Skip to content
ascd logo

Log in to Witsby: ASCD’s Next-Generation Professional Learning and Credentialing Platform
October 1, 2002
Vol. 60
No. 2

EL Extra / The World in the Classroom

EL Extra / The World in the Classroom - thumbnail
Credit: Copyright(C)2000-2006 Adobe Systems, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Balancing Patriotism and International Understanding

Some of the authors in this issue address the questions: Should we put more emphasis on teaching students about their own national identity, or on teaching students about the rest of the world? Are the values of patriotism and international understanding necessarily at odds?
These questions have implications throughout the language arts and social studies curriculum. Think about your own reactions to the following viewpoints, and discuss them with a group of your colleagues.
  • Diane Ravitch (“September 11: Seven Lessons for Schools,” p. 6) asserts that for the past generation, U.S. schools “have disdained the teaching of patriotism,” but that the September 11 attacks made us realize “it's OK to be patriotic.” She advocates that schools make it clear to students that not all cultures are equally dedicated to freedom and human rights. Ravitch stresses the importance of teaching both U.S. history and international affairs, but asserts that “our job as educators remains the same as it has been for many years: to prepare the children in our charge to sustain our democratic institutions and ideals.”
  • Ross Dunn (“Growing Good Citizens with a World-Centered Curriculum,” p. 10), writes that “Patriotic citizenship in a democratic state surely demands a social studies curriculum that gives at least equal weight to national history and international studies, especially world history.” He criticizes the idea of comparing the merits of different cultures as if they were static, self-contained entities, and writes, “I would much rather see students talk about [the September 11 attacks] in the framework of a broad, solid world history education rather than grappling fruitlessly to understand terrorists as products of cultures ‘not like ours.’”
  • Sir John Daniel, UNESCO's Assistant Director-General for Education, asserts that “From an international perspective, schools in the United States already go to the extreme in pressing national identity instead of knowledge of the rest of the world; any kind of rebalancing would be a good thing” (“A Curriculum for Peace: A Conversation with Sir John Daniel,” p. 14).

Teaching about Religion

Susan Douglass of the Council on Islamic Education describes state and national standards for including religious information in the curriculum (“Teaching About Religion,” p. 32). Douglass conducted a study that found that nearly every state requires teaching about religion, but her extensive field experience has shown that school curriculums often trivialize the study of religions.
Reflect on how your school integrates teaching about religion into various curriculum areas. You and your colleagues may want to explore your state's content standards and develop ways in which you can address these standards, striving to meet Douglass's recommendation “to transcend the trivial and exotic in favor of meaningful understandings and universal principles.” At the same time, consider how well your school's practices conform to the First Amendment Center's guidelines for a constitutional approach to teaching about religion (see the sidebar on page x).

Commercialism in Schools

  • Sponsorship of programs and activities (putting business names and logos on anything from individual books, to school gyms, to entire school buildings in return for corporate donations).
  • Exclusive agreements (for example, when soda companies establish contracts restricting schools from selling competitors' products).
  • Incentive programs (which reward student behaviors such as reading books with commercial products).
  • Sponsorship of educational materials (including the creation of curriculums that advance corporate interests).
  • Electronic marketing (such as Channel 1).
  • Privatization (public schools run by for-profit corporations such as Edison Schools).
  • Fund-raising programs (for example, when companies give money according to the number of box tops or soup labels that parents and students collect).
What are the pros and cons of such practices? Does corporate sponsorship of schools harm students, or is it a sensible way to obtain needed funding that improves instructional programs? Discuss with your colleagues your opinions about commercialism in your own school and district—would you like to see any changes?
Learn More

ASCD is a community dedicated to educators' professional growth and well-being.

Let us help you put your vision into action.
From our issue
Product cover image 102306.jpg
The World in the Classroom
Go To Publication