Professor Katz's address follows:
“Thinking Internationally: Internationalizing the Undergraduate Curriculum”
Stanley N. Katz
Keynote Address: Global Penn State Conference 2013
Penn State University, University Park Campus, Nittany Lion Inn
27 September 2013
We are gathered here in University Park to kick off the Global Penn State Conference 2013. My assignment (from the Vice Provost for Global Programs and the Director of Engagement in the University Office of Global Programs) is to speak to you about “internationalizing” the Penn State undergraduate curriculum – although I think the actual task is to consider what it means to internationalize the range of curricula that co-exist in this great University.
1. What do we mean by “internationalization”?
This morning I will, however, have a limited approach to internationalization. My own university is quite unusual, and quite unlike Penn State, in that it has none of the traditional professional schools. Law, medicine, business and the other graduate professional programs have important international agendas, some of which are embedded in their curricula. Although I have a background as a graduate law teacher, for the past thirty-five years I have mostly focused on a combination of undergraduate and doctoral education in the arts and sciences. And my remarks today are intended to address only the challenges of internationalization for undergraduates in the arts and sciences fields. I hope you’ll agree that this is still a large and important topic.
What is the difference, if any, between “international” and “global”? The terms are frequently used interchangeably, but they should not be confused. Philip Altbach (#10), one of the leading scholars of higher education, has remarked that “Globalization may be unalterable, but internationalization involves many choices,” and that is a good start. Crudely, “global” means “concerning the whole world.” Global phenomena are those not limited to particular places. Mostly importantly from our perspective, global phenomena impact the entire world – climate change is probably the most obvious concrete example. “International,” on the other hand, means just what the compound word implies -- something that transcends the nation-state, existing or occurring across borders. Trade, or athletic contests, between nations are good examples.
For education, perhaps the most difficult challenge is to “globalize” the curriculum. It’s hard to know precisely what that might involve, but I suppose at the very least it means to expose students to the range of global phenomena that we are finally aware of both in the present world and historically. And it means to explore the ways in which global phenomena impact just about everything we do nationally. There are exciting possibilities for reconceptualizing curricula globally, though I don’t think there are currently many good examples of what we might do.
One of the most ambitious approaches I have encountered recently was put forward last year in an AAC&U publication by an international group of liberal arts college presidents. They call it “an education for the stewardship of the global commons.” I quote:
We believe it is important to imagine an education fit for global possibilities [whereas higher education used to be framed in purely national terms]. . . .An appropriate university education for everyone, not just a privileged elite, must prepare women and men for participation in these [global] cultures and this commons. The purpose of a twenty-first-century education is to produce graduates who recognize themselves to be of the world and who also assume responsibility for the world.
Their curriculum would require students to acquire a range of “literacies, skills and dispositions for global engagement,” including “respect, vulnerability, hospitality, compassion, agency, agility, fairness, service and leadership.” This is a huge agenda, and would require an institution and its faculty to buy into a series of norms that are currently not very widely held. (#8)
I don’t think most institutions are prepared to make such a leap. But we have only been thinking globally for a relatively short period of time, whereas we have been thinking internationally for at least the last three hundred years of western history. We ought to be prepared to undertake the task of internationalization now. The challenge of “internationalizing” the curriculum is to transcend the underlying nationalism that inspired the growth of the modern university starting in the eighteenth century. At one level this simply requires us to understand the extent to which phenomena are transacted across borders, or take place simultaneously in different places. But, at a more profound level, internationalizing challenges us to think extra-nationally, to see ourselves as involved in decisions and processes that cannot be understood on a purely national basis.
And all the while, as educators and political animals, we have to keep reminding ourselves that although we must think globally, we ordinarily have to act nationally and locally. This is as true for globalism as it is for internationalism. Every global phenomenon occurs in some particular place. So much for philosophy, but I think these are distinctions that we will have to keep in mind throughout the conference.
