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Citizenship and Citizenship Education in a Global Age

reviewed by Ryan Clark - August 10, 2012

coverTitle: Citizenship and Citizenship Education in a Global Age
Author(s): Wing-Wah Law
Publisher: Peter Lang Publishing, New York
ISBN: 1433108011, Pages: 259, Year: 2011
Search for book at Amazon.com

As globalization becomes a bigger factor in decisions made at the national, state, and local levels of government, it is more important than ever for teachers and students to develop a deeper knowledge of the forces at work in our markets and relations with other countries. The recent attention given to the death of British businessman Neil Heywood by Page (2012) and others has illustrated the need for educators to learn not only about the ways we teach our students to engage with other nations, but also to learn how other nations have approached and are currently approaching citizenship.

Many researchers have published extensively in this field about the ways in which educators in America can structure classrooms and curricula to accomplish this goal.  Gaudelli (2003) provided a concise overview of the dominant research prior to his book that framed the discourse on emerging global curricula.  Banks (2004) has made a vital contribution to the theoretical foundation of global citizenship by adding dimensions of multiculturalism to the curriculum.  Marri (2005) furthered this work by developing a framework to integrate multicultural and democratic education based on lessons from three successful secondary educators.  Ladson-Billings (2005) added another layer of complexity by including communities as a vital component of educating citizens with global awareness.  

These four scholars provide a crucial basis of knowledge upon which educators can base their reading.  The work of Parker (1996) adds an additional dimension by asking two questions about multicultural democracy.  His two questions are: 1. Who is and is not participating in democracy and on whose terms?, and, 2. How wide is the path to participation?  While Parker uses these questions about multicultural democracy, they transfer to an exploration of China as Law (2012) analyzes changes in citizenship education from 1912 to the present.  With one of the largest and most diverse populations in the world, China has to deal with internal differences in culture and language while remaining a cohesive nation.  Law is able to trace the changes in the curriculum for citizenship education in light of the multiculturalism in China from the fall of the Qing Dynasty to the Republic of China to the establishment of the People’s Republic of China in 1949 and beyond.  

The organization of the book is precisely laid out for the reader in the intro chapter; the subsequent chapters then follow each of the periods of change in China as Law identifies major changes to the political leadership.  The concluding chapter is where Law brings together all of the problems China has faced.  Based on the lessons he has extrapolated, he offers his theoretical framework “Multileveled-multidimensional model for citizenship education.”  This framework is based on his analysis of the changes and continuity seen in the different attempts to develop citizenship education from 1912 to the present.  Each chapter of the book uses the four dimensions of his framework (Global, National, Local, and Personal Social) to help lead up to his final evaluation and conclusions for China as it continues to be a major force economically and politically in the 21st century.

In the first chapter, an overview of the two dominant strands of thought in the global education literature (Globalist and Skeptical) is clearly laid out and applied to China.  This background is important because Law develops both schools of thought in order to give the reader a background necessary to understand the unique nature of China and our more interconnected world.  Law is able to develop “An analytical approach that can accommodate the penetrative influences of global forces on societies and the different roles of the state, borders, cities, and individuals in constructing and understanding citizenship and citizenship education in a global age” (p. 2).  The first chapter outlines the four major themes Law uses to develop this new framework.  In particular, the third theme about the role of nations bidding to host international events and the resulting changes to citizenship education adds an additional layer necessary for understanding how a country views itself and then seeks to present this vision to the world.

The second and third chapters develop background information starting with the problems of citizenship and citizenship education during the dynasties and the emergence of the Republic of China.  Ways in which a ruling family gained power and then transferred it to other members of the dynasty show problems with legitimacy.  The influence of Confucian thought, and the emphasis placed on it by certain dynasties also serve to identify significant cultural legacies and the difficulties in developing a sense of belonging within the nation.  The third chapter chronicles the development of the Republic of China and the differing ideas of citizenship leading up to the promulgation of a constitution.  

The fourth chapter of the book gives the social, political, and economic dynamics of the People’s Republic of China post-1949.  This chapter delves into the dynamics of the communist leadership under Mao and his successors as well as identifying the ways in which the government dealt with internal criticism.  The fifth chapter then divides modern education in China into four periods: the 50’s through the 70’s under Mao, the 80’s under Deng, challenges during the 80’s and early 90’s, and finally the post 90’s era.  Chapter six is the statistical heart of the book, using the author’s original research in Hong Kong and Shanghai to provide examples of cities attempting to become internationally known and the way citizenship education has changed to include multiple levels of association.

The last two chapters show how China has evolved and is trying to develop a modern citizenry in light of perceived historical insults.  The seventh chapter uses the 2008 Olympic games as an example of how a country can now use a bid to host an international event as a means of reshaping outsiders’ view of the country.  Law analyzes the changes in citizenship education and makes observations about how the Chinese saw this as an opportunity to change the way the world saw them.  This event was viewed as a way to solidify their emergence as a world power.  The eighth and final chapter then ties together the three major time periods identified throughout the book and poses questions for the future of citizenship and citizenship education in China.

The history contained in this book is important to modern educators as we prepare students to live and work in our modern global age.  Educators will find this book insightful and instructive as they teach students about the increasingly interconnected world.  It is no longer good enough to teach students about the importance of respecting other nations and cultures; this book can help change the current paradigm and make our students more culturally literate about other nations.  Understanding where other nations have come from and the deeply ingrained political, social, and economic components of culture can only make our students more able to interact and compete with our largest trading partner.


Banks, J. (2004).  Democratic citizenship education in multicultural societies.  In J. Banks (Ed.), Diversity and citizenship education: Global perspectives (pp.3 – 16).  San Francisco: Josser-Bass.

Gaudelli, W. (2003).  World class: Teaching and learning in global times.  NJ: Lawrence Earlbaum, (pp. 7-9).

Ladson-Billings, G. (2005).  Differing concepts of citizenship: Schools and communitiesas sites of civic development.  In N. Noddings (Ed.), Educating citizens for global awareness, (pp. 69-80).  New York: Teachers College Press.

Law, W.W. (2011).  Citizenship and citizenship education in a global age: Politics ,policies, and practices in China.  New York: Peter Lang.

Marri, A. (2005).  Building a framework for classroom-based multicultural education:Learning from three skilled teachers.  Teachers College Record, 107(5), 1036-1059.

Page, J. (2012). Mystery deepens in death of Briton in China.  Wall Street Journal Online, retrieved from: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702304177104577305532056722676.html

Parker, W. (1996). Curriculum for democracy. In R. Soder (Ed.), Democracy, education,

and the schools (pp. 182–210). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record, Date Published: August 10, 2012
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 16847, Date Accessed: 5/21/2022 9:42:00 AM

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About the Author
  • Ryan Clark
    Bellmore-Merrick Central High School District
    E-mail Author
    RYAN CLARK, Ed.M. is a secondary social studies teacher in the Bellmore-Merrick Central High School District on Long Island, NY. He is a graduate of the Program in Social Studies at Teachers College, Columbia University. While in the Ed.M. program, his research focused on integrating service learning and citizenship education as a means of empowering students to become active members of their communities. In his current teaching assignment, he teaches AP United States History, AP Macroeconomics, Participation in Government, and a humanities course with an English teacher. His present research interests include using economic concepts to make students more aware of the costs of their actions, and the power of documentary films to engage students in political action.
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