Walker Art Center
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Interactions/Intersections: Cultural Globalism and Educational Practice


on me to go out and make sure different communities are culturally enfranchised. They already are. They're already making waves, but they are small waves only because they don't have a stage. My practice has shifted from a need to initiate conversations to working with people who have already started them.

One of the most recent examples of this was a student forum we hosted. After the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, Muslim students at the University of Minnesota from Africa, Saudi Arabia, and other regions felt they needed to have a conversation about what it means to be Muslim and, specifically, Muslim in America.[4] They wanted to discuss how Islam is a global culture, and how they, as Americans or as foreign students in America, need the protection that all Americans deserve in terms of not being hunted down and questioned simply because they're here and they're visible as being different. They were not negotiating their right to be "different" but rather demanding the respect and protection that everyone else takes for granted.

SS: It was affirming that the students perceived the Walker as a relatively neutral site and safe place to have a very challenging public discussion. There has been a great deal of research and discussion in the field about the museum's role as a civic institution. One report even dared to ask the question, "Should museum professionals view themselves as citizens first and museum staff second?"[5] For me, the idea of the "small" conversation or collaboration is shorthand for creating multiple and flexible strategies of paying attention to and supporting the social transformations taking place here and throughout the world.

SR: The education advisory committee is another example of a small conversation. That group is a small circle of people involved in educational systems, either as teachers, administrators, teaching artists, or professors teaching education at the college level. This year, largely because of our involvement with the global advisory group, we decided to engage these teachers in a discussion about what is appropriate for us to offer schools in terms of resources and educational experiences around ideas of globalism. Initially the conversation reminded me of what Christi mentioned earlier, that the understanding of certain words, such as globalism, shifts in different contexts. We needed to unpack the associations we had with that term, in particular how globalism and multiculturalism mean different things.

Multiculturalism in the 1980s and 1990s had to do with the local--understanding cultures that form a diverse local community. Multicultural learning helped us to be citizens of a very diverse community by understanding traditional practices, histories, and ways of communicating and living. Globalism has different connotations. It is about the world today and the interconnections between economic systems, the effects of new telecommunications and technologies, environmental concerns, and political dynamics as well as the cultural and historical contexts.[6] In schools, globalism crosses many disciplines and subjects. Because teaching from a global perspective is so complex, it is often not specifically part of school curricula.

This generation of students will probably form their ideas about globalism from the media, marketing, and the Internet. I imagine we'll go through the same cycle with globalism education that we did with multicultural education, where first of all there's a questioning, then an acknowledgment of what's lacking, and then an integration

4 Understanding September 11 was presented by the Interdisciplinary Center for the Study of Global Change/MacArthur Program, University of Minnesota, in partnership with the Walker Art Center and the Institute for Global Studies, University of Minnesota, on November 12, 2001, at the Walker Art Center. This community forum featured two panel discussions. The first, "Effects on Civil Liberties," was chaired by John A. Powell, founder and executive director of the Institute on Race and Poverty (IRP) at the University of Minnesota Law School; other panelists were Keith Ellison, attorney with the law firm Hassan and Reed Ltd.; Joan Humes, Assistant United States Attorney and civil rights coordinator for the U.S. Attorney's Office, District of Minnesota; and Joseph Margulies, a principal in the law firm Margulies and Richman. The second panel, "Arab-Americans and Muslims in the Fabric of U.S. Society," was chaired by Ragui Assad, associate professor of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota; other panelists were Dominique Najjar, member of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee; Fatma Reda, MD, FAACP, clinical associate professor at the University of Minnesota Medical School and associate at the Center for Human Rights, University of Minnesota Law School; and Ahmed Samatar, James Wallace Professor and dean of International Studies and Programming at Macalester College, St. Paul.

5 Ellen Hirzy, Mastering Civic Engagement: A Challenge to Museums (Washington, D.C.: American Association of Museums, 2001).

6 See Roland Case, "Key Elements of a Global Perspective," Social Education 57, no. 6 (October 1993), pp. 318-325. In this article, Case, a Canadian social studies educator, defines two interrelated dimensions for educating from a global perspective. The substantive dimension includes knowledge of the world today and how it works. The perceptual dimension encompasses concepts and attitudes such as open-mindedness, anticipation of complexity, and empathy, from which we want students to perceive the world.