellent, but Americans will simply not accept it. When they return to their rooms, they want them to be cool and not have to wait.”

This example is by no means unique. It is repeated in countless other areas of life. And in each case, it illustrates two major factors: 1. many good, and even great, ideas are available from places around the globe and 2. there is a strong pull in our nation to ignore or bypass them.

Our response is not unusual. It reflects the same force behind the popular riddle which asks: “Where does an 800 lb gorilla sit?” The answer, “Anywhere it wants to.”

If our nation is to prosper in the current age of globalization, this long standing pattern of insularity must change. In turn, this requires a long-term commitment to a program of education that enables us to be more knowledgeable about what is happening in other parts of the world and more open to evaluating and applying these ideas.

Schools can play a critical role in this transformation by offering a much broader information base than is currently available to most students. The responsibilities, however, do not fall on schools alone. All major institutions (i.e., the media, businesses, community organizations, etc.) must expand their frameworks and present our children, and our entire population, with the content and ideas that are required to create the global perspective that modern life demands.

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