Global Perspectives on Social Change in the World

by Kathy Short, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ

Every two years, the International Board of Books for Young People holds a World Congress in different locations around the globe. The congresses are excellent occasions to make contacts, exchange ideas, and open horizons to global perspectives. In September, 600 people from around the world gathered in Santiago de Compostela, Spain, for panel discussions, lectures, seminars, and workshops around the theme of the strength of minorities. I have found that many so-called “world” conferences are actually primarily composed of Americans who use the conference as an excuse to travel abroad. This was not the case in Santiago—the attendees came from over 63 countries with only 40 of the 600 from the United States. The sessions focused on a wide range of issues related to minority languages and issues of inequity related to children’s books within various cultures and countries. The congress provided rich opportunities to interact with scholars, publishers, and authors from many parts of the world, to view the literature being published in these countries, and to listen to their analysis of the issues within their own cultures. It was a privilege to attend the congress and to be in such a magnificent historic and cultural site. The next IBBY World Congress is in London on August 23-26, 2012 (see Put it on your calendar now!!

Several of us presented sessions and workshops at the congress. During the month of October, we will each take a week to write a blog, sharing some of the key issues explored in our presentations. Janelle Mathis will share the week of October 11, Carmen Martinez-Roldán the week of October 18, and Marilyn Carpenter the week of October 25. Note that all of the papers presented at the Congress will be available on the IBBY web site later this fall.

The mission of IBBY is to build bridges across global cultures and one way of doing this is to engage children in taking action to create change in the world. As I work in classrooms where students engage in thoughtful discussions about global literature, I find that these discussions often involve critiques of discrimination and oppression and talk about the possibilities for change. Less frequent is talk that actually leads to taking action.

This tension of how to support children in taking action has been our focus within a school-based action research project. We struggled with ways of taking action that are not adult-imposed and that go beyond charity or volunteering. We engaged in several inquiries on human rights and hunger that focused on developing authentic and meaningful action projects with children (see WOW Review, Volume I, Issues 2 and 3 for a description of these inquiries

Out of that work, the following criteria were created to consider in developing and critiquing action projects with students in schools:

    • Is the action grounded in the lives and inquiries of children and in their knowledge about the context for that action?
    • Does the action meet an actual need that is recognized by children?
    • Does the action involve collaborations and partnerships with community members, parents, organizations and peers?
    • Does the action involve mutual exchanges of ideas, information, and skills among all participants or involve one-way giving of charity?
    • Do children have responsibility throughout the entire process, including being able to witness the outcome of their action?
    • Does the action invite student voice and choice in making decisions collaboratively about the action with adults?
    • Does the action involve civic/global responsibility for social justice through examining and addressing root causes in order to work for social change?

Children are constructing themselves as human beings by developing the ways in which they think about and take action within their lives and world. When schools avoid action or engage children in action that takes the form of “give a handout to the poor and unfortunate,” we are in danger of reinforcing stereotypes and oversimplifying problems and solutions. Moving beyond talk about global issues in classrooms remains a significant challenge that we need to explore and find ways of addressing.

Note: A more complete version of this paper in pdf or MSWord format can be found at this link.

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3 thoughts on “Global Perspectives on Social Change in the World

  1. Abby says:

    What a great way to become educated on other cultures and countries. I believe it is very important for children to learn about the different types of cultures and people in the world. Students she be introduced to all of these pieces of literature that explore different cultures and societies. Our world is becoming more and more diverse and I believe all of us should teach our children to accept and acknowledge the fact that we all come from different places and backgrounds.

  2. Jenny says:

    I think this is a wonderful conference and would love to be able to attend. A conference like this is great for so many people and cultures around the world to come together and learn about diferent literature. One day maybe I can make it to this great gathering!!!

  3. Paul Bates says:

    One of the best ways to fight evil in the world is to shine a light on it. By developing a real global network of young people who correspond regularly in order to spread the truth, the court of public opinion comes into session. Even young people can write letters to the editors of magazines and newspapers. We need to bridge the global community with things that are tangible.

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