Posted tagged ‘global citizenship’

In Celebration of International Education Week (IEW)


Given the focus of this blog, I thought it was only fitting that I devote a few posts to International Education Week (IEW), “an opportunity to celebrate the benefits of international education and exchange worldwide. This joint initiative of the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Department of Education is part of our efforts to promote programs that prepare Americans for a global environment and attract future leaders from abroad to study, learn, and exchange experiences in the United States.” 

To kick off the week was a post entitled Vietnam Retains 8th Place Ranking Among Sending Countries based on the 2012 Open Doors Report on International Educational Exchange, released by the Institute of International Education (IIE). 

There will be another post about Vietnam as one of the top four emerging markets for international student recruitment, based on a recent World Education Services (WES) report and, possibly, one about US students visas in Vietnam (The US Student Visa: It’s Not Rocket Science!).  I will probably close out the week’s celebration with some reflections on three years of blogging about issues near and dear to my heart and mind. 


“The Sea of Learning Has No Shore”


No “information, insights or intrigue” in this post just a simple yet profound sentiment that has been expressed in different cultures throughout the ages.  It’s one I enjoy seeing and contemplating, so much so that this picture graces the walls of my office.   

Talking Nationalism, Patriotism and Global Citizenship with US Students in Vietnam


Last month, I was invited by a colleague from Augustana College (Illinois) to meet with a group of her students who were in Vietnam on a short-term study abroad program.  The students had spent five weeks at Augustana, followed by another five weeks in southern, central and northern Vietnam.  The website describes the program as follows:  Vietnam is an exciting destination for a U.S. college student. This international learning community draws upon multiple disciplines – political science, literature, economics, business, and history among them – offering students a rich interdisciplinary context in which to study Vietnam.

One of the assigned readings was a co-authored book chapter of mine entitled “Developing Globally Competent Citizens: The Contrasting Cases of the United States and Vietnam” (with Duong Thi Hoanh Oanh) that appeared in The SAGE Handbook of Intercultural Competence (2009).  Frankly, I was surprised and delighted to learn that undergraduates were reading this chapter in a book that is probably read mostly by graduate students and academics.  Here’s a brief description:   

The aim of this chapter is to consider global citizenship and intercultural competence, widely debated and often overlapping concepts, against the backdrop of nationalism and patriotism, “isms” that are rarely discussed in the same context. Yet they are the proverbial elephant in the room, towering issues that profoundly influence the methods and means by which global citizenship and intercultural competence are transformed from theory to practice.

This chapter explores ways in which global citizenship and intercultural competence complement and conflict with the national identity of two diametrically contrasting cultures—the United States of America and the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. What U.S. Americans and Vietnamese share, according to anecdotal evidence, the binational experience of both authors, and the results of World Values Surveys, is a deep national pride. Yet as we shall see, this national pride is radically different qualitatively for reasons that are rooted in history. Thus, we examine barriers in both cultures that may inhibit the development of globally competent citizens, as well as factors that may smooth the way.

What are the implications of global citizenship in an interconnected world in which nationalism is still very much a force to be reckoned with? To what extent is global citizenship problematic in countries in which nationalism in its more virulent incarnation forms the mind-set of the majority of citizens? We posit that the path to becoming a global or globally competent citizen may be strewn with more obstacles in some societies than in others as a result of potent historical and cultural forces that have shaped national identity and the dominant ideology, the psychic glue that holds societies together.

Differences Between Patriotism and Nationalism

According to a standard dictionary definition, the distinction between patriotism and nationalism is clear. Patriotism is defined simply as “love for or devotion to one’s country.” This is generally thought of as a benign, sentimental, and inward-looking form of national pride. As such, it does not exclude an openness to and even embrace of other cultures, their values, and the concerns and needs of their members.

In a 2003 essay titled A Kinder, Gentler Patriotism, (the late) U.S. historian Howard Zinn speaks of the need to redefine patriotism and notes that “if national boundaries should not be obstacles to trade—we call it globalization—should they also not be obstacles to compassion and generosity? Should we not begin to consider all children, everywhere, as our own? In that case, war, which in our time is always an assault on children, would be unacceptable as a solution to the problems of the world. Human ingenuity would have to search for other ways.” Patriotism, as defined above, does not preclude the globalization of compassion and generosity.

In contrast, nationalism is described as loyalty and devotion to a nation; especially a sense of national consciousness exalting one nation above all others and placing primary emphasis on promotion of its culture and interests as opposed to those of other nations or supranational groups. It is the second italicized part that distinguishes nationalism from its less strident and bellicose cousin, patriotism. Exaltation of one nation over another automatically assumes a degree of cultural superiority, a lack of openness and objectivity, and the assumption that “others” wish to be like us and, by extension, the desire to mold them in our image (i.e., missionary nationalism).


Most of our discussion in the engaging 1.5 hours that I spent with them and their professors on a rainy February morning in Hanoi revolved around these concepts as they apply to both countries and how to create globally aware and competent citizens, especially given the fact that most young people do not have the opportunity to study overseas.  (Study abroad is no guarantee that this transformation will occur.)  The students asked a range of thoughtful and thought-provoking questions. 

