Each 9/11 anniversary, I reflect on this George Packer piece in the April 2002 New York Times Magazine. This year, in light of the Mark Zuckerberg-led Internet.org announcement last month, Packer’s words seem particularly relevant:
The globalization of the media was supposed to knit the world together. The more information we receive about one another, the thinking went, the more international understanding will prevail. An injustice in Thailand will be instantly known and ultimately remedied by people in London or San Francisco. The father of worldwide television, Ted Turner, once said, “My main concern is to be a benefit to the world, to build up a global communications system that helps humanity come together.” These days we are living with the results – a young man in Somalia watches the attack on the south tower live, while Americans can hear more, and sooner, about Kandahar or Ramallah than the county next to theirs.
But this technological togetherness has not created the human bonds that were promised. In some ways, global satellite TV and Internet access have actually made the world a less understanding, less tolerant place. What the media provide is superficial familiarity – images without context, indignation without remedy. The problem isn’t just the content of the media, but the fact that while images become international, people’s lives remain parochial – in the Arab world and everywhere else, including here.
… But at this halfway point between mutual ignorance and true understanding, the ”global village” actually resembles a real one – in my experience, not the utopian community promised by the boosters of globalization but a parochial place of manifold suspicions, rumors, resentments and half-truths. If the world seems to be growing more, rather than less, nasty these days, it might have something to do with the images all of us now carry around in our heads.
Our responsibility as educators and parents is to counter the horrific images of 9/11, Benghazi, Syria, and Egypt with images of hope and caring that our children want to carry around in their heads. Visit the Chris Stevens Youth Network photo album, Kennedy-Lugar YES Program Facebook site, or any of the Connect All Schools partner sites for inspiration. Become a Citizen Diplomat and a Connect Educator this October. Give a Global Education Conference presentation and celebrate International Education Week this November.
The outcomes of increasing meaningful cross-cultural experiences for our students will be a critical mass of college and career-ready young leaders who have empathy, trust, and respect for their peers abroad and who have the passion to work together towards a healthier, more prosperous, and safer planet. That’s the image we all should strive carry around in our heads.