Harvard Educational Review
  1. Rethinking Globalization

    Teaching for Justice in an Unjust World

    Edited by Bill Bigelow and Bob Peterson

    Milwaukee, WI: Rethinking Schools Press, 2002. 398 pp. $18.95

    Rethinking Globalization is a coordinated effort between a high school teacher and a fifth-grade teacher from a bilingual public school to offer a new understanding of social studies teaching. Published by a nonprofit educational publisher committed to social transformation, Rethinking Globalization is a rich resource for educators who want to teach about global justice from a critical perspective. Educators teaching about this world cannot avoid dealing with the big picture, since issues traditionally confined within national boundaries cannot be understood as isolated or independent of what is going on in the other parts of the world. By pushing students to reflect on their immediate community, teachers can help them to see the global world and how they can make a difference in it. Taking a critical stance against U.S. hegemony, this book aims to spark reflection about global injustice in a different way, breaking down the false dichotomy between "us" and "them." It also shows that there are multiple exploitative situations "at home," and not only "over there" in distant lands. Far from trying to avoid a neutral picture of the effects of globalization, the editors hope to invite "diversity of opinion but . . . not lose sight of the aim of the curriculum: to alert students to global injustice, to seek explanations, and to encourage activism" (p. 5).

    Rethinking Globalization includes a variety of educational resources to alert students to global injustice, such as songs, cartoons, testimonies, historical documents, literary texts, students’ poems, and many other materials teachers can use in the classroom. Also included in the text is a list of videos, video distributors, books and curricula, journals, organizations, and websites all dedicated to global justice (e.g., Tracy Chapman songs, Jamaica Kincaid novels, Ken Loach films, and Eduardo Galeano books). The book has a companion website where visitors can download handouts and other materials.

    Defined by the editors as "curricular without being a curriculum" (p. 8), the book can be used by upper elementary, high school, and college students, as well as teachers and adult learners. As educators themselves, the diverse authors of this volume also share moments of reflection from their lessons, asking "What would I do differently?" The activities included in the volume are thus meant to really push students to reflect on existing world inequalities, to challenge their own thinking, and to encourage them to take actions. For example, the editors suggest that students look at the labels of their own clothes, find out about the place where these clothes were made, and the conditions of production involved in making them. If they discover unjust conditions, students will be encouraged to write a letter of protest to the t-shirt manufacturer or an article for the local newspaper.

    The book’s nine chapters cover a wide range of issues within the globalization debate, such as external debt, sweatshops, child labor, poverty and famine, mass consumption, and environmental threats. Each chapter is structured in the same way, presenting first a particular topic and then related "teaching ideas." The second chapter traces the historical roots of present-day inequalities back to colonialism, the "discovery" of America, and the origins of exploitation through trade. Chapter three is dedicated to helping students unveil historical connections between the colonial past and present global inequalities. The goal here is to question ideas such as underdevelopment, famine, and poverty by discussing their real causes. It is worth noting the editors’ clear position and recognition of, without any reservation, the role played by international agencies such as the International Monetary Fund, the World Trade Organization, and the World Bank. Accordingly, the multiple controversies around the issue of external debt are profoundly dealt with in this chapter, for example, with ironic cartoons that denounce the historical, political, social, and economic consequences of colonialism on the so-called poor countries.

    Chapters four and five focus specifically on global sweatshops and child labor. Unlike other texts, comparisons between "here" and "there" are avoided, thus opening readers’ eyes to the exploitation that also exists within our wealthy societies. In chapter six, the editors present farmers, in the Philippines and India, for example, who revolted against the effects of agricultural globalization, such as the commodification of traditional food, forced food exportation, farmers’ displacement, and poor working conditions. Chapter seven brings the environmental dimension into the debate through hot global topics like over consumption, water scarcity, the depletion of natural resources, and global warming. Again, in all activities, students are encouraged to connect their everyday habits to larger global problems in a very real and practical fashion, thus revealing how our students can be encouraged to think in a more "eco-logical" way. Chapter eight offers some "final words" from people committed to global justice, like the subcomandante Marcos (the Chiapas indigenous insurgency leader), Martin Luther King Jr., Eduardo Galeano, and young activists who persuade each of us to get involved in global justice matters.

    Bigelow and Peterson have done an excellent job sharing their own experiences as critical educators who teach social studies from a global perspective. Their comments and reflections are brilliantly written and clearly discussed by and for practitioners. This practice-oriented tone makes Rethinking Globalization the ideal book to help educators teaching from a critical perspective to challenge their students and overcome the difficulty teachers often face in everyday practice of raising critical questions. Even with the best material, many teachers wonder, How am I going to use this? Will I be able to facilitate such class debates? How will I make sure that all the ideas of the text are brought up?

    Many struggle to connect activities that take place in the local community and classrooms to global issues. The goal of this book is to help educators in their effort to increase student’s awareness of the global world: "Every effort to make a difference needs to be grounded in [a] broader analysis. Likewise, every effort to teach about the world also needs to be informed by the bigger picture" (p. 7). Rethinking Globalization reminds us that big changes can be achieved with small actions developed in our classrooms.

  2. Share


    Drawing on Education
    Using Drawings to Document Schooling and Support Change
    Walt Haney, Michael Russell, and Damian Bebell
    Relating Classroom Teaching to Student Learning
    A Critical Analysis of Why Research Has Failed to Bridge the Theory-Practice Gap
    Graham Nuthall
    The Assessment of Complex Performance
    A Socially Situated Interpretive Act
    Suellen Butler Shay
    Voices Inside Schools - Newjack: Teaching in a Failing Middle School
    Peter Sipe
    Editor's Review of The Human Rights Handbook: A Global Perspective for Education by Liam Gearon
    Jennifer DeForest

    Book Notes

    Rethinking Globalization
    Edited by Bill Bigelow and Bob Peterson

    The Sign of the Burger
    By Joe L. Kincheloe

    Pinstripes and Pearls
    By Judith Richards Hope

    Letters to a Young Activist
    by Todd Gitlin

    Where Girls Come First
    By Ilana DeBare

    Teacher Research for Better Schools
    By Marian M. Mohr, Courtney Rogers, Betsy Sanford, Mary Ann Nocerino, Marion MacLean, and Sheila Clawson