Our shrinking - and expanding - world

According to the most recent Gallup poll, global education, highlighted in today's pull-out section, is among the ''least popular'' education concerns of the US public.

Perhaps the remarkable thing is that Gallup even bothered to ask those polled how they rated ''global ed.''

It's really not in the K-12 curriculum.

Nor are schools of education tuned up to produce ''global ed'' teachers.

The Educational Testing Service (ETS) recently surveyed some 3,000 US college students and concluded that they have a limited, parochial view of the world. More than one-third of the students reported no interest in world affairs, and questions on international issues were answered correctly by only 50 percent of the college seniors and by less than 40 percent of those enrolled in teacher-certification courses.

Further, the ETS study found that only about 200 of the 3,200 two- and four-year colleges surveyed could be said to have global education as an institutional concern.

And those, like Harold Taylor, former president of Sarah Lawrence College, who called 15 years ago for teacher-training institutions to lead the way to a greater degree of international understanding, confess to both extreme disappointment and considerable puzzlement.

For few educators disagree that we cannot be isolationists, escapists, nationalistic, chauvinistic. That we, particularly those of us in the developed nations, must see the world as a whole.

As John Gardner has said so often: ''We must be as concerned about how our neighbor's child is educated as we are our own.'' And translated to all areas of life, this means that we must produce in our schools and train in our colleges world-minded citizens.

Yes, there are conferences, and they help.

The Ontario (Canada) Institute for Studies in Education last April brought hundreds of schoolchildren and college students together under the theme:

''Global Values for the '80s: What Price Security?''

These students culminated months of study in discussion on such topics as the environment, technology and human values, ideologies in conflict, third world changes and challenges, and so forth.

Most fittingly, Phillips Exeter Academy - in celebration of 200 years of academic excellence - held a two-day conference on the theme of global concerns. But it's not easy to change years of parochialism.

One longtime teacher, after listening to political, social, and population concerns worldwide, rather scornfully said: ''So, what am I supposed to do when I meet with my 9 a.m. algebra class tomorrow morning?''

He was overheard by a history teacher, who echoed his cry: ''Yes, what am I supposed to do now; I have all I can do to cram Western Civilization into their illiterate heads.''

Joseph Leese, a professor at the State University of New York, puts the problem into clarifying terms:

''Although our realization of man's unity and diversity has grown, our acknowledgment of the threats of population growth, of reducing food production power, of resource depletion, and of environment alteration has increased, and our apprehension over mankind's dilemmas has burgeoned. . . .'' And no one denies these considerations, yet. . .as Professor Leese concludes:

''Our efforts and activities in behalf of understanding, helping, working with, and identifying with other people have stalled.''

He cites some current US problems as backup for this indictment: ''Our international exchanges have diminished; our AID program is undernourished; the Peace Corps has lost its way; the Congress has cut appropriations diverted into international education.''

Then he explains what we have done,''We have turned our attention to more insistent, nearer-home demands: to help the handicapped, to improve reading among the disadvantaged, to attend to energy and environment education, and so on.''

But a young Canadian, Alexander Redford, insists: ''The economic welfare of the world, and Canada specifically, as a nation more 'independent' than most, depends increasingly on the realization that global issues and problems can only be dealt with on a worldwide basis. . . .''

His Royal Highness, Charles, Prince of Wales, has written in the introduction to a new curriculm (''Science in Society'') available throughout the United Kingdom: ''When we consider the quality of our lives we tend to look beyond material prosperity to such things as health, food, agriculture, and the wise use of limited resources.

''I think it is right that some awareness of these matters should also be part of the education of all young people.''

One author of the ''Science in Society'' curriculum material is the Dean of Bristol, the Very Rev. A. H. Dammers. He contends: ''To construct a life-style which effectively counters the four challenges of poverty, population, pollution , and profligacy, the individual has, at least, the following four tools.''

His tools: prayer, information in the form of propaganda, political action, and personal moderation. And he reminds us:

''We have greater resources of scientific and technological knowledge and skills, and of managerial and organizational abilities with rapid communications than ever before in the history of mankind.

''We also have immense resources of global goodwill, compassion, and mutual respect.''

of 5 stories this month > Get unlimited stories
You've read 5 of 5 free stories

Only $1 for your first month.

Get unlimited Monitor journalism.