Perhaps the most compelling reason for encouraging undergraduates to think internationally is that this will enable them to situate themselves more adequately in their own lives. Two of America’s best-known economists made just that argument in 1993 when they were asked why international perspectives were important in the teaching of economics. My colleague Paul Krugman responded:
The problem is that most of what a student is likely to read or hear about international economics is nonsense. . . . the most important thing to teach our undergrads about trade is how to detect that nonsense. . . . our primary mission should be to vaccinate the minds of our undergraduates against the misconceptions that are so predominant in what passes for educated discussion about international trade. (#4)
Paul seems to be saying that forcing undergraduates to evaluate international arguments enables them to develop intellectual bull-shit detectors.
Perhaps more helpfully, my former colleague Joseph Stiglitz argued that:
. . . it is important for students to have an “international perspective” to put the kinds of statistics with which they are confronted into perspective. . . . [W]e often take our economic (and social) institutions for granted. By taking an international perspective, students can come to understand that there are differences, and similarities, across economies . . .(#3)
I suppose that this is simply to say that by studying “the other” we can get a fix on ourselves. An international approach gives us a perspective on the national, regional and local. It constitutes the beginning, at least, of an intellectual GPS.
2. Post WW II strategies for internationalizing the undergraduate program
Most observers contend that the emergence of the Cold War in the 1950s stimulated the creation of international programs in American universities. It was partly a question of “knowing your enemy” and partly a question of knowing the terrain on which the war was being fought – mostly in the developing world. But the result was an influx of both government and philanthropic funds for the creation of a wide variety of international programs. The federal government was especially interested in funding foreign language program, with an emphasis on non-western languages. Both the government and private funders (particularly the Ford Foundation) were also concerned to support “area studies” – scholarship on the government, economy and society of foreign nations and regions, again especially those behind the Iron Curtain and in what was called the “Third World.” Russian language and Soviet studies flourished on American campuses in response to this funding, but so did scholarship and teaching on most of what had earlier been considered the remote areas of the world. The curricula of pre-World War II U.S. higher education had been primarily oriented to our own continental island and to the European nations from which most white Americans had emigrated. This new support for the study of foreign language and areas gave rise to a broad range of expertise, some domestic and some imported, on our campuses. And it gave American undergraduates intellectual exposure to both parts of the world and to ways of life they had not previously encountered.
In general the curriculum came to include a much broader range of international content than traditional liberal arts education had provided before 1945. Our universities also began to encourage American students to travel abroad to study in foreign nations, either in local universities or in special programs for Americans established abroad. Indeed, many U.S. universities established campuses outside the United States. Whereas wealthy undergraduates had long taken the Grand Tour of Europe, a broader range of American students now traveled much more internationally and incorporated formal education more fully into their travel. Here, too, government funding proved helpful. The Fulbright Program was inaugurated in 1948, sending American undergraduates, graduate students and faculty for year-long stays in countries around the world. By the 1960s the trend was accelerated by the creation of the Peace Corps, which attracted American college graduates for life-changing experiences in formerly remote parts of the world, and then deposited them back on American campuses for graduate work. Private funders also created fellowships and scholarships for foreign study, sending many young Americans for post-graduate work. And the number of foreign students, mostly graduate students, enrolled in our universities expanded exponentially, thereby further internationalizing our domestic campuses – adding to the enrichment already being created by the recruitment of foreign faculty members.
What had begun as an exercise in national security preparedness became, over the decades, a program of internationalization of the educational experience of U.S. undergraduates. Whereas many universities and liberal arts colleges had long required the study of “western civilization,” now campuses began to require either “world civilization” or the study of particular non-western civilizations in order to broaden the intellectual outlook of undergraduates. This trend certainly had something to do with the ongoing stresses of the Cold War, but it also responded to the dynamics of post-colonialism, as the old European empires fell apart and new nations came into existence.
As a nation, Americans still traveled less and spoke fewer foreign languages than many other nations, but we were steadily becoming more cosmopolitan and less provincial than the nation in which our parents had been educated. There had always been a tension, mainly hidden on the campus, of education in the name of defense against foreign evil doing (the “evil empire”), but most students perceived only the more positive (“one world”) message of internationalization. The positive message was enhanced by the growing economic strength of the United States, and the rapidly expanding foreign and international business opportunities for our students. More students were studying foreign languages to increase their employability than because of their concern for the political, social and economic welfare of those living abroad.
