The Upside of a Global Village

I share the story of the Flat World and the Global Village with Paul the Preindustrial Poet. I expect him to nod in agreement, but instead he responds with, “Tom, I think you’re creating a false dichotomy.”

“What do you mean?”

“Why  do you have to have either round or flat?  Why go global or local?  Can’t it be both?”

“I’m not sure it can.  I think you have to make up your mind where you plant your feet.”

“Perhaps.  But the forces of a flat world are here regardless of what you feel.  If I ignore it, I am doing my students a disservice.  However, if I teach them to think critically about the whole flat world concept then they can be critical thinking citizens of this flat world.” 

“But aren’t they better off acting in the local community where they at least have a voice?”

“If they only think locally, their world view will be myopic.  It becomes tribalism.  If they go global without knowing their own backyard, it becomes imperialism and colonialism.  If they think globally and locally, they avoid the extremes.  They walk in tension, yes, and they face a certain level of confusion.  Yet, they also learn to navigate that confusion.”

“I see your point, but there is something unnatural about the Global Village.”

“I don’t disagree.  It’s inhuman.  It’s industrial.  We let the steel steal the soul of the people in exchange for instant communication.  I see your point.  However, who better to humanize it than your students? Let them act locally and communicate it globally.  Let them think about global issues in their own community.  But also let them think about how their own locale affects the entire world and if the time is right let them partner across the world with fellow students.” 

“That sounds like idealistic romanticism, Paul.”

“I’m not pretending it’s easy.  I’m not suggesting that pen pal networks will bring world peace.  But respectful dialog is a powerful force.  And if you don’t allow your students to participate in the global dialog you create your own ghetto.”

“I guess it’s just personal for me.  When I was standing on the plains with the sun rising, surrounded by my family, it all felt natural. It felt right.  It felt like I lost something when I moved to the city.  And it feels like we all lost that something in the process of the flattening of the world.” 

“So, have one foot in the factory and one foot on the farm.  Have one hand on the pen pal networks and one hand holding a pint with a friend.  Garden and write.  Be open to the world without shutting out your neighbors.  I’m not saying it’s easy.  Paradox is always harder than polemic pursuits.”

Paul has a point. Whether I agree with it is up in the air.

So pencil me in.  Don’t stain me with ink.  Let me live the graphite duality of global and local, of technophile and Luddite of urban and rural.  Let me experience the monochrome mystery that never truly hits black and white – the gray reality of paradox.  Pencil me in so I avoid the extremes of myopic parochialism and arrogant imperialism.  Pencil me in, because life is temporary, a vapor, in constant flux, in tension and harmony.  Nothing in this world is entirely permanent. Pencil me in.


  1. You know, I think students need BOTH. They need a global perspective and local activism. They need to know how to work with people and the person around the corner! We cannot ignore either - we need both.

    I don't know why there has to be a choice, but honestly, right now, most schools are doing NONE of either. Students aren't interacting globally nor are they acting locally and that is just sad.

    We just don't need a choice where there is none required. It is like choosing between air and water - both are essential. Now, granted, collaboration isn't really as essential as air and water, and yet they are both vital parts of what students need to understand!

  2. That balance is what I strive for in my class. However, it is admittedly difficult and the learning curve was harder than I had expected.