Problems and Prospects in Global Education: An Essay Review of E. Thomas Ewing and David Hicks, editors, Education and the Great Depression: Lessons from a Global History

  • Wayne J. Urban


When I was a doctoral student at Ohio State in the 1960s, comparative education was in its heyday. Though it was not a field in which I specialized, I was associated closely with students who did study it and took a few courses in it myself. The popularity of comparative education, however, proved to be short-lived. One of the major reasons for its decline was the identification of comparative education with the imperialist brand of American internationalism that prescribed economic development for the rest of the world, particularly for third world countries, as designed by USAID and other like-minded government agencies. That version of internationalism took a nose dive in subsequent decades, especially during the Reagan administration, as the commitment of the federal government to internationalism, except for military intervention, extinguished itself. The economically oriented neo-colonialism of USAID has recently morphed internationally into a movement for the control of education in developing countries through nongovernment agencies such as the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. In the developed world, particularly in the USA, the design and management of education has been invaded by “educational policy” specialists, mostly economists, who seek to call the shots in the USA as well as elsewhere with prescriptions that are rather narrowly conceived, to say the least. Non-economists have tried to compete with the economists for influence and control in educational policy, domestic and international, partly through the invocation of the wonderfully elastic term, “global education.” This term simultaneously allows for various proposals calling for one kind or another brand of internationalism in American education and intending to analyze education internationally through lenses broader than the economic.