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Cultivating Global Citizenship Summer 2012 – Encouraging Critical Thinking

In many ways, this summer’s session of Tanenbaum’s intensive educator course, Cultivating Global Citizenship, was defined by the incredible questions asked by the participants. From the first hours of the course through to the very end, the questions kept rolling in: 

  • How do we see and understand difference?
  • How do we define diversity? 
  • Where in my curriculum can I discuss these ideas? 
  • What do we do when a student says something prejudiced? 
  • Why do we teach what we teach?
Tanenbaum’s course, Cultivating Global Citizenship, is designed to help educators prepare students to live in the 21st century and become global citizens. Educators are given tools to examine theories of multicultural education, practice differentiated instruction, integrate skills-based curricula, and develop creative ways to establish inclusive learning environments
Over and over, each of the teachers in the course spoke of the importance of encouraging critical inquiry. Students, especially in the younger grades, are often quite curious. How do we channel this curiosity into respectful questions? In order to overcome stereotypes and prejudices, students must learn to think critically – which includes respectfully asking about that which is unfamiliar, such as the scarf on a classmate’s head, the food in a friend’s lunchbox or the traditions celebrated by their neighbors. Furthermore, when learning about different cultures and religions throughout history and around the world, students should be encouraged to actively consider what they are learning and why it is important to study these topics. 
  • From whose perspective does history get told? 
  • Who is a citizen? 
  • What is “fair”? 
  • What is “equal”? 
  • Are “fair” and “equal” the same?
For their final projects, teachers created lessons that translated these theoretical questions into practical measures that they will implement in their classrooms. From a world religions trivia game to a study of African trade routes, a look at the history of sports to an exploration of cultures present in a given classroom, each teacher displayed great creativity and insight when considering how to bring the learning back to their schools.
But perhaps the greatest take-away from the course can be best summarized with yet another question posed by one of the teachers: 
“If we were aware of the religious diversity in the United States – and the world – how could we be anti- anybody?” 
This summer’s Cultivating Global Citizenship participants are now well-equipped to teach about this diversity and encourage their students to always ask respectful, critical questions.