My goal for this post is to discuss appropriate ways to address globalization in the writing classroom. On the surface, it may seem like only small pieces of globalization enter our classroom walls–via students from other countries, electronic devices that were outsourced to other countries, and perhaps the occasional student paper on NAFTA or the psychological implications of social media. But if our mission as college writing instructors is to help our students gain the tools they need to actively participate in their future discourse communities, then we need to tackle globalization–right along with technology and media literacy–head on in the classroom.
I’ll attempt to address it head on in this post too: what is globalization? Is it McDonald’s spreading into every corner of the world? Is it the shipping of red wood trees to China? Is globalization micro-finance NGOs? Is it leaders of the United Nations holding teleconferences? Is it good? Is it capitalism at its absolute worst? Is it all of the above? Doreen Starke-Meyerring of McGill University offers a useful definition in an article on globalization literacy. She explains it like this: “the increasing interdependence and integration of social, cultural, political, and economic processes across local, national, regional, and global levels” in which “people, artifacts, symbols, goods, and services are exchanged more rapidly, frequently, and intensively, facilitated by the Internet, airline travel, wireless networks, and migration.” After graduation, our students’ will need to be able to join this fast-paced, interdependent global community–and knowing how to write a really good thesis statement will probably not be enough (or even helpful at all) for their success.
Deborah Cameron, in Globalization and the Teaching of Communication Skills, argues that “it is crucial for language teaching professionals to engage with questions about what kinds of communication are valuable.” Her overall argument places an emphasis on a more uniform set of skills, and even rules, for communicating within certain discourse communities than I have the patience for, but I have found some middle ground in the teaching of context. If we can help our students learn to understand context–by identifying the author, audience and purpose of a situation–we will be helping them to later identify different, and appropriate modes and genres to communicate in this global landscape.
But I also don’t think that learning to engage fluently with the global community is enough. If my students walked out of my classroom equipped with global literacy and the means to spread their messages and their products across the world, but hadn’t learned to think critically about their global impact in the process, then I would feel like I had failed at the entire thing. Muhammad Yumus, in an article on micro-finance, advocates for more of what he calls social-objective-driven entrepreneurs to aide in the economic divide that globalization has seemingly left in its wake across the world. I think that this term, social-objective-driven, can also be applied to the writing classroom. I would love to see more social-objective-driven papers and arguments! I would love to see more students leaving my class with social-objective-driven writing skills! And social-objective-driven purposes in their discourse communities! And social-objective-driven uses for technology!
Because, in the end, globalization seems like it either has the ability to connect us with the entire world, or to isolate us so that we are only thinking about what is best for us, and what is best for our country. Along with teaching students rhetoric–the art of persuasion–it would also be nice to teach them the art of compassion, and cultural understanding, and the importance of diversity. We can bring these other things into our curriculum if we are intentional about the framing of our assignments, so that our students leave our classrooms able to communicate social-objective-driven ideas with a global audience.
Fagan-Smith, Barbara. “The Changing Role of the Communication Professional.”
Solomon, Helene. “Social Media for Nonprofits.”
Howe, James.”10 Social Media Basics Every Nonprofit Needs to Know.”
Rimalower, George. “Translating Social Media Messages for a Global Audience. Q&A.”
Swan, Christopher. “Connecting the World through Social Media.