Robert Siegel

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Philomath, OR

Interests: 21st Century Learning,...

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K-8 SocSt Curric for 21stCent Part 2

 A K-8 Social Science Curriculum for the 21st Century - Part 2


This is a series of posts on the topic of how we might re-think the social sciences as we move tumultuously toward humankind's evolution becoming one common family on this interconnected and interdependent planet.

As indicated in my previous post, the topic of thinking about instruction of social studies on a global scale may incite a negative reaction on the part of some. Case in point is the recent news of the Texas School Board and their debate about changes in the social studies curriculum in their schools. As reported by the ASCD Smart Brief of May 24, 2010, the NPR and API article of May 21, 2010 states that the school board "required students to evaluate efforts by global organizations such as the United Nations to undermine U.S. sovereignty." This would appear to be a reaction out of "fear of losing USA values" if the social sciences are taught from a global perspective. I would propose that the "sovereignty" that might be sacrificed is analogous to state sovereignty that was partially ceded when the United States formed a nation. In order to further this blog, there are some definitions that need to be identified. Here are some initial phrases.

            Global Society. For the purposes of this paper, the term “global society” goes beyond the scholarly interpretation of an “idealistic cosmopolitan and universal society that includes all the peoples living on earth,” (Bushrui, p. 52)[1] and therefore restricted to the study of international relations or world politics.  It even supersedes Immanuel Kant’s belief in a global society where “the peoples of the earth have ... entered in varying degrees into a universal community, and it has developed to the point where a violation of rights in one part of the world is felt everywhere.” (Bushrui, p. 53) It is a much higher and even spiritual or metaphysical concept than such an ethico-juridico-civil understanding. The definition perhaps comes closest to what Robert Muller terms a “profound biological transformation of humanity...a planetary species with a global brain and nervous system and the beginnings of a global heart.” (Muller 1991, p.4)[2]


            Age of Transition. We live in turbulent times. There seems to be more questions than answers at each break of the news when one chaotic event outstrips the other in its limits of absurdity.  As we embark upon the next phase of humankind’s evolution on the planet, we are taking the leap from independence to interdependence, analogous collectively to a “higher value” of existence of personal transformation as Steven Covey puts it (Covey 1989, p. 9)[3].  Glorious as its eventuality may be, there is a sense of  “helplessness as we enter this age of interdependence” (Senge 1990, p. 69)[4] that can only be alleviated if we understand the process of change as a metamorphosis rather than destruction.  In the context of our collective social reality, the age of transition might best be described as the period of gestation before giving birth to a “shared humanness” or the “enlargement of social consciousness and rational cooperation” (Kohn 1990, p. 149)[5].

            New World Order.   Building on his concept of global society, Kant’s theory of world order is not merely ethical, but quite institutional-based. Thus, he spoke of a “federation of peoples (Voerbund)” when necessary to avert external aggressions. (Bushrui 1993, p. 52). He describes it as a “union of states, in order to maintain peace,...a voluntary combination of different states that would be dissoluble at any time.” (Hutchins 1952)[6]. However, for the purposes of this paper, we shall refer to a definition of a much higher magnitude, that of early twentieth century Oxford scholar Shoghi Effendi.  He envisions this new world order as the eventual establishment of  “a world commonwealth in which all nations, races, creeds and classes are closely and permanently united, and in which the autonomy of its state members and the personal freedom and initiative of the individuals that compose them are definitely and completely safeguarded.” (Effendi 1955, p. 203)[7]

            World Citizenship. Succinctly speaking, world citizenship can be thought of as what Adler, in his well known work The Great Ideas: a Syntopticon of Great Books of the Western World, terms as “the political brotherhood of man”. (Adler 1952, Ch. 11, Sec. 8)[8] In more elaborate terms, the same rights and responsibilities accorded to the citizen of any nation-state will also characterize one who is a citizen of the world. We might therefore build upon Aristotle’s conceptual equality of the virtue of the “good man” and the “good citizen” and consider that the “welfare of the state is not the ultimate end of man” since there are “higher goods which command human loyalty” - a loyalty first to humankind: a true world citizen. (Adler 1952, Book 2, pp. 224-225).  In a statement presented to the Commission on Sustainable Development for the United Nations Summit on Social and Economic Development, the Bahá’í International Community explains that “world citizenship begins with an acceptance of the oneness of the human family and the interconnectedness of the nations of ‘the earth, our home.’  ... While it encourages a sane and legitimate patriotism, it also insists upon a wider loyalty, a love of humanity as a whole.” (Bahá’í 1993)[9].

More definitions will be forthcoming in Part 3


[1] Bushrui, Suheil, Iraj Ayman and Ervin Laszlo, Ed. (1993). Transition to a Global Society. Oxford: One World Publishers.

[2] Muller, Robert (1991). The Birth of a Global Civilization. Anacortes, WA: World Happiness and Cooperation.

[3] Covey, Stephen (1989). The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. New York: Simon and Schuster.

[4] Senge, Peter (1990). The Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of the Learning Organization. New York: Doubleday Currency.

[5] Kohn, Alfie (1990). The Brighter Side of Human Nature. New York: BasicBooks (Division of HarperCollins)

[6] Hutchins, Robert Maynard, editor (1952). Great Books of the Western World, Book 42, Immanuel Kant, section 61. Chicago: Encyclopaedia Britannica.

[7] Effendi, Shoghi (1955). The World Order of Bahá’u’lláh. Wilmette: National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the United States.

[8] Adler, Mortimer J. (1952). The Great Ideas: A Syntopicon of Great Books of the Western World. Chicago: Encyclopaedia Britannica, Inc.

[9] Bahá’í International Community (1993). World Citizenship: A Global Ethic for Sustainable Development. New York: Bahá’í International Community.

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