Think 'Glocal': Today's Students Must Mimic Ancient Scholars Who Traveled to Centers of Learning in Distant Regions to Exchange Ideas and Encourage Innovation

By Jenkins, Karen | Diverse Issues in Higher Education, June 9, 2011 | Go to article overview

Think 'Glocal': Today's Students Must Mimic Ancient Scholars Who Traveled to Centers of Learning in Distant Regions to Exchange Ideas and Encourage Innovation


Jenkins, Karen, Diverse Issues in Higher Education


Why should educators commit to offering an education that is international? Integrating a meaningful international educational experience can be expensive at a time when institutions are facing rising costs and cutbacks. In a poor economy, education is being transformed into a commodity, with students and their families expecting a degree to be the key to finding employment.

Increasingly, educators are forced to convince legislatures that sending students abroad to gain international exposure is in the economic interest of the United States. The economic realities should speak for themselves. Jobs today are created in a global marketplace. Our students need to understand the interconnectedness of the forces that shape and influence commercial markets here and abroad. Then they need to be prepared and eager to step into the global marketplace armed with foreign language skills and cross-cultural understanding.

Travel by students and scholars to faraway countries has a long and distinguished history. During ancient times, scholars in Egypt, China, Greece and North Africa welcomed learned colleagues from distant regions. They journeyed to important centers of learning to visit libraries and exchange knowledge. Europe's oldest university, Italy's University of Bologna, was founded in the 12th century and was followed by universities in France, England and Germany. The vigorous thought exchange in Europe was critical to shaping intellectual life and commercial trade throughout that continent and beyond. Scholars such as Peter Abelard and Franciscus Gratianus were the great intellectual figures of their day, and drew students from across Europe, speaking many languages and bringing with them many new perspectives and ideas. When the students returned to their homes, they carried the new ideas home with them.

History has shown us many times over that education is one of the clearest predictors of a nation's success. A poorly educated populace leads to weakness in the arts and commerce, failed governance and violence both internally and internationally.

Foreign students and scholars, as well as their governments, have long recognized that the United States has the best higher education system in the world. Grounded in the bedrock of the liberal arts and humanities, foreign students and scholars come here to study in record numbers.

In the 2009-10 academic year there were 690,923 foreign students in the United States and 113,494 scholars from 187 countries. These foreign students and scholars contributed an estimated $20 billion to the U.S. economy.

Now, international education is under attack by narrow-minded politicians. …

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