At least some of the manifestations of globalization as a historical process are here to stay. Even if the particular form of "globalization" presented by the neoliberal account can be regarded as an ideology that serves to justify policies serving particular interests but not others, the fact is that part of this account is based in real changes (and to be fair, real opportunities, at least for certain fortunate people). The particular ways in which people talk about globalization today may end up being a passing fad. But as the chapters in this book make clear, at a deeper level something is changing in the areas of economy, politics, and culture that will fundamentally alter the terrain of public and private life. Public education today is at a crossroads. It can carry on as usual, as if none of these threats (and opportunities) existed, with the risk of becoming increasingly superseded by educational influences that are no longer accountable to public governance and control. In our view, nothing less is at stake today than the survival of the democratic form of governance and the role of public education in that enterprise.
Some reform initiatives have been actively supported by UNESCO and other UN agencies. These include, for instance, reforms toward universal literacy and universal access to education; educational quality as a key component of equity; education as lifelong education; education as a human right; education for peace, tolerance, and democracy; eco-pedagogy, or how education can contribute to sustainable ecological development (and hence to an eco-economy); and educational access and new technologies of information and communication (see Nicholas C. Burbules, in this volume). Thus, the influence of globalization upon educational policies and practices can be seen to have multiple, and conflicting, effects. Not all of these can be classified simply as beneficial or not, and some are being shaped by active tensions and struggles. The essays in this book illuminate such dilemmas in all their complexity.
Though often touted as representing the height of economic rationality, globalization has also been portrayed as having a very dark side. Critics repeatedly point out that the contemporary form of globalization , driven by economic power, clearly promotes the hegemony of Western culture and corporations; puts jobs and communities at risk in the rich countries and exploits cheap labor in the poorer countries; increases threats to the environment; and undermines the foundations of democracy and social stability by subjecting national political institutions to forces of economic change beyond their control. Furthermore, as a recent volume of essays (Holm and Sørensen, 1995) has highlighted, globalization is uneven both in its processes and in its effects. It produces concentrations and deprivations which, in the aggregate, constitute an increasingly well-defined global power structure.
Claude Ake, a leading African critical thinker, has argued in this regard that:
Several prominent political analysts have argued variations on this theme. Samuel Huntington, for instance, has put forth inter-civilizational conflict as the new "danger" to the dominant powers in world affairs, stating that "...the efforts of the West to promote its values of democracy and liberalism as universal values, to maintain its military predominance and to advance its economic interests engender countering responses from other civilizations" (Huntington, 1993: 29); and he does not hesitate to take his argument to its logical conclusion, predicting that: "The next world war, if there is one, will be a war between civilizations" (Huntington, 1993: 39).
The controversy and rebuttals provoked by Huntington's work are not of immediate concern here; however, his argument does provide important insights into some prominent conflicts of globalization. Globalization in its contemporary form is the carrier of values which are essentially Western and liberal in character, but they are being aggressively promoted internationally as universal values, the inherent worth of which should be obvious to all right-thinking people. This is the perspective behind such notions as Francis Fukuyama's (1992) "end of history" thesis, or the standard package of liberal economic reforms prescribed for all struggling economies by the International Monetary Fund (Sachs, 1995: 51). Huntington is explicit about debunking the globalization myth that world culture is Western culture, and argues further that:
Fundamentalisms of various kinds are prominent in the conflicts of "cultural reaction." Traditional identity groups in non-Western societies were already put on the defensive during the modernization of their societies as Western institutions and values were introduced through state-building. They feel even more threatened now as their national institutions are undermined by the international pressures described earlier . Both the pace and direction of change in these societies "...accelerates the search for a single, often mythologized truth that can reference all social mores and practices," (Waters, 1995: 130) and fosters a kind of fundamentalist religious and ethnic movement which is "..A value-oriented, anti-modern, dedifferentiating form of collective action - a socio-cultural movement aimed at reorganizing all spheres of life in terms of a particular set of absolute values" (Lechner, 1990: 79). Globalization thus sets the stage for the confrontation between what Benjamin Barber has called "McWorld" and "Jihad." Though covering much of the same ground in his analysis as Huntington and Fuller, Barber goes further to show how neither globalizing commercialism nor parochial solidarity bodes well for democracy, and he trenchantly critiques the role of religion as a contributing cause to the conflict, characterizing contemporary fundamentalist movements as:
From this perspective, the conflicts discussed above reflect a spreading determination of the world's peoples to promote alternative agendas to that currently driving globalization, and to thereby participate in decisions shaping the future of their planet; a determination which should be seen as democratic in the broadest sense of the term. The very acceleration of this trend, enabled in large part by new information technologies, permits a degree of optimism that adaptive responses to the conflicts will eventually be found. However, the continuing gap between unity and integration in the contemporary world order foreshadows further tensions and conflicts until its institutions and processes of governance can accommodate both the universalizing and the localizing effects of globalization.
The question we are facing now is, To what extent is the educational endeavor affected by processes of globalization that are threatening the autonomy of national educational systems and the sovereignty of the nation-state as the ultimate ruler in democratic societies? At the same time, how is globalization changing the fundamental conditions of an educational system premised on fitting into a community, a community characterized by proximity and familiarity? The origins, nature, and dynamics of the process of globalization are, therefore, a focus for concern of educational philosophers, sociologists, curriculum workers, teachers, policy makers, politicians, parents, and many others involved with the educational endeavor. The processes of globalization, however defined, seem to have serious consequences for transforming teaching and learning, as they have been understood within the context of educational practices and public policies that are highly national in character.