"Recognizing the relationship among our own lives and all people and living beings throughout the world."
… Denise Ames
The increasing complexity of the world today calls for different approaches to teaching and learning. In response to this need, Denise Ames and Nancy Harmon, founders of the Center for Global Awareness (CGA), have developed books, educational materials, and programs founded on a global awareness approach. We believe that applying the principles of global awareness to education and conversation will promote understanding and engagement for change.
"Global awareness" sounds great, but what does it really mean?
CGA defines global awareness as recognizing the relationship among our own lives and all people and living beings throughout the world. It is a way of understanding the world, a philosophy or state of mind that encompasses a shift of consciousness from a local, national, or conventional mindset toward a broad recognition of the interdependence of all people and nature within the greater global community.
We have identified three components of global awareness: a holistic approach, a global perspective, and cross-cultural mindfulness. All three components interact and overlap with each other.
A Holistic Approach: Seeing the Big Picture
"Holistic" emphasizes the full range of relations among the cultural traits of a system, and the ways in which the operation of those parts helps to perpetuate the whole system. In the context of history and the social sciences, a holistic approach studies how the cultural traits of a society interact with, reinforce, and support each other. These cultural traits include politics, economy, technology, culture, religion, values, and the treatment of the environment. Changes in a cultural trait create a ripple effect, in turn changing other cultural traits.
A holistic approach:
- Looks at the whole system and the relationship of the parts to the whole
- Considers the long-term consequences of actions and events
A Global Perspective: Promoting Tolerance and Understanding
A conventional viewpoint, which sees one's own culture and way of life as the universal standard, is different from a global perspective, which sees a more expanded and integrated view of the world. A global perspective broadens and enlarges our viewpoints and intellectual skills beyond our own identity and culture, expanding toward an outlook that is more inclusive and tolerant. It helps an individual to formulate opinions about the world based on extensive, flexible inquiry, rather than rigid, unexamined, or questionable assumptions. For example, an American individual applying a global perspective recognizes that individualism is a key value in the U.S. but realizes that it may not be of central importance in other countries.
A global perspective involves looking beyond simplistic explanations of complex issues to see global phenomena as part of a constellation of interrelated factors. The wise person can hold two or more opposing ideas together at the same time. He or she understands how much is beyond human understanding.
A global perspective:
- Realizes complexity
- Promotes open-mindedness, inclusivity, and tolerance
Cross-Cultural Views: Thinking Outside the Bubble
Today, many of our social and political divides are rigid and entrenched, blinding us to cross-cultural differences. We retreat into our own bubble of comfort and isolation. Our goal at CGA is to learn about cross-cultural differences, both within our own country and among other nations. It is imperative that we have a recognition of and respect for differences.
A cross-cultural outlook:
- Acknowledges the limitations of one individual worldview
- Sees diverse perspectives
- Endorses diversity of thought
- Rejects stereotypes
- Encourages empathy
- Resists intolerance