Thinking Globally About Social Justice

Thinking Globally About Social Justice

Tiffany Viggiano (Fulbright Finland, Finland)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-6252-8.ch013
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Scholars have identified community colleges as ideal institutions to facilitate global justice through their involvement in internationalization activities such as study abroad. This chapter explores the meaning of humanism as it relates to study abroad at the community college. Using Andreotti, Stein, Pashby, and Nicolson's Paradigms of Discourse, the chapter describes the ways in which humanism can be defined in a variety of ways based on one's own goals. The chapter also grounds a rationale for study abroad at the community college within critical humanism by applying Young's Social Connections Model. Finally, the chapter applies the critical humanist rationale to begin to question the relationship between community college study abroad initiatives: Who is included in the community mission? Whose cultures come to be understood from involvement in study abroad? How are U. S. cultures represented by study abroad?
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Prior to this century, most understandings of justice were bound within the nation state: discussed in terms of citizens’ rights within a nation, but not applied globally (Young, 2006). However, in the current millennium, noted philosopher Martha Nussbaum asserted that, “extending justice to all world citizens, showing theoretically how we might realize a world that is just as a whole, in which accidents of birth and national origin do not warp people’s life chances pervasively and from the start” is one of the most urgent unsolved problems of social justice (2006, p. 1). To address this problem, Iris Marion Young (2006) moved away from the confines of the nation state to argue that “all agents who contribute by their actions to the structural processes that produce injustice have responsibilities to work to remedy these injustices” (pp. 102-103). Thus, any institution engaged in internationalization is socially responsible to work to mitigate global social injustice.

Community colleges are a type of institution that transcend national borders, and therefore, through the lens of modern justice theory, community college actors have a responsibility to people outside of their local communities. Although data that tracks community college participation in internationalization activities is sparse (Copeland, McCrink, & Starratt, 2017), there is significant evidence that the community college has not operated solely within national boundaries for decades and continues to actively pursue an international agenda (American Council on Education [ACE], 2016; Levin, 2001; 2002; 2017). Community colleges transcend national borders through study abroad programs, branch campuses, and by providing services to non-domestic stake holders (ACE, 2016). Raby (2012) points to changing student demographics in which many of the students are themselves international or have strong social and familial ties to international communities. In the 2014/15 academic year, over 7,000 community college students studied abroad, and U. S. community colleges hosted over 91,000 international students (IIE, 2016). Of the associates granting institutions that participated in the ACE (2016) survey, 41% indicated that increasing the number of students that study abroad was their primary internationalization goal and roughly 72% indicated that internationalization had accelerated at, at least a moderate rate between the years of 2011 to 2015. Importantly, the very presence of study abroad programs at the community college demonstrate that community colleges no longer operate solely within the perimeter of the nation state. Therefore, community colleges are in fact active international institutions. In alignment with Young’s (2006) social connections model, community college stakeholders have an ethical responsibility to serve the interest of those outside of their immediate community and to think about the long term and global implications of their actions.

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