An understanding of Cosmopolitanism is at the core of Global Learning and being a Global Citizen. By having at least the knowledge of this theory, one can begin on the journey of finding out what it really means to be a truly Global Citizen because it challenges our traditional, local, Westernized way of thinking. In other words, being a Cosmopolitan makes you think and ask questions about others and their cultures which hopefully will lead to a greater tolerance among us all. Essentially what Cosmopolitanism all comes down to is that we have an obligation to humanity because we are human. Kwame Appiah states in his book Cosmopolitanism that “One truth we [Cosmopolitans] hold to… is that every human being has obligations to every other [human being]. Everybody matters: that is our central idea. ” So thinking this way or even being exposed this this form of thinking will help us reach out to learn and know more, even if it’s on the most basic level.
As with anything in life that deals with humanity, there are advantages and drawbacks of the cosmopolitanism philosophy. One drawback I could see is going to deep into Cosmopolitan thinking and making it harder than it actually it. In other words making it harder by examining every situation and interaction you have with others locally and globally could be a real drawback. However, if one were to realize that simple core of the philosophy is that it is a process that it only requires an open mind to see the value in the variety of humanity as Appiah states in his book. He states, “Cosmopolitans think human variety matter because people are entitled to the options they need to shape their lives in partnership with others. ” Thinking too much about it and over analyzing every single action and or perceived motive of others is unfortunately a real drawback.
The advantages of Cosmopolitanism are unlimited. Having the ability to walk a mile in another’s shoes and realize that your journey is the same you just have different shoes on is an experience that could change the world. Possessing a this kind of perspective can lead to conversations people you would have never imagined and take you to places you never could have dreamed of, simply because your mind is open to it. As Appiah states ”the points of entry to cross-cultural conversations are things that are shared by those who are in the conversation. They don’t need to be universal; all they need to be is what these particular people have in common. Once we have found what we share, there is further possibility that we will be able to enjoy discovering things we do not share. That is the one of the payoffs of cosmopolitan curiosity. We can learn from one another; or we can simply be intrigued by alternative ways of thinking, feeling, and acting. ”
Because of the openness and curiosity that Cosmopolitanism stirs as a philosophy, it makes sense that it should be taught in classrooms that are preparing students for living in a Global Community as Global Citizens. By teaching students that there are infact other ways of thinking about life, other types of human interactions in the world, and that though they are different than yours they aren’t necessarily wrong, educators can help create a future of tolerance where curiosity and inquiry are rewarded with cooperation rather than adversity and indifference. As a Social Studies/History Teacher it is of utmost importance to me to foster this openness and Cosmopolitan curiosity/inquiry in my students as I want to see them do better than those that came before them in making decisions that are for the good of all in the world and not just some and that even though they are different that others ethnically, racially, culturally, etc… at the end of the day there is really only one story, the human story.
One thing that education has major issues with in general is taking things from a philosophical/theoretical place and transposing it into a practical, I can use it in my classroom tomorrow reality. The philosophy of cosmopolitanism because of it’s seemingly huge depth is no different in this respect. However, through shaping it into the curriculum through the lens of Global Citizenship, teachers can use methods like Project Based Inquiry or Learning can communicate the philosophy to students by letting them dig into it with their own questions and research. For example as a World History Teacher I created a PBI on the Global Middle ages where students had the big idea question “How can conflict and innovation cause or influence change in global middle age societies?” The students also had five essential or guiding questions based on five different areas or lenses of Social Science; Historian, Geographer, Cultural Anthropologist, Economist, and Political Scientist. The idea was that they would research, examine, and analyze different regions of the world during the Middle Ages through these different lenses.
In their findings hopefully they would see a few things; One, that there were several parts of the world experiencing the same thing in various ways at very similar times. Thus, on a basic level, historically, global societies and people weren’t that different from each other. Secondly, I would hope that students would be able to see the beauty, adversities, and curiosities of other cultures and their roots that are still showing today. This may not be the best example but it’s one that makes sense to me as a practical way to use PBI in conjunction with Cosmopolitanism in the classroom. Another practical idea would be various Flat Classroom projects that center around current global issues where students researched issues that mattered to them, contacted people in location where these issues were happening and get to know them and the circumstances they face with these issues. The students would then partner with individuals and organizations to create awareness and solutions for the issues or at least dialogue. These are just a couple of ideas but in the end as long as you are exposing students to different cultures and ideas from societies other than their own, the curiosity and inquiry will go well beyond your classroom project.
I welcome your thoughts and communication. I have so much to learn and I would love to open a forum here for educators to grow in this conversation about Cosmopolitanism and Global Learning.
What is Cosmopolitanism?
David Balmer serves as an Instructional Technology Facilitator at Heritage & Wake Forest High Schools in Wake County, North Carolina. David graduated from Appalachian State University with a degree in Secondary History Education and recently completed his M.Ed. in Digital Learning & Teaching from North Carolina State University. Additionally, he serves on the board of Safe Schools NC. David is passionate about making sure that all students voices are heard in education in North Carolina.