The world has become a very small place in the 21st century, and DC students need to be a part of it.
Our economy is increasingly globalized, new technologies accelerate global communication, and new migration patterns significantly increase the cultural diversity and global connections within our local communities and workplaces. More than ever, the big social, economic, and environmental challenges facing us in the 21st century require global cooperation and global solutions. These new realities have prompted national and state-level leaders in the government, business, and education sectors to assert the need to equip American students with a global mindset and global competencies – the skills, knowledge, attitudes, and experiences they will need not only to compete but also to participate actively and responsibly in our globally interconnected world. A new consensus is emerging that global education, including world language study, can no longer be treated as elective or boutique subjects, primarily for high-achieving or privileged students, but must become part of the core learning experience for all PK-12 students, regardless of economic or social circumstance.
For Washington, DC, this means serious attention must be paid to creating equity, expanding access, establishing appropriate support systems, and most importantly, challenging head-on the deeply embedded beliefs that suggest that a global future is beyond the reach of many of our students – minorities, the poor, first generation immigrants, the geographically marginalized, and the academically low performing. We know that, given the opportunity, these students can thrive in global and cross-cultural settings. In fact, we find that the impact of global education and quality international experiences, by expanding horizons and opening a world of new possibilities, is most powerful among those very students who are traditionally excluded.
The Opportunity and DC’s Unrealized Potential
More than any other American city, Washington, DC is uniquely positioned to respond to this call to action. One might imagine DC students would be among the most globally savvy in the nation, given DC’s unparalleled concentration of international and globally focused resources (embassies and international organizations, government agencies, NGOs, universities, think tanks, businesses, museums and cultural institutions), rich with expertise and real-world career connections. Many of these organizations have a genuine interest in helping create a new generation of diverse and globally aware citizens and have a demonstrated history of reaching out to local DC students, educators, and schools, offering a range of free programs, resources, and one-of-a-kind opportunities. But these programs have too often tended to be “one off,” discontinuous, uncoordinated, tangential to the core curriculum, and inequitably available, with limited access in the more underserved schools and geographically distant neighborhoods. Even with an expanding and very encouraging global education commitment from DC Public Schools, structural impediments create significant challenges and inefficiencies for the many organizations and individuals with resources and expertise to share.
As with so much else in the nation’s capital, we still have a wide gulf between the “global city” and young people in our local neighborhoods – representing many disconnects, missed opportunities, and huge unrealized potential. We have the power to change this.
In order to achieve the quality, sustainability, and equity in K-12 global education and language learning that truly matches DC’s aspirations as a global city, we need to adopt a strategic, intentional, and coordinated approach. We need to build the infrastructure necessary to facilitate and support connections between our city’s global assets and our local students and educators; that can provide a platform for public-private collaboration; and serve as a catalyst for innovative, equitably available global education and language learning for DC K-12 students – both DCPS and charter. We need to develop creative solutions that cut across individual schools and education sectors. Globalize DC was created to fill this unique and much needed role.