The assassination of Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and U.S. Embassy staff in Benghazi, Libya represents the second terrorist attack on the United States on September 11. Eleven years after the al Qaeda attacks on the United States, severe challenges remain.
On September 12, the non-profit organization World Savvy released new research on what American graduates know about the world. It reveals a troubling gap between important world events and trends, and what a rising generation knows.
When you read the research, you’ll see that only about half of those polled can name Libya as a North African nation. Given, the graduates were surveyed prior to the latest attack, but after the uprisings against Muammar Gaddafi.
Only one in four college graduates could name where Afghanistan is, the place of America’s longest war. To put it in context, those polled were in elementary or middle school at the time the World Trade Center in New York collapsed. And yet, they didn’t have the opportunity in their elementary, secondary and in some cases, higher education, to get basic information, let alone think deeply about a nation that is now intertwined with our own.
One can argue that facts, like geographic location, are less important to commit to memory in the age of Google. But a person cannot have a real understanding of foreign affairs and global systems without some rudimentary knowledge, for instance, about roots of conflict that emerge from geopolitics or ideological differences among peoples.
The World Savvy research also made known that 80% of young adults believe that workforce demands are increasingly more global, and 60% say that they would be better job candidates if they had a stronger understanding of world. Yet, only 12% believe their education prepared them for this new world reality.
The demand for greater global competence and deeper learning about the world is clear. And yet, the American school system struggles to provide this type of education to a rising generation.
The most promising approach to changing this is to make the need known. Students, parents, businesses, communities, national security, and every other stakeholder should identify education as a primary means to greater global competency, security, and stability. Specific focus is needed on integrating into the curriculum, knowledge and skills that further understanding of the world and how it works. Find models that work for your communities. Demand that decisions and investments are aligned toward goals that include global competence.
Let’s take what we know about the world today and create opportunities for the next generation to make it better.
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