The problem, however, was that the positive impetus provided by the Cold War began to dissipate by the 1980s, and indeed a reaction against internationalism began to rear its head. Attitudes that verged on xenophobia began to emerge in this country during the Culture Wars of the late 1980s and early 1990s, and reached a dangerous level in the reaction to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. For me, the most disturbing reaction was that of Lynne Cheney (the wife of the then Vice President of the United States, and the former Chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities) who, less than a month after 9/11:
. . . insisted that calls for more intensive study of the rest of the world amounted to blaming America’s “failure to understand Islam” for the attack on the World Trade Center and Pentagon. A letter distributed by the American Council of Trustees and Alumni, which she once chaired, chastised professors who fail to teach the “truth” that civilization itself “is best exemplified in the West and indeed in America.” (#5)
3. What are the barriers to traditional notions of internationalization?
Cheney’s was among the most extreme of reactions against the study of foreign culture, but she was not alone in her concern. One scholar of international education, Olga Bonfiglio, has commented that:
By the late 1980s, conservative educators became alarmed that the international programs of the liberal 1970s would weaken America’s position in the world, because students were being exposed to a “subjective approach [to policies and relationships with other countries] based on feelings and attitudes which either bend to the will of other nations or which value victim cultures and downgrade America” (Fonte and Ryerson, 1994, p.108). These educators objected to concepts like cultural relativism because it took a willy-nilly approach to values. . . . they maintained that curriculum should focus on American cultural values and on Western civilization as the purveyor of progress in the world. (#2)
But Bonfiglio points to an even more serious problem that was emerging for the curriculum in the 1990s. Faculty had been urging students to enroll in courses in foreign languages, area studies and international relations, “but evidence remains that they [did] not “internationalize the curriculum. Instead, they have erected structures [research centers]. These structures came into being largely because they were supported by grants from government, foundations, and other private sources.”
That is to say that external funding enabled area studies scholars to establish centers, institutes and the like that were primarily research oriented. They did not expend their time and energy in reconceptualizing the undergraduate curriculum to reflect their internationalism, and focused on graduate training rather than undergraduate education. The result was that when both federal government and foundation funding for area studies diminished or disappeared by the mid-1990s, the area studies centers declined or crumbled and left only a small imprint on the undergraduate curriculum.
The result has been that that portion of internationalization that drew its strength from faculty research on other parts of the world has declined significantly over the course of the last generation. But nevertheless there is no doubt that a significant proportion of the faculty, a proportion substantially larger than a generation ago, are studying places and topics that are accurately described as “foreign” or “international”. All of the international programs that originated or grew during the Cold War period continue to play a role on our campuses – foreign language study, study abroad, the internationalization of campus human resources and the like.
Why, if this is so, should I worry about the state of internationalization in our universities? Basically, I worry that the “project” of internationalization as an educational strategy has stalled. Some of the underlying national problems have been slow to disappear or be mitigated. First among them is American parochialism. We have improved, but Americans still command too few foreign languages and live (and study) abroad too infrequently. Our news media pay too little attention to the world outside our borders. We are too infrequently interested in the rest of the world. This parochialism not only limits the knowledge and skills available to American faculty and students, but, more importantly, shapes faculty attitudes. My question is how important most letters and sciences faculty consider the internationalization of the curriculum?
I do not know the answer to that question, but I fear that in the social sciences, which during the Cold War era were the bulwark of international studies, fewer and fewer faculty are concerned. The reason seems clear. For at least a decade, social scientists have been moving in the direction of pure science, aspiring to establish high level conceptual hypotheses through complex mathematical and logical processes. The rewards in economics, political science and other social science fields are for those who are most adept at conceptualization and manipulation of data. In economics, Paul Krugman described the trend as favoring “beauty” (“clad in impressive-looking mathematics”) over “truth” (the establishment of empirical understanding of the real world). (NYT magazine, “How Did Economists Get It So Wrong?” 6 Sept. 2009) Krugman noted that “the central cause of the profession’s failure was the desire for an all-encompassing, intellectually elegant approach.” This has meant, in practice, that an economist or political scientist finds it hard (or impossible) to gain tenure for her knowledge of the Japanese economy or the Kenyan political system. Purporting to establish universal propositions is what gets you jobs and promotions. Young scholars understand this perfectly. It means that they have fewer incentives to learn new languages, travel globally or build research networks in the developing world. Who then will the area studies scholars (and undergraduate teachers) of the next generation be?
