Taking Action - The Antidote to Fear
Dr. Anthony Jackson, Vice President for Education and Director of the Center for Global Education at Asia Society (retired)
Advisor to Community Catalyst Partners

In Fall, 2022, a much-revised second edition of the book authored by Veronica Boix Mansilla and me, Educating for Global Competence: Preparing Our Youth to Engage the World, will be published by ASCD Press.  When the original work was published nearly 10 years ago, globalization was widely embraced as the driving force toward a “flat” interconnected world of increasing integration and interdependence. 

 

While the pandemic has renewed our understanding that the fates of people around the world are tightly intertwined, the xenophobic reaction to the spread of the virus epitomizes a broader “anti-global” shift among many worldwide, and with it a rise in nationalism, nativism, and myriad forms of “othering” at the heart of prejudice and oppression.   The hope of globalization for a more united human family has given ground to divisiveness and fear. 

Amanda Gordon, the brilliant, young African American woman who provided the 2021 inaugural poem “The Hill We Climb”, wrote in a recent New York Times editorial, “If you’re alive you’re afraid. If you’re not afraid, you’re not paying attention.” 

Youth today are paying attention, whether they intend to or not.  They are awash in a digital ocean of information, of truth and fake news, often tinged with an aura of pessimism.  They are neither blind nor immune to the anxieties of their parents and other adults.  How can education help them navigate away from fear and despair toward hope?

We need the kind of education that drives a current high school student, Skylar Griswold, to found Future Generations Now, an organization that provides youth global opportunities to engage in social impact projects to create the world they want to live in now. Griswold was a student at the ISSN’s Vista Charter Middle School and, in December, will receive the 2022 United Nations Global Youth Humanitarian Award for her “hands on, action-driven approach to activism.”

I believe the answer lies in engaging students in education that intentionally creates opportunities for them to attack their fears and concerns head-on through informed, courageous action.  Referencing two critical domains of education for global competence, it’s by developing students’ capacity to investigate the world through deep critical analysis, immersing them in universal values such as human dignity, inclusivity, equity, and sustainability, and providing guidance and opportunities to take action on the issues that touch both their fears and their passions.

We need the kind of education for civic engagement that enables young women like Amanda Gorman to overcome being “scared of failing my people, my poetry,” to deliver her remarkable poem on the world’s biggest stage.  Education that drives a current high school student, Skylar Griswold, to found Future Generations Now, an organization that provides youth global opportunities to engage in social impact projects to create the world they want to live in now. Griswold was a student at the ISSN’s Vista Charter Middle School and will in December receive the 2022 United Nations Global Youth Humanitarian Award for her “hands on, action-driven approach to activism.”  

 

The antithesis of fear is hope, and one path to hope is through personal and collective action for the common good. It’s our job as educators to empower youth, like Gorman and Griswold, to make hope happen by cultivating in them the capacity and disposition to be an actor in their world, not a bystander.