Educator Proposes a Global ‘Core Curriculum’

By Susan Hooper — November 27, 1985 3 min read
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The director of a leading U.S. education association this month urged representatives of 10 other Western nations and Japan to press for the development of a “world core curriculum” based on knowledge that will ensure “peaceful and cooperative existence among the human species on this planet.”

Gordon Cawelti, executive director of the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, made his proposal at a 12-nation international-curriculum symposium held in Enschede, the Netherlands.

The meeting, jointly sponsored by the ascd and the Netherlands’ National Institute for Curriculum Development, was attended by educators from Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Great Britain, Iceland, Italy, Japan, Spain, Sweden, West Germany, and the United States.

In a speech to the group, Mr. Cawelti said that the “increasingly global interdependency” of nations demands new approaches to the task of bridging disparate cultures and building international cooperation.

Such politically based solutions as the World Court and the United Nations “haven’t been great successes,” he said in an interview following the meeting. “Maybe education can provide another way.”

In recent weeks, other American education groups, including the Council of Chief State School Officers, have also called for a greater emphasis on international issues in the curricula of U.S. schools.

Mr. Cawelti’s world core curriculum would be based, he said, on proposals put forth by Robert Muller, assistant secretary-general of the United Nations, in his recent book New Genesis: Shaping a Global Spirituality. The four basic elements of the proposed global curriculum include:

“Our Planetary Home.” Studies of the universe, space, the sun, and the earth, with particular attention to the earth’s atmosphere, plant and animal life, energy sources, and preserving the ecosystem.

“The Human Family.” A review of “the total world population,” including discussions of human migration, geography, races, sexes, children, health, living standards, and social organizations.

“Our Place in Time.” Courses that would help students understand the history of the planet and of “human institutions,” with the goal of learning about “mistakes that have been made and can be avoided.”

“The Miracle of Individual Life.” Studies that would provide students with the knowledge necessary to develop “good physical, mental, moral, and spiritual lives.”

Mr. Cawelti said following the meeting that despite the “great deal of pride all countries have in their own core curriculum,” he was encouraged by the reception his remarks received. Those attending the symposium, he said, shared a common response “to the urgency of defining what global interdependency means for the schools.”

While conceding that development of such a curriculum is “really a very long-term undertaking,” Mr. Cawelti expressed optimism that discussions would continue among the countries attending the symposium.

He predicted that concrete progress would be made “by the turn of the century.”

‘Cultural Differences’

The biggest hurdle to overcome, Mr. Cawelti said, is “individual cultural differences.”

“We all teach our kids that we’re the best, and we’re the only political system,” he said. “There are lots and lots of others around the world. You may not agree with them, but you have to understand them.’'

But his work with various school districts, Mr. Cawelti said, has shown him there is a growing awareness among teachers and school officials that “we are a shrinking globe” and that international perspectives are increasingly important.

Other Calls for Action

In related developments:

The Council of Chief State School Officers last week recommended that states adopt more stringent foreign-language requirements and develop programs that give students a better international understanding of human events.

Global Perspectives in Education, a nonprofit group that promotes international education, announced last month the formation of a commission to examine how the nation’s schools teach about other countries. (See Education Week, Oct. 23, 1985.)

A version of this article appeared in the November 27, 1985 edition of Education Week as Educator Proposes a Global ‘Core Curriculum’


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