Six PDS Upper School students participated in a global student dialogue on “Global Perspectives on Justice” held on November 18, 2020. Dhruti Raghuraman '22, Arjun Ray '24, Frances Bobbitt '22, Jenna Galla '23, Sumaiyya Malik '24 and Ziya Brittingham '23 spoke with students at 26 schools located in six countries around the world—Bhutan, Canada, Chile, China, India and the U.S. The student-to-student session provided a unique opportunity for perspective-sharing about key events in each student's home country that have inspired national conversations about social justice. By all accounts, this shared experience was a powerful means for students to develop more complex understandings of the meaning and impact of engaged citizenship on social justice issues.
US faculty member and Global Studies Coordinator Christian Cousins worked to coordinate PDS student participation in the global dialogue session, just one of the ways he is seeking to transform the School’s approach to global studies during COVID-19. Mr. Cousins shared, “Not being able to explore many of our traditional off-campus and travel experiences [because of the pandemic] is an opportunity to reflect on effective ways to achieve the key goals of our global studies program."
As he put it, the program's true meaning is about making global connections. "At its heart, global studies is about searching for connections: how are we connected to our community and the wider world? How can we foster growth and empathy through these connections? What positive impacts can we make by broadening our sense of community and belonging? These are all questions that are more important than ever at this time. I see my job as looking for ways to help our students see beyond the horizon even if we aren't able to actually travel there. This means relying on digital tools to facilitate communication, the sharing and challenging of ideas, and engaging with resources, scholars and student peers around the world. As always, our goal is for students to better understand that global studies is about much more than stamping passports; it is a mental framework for engaging with the world.”
The shared conversations organized by the Global Education Benchmark Group (GEBG), a non-profit association of schools with global education programs, are one avenue for PDS students to expand their understanding of the world around them. The November 18 discussion on justice was part of a series that aims to provide students with an opportunity to learn how to engage in respectful dialogue, communicate across differences, and understand multiple perspectives around complex global issues.
After serving as a discussion moderator, Mr. Cousins reflected on the dialogue he witnessed, noting, “I was floored by the depth and nuance with which high school students from all over the world are thinking about the difficult issues that define our historical moment."
Roughly 160 students joined the Zoom call and then gathered in sub-groups of 10-12 in Zoom breakout rooms to explore questions of global justice, with a faculty moderator for each group. "In the group that I moderated, we had students from China, Chile, India, and the U.S. sharing their experiences and perspectives on justice in their home communities. My biggest takeaway was how they questioned and listened to each other. I did very little moderating because they kept following up on each other's questions, expanding or narrowing the scope of topics as needed to find connections between their particular experiences," he explained.
The free-flowing, hour-long discussion was so rich that, of the planned questions, his student group focused on only two of the three items in their time together "because the students were so engaged and invested in learning more deeply what concepts of justice look like in communities different from their own. That curiosity and empathy gives me hope for the future,” Mr. Cousins noted.
The next GEBG-sponsored session is titled "Youth Action for Global Causes" and is designed for students to share about causes they are inspired to work on and discuss their perspectives on the skills and experiences their generation will need to meet future challenges.
Photos (from top): Composite photo (from top, l to r) of Arjun Ray '24, Jenna Galla '23, Ziya Brittingham '23, Dhruti Raghuraman '22, Frances Bobbitt '22 and Sumaiyya Malik '24; Global Studies Coordinator Christian Cousins; photo from a past Global Studies trip to India