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Rethinking Globalization

Historian Howard Zinn once wrote, "In a world where justice is maldistributed there is no such thing as a neutral or representative recapitulation of the facts." We agree. Every curriculum begins from certain convictions about the world, even if they may not be conscious. Neutrality is neither possible nor desirable. Teaching - regardless of grade level or discipline - always takes place against the backdrop of certain global realities.

And as articles in this book amply document, today's realities are grim: Vast inequalities of wealth yawn wider and wider, the earth is being consumed and polluted at a ferocious pace, and commercial values are supplanting humane ones. It seems that all aspects of life now wear "For Sale" signs and are subject to privatization. With the patenting of the genetic codes of plants and even human beings, we can be excused for feeling that we have entered a world of bizarre Twilight Zone reruns. As Rethinking Schools editors observed in an editorial for our 15th anniversary issue: "The wish-dreams of the privatizers are exemplified well in a recent MasterCard commercial that depicts an auctioneer offering his latest sale items: the letter 'B,' the color red, gravity. The ad delights in a future where every last aspect of life is commodified."

In a world where the very idea of "public" is being threatened, for educators to feign neutrality is irresponsible. The pedagogical aim in this social context needs to be truth rather than "balance" - if by balance we mean giving equal credence to claims that we know to be false and that, in any event, enjoy wide dispersal in the dominant culture. The teacher who takes pride in never revealing his or her "opinions" to students models for them moral apathy.

Nonetheless, we would never urge that teachers shelter their students from views that they find repugnant. Indeed, the way to develop critical global literacy is only through direct engagement with diverse ideas. Nor is it ever appropriate for teachers to hand students worked-out opinions without equipping students to develop their own analyses of important issues. Simply because we have not given "equal time" in this book to proponents of corporatedriven globalization does not mean that we believe that students should be denied access to pro-globalization perspectives.

We see a distinct difference between a biased curriculum and a partisan one. Teaching is biased when it ignores multiple perspectives and does not allow interrogation of its own assumptions and propositions. Partisan teaching, on the other hand, invites diversity of opinion but does not lose sight of the aim of the curriculum: to alert students to global injustice, to seek explanations, and to encourage activism. This is the kind of teaching we hope Rethinking Globalization will encourage.

- The editors

Last Updated Spring 2002