Teacher Writes

The Making of The Global Citizen – By Shoma Lahiri

Global citizen in the making
Global citizen in the making

A causal interpretation of this term would mean someone who acculturates between a microcosm of the immediate self and relevant world, and stretches it to a larger sensibility; an individual who understands the logic of his/her surroundings but partakes in decisions that concern others as well, at an inter-spatial level of nations/ planets etc.

The Global Citizen

Peeling the layers of the global citizen, we see that every person is largely born into a family, which is itself an example of an enveloping culture – this teaches the tenets of typically observed social approvals such as discipline, mannerisms, respect, interaction, and sharing. Thus, the family develops the  base to these while the school/ educationists help the individual to interpret this to the now-expanded circles of sociability, for example, the parent teaching their children to ‘listen’ and interpret words and gestures; while  the school teaches it to apply to their contexts of study and organized behavior.

At this stage, would surface, true sparks of global sensibility – any learning is reinterpreted to form opinions on issues and matters at the school level, but have greater connects to the global context. For example, uniforms and school behavior are symbols of discipline and respect to the educational institute; or at least that is the intended effect. For it to be truly effective, the role of the microcosm becomes even more important. In school, a typical student is expected to maintain above average standards of hygiene (grooming and cleanliness for hands/ face/hair etc) and general grace in the uniform (clean and pressed garments, carried well); in turn to aim at creating respect for larger norms of the regime, discipline and presentation.

The student in school uniforms would interpret the significance of the uniform being worthy of the respect it commands the armed forces and the police and the bonding it brings with it in the fraternity of factory worker. However if the experiences in the microcosm are not aligned with upholding the above, it can have the inverse effect – thus if that typical student knows that the family or friends would ideally spend less time or money on these uniforms and more on personal items (say, buying the top notch fitment in a mall, but less than flattering sizes or fits in school uniform choices) it would indicate (at least to some extent) that one is better than the other; and hence needs lesser ‘respect’.

The key is equality – if these experience pay equal attention to personal and social grooming – say spending the same time or money on the fitment of school uniforms/ grooming (yours truly indicates gently towards buying ill-fitting or large sizes, untrimmed ends and wrong belts and socks); it would indicate that both are types of discipline and methods of expressing their own self-esteem. In the global aspect, it would mean that this particular citizen is well aware of larger norms and their role in them; especially within the time and place – after all an Indian public or private school doesn’t allow the best representations of young adult expression or admiration as much as college would (a nod towards colorful hair, partial hair, no hair or extensions even; in balance with glove tattoos and multiple piercings).

After school, comes the period of further change and understanding of norms – this time in terms of insidious nuances of what is accepted or rejected  – thus the currents of what is ‘popular’/ ‘beautiful’/ ‘rich’/ ‘cool’ creates spaces for cliques that emerge. Hence a ‘popular’ student in school; well versed in behaviors that mark acceptance from external circles can remarkably fail in college – the global citizen is now required to unlearn and relearn much of social norms.

Since this is an individual lens, young adults must question critically (not for rebellion sake) of what it takes to succeed and create a space for themselves. Ideally, this would require revisiting elements of their own cultural or national heritage, political norm and finding their space within it. For instance; discovering that certain norms highly discouraged in school (say for instance interaction with the opposite sex, heavily discouraged in most Indian schools across demographics) is actually counter- productive in developing methods of behavior that help successful acculturation/ adaptation to new environments (ex: social inhibition or lack of constructive ways of interaction on both sides that could reduce even regular conversations and increase possibilities of objectification/ stalking/ harassment etc). Thus in this context, a global citizen would try to develop a greater acceptance or tolerance of differences; and work out their own role within it; to work out existing complexities designed to create advantages on both sides.

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Here comes the value of independence and the intelligence to use it – very often in the constant shift of norms individuals are likely to ‘give up’ and adopt extremes without realizing the final consequence of it. It can be as insidious as buying a certain brand of clothing – with high street brands being most popular (HnM/Zara/ M&S) which people do accept, but without a single thought or questions of what/when/who/why – in the western world, it is well known that these brands contribute to businesses of sweatshops, where workers are severely underpaid to maintain low retail prices and quick turnaround. It would only take a moment to question the choice, explore it and (hopefully) doubt it; to look for those brands that create less of a waste footprint and uphold labor laws (The People Tree, FabIndia).

The next would be the a version of the ‘shoved down’ patriotism –  for example, beef bans, contorted Hindutva, and Puritan notions on women’s clothing – quite a few adults hold this reality to be true and worthy; but the global citizen must strive to question its origins (for example in areas of North East and Kerala, both Indian states; beef and pork are part of the cultural heritage in consumption patterns; but the fear surrounding it now may cause it to hide the claim and reduce evidence of these dishes entirely, in turn losing a part of national heritage) – why ban a certain type of meat/ who created a the notions of orthodoxy/ what constitutes closedness while interpreting religion or culture.

In sum, a global citizen is marked by an insistence to strive towards “ That Heaven of Freedom…Where the world has not been broken up into fragments, by narrow domestic walls….”

And towards greater synchrony and independence of questioning and thought.

This article has been written by our very own teacher Ms. Shoma Lahiri, headmistress of DPSG PV F block. 

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