And the funding environment for international research has also deteriorated very badly. Federal programs such as Title VI and Title VIII have been cut back substantially. The Fulbright Program is funded at much lower levels – and has been redesigned to favor shorter stays abroad. NEH funding has taken a series of hits, and there are an increasing number of conservative attacks on NSF social science funding, which itself looks to be declining dramatically. The same is true in the private sector. For decades the Ford Foundation, until recently the country’s largest private philanthropic foundation, was the principal supporter of area studies research. But Ford began to withdraw from its commitment to area studies in the early 1990s. Ford now has almost no presence in the field, and there are few private funders who fund international research in our universities. The net result has been that American universities have been forced to draw on their internal resources and their institutional fund-raising capacity to support international programs. Quite a few universities have responded positively to the challenge, but many others have lacked either the will or the capacity to respond. On the research side, at least, we are witnessing a concentration of internationalization in a relatively small number of well-endowed institutions. The rich get richer and the poor get poorer. As a consequence, the Penn States of the nation find it hard to keep up with the Stanfords, Harvards and Michigans.
4. The need to focus on internationalizing undergraduate learning outcomes
Nevertheless, all American universities want to internationalize although, as I have already said they
Intend many different things by “internationalization.” They have put into place a large number of programs, have recruited staff, and have redirected their foreign relationships in the cause of internationalizing. The institutional measure of success for each university will be in relationship to the goals of internationalization that it has specified. I have no problem with this sort of diversity in approach.
My concern is for what internationalization means for the education of our undergraduate arts and sciences students. I don’t think an educator ought to be indifferent to the question of what specific learning outcomes we seek for the international education of our undergraduates, since I believe very strongly that the overall goals should be those of liberal education. For the moment, let’s use the American Association of Colleges and Universities definition of liberal education as:
. . . a philosophy of education that empowers individuals with broad knowledge and transferable skills, and a strong sense of value, ethics, and civic engagement. [Liberal learning is] characterized by challenging encounters with important issues, and more a way of studying than a specific course or field of study.” Framed only slightly differently, liberal learning is a broad and interactive approach to undergraduate education that prepares students for a future of active and responsible democratic citizenship, and for fulfilling lives, including an appetite for lifelong learning.
But I know that some of you will object that the AAC&U has left an important word out of its definition: “jobs”. Don’t vocational goals belong in any list of the goals of liberal undergraduate education?
Many individuals and institutions believe that they do belong in the list. Only a few years ago, in 2009, Martha Kanter, then the federal Under Secretary of Education, told an audience at a meeting of the Association of International Education Administrators that “international education cannot be seen as an add-on. . . . The skills and knowledge acquired in international education are the same skills graduates need to succeed in the economy.” And at the same conference, President Nancy Zimpher of the State University of New York urged the audience to implement international education programs on their campuses. She contended that “universities’ international work [has] to be done in the context of trade and immigration policy.” (#1) I don’t disagree with either Under Secretary Kanter or President Zimpher if what they mean is that the skills acquired in a liberal education will prove useful for lifelong employment. But if what they mean is that undergraduates should primarily learn skills that are immediately and specifically employment-related, I disagree strongly.
Indeed, I am not certain that even the AAC&U has its priorities clear on this matter. In its most recent strategic plan (2013-2017), the AAC&U asserts that liberal education “should be reclaimed and repositioned as providing Americans with a comparative global advantage in preparing for work, citizenship and lifelong learning.” (#6) Let’s set aside the “comparative global advantage” language, although I object to the nationalist attitude, but what about the content and sequencing of “work, citizenship and lifelong learning”? I think the order is wrong, for starters. And I’d prefer to prioritize the skills and values in the older AAC&U definition that I quoted. I am afraid that what the new AAC&U statement reflects is the sensitivity, emerging during the Great Recession of 2007-2009, that what students and their parents care most about is employability. The point is that in these days of high unemployment, even for college graduates, universities feel compelled to stress the narrowest utilitarian goals of higher education, and this is just what is being advocated by President Obama and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.
