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American high-school students know relatively little about the world outside the boundaries of the U.S.; textbook publishers find "global education" too sensitive an issue to include in their materials; and state departments of education have little money available to improve the curriculum in global education, according to several studies presented at a conference on global education, held last week in Easton, Md.

But if students are to become responsible citizens of the "global village," global education must assume an increasingly important role in the schools, according to the speakers at the conference, which was sponsored by Global Perspectives in Education, Inc., a nonprofit organization.

Not only do students need to understand the issues that confront the world population, but they need to know that their own actions can change the future for the better, according to Herbert I. London, dean of the Gallatin Division of New York University and a future-studies researcher. Mr. London spoke at a press briefing before the conference.

Many of the materials used in both public and private schools present an overly gloomy picture of the future and suggest that famine, overpopulation, and high levels of pollution are inevitable, Mr. London said. This picture, which reflects projections made in a 1972 report by the Club of Rome, "The Limits of Growth," is by no means inevitable, Mr. London said, noting that the Club of Rome itself had modified the projections since that time.

But when confronted with this prospect, he said, students become pessimistic, concluding: "Why should I think about the future? I have no future."

One project that aims to balance the "gloom-and-doom" often presented in the schools is now under way, Mr. London said. Under the auspices of the Hudson Institute of New York, Mr. London and other researchers are working on a curriculum project called "Vision of the Future." The project's materials may be used with existing texts and are intended to show students that there is hope for the future.

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