Educating for Cosmopolitanism and Reducing Hegemony
The world is becoming more global and American diversity is increasing. Therefore, we need educators today who are comfortable with diversity and passionate about fostering cosmopolitan ideals without becoming hegemonic (Childress, 2010; Diamond, 2006; Friedman, 2005; Jarchow, 1993).
David Hansen (2009) describes cosmopolitanism as a controversial and multidimensional construct. Hansen explains that many scholars feel that the utopian approach and array of variables included within this term make it too broad and unrealistic for serious discourse. However, he also points out that as a concept many scholars have found it useful, and have engaged in deconstructing the topic. Hansen further notes that cosmopolitanism is interdisciplinary in nature and scholars and practitioners may never completely agree on its essence or application. Hansen (2009) deconstructed cosmopolitanism which includes some of the following orientations: 1) political (including: global citizenship, transnationalism, and humane responsiveness), 2) moral cosmopolitanism (including: justice, equality, and open-mindedness), 3) rooted (including: local tradition, personal dignity, universalism) and 4) cultural (intercultural fusion, cultural critique, and choice).
In a recent study I am working on, 23 faculty at two community colleges were interviewed about globalizing their work (research, practice & service). The key part of cosmopolitanism they tended to agree on was the ideas of global citizenship: being part of one global community and the importance of engaging in global morality. This included the idea that there are numerous global problems to solve (environmental decline, poverty, human rights issues, access to education….) and working together across academic disciplines and societies we will have a better chance of solving them. This supports the idea that educators need to facilitate learning around these global problems and inspire students to interact in a meaningful way with their local community and the global world.
One important consideration in moving to a cosmopolitan educational pedagogy at any level is the moderating variable of hegemony. Hegemony the idea that a single dominant group has control over all others (Litowitz, 2000; Nartowski, 2003). Teaching about cosmopolitan ideals may unwittingly embrace hegemony if the educator is not privy to this concept. For example, Americans embrace volunteering and philanthropy. This is a wonderful characteristic to have as a country. The issue comes in when we want to “tell” others what to do to help themselves instead of working with them to find a sustainable solution that works in their environment. Also, giving can be one sided which may take away individual control, identity, and self-efficacy in the recipient. Therefore, promoting exchanges where people from a privileged class and/or country give and receive from another group.
For example, two faculty in the study I am working on felt that the privileged class in the U.S. sees community colleges as places for second class citizens; and is not so concerned that these students will transfer two four-year universities and engage in community leadership positions (local to global). These faculty participants felt that this dominant focus on community colleges as predominately training centers and technical schools, for the poor and marginalized, produces an infrastructure that places heavy teaching loads on faculty without the time and support to focus on major complex, intellectual, and global pedagogy. Being able to do so, they argued, would better prepare students to rise above their current constraints, improve their lives, and contribute to the betterment of the global society.
Therefore, I am interested in learning more about specific ways educators can globalize their practice by incorporating the concepts of cosmopolitanism and hegemony into their curriculum and pedagogy. I am especially passionate about using service-learning in a way that builds people up in a disadvantaged situation by allowing them to give as well as receive. I think taking part in a reciprocal exchange with people from different backgrounds and/or countries can be a powerful learning experience for the privileged and marginalized.