Connect All Schools consortium partner World Savvy released its 2012 Global Competency Survey yesterday, and the results are both timely (there is a Libya question) and contradictory to the assumption that young people in the United States are not interested in learning about the world. Rather, young Americans are keenly aware that it is both in their best interest and in the national interest that they understand global issues, engage with their peers worldwide, and gain the skills needed to find employment in today’s global economy. For decades, the lack of global competence of US youth has been an easy mark for ridicule. A bevy of books, reports, academic studies, and surveys from National Geographicand others have assumed (and alleged) that US students are not only globally unaware, but also are not interested in learning about the world. Yesterday’s survey results, for example, show that after nearly eleven years of the United States at war, only 28% of US high school graduates can identify in which region Afghanistan is located. Disinterest seems a reasonable assumption. The World Savvy survey results, however, contradict this assumption:
The young adults polled in this survey overwhelmingly report an interest in, and professional need for, global literacy in their lives today. In fact:
- 86% of those surveyed say they agree that a solid foundation in world history and events is crucial to coming up with solutions to the problems in the world today.
- Nearly 9 in 10 believe that developments abroad can have significant implications on the US economy.
- 79% say that it is important in today’s world to be comfortable interacting with people of different cultural backgrounds (on par with the perceived importance of writing skills (78%), technical skills (76%), and math skills (77%)).
- 80% believe that jobs are becoming increasingly international in nature.
Yet, the gap between what youth seek for their education and what they receive remains wide:
- While the vast majority of young adults see the importance of global literacy, only 12% of respondents say that they “agree completely” that in their 6th-12th grade education they received instruction that helps them to understand the roots of global issues that affect their lives today.
- … [T]he majority of the young adults surveyed (63%) indicated that they did not discuss world events in their high school classes.
So why don’t American adults prioritize global competence as a valued outcome of an education as much as American youth do? If the national security argument is so strong for youth gaining global competencies, why do policy-makers demur encouraging classrooms to connect globally? If the economic casefor youth gaining modern job skills is that compelling, why don’t philanthropists, entrepreneurs, community leaders, and the media increase coverage and support for international issues, cross-cultural exchanges, and new global education tools and resources? The next American generation, perceiving what is in our national interest, are asking us to help them engage with their peers worldwide. It is time to listen to what youth want to learn, rather than to criticize them for what they haven’t learned. It is time for all sectors of our society to help our schools to enable all of our youth to experience international collaboration as part of their education.