I think that is wrong, disappointing, and dangerous. It represents a dead-end road for undergraduate arts and sciences education, which should be defended on the much broader utilitarian premises articulated long ago by John Dewey. The “acceleration” of education, he said:
. . . depends upon men consciously striving to educate their successors not for the existing state of affairs, but so as to make possible a future better humanity. But there is the great difficulty. Each generation is inclined to educate its young so as to get along in the present world instead of with a view to the proper end of education: the promotion of the best possible realization of humanity as humanity.[i] (Dewey, Democracy and Education, p.95)Dewey is right. If we think that the aim of undergraduate education is “getting along in the world” the larger project of liberal education is at risk. Liberal education is about learning, not skilling.
My task today, therefore, is to convince you that the proper end of undergraduate liberal education is to form the habits of mind required by democratic citizenship. This involves skills acquisition, but the skills required are those of critical thinking, the identification of values and the contextualization of the role of the individual in relation to his or her role in society. To put this in Paul Krugman’s terms, education is not a beauty contest, but training in how to speak truth to power.
By this time, I can understand if you wonder whether I have any practical advice as to how we should use “internationalization” to further the goals of liberal education. I find that a very hard question to answer. I am in favor of nearly all the measures that the universities have taken to internationalize their undergraduate education – courses with international and foreign content, programs devoted to studying both foreign areas and international processes, study and other learning experiences abroad, international diversification of students and faculty, and more. But my feeling is that, in themselves, these discrete efforts at internationalizing are not enough. They do not necessarily cumulate to constitute an internationalized undergraduate education. Too frequently our mistake is to think that by establishing and funding discrete international programs we have internationalized undergraduate education. We have not.
These programs are only educationally useful measures if they are done well and if they relate to one another in a curricular and pedagogically meaningful manner. Each of the international aspects of an undergraduate’s learning experience should contribute in an intentional manner to his cognitive development, contributing to the learning outcomes that further liberal education. Most of our educational programs for undergraduates focus on content, as they should, but their long term impact, if any, will be less in the content retained than in the habits of mind formed.
We now know from cognitive psychologists that the best approach to cognitive development is the facilitation of active learning. When applied to internationalizing undergraduate education, active learning requires creating opportunities for our students to learn for themselves, setting them challenges and encouraging them to task risks. I think it is relatively easy to see how we can do that in particular settings like academic courses and study abroad experiences – although most academic experiences are far from reaching this ideal. The larger problem is how to integrate active learning across the discrete experiences – how does study abroad interdigitate with on-campus academic work? How do we build on-campus support for what has been learned abroad? How can students be helped to integrate their cognitive experiences to cumulate in a truly internationalized liberal education experience? Hannah Arendt put her finger on the problem when she commented that “the problem solvers . . . lost their minds because they trusted the calculating power of their brains at the expense of the mind’s capacity for experience and its ability to learn from it . . .” John Dewey would have agreed.
We will have truly internationalized the undergraduate curriculum when our students develop the capacity, at the end of their college experience to understand what it means to think internationally. They need to develop both the positive, comparative skills noted by Joseph Stiglitz and the warning signals posited by Paul Krugman. They will then seamlessly incorporate an international perspective into their content knowledge and analytical processes. They will be internationalized to the extent that they think internationally. That is a huge challenge, and my argument is that it will not be met by exposing students to casual and unrelated international knowledge and experience. Going abroad and learning about other peoples and places will not suffice, although it might be a beginning for some and a capstone for others. We will only succeed if we can construct and maintain an intentional, four-year effort to internationalize our students minds. I think there are innumerable pedagogical strategies for achieving our goals, and I very much doubt that there is any one best way. And it goes without saying that we will only know we have succeeded if and when we develop and deploy assessments of the extent to which our students can indeed think internationally.
These are the questions that keep me awake at night, and I hope that some of them will worry you. My plea is simply to think beyond the good and useful work that you are already doing to internationalize the intellectual and life experiences of your undergraduate students, to think how they can be interrelated, and how they can be expressed in a life-long international take on life. How’s that for a morning’s challenge?