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School of Education at Johns Hopkins University-Educating Global Citizens in a Diverse World

by James A. Banks

Cultural, ethnic, racial, language, and religious diversity exists in most nations in the world. One of the challenges to diverse democratic nation-states is to provide opportunities for different groups to maintain aspects of their community cultures while at the same time building a nation in which these groups are structurally included and to which they feel allegiance. A delicate balance of diversity and unity should be an essential goal of democratic nation-states and of teaching and learning in a democratic society.

The challenge of balancing diversity and unity is intensifying as democratic nation-states such as the United States, Canada, Australia, the United Kingdom, and Japan become more diversified and as racial and ethnic groups within these nations try to attain cultural, political and economic rights. The democratic ideologies within the major democratic nations and the wide gap between these ideals and realities were major factors that resulted in the rise of movements for cultural and economic rights in many democratic nations during the last four decades.

These nations share a democratic ideal, a major tenet of which is that the state should protect human rights and promote equality and the inclusion of diverse groups into the mainstream society. These nations are also characterized by widespread inequality and by racial, ethnic, and class stratification. The discrepancy between democratic ideals and societal realities and the rising expectations of marginalized racial, ethnic, language and social-class groups created protest and revival movements within the Western democratic nations. These movements began with the civil rights movements in the United States during the 1960s and 1970s. The U.S. civil rights movement echoed throughout the world.

Increasing Diversity and Global Citizenship Education

Because of growing ethnic, cultural, racial, language and religious diversity throughout the world, citizenship education needs to be changed in substantial ways to prepare students to function effectively in the 21st century. Citizens in this century need the knowledge, attitudes, and skills required to function in their cultural communities and beyond their cultural borders. They should also be able and willing to participate in the construction of a national civic culture that is a moral and just community. The national community should embody democratic ideals and values, such as those articulated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights. Students also need to acquire the knowledge and skills required to become effective citizens in the global community.

Citizenship education in the past, in the United States as well as in many other nations, embraced an assimilationist ideology. In the United States, its aim was to educate students so they would fit into a mythical Anglo-Saxon