Globalization, Social Movements, and Education
by Regina Cortina - 2011
Background/Context: This essay is a part of a special issue that emerges from a year-long faculty seminar at Teachers College, Columbia University. The seminar’s purpose has been to examine in fresh terms the nexus of globalization, education, and citizenship. Participants come from diverse fields of research and practice, among them art education, comparative education, curriculum and teaching, language studies, philosophy of education, social studies, and technology. They bring to the table different scholarly frameworks drawn from the social sciences and humanities. They accepted invitations to participate because of their respective research interests, all of which touch on education in a globalized world. They were also intrigued by an all-too-rare opportunity to study in seminar conditions with colleagues from different fields, with whom they might otherwise never interact given the harried conditions of university life today. Participants found the seminar generative in terms of ideas about globalization, education, and citizenship. Participants also appreciated what, for them, became a novel and rich occasion for professional and personal growth.
Purpose/ Objective: With globalization—a term that signifies the ever-increasing interconnectedness of markets, communications and human migration—social and economic divides in countries around the world are hindering the access of many people to the major institutions of society, including and especially education. My goal in this essay is to reflect on the dilemma that John Dewey identified in Democracy and Education regarding the “full social ends of education” and the agency of the nation-state. Against the historical background of the nation-state’s control of the meaning of public education, my intent is to search for new meanings defining public education through human agency and social movements, using Mexico as an example. My essay, written on the 200th anniversary of Mexico’s Independence in 1810 and on the 100th anniversary of the Mexican Revolution, reflects on these two major events and how they contributed to shifts in the social meaning of education over time. Two groups—women and indigenous people—did not benefit proportionately from education, citizenship and social opportunity. My argument is that the empowerment of women and indigenous groups took place not because of state action but because of social movements contesting the restricted identity and incomplete citizenship provided for them through the capacity of the nation-state. It is crucial to understand the “full social ends of education” to see the way forward in strengthening education, citizenship and social opportunity.
Conclusions/ Recommendations: My participation in the faculty seminar and the readings we discussed led me towards the rediscovery of the writings of John Dewey, which stimulated my thinking about the “full social ends of education” against the historical background of the nation-state’s control of the meaning of public education and my own inquiry to search for new meanings of public education through human agency and social movements. Moreover, the writings of Dewey during his visit to Mexico in 1926 opened a new research agenda for me. I have become increasingly interested in a period of Mexican education that is not well researched, particularly the role of John Dewey’s students at Teachers College, Columbia University in the development of Mexico’s public education system during the 1920s and 1930s and the creation of the Mexican rural schools and the middle schools during that era.
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