October 1, 2009 — In his 1801 inaugural address, Thomas Jefferson said that peace, commerce and honest friendship with all nations were among the essential principles of government.
Sir Christopher Ball, an esteemed expert in higher education, says these tenets may be the prize of global education.
Ball addressed University of Virginia faculty, students and guests Sept. 24 in the Newcomb Hall Ballroom, kicking off this year's All-University Retreat on Global Education.
Ball, who was invited by U.Va. Vice Provost for International Programs Gowher Rizvi, called global education "an unbounded concept that can never be fully mapped." He urged educators to seek the essential defining qualities of global education, and said when creating new curricula for global education, educators must consider how people learn as well as what they learn.
One of the greatest challenges for teachers today, he said, is to help students unlearn errors, incompetence and prejudice in a rapidly changing world, in which the population has grown threefold in the past 50 years.
Ball, who was born in 1935 and educated at Oxford University, has served as a government adviser to Prime Minister John Major and held numerous other prestigious positions in higher education institutions; he was knighted by Queen Elizabeth for his accomplishments.
He said that if he were to create the curriculum for global education, he would place man's common humanity first. "Teach your students that we all share a common humanity and that our differences are relatively trivial," he said.
Ball praised U.Va. for what he called its "remarkable" honor code, in which students promise not to lie, cheat or steal. "That is a really good example of a common culture, common standards of citizenship, transmitted from generation of students to generation of students and carried on to the world outside," he said.
Universities can encourage cultural awareness in a variety of ways that do not rely solely on studying abroad, he said. "People who travel in culture – by perhaps visiting a church, or a temple, or a mosque of a faith they don't share" – can learn more about people who are different from themselves, he said.
This year's All-University Retreat on Global Education is the third in a series of retreats focusing on goals set out in the Commission on the Future of the University. The 2008 retreat focused on research, science and technology.
As the host of this year's retreat, Rizvi invited students, staff and faculty to discuss different aspects of global education at U.Va.
Since coming to the University in August 2008, Rizvi has undertaken several initiatives aimed at internationalizing the University, including creating the Center for International Studies and hosting several international visitors, most recently Nobel Peace Prize laureate Muhammad Yunus. He has also collected strategic plans from nearly every school about their international initiatives, which he will integrate into his plans. The vice provost oversees the International Studies office, including its programs for study abroad, and provides support for international students and scholars.