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Spring cleaning, binging on Bowie

It’s a planning day here in Broward County, a good day to sit unbothered in my classroom and post links to some of the sites I’ve been browsing lately.

These include (as always) a few interesting posts on suggestions and attempts at education reform. A piece in The Atlantic notes the success of East Asian countries on international tests (no news there, eh, readers?) is based on the determination of educators to stop the “downward spiral” of failure leading to falling behind leading to failure …. Fans of Downton Abbey, Harry Potter, Doctor Who, AICE and any or all other things British might be interested that the UK is once again revising its standards and practices on A-levels, the gap between basic secondary-school competence and higher education. And finally in this category, here is an interesting (and if you look at the comments rather politically contested) argument that the most successful instrument of reform has already happened in the expansion of the Advanced Placement program to more, and more diverse, students.

Looking for lesson plans tied into global education? A very good source is the Pulitzer Center. Here are two lesson plans: one on elections around the world and one on countering radicalization of Muslims in Sweden.

Linguists and lovers of the English language will enjoy this piece, again from The Atlantic, recommending the standardization of “y’all” to distinguish the plural second person pronoun from the singular.

Finally, I don’t know what your latest surf binge involved, but to be honest, for the last three months I have frittered away so much time obsessively watching and listening to David Bowie. It’s like I’ve been in pop culture mourning since his death. Among his immense work are several songs that address the United States and its complex impact on global culture(s). (A parenthesis must open here for a quote from inaugural poet and guy-I-had-drinks-with-once Richard Blanco: “It isn’t where you’re born that matters; it’s where you choose to die — that’s your country.”) Here are some embedded YouTubes of those songs so you can binge too.

“Young Americans” (for some reason that’s the album I’ve been playing the most)

“This is not America”

“I’m Afraid of Americans” (I so wanted ESPN to use this as the theme for the US team’s run to the quarterfinals of the 2002 World Cup, but some prayers are answered “no”).

A stirring version of Simon and Garfunkel’s “America” at the Concert for New York City after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001

“Life on Mars” (a Bowie classic written in 1971; I don’t know what it means either, but the words are lovely): “It’s on America’s tortured brow / That Mickey Mouse has grown up a cow / And now the workers have struck for fame / ‘Cause Lenin’s (or Lennon’s) on sale again. / See the mice in their million hoards / from Ibiza to the Norfolk broads. / ‘Rule Britannia!’ is out of bounds / To my mother, my dog, and clowns.”

Who wants to be a teacher?

These days, teachers don’t encourage others to become teachers. That’s not just me talking, that’s a statistical reality based on a recent Georgia Department of Education survey (that’s Georgia in the Deep South of the United States, not the former Soviet republic). In this post, Tim Elmore points to four reasons why, and eight suggestions to turn things around.

Of course, here at Globalcitizenshipe, we strive to find a global connection for everything, and we found one for this. According to a recent PISA survey, kids around the world are not interested in becoming teachers, but the percentage does vary by country. The United States is below the OECD average, but then again so is Finland–seen by many observers as a very successful system where teachers are aptly rewarded and which should be the focus of U.S. reform. The top five? Turkey, Korea, Indonesia, Ireland, Luxembourg, Brazil, Mexico, Japan, Poland, and the Netherlands. Also, girls were twice as likely to say they wanted to be a teacher than boys, and those who wanted to be teachers were generally less competent (according to PISA tests) in reading and math.

Rather than end this post on downer, here’s a link to Stephen Hawking announcing the top 10 finalists for the $1 million Global Teacher Prize.


Liberty, equality, fraternity

Those of you of a certain age know that one of the biggest tests of faith you can have is to explain tragedy to a child. This week schoolteachers across France–and anywhere else in the democratic world–face that test. The Guardian reports on what the French education minister is doing to help.

With the controversy over whether to accept the huge numbers of migrants fleeing Syria, the OECD published a study claiming that the number of migrants in a school system does not lower the school’s performance. The study does point out, however, that some countries do a much better job than others in helping migrant students have a sense of belonging.

Staying in a war-torn country often means sacrificing a child’s education. More and more, modern warfare involves schools, including using them as military bases or indoctrination centers. Former U.K. Prime Minister Gordon Brown wants the international community to do something.

