Battery Yates

Battery Yates
Battery Yates, Sausalito, CA

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Global Journal 1: Global Citizenship as Process

Among other things, I teach a class at Kansas State University called "Global Citizenship." It's a year-long program for first-year students in which we critically discuss our own identity formation and how, with greater self-awareness, we can act more ethically and autonomously. My co-leaders (Leigh and Kayla) and I will then take students abroad over Spring Break to a location that varies year by year: Hong Kong last year, Paris this one, and probably Tokyo in 2018. After the study tour we reflect openly on our experiences and how to put them in service for, by, and with others.

It's pretty cool, I have to say. I'm lucky to have the support network at Kansas State to allow me such a passion project and students earnest and intelligent enough to contest themselves so powerfully.

Serialized essays comprise my course's primary assignments. I call these "Global Journal Entries," a means to encourage students to reflect, with my comments as a prodding nudge, on their self-development at such a key juncture in their lives. Last year I failed to keep up with my hand-written journal. (I even found one at a bookstore chain branded with the Tolkien-inspired name for our program: "Not All Those Who Wander Are Lost.") My learning assistant this year, Kayla, inspired me with her own journaling to try to follow through this year.

So begins the first of my Global Journal Entries here on this blog. I'm really looking forward to rereading these over time, so here's hoping I keep up.

Global Journal Entry 1 from LEAD 195: Global Citizenship I

What does it mean to be a global citizen? Are you a global citizen now? Why or why not?

I refuse to buy the premise of this question. (Ok, an aside: I wrote it, of course, in what consider an intentionally misleading way.) This phrasing assumes that global citizenship is a status, something one can "be." It is not.

Instead, I see global citizenship as a process; a goal-driven behavior, not a status to own; an unattainable ideal for which to strive, not a title that should flatter or encourage complacency and spiritual or psychological comfort. It is the process, the neverending struggle, to understand one's protean self and leverage that self in the service of personal and human welfare simultaneously. It is to embrace continuously the paradoxes of equality for all yet special attachment to some, of global and local commitments in a reality in which meaning is not transcendent but constructed through human experience.

I may be practicing my global citizenship now, but that doesn't mean I'll be doing so after I finish writing this post, or an hour from now. It is self-consciousness, but only in part; it is also action, meant to promote ethical and sustainable human flourishing (yes, yawn, eudaimonia) without utilitarian self-sacrifice. My teaching, I tell myself, is a manifestation of my global citizenship; instruction both challenges me in a satisfying way and others (I hope!) to think critically and ethically about their actions.

The process itself is the point. Through our striving, we can make ourselves and others more ethical, more free, more equal, more empathetic, and happier, as that is how we construct the meaning we seek.

I could write (and hope to over time) a lot about the intellectual foundations of my conception of global citizenship--its kinship to and criticisms of the work of Aristotle, Mengzi, Zhuangzi, Buddha, Machiavelli, Kant, Bentham, Mill, Berlin, Rawls, Gilligan, Habermas, Sandel, Butler, Bennett, Crenshaw, Nussbaum, Appiah, just to name a few (!). I recognize and want to analyze in more depth the possible colonial, imperialist, white, male, Anglo-American, Judeo-Christian, cisgender, ableist, bourgeois, Millennial, self-indulgent intersections that may condition my view of global citizenship, as we discuss all of these topics and more over the course of the year-long course.

But I won't do so now, in the spirit of this entry being a short reflection.