Nationalism is a type of ideology, defined as “a: a systematic body of concepts especially about human life or culture; b: a manner or the content of thinking characteristic of an individual, group, or culture.”  Irrational and rooted in emotion, it consists of seemingly unchallengeable and commonsensical assumptions, “eternal truths,” believing in something that does not exist or does not reflect reality and empirical facts.  To question the precepts that form that basis of US nationalism, or any nationalism for that matter, is to challenge a very potent ideology, a black/white world view that resists contradictory facts and conflicting views that could begin to dissolve this psychic glue.  In this respect it represents a formidable obstacle to the development of global competence and citizenship.

While I’m well aware that these students are certainly not representative of most US Americans in terms of social class (tuition, fees, housing and meals for the 2012-2013 academic year at Augustana are $43,398), education and world view, I was encouraged by the thought and reflection that many had invested in these important issues. 

As a side note, I noticed that most were women, a trend described in this 19 February 2012 Chronicle article entitled In Study Abroad, Men Are Hard to Find

As a bonus, check out this 19 February 2012 essay entitled The American Century Is Over—Good Riddance by Prof. Andrew Bacevich, who has written extensively about the notion of American exceptionalism and the origins and effects of US nationalism. 




TED has arrived in Vietnam with a vengeance.  The first TEDx event was held last August in Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) and the second one will take place on 18 August in the same city.  So what is TED?  Answer:  A nonprofit devoted to Ideas Worth Spreading.  According to  its website, “It started out (in 1984) as a conference bringing together people from three worlds: Technology, Entertainment, Design. Since then its scope has become ever broader…”   (Click on the linked website for more information.)  

TEDx is a program of local, self-organized events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience.  The latest TEDx event in Vietnam is called TEDxMekong, which will feature video and live speakers.  The TED Conference provides general guidance for the TEDx program, but individual events are self-organized.  The theme of the 18 August event is Entrepreneurship in Vietnam.  

I’m pleased and honored to be an adviser to TEDxMekong.  Below is a statement I submitted for the advisers’ section of the website. 

Vietnam is a youthful country.  You can see it in the fresh, young faces, as well as the dry statistics (median age:  27.8).   It’s what economists refer to as a demographic dividend, a rare golden opportunity that the country must take advantage of against the backdrop of a ticking clock. Vietnam will succeed because of the intelligence, drive, work ethic, and openness of its young people to the world.

Vietnam needs businesspeople who are outstanding at what they do and who are imbued with a strong sense of social responsibility.  Entrepreneurship is about meeting an individual and/or societal need, and making money in the process.  In many fields, it presents opportunities for successful entrepreneurs to “do well and do good” both through their work and an evolving culture of philanthropy.

Everything begins with an idea and the power of the written and spoken word.  I look forward to seeing more TEDx and similar synergistic, informative and inspirational events that provide a forum for engaged people to discuss “ideas worth spreading,” and create opportunities for them to network and continue the dialogue long after the lights have been turned off.

Congratulations to the TEDxMekong team, truly a group of passionate Vietnamese youth who are dedicated to ideas worth spreading and who are dazzled by the thrilling experience of listening, sharing, and applying intriguing ideas… 

NAFSA 2010: The Intercultural Competence/Global Citizenship Nexus: What International Educators Should Know


As it turned out, this session was well-attended in spite of the early hour and the stormy weather.  That probably had something to do with the topic and my distinguished colleagues.  Presentations and notes are available at   

Title: GS029: The Intercultural Competence/Global Citizenship Nexus: What International Educators Should Know
Begin Time: Wednesday, 6/2 – 8:00 AM
Audience: Teaching Learning and Scholarship
Description: Intercultural competence (ICC) and global citizenship are gaining prominence in international education. Participants explore key aspects of intercultural competence and its development as well as its role in global citizenship. Join ICC experts in reflecting on these relationships for better practice in international education.
Chair: Darla K. Deardorff, EdD, Association of International Education Administrators
All Presenters:
Mark A. Ashwill, PhD  Capstone Vietnam Hanoi, Vietnam
Janet M. Bennett, PhD Intercultural Communication Institute (ICI) Portland
Darla K. Deardorff, EdD Association of International Education Administrators Durham
Michael Paige, PhD University of Minnesota-Twin Cities Minneapolis
Margaret D. Pusch   Portland


“Policies for Teachers and Educational Leaders in the Innovative Education Process”


I spoke at an  international workshop today for teachers and educational leaders, sponsored by Vietnam National University’s University of Education.   Topic:  Creating Globally Competent Citizens in Cross-Cultural Perspective.  It was a variation on one of the themes of my co-authored book chapter (see previous posting) with a focus on global citizenship education – obstacles and opportunities.  A Vietnamese translation of the chapter is available. 

If you are interested in the topics of intercultural competence, global competence and global citizenship, how they intersect and how they relate to patriotism and nationalism, please let me know.

The SAGE Handbook of Intercultural Competence



I co-authored a chapter entitled “Developing Globally Competent Citizens: The Contrasting Cases of the United States and Vietnam.”  The contributors to this book, present company excluded, are some of best scholars/practitioners in this field in the world. 

The SAGE Handbook of Intercultural Competence Edited by Darla K. Deardorff, Duke University

If you would like an English and/or Vietnamese PDF version of our chapter, please e-mail me at markashwill (at)


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