I have been preaching for several years that “The World is not Someplace Else!” In my first career work developing, producing and distributing motion pictures, there was a clear distinction between the “domestic” and “foreign” markets. There was a sudden change in the early nineties, though, when the label “foreign” was removed from contracts and job titles to be replaced by “international.” The distinction faded as large international conglomerates embraced motion picture production and distribution.
At one point in those days, my bankers were in Dallas, London and Amsterdam, pictures were being produced in Ireland and, then, Yugoslavia. We were distributing films from Canada, Brazil, Argentina, Australia, and Poland. Projects were developed in Taiwan and Mainland China, we worked in Japan and in France, and visited markets and festivals in Italy, Cannes, Scotland, and Belgium.
The day to day demands to understand time zones around the world, required that I wear a two-faced watch in order to know what time it was back at the office no matter where the hotel was that was serving as my temporary home, and the collaborative work in those distant places made for an easy flattening of the world for me. It just made sense to expect that considering the world more than a travel opportunity for students would soon embrace the learning experience in a more integrative and expected manner.
Our world—and if we are to truly claim that it is ours—stretches beyond our campus geographic boundaries and across the barriers of language, cultural, society, economics and technology. It is a world of faraway lands that are connected like never before. We hold this world in the palm of our hand on mobile devices that allow us to see and speak with one another in real time. And our educational institutions are facilitating new and aggressive international collaborations and learning experiences as essential to the learning mission.
The study of the world, its history, cultures, literatures, customs and governments is not new to us at all. Those pull down maps and spinning earth globes have been fixtures in our classrooms for time immemorial. But, over the past few decades, the educational landscape has embraced a new global reality.
Our technologically mediated digital environment is alive with 24/7 global input. We no longer just ask students to memorize maps and learn languages as a complement to their educational pursuits. Our curricular missions propel faculty and students to dig into learning of international relationships, governmental systems, economic and social issues and the nature and unrelenting resilience of international conflict along with the equally determined quest for peace.
Our challenge is to find ways to use this new global connectedness to tackle the global issues of our collective future. Climate change, poverty, hunger, health, human rights, immigration, urban infrastructure and agrarian sustainability are challenges to every corner of our earth. These are the pressures that we face whether here in Long Island, New York or in Mumbai, India; Sao Paulo, Brazil; Darfur, Sudan, Bangkok, Thailand or Kiev, Ukraine. None of us get a pass on these global game changers. So, it is through education and informed engagement that we make differences—individual, collectively and, yes, globally.