Buzz Words and Ideals

At Macalester, there are a lot of efforts to interpret “hackneyed buzz words,” as Professor Samatar termed them, like civic engagement, multiculturalism, and yes, global citizenship. This includes the Live It grant’s effort to develop and compile students’ understandings of global citizenship. An important component of my definition of global citizenship is to look inward in order to identify and remedy the issues we face as a society, and then expand that vision to larger communities and the rest of the world. As a citizen of the United States, I look to engage my ideals with a patriotic critique of my country and situate this in the context of the rest of the world. It starts with this project, but I hope to incorporate this perspective into the role I play on a global context, however big or small that ends up being.

All over the world, people struggle with life’s uneven circumstances, searching for economic equality and equality of treatment by others and under the law. The extremes of this vary. In some places, people face an impossible task of rising out of an undesirable situation, such as poverty, discrimination, violence, etc… Other places provide a better opportunity to do so. But nowhere is it easy.

In the United States, we would like to believe we live in a meritocracy. This rings true in some of the greatest stories of the improvement of people’s personal condition, from President Obama to the individuals we encounter on a daily basis. I certainly identify with this narrative. However, doing so leaves me in a weird bind, between my family overcoming the challenges of improvement to reach its promise, but also witnessing stagnancy for many as they slipped back down the path of meritocracy, unable to move beyond the enormous barriers they faced. From this, I see the need to improve upon the promise of upward mobility through access to higher education and will begin doing my part to address this need.

Sometimes, work on a community level seems insignificant in comparison to the imposing problems the world faces. I have to remind myself that people across the world hold the same ideals as me and have devoted their lives to the realization of these ideals in their own locality. Together, our accomplishments need to come together and forge the groundwork of say, a large and diverse educated world population.

I admit this sounds lofty, but is it also not necessary? As Professor Samatar stated, “Without ideals, life falls flat.” In the coming age of globalization and technology, we cannot effectively work toward equality without doing so in the area of education. In the United States, enormous disparities exist between students on the basis of race and class. In many parts of the world, educating more women will be essential to improving the life conditions of millions of people. Ideals like these drive the critique of society and culminate in the progress of society. The ideal of improving access to information on the college application process to high school students motivates my project. At the same time, other people lead similar efforts, driven by similar ideals. Some day, they can emerge in the form of an equally educated populace. Does that sound idealistic?

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