Aurobindo's thought and holistic global education.

Author:White, Stephen R.
 
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The integral knowledge admits the valid truth of all views of existence, valid in their own field, but seeks to get rid of their limitations and negations and to harmonize and reconcile these partial truths in a larger truth.... It is not by "thinking out" the entire reality, but by a change of consciousness that one can pass from the ignorance to the Knowledge-the Knowledge by which we can become what we know. (Dalal, 2001, p. 3)

--Sri Ghose Aurobindo (1872-1950)

The Age of Globalization

Contemporary global, political, social, and economic developments may forever transform the way we think about each other and influence the future social reality constructed. Latest acts of terrorism will certainly have an influential effect on humankind's collective psyche. The materialization of these emerging global issues are especially challenging for educators. As such, many assert that humankind now has a collective responsibility to facilitate the construction of a shared global culture through educational socialization. This is particularly true for those of us who are professionally committed to educating toward a future existence where peaceful cooperation and planetary citizenship become dominate values that are held in the same high regard as nationalism and individualism are today. Within this context it is critical that we reflectively contemplate what we teach and how we teach regarding these issues.

Some scholars view these developments of international change as the emergence of a new social phenomenon. This social phenomenon coming to life is termed globalization. Globalization is the idea that humankind is evolving into an interconnected political socioeconomic system. The majority of scholars study globalization from the perspectives of transnational political conflicts in the quest for a world governance, the effect of global social interconnections on economic justice, and the impact of scientific and technological innovations on global relations (Baylis & Smith, 2001; Beck, 1999; Berger & Huntington, 2002; Bhagwati, 2004; Bloom, 2000; Bruteau, 2001; Foer, 2004; Friedman, 2000, 2005; Held & McGraw, 2000; Held, McGraw & Perraton, 1999; Hubbard, 1998; Steger, 2001; Stiglitz, 2002).

Nevertheless for many educators globalization has become a significant concern at all levels of learning, which is why they many seek to move the focus beyond being purely an international political and socioeconomic problem, to one that is viewed philosophically as a global humanitarian dilemma as well. In view of this increased interest in global education, we examine the ideas of Sri Ghose Aurobindo and Scott Forbes to determine the value of their thoughts on this subject. Before we examine their views, however, a succinct review of some relevant literature by global education theorists is undertaken. Special attention is given to how certain educators understand the problem of globalization, conceive of means to educate for it, and articulate global educational agendas.

Globalization and Global Education: A Literature Review

While other global education experts could have been selected, Patrick Fitzsimmons, Dean Peterson, Delores Wunder, Harlan Mueller, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, Val Rust, Bill Bigelow, Bob Peterson, Nicholas Burbles, Carlos Torres, Holger Daun, Nelly Stormquist, Karen Monkamn, and John Levin have been included to illustrate the diversity of thought in global education and the conceptual and philosophical challenges that exist. As we begin with Patrick Fitzsimmons, it is of interest that he contends that the political ideology of neo-liberalism is the social force behind the globalization movement, which he views as problematic because the neo-liberal agenda is a homogenizing process. Neo-liberalism advocates an international "politics of difference" under the guise of "global cooperation," which is a pretext that undermines genuine social solidarity and cohesion. He believes neo-liberalism is a conscious political deception advanced by a few international power brokers in order to advance their specific interests, and it is not an idea to motivate global unification or legitimate cooperation. Fitzsimmons proposes an educational agenda that promotes "critical localism" and "critical regionalism." The goal of these two notions is to counterbalance the false perception of global unity and cohesion that current neo-liberalism fallaciously champions (Rizvi & Lingard, 2002).

The theory of "subjective globalization" is the focus of D. Peterson, Wunder, and Mueller's work. Subjective globalization is the idea that globalization requires a re-conceptualization from two perspectives: (1) personal identities and (2) nationalistic boundaries. Educational socialization into our era of globalization requires a transformation of learners' personal identities regarding "what" they represent and "who" they are within the context of cooperative global relationships. They believe that political nation-state boundaries are an artificial social reality of global segregation. This world-view undermines an individual's global identity and hinders collective social action. Thus an effective global education program must be designed specifically to assist learners to intellectually reframe their identity of self as existing within the larger integrated global community (Peterson, Wunder, & Mueller, 1999, pp. 19-20).

How can we infuse various issues regarding globalization throughout the curriculum is the concern of Aristide. Her contention is that the incorporation of globalization into the curriculum must be from the perspectives of "those from below"--marginalized Third World peoples. That is, global education must seek to help learners understand and improve the socioeconomic conditions of exploited peoples. Globalization demands that educators teach critically and explore various solutions from the views of those who suffer under the conditions brought about by recent global socioeconomic and political expansion (Bigelow & Peterson, 2002).

Globalization has had a deep impact on Third World educational policy. Burbles and Torres have researched how globalization has had an impact on educational policies and practices. They state: "[Our research] is primarily a work of theory, these discussions contain specific and concrete implications for how education is changing, and how we will need to change, in response to new [global] circumstances" (Burbles & Torres, 2000, p. 2). Their research has sought to identify political, social, and economic factors of globalization that are having a direct impact on the philosophy and policies of education in Third World regions and suggest alternative educational processes.

Likewise, Daun (2002) has also centered his work on the impact of global politics and economic interest on education. He thinks that First World national economic expansion is the real meaning of globalization. The result of this national interest is that education is serving as the forum for international political ideological wars. The idea of globalization simply provides the political context to argue for greater governmental bureaucratic oversight in order to increase the quantity and quality of public education, globally. Economically powerful nations advance the idea of global cooperation and equality as a political veil in order to multiply capital gains through the exploitation of peoples in less influential nations. The economic interests of First World nations and groups are in constant need of skilled workers to increase their materialistic gains and the human resources supply is satisfied by increasing the educational level of marginalized peoples. Daun calls for the education of Third World peoples so that they become conscious of the First World interests and their potential for exploitation. When the social consciousness of marginalized peoples is elevated, they will become empowered to govern externally funded educational agendas so that their socioeconomic needs are met through their own formulated indigenous educational policies and programs.

Some global educators center their research on ways in which to develop a stronger knowledge base and on teaching and learning processes regarding globalization. Such is the case for Bigelow and B. Peterson who take a curricular and pedagogical position regarding globalization as an educational problem. For them the challenge of globalization for educators is to design innovative curriculum around life-world issues and to teach for global social justice. They write: "It is impossible to separate our teaching about wretched conditions of workers around the world from all the factors that produced the desperation that forces people to seek work in those conditions" (Bigelow & Peterson, 2002, p. 3).

Several educational theorists perceive globalization as a socioeconomic problem that is inherently a political issue of international conflict for power controls. Rust represents this camp of thinkers, in that he asserts that international economic motives extend the problem of globalization far beyond socioeconomic relationships. The issue of globalization is also a problem of nationalistic power conflicts. He advocates an activist educational agenda that advances the capitulation of our mental model of political sovereignty that essentially segregates nation-states into flash points of conflict. Rust believes that the emergence of transnational corporations, multinational socioeconomic consortiums, and the formation of global organizations (such as environmental associations) along with the conflicts that emerge between these groups are the problems to be addressed through global education programs (Stromquist & Monkman, 2000).

Geopolitics is also having an impact on educational thought. Within this context Stromquest and Monkman have explored the question of what kind of education will prevail in a globalized world:

Will it only be to make us more productive...

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