Globalizing our education

 Always impressed by the people who talk wisely about what global means. Thank you to Mr. De Bary, professor emeritus, to have spent the time of a life to research and understand the connection between East and West from the educational point of view.


Today I wish to amplify these points in regard to certain specific issues in contemporary education. The common denominator among all of our educational situations is (1) the challenge to sustain any kind of humanistic learning at all in the face of the extreme competitive pressures of modern technologies; (2) the need of most educational systems to reengage with their own local traditions, from which they have been largely cut off; (3) the need but also the difficulty of sustaining this effort, beyond the initial stage, to encompass other traditions so as to achieve, over time, a global literacy as the standard of what every educated citizen of the world should know in order to engage in meaningful discourse with other peoples.


Within each major tradition, this dialogue has taken place through a process of constant, repeated cross-referencing and back-referencing, internal and largely independent of external involvement except to the extent that, from at least the seventeenth century onward, writers in the West, great and not so great, have confirmed for themselves what important writers in the Islamic, Indian, Chinese and Japanese traditions have long held in esteem. Thus in the Islamic tradition al-Ghazali and Ibn Khaldun have based themselves on the Quran and commented on the great Sufis, while European writers, no less than Middle Eastern, from medieval times onward have recognized the stature of al-Ghazali and more recently Ibn Khaldun. Something similar is true of India, with the Upanishads and the Ramayana taking up the discourse from the earlier Vedas, the Gita from Upanishads, and Shankar from both. And it is true too of China, with Mencius, the Laozi and Zhuangzi taking issue with the Confucians, and so on.


Today in a multicultural education that serves human commonality as well as cultural diversity, both content and method may vary in different educational situations, but a core program should make the repossession of a given society main cultural traditions the first priority, and then move on, in a second stage, to a similar treatment of other major world cultures. Further, to the extent that time and resources allow, it would provide for the consideration of still other cultures that, for a variety of historical and geographical reasons, have not so far played such a dominant role in world history (In the East Asian context I would certainly point to Korea in this respect).


[from “Confucian Tradition & Global Education” by W.M. Theodore De Bary]