Negotiating the Global and National: Immigrant and Dominant-Culture Adolescentsí Vocabularies of Citizenship in a Transnational World
by John P. Myers & Husam A. Zaman - 2009
Background/Context: The current national debate over the purposes of civic education is largely tied to outdated notions of citizenship that overlook its changing nature under globalization. Civic education is based on a legalistic understanding of citizenship that emphasizes patriotism and the structures and functions of government. This study examined adolescentsí civic beliefs and affiliations, drawing on theories of transnational and global citizenship.
Purpose/Objective/Research Question/Focus of Study: The purpose was to examine diverse adolescentsí vocabularies of citizenship, a concept that captures the tensions in their civic beliefs and affiliations. Their vocabularies were explored in terms of two topics at the intersection of national and global affiliations: universal human rights and global citizenship. The central question asked was: How do adolescents from immigrant backgrounds understand the tensions between national and global civic affiliations, and do they differ from dominant-culture adolescentsí understandings?
Setting: The research setting was the Pennsylvania Governorís School for International Studies, a 5-week summer program for high school students that emphasizes current scholarship and skills in international affairs, cultural studies, and foreign language.
Research Design: A mixed-method case study design was employed to collect detailed and rich data on the studentsí beliefs about citizenship.
Findings/Results: The findings showed that the students from immigrant backgrounds favored universal positions and were the only students to call attention to national economic inequalities. In contrast, a majority of the dominant-culture students gave a more central role to national affiliations. However, over half of the students switched between universal and nationally oriented positions for the issues of global citizenship and human rights. It is argued that these switches represent a strong indication of the tensions in civic affiliations in light of globalization.
Conclusions/Recommendations: The findings presented here suggest that the question of either national- or global-oriented civic education makes little sense. This research suggests that differentiated forms of civic education are needed if all youth will have access to full citizenship and the range of civic affiliations needed in the world. Two approaches for reconceptualizing civic education are proposed: Civic education curricula should focus on the intersection of national with global issues and affiliations, and civic education should address, in addition to civic attitudes, skills, and knowledge, a conscious effort to help adolescents build flexible and multiple civic identities.
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