Finally, what’s an global education blog post that doesn’t pose this question: “What would Finland do?”? According to this study, show empathy–it works.

International Education Week this week

Reposting a message from the U. S. Department of State below. Recent events certainly underscore the importance of building our students’ global awareness.

Dear Teachers and Alumni,

We invite you to participate in International Education Week (IEW) from November 16-20, 2015! IEW is an opportunity to celebrate the benefits of international education and exchange worldwide. The U.S. Department of State and U.S. Department of Education co-sponsor the event together with schools, universities and organizations worldwide.

As you know, international education develops the skills and competencies among individuals that are necessary to succeed in the 21st century global community.  This year’s theme is “Access for All” as we are committed to all people having a quality education and the opportunity to learn about the world.  Your work as teachers is critical to this goal as you help your students acquire knowledge of other countries, cultures and perspectives, work collaboratively across borders, and address common challenges.  You are a powerful multiplier as each of you has the potential to positively influence hundreds or thousands of young minds.

We encourage you to engage your students and host an event as part of IEW.  You may browse events around the world and post your event at

One project that might be of interest to you is the first IEW global “Mapathon.”   This event will feature MapGive (, a public engagement program that encourages people to become digital volunteer mappers and contribute map data for use by aid agencies, governments, and NGOs.  Teachers can organize their own local “mapathon” in which teams collaborate to help trace roads, buildings, and houses in various locations to help inform humanitarian aid missions around the globe.  You can map your own community, a community nearby, or one across the globe!  By coincidence, November 15-21 is also Geography Awareness Week. This is a great opportunity to teach, learn, and discover geography, but of course you can do so anytime of the year.

With thanks for all that you do from the Teacher Exchange Branch at the U.S. Department of State

Exchange opportunities for students

The U.S. Department of State Announces Scholarships for American High School Students to Study Abroad


The National Security Language Initiative for Youth (NSLI-Y) offers merit-based scholarships to study one of seven critical foreign languages:  Arabic, Chinese, Hindi, Korean, Persian (Tajiki), Russian, and Turkish.  The NSLI-Y program is designed to immerse participants in the cultural life of the host country, provide formal and informal language practice, and spark a lifetime interest in foreign languages and cultures.   The application deadline for summer 2016 and academic year 2016-2017 programs is October 29, 2015. Visit for more information.

The Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study (YES) Abroad Program offers  merit-based scholarships to spend an academic year in countries that may include Bosnia & Herzegovina, Ghana, India, Indonesia, Macedonia, Malaysia, Morocco, Philippines, Senegal, Thailand, and Turkey. This program increases understanding between people in the United States and people in countries with significant Muslim populations.  Students live with host families, attend local high schools, do community service, and complete a capstone project.  Applications for academic year 2016-17 programs are due December 1, 2015.  Visit for more information.

The Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange Program (CBYX) offers merit-based scholarships for an academic year in Germany.  The program was established in 1983 to celebrate German-American friendship based on common values of democracy.  Students live with host families, attend local schools, and participate in community life in Germany.  For more information and application deadlines, visit the organization in charge of recruitment for your state at  Deadlines for U.S. applicants range from December 1, 2015 to January 15, 2016, depending on state of residency.

For more information on exchanges sponsored by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, visit or watch this video about U.S. high school student exchanges.   To receive printed brochures and/or posters about our study abroad opportunities, send an email with your request to

For information on having an international experience without leaving home, consider hosting a Department of State- sponsored exchange student.  Learn more at

Interesting graphic on languages of the world

Did you know 1.5 billion people around the world are learning English? And that’s about 1.42 billion more than are learning the second-most popular language to learn (French)?

What country has the largest number of different mother tongues? Would you believe Papua New Guinea?

I could go on and on, and then go further on and on about the implications of these data, but why not check out Alberto Lucas Lopez’ fascinating infographic yourself?!

2015 Teachers for Global Classrooms: India

This blog, along with its writer, has been enjoying the relative lethargy of summer–which means there’s a lot piling up. But until then, here’s a link to a blog entry by Emily Lester, TGC Program Director, on their recently completed trip to India. What she describes brings back my experience vividly.


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