American schools may have a difficult time teaching students that they must become citizens in a global society where the U.S. will no longer be the dominant power, according to Jim Dator, Professor of Political Science and Director of the Hawaii Research Center for Futures Studies at the University of Hawaii at Manoa.

"In the United States, we often don’t like to admit that there is anyone else but us,” says Dator  This, he says, is compounded by the belief that the U.S. will always be the center of power on the planet and that the rest of the world will always follow in its footsteps. 

Dator stresses that educators already understand that the curriculum needs to become more sensitive to cultural differences, more focused on global issues, and less narrowly focused on America. Many attempts have been made in the past to change the curriculum, but these attempts failed because policymakers repeatedly refused to allow a culturally-sensitive, globally-focused curriculum to be taught, instead insisting on what Dator calls a “narrow, triumphal version of American history.”

Finding time in the current curriculum to teach culturally-sensitive, global subjects is also a concern. Dator goes on to say that the current No Child Left Behind (NCLB) mandates are pushing American public education into the wrong direction.  “While the rest of the world is waking up to the necessity of a curriculum that encourages creativity, aesthetics, imagination and the like, the U.S. keeps harping on the three R’s plus discipline,” says Dator. He is confident that the NCLB mandates will be radically different, if not completely thrown out and started anew, when reauthorization occurs. 

Changing the worldview and culture of an entire country is not an easy task. What can U.S. schools do differently to teach cultural competency in a global context in spite of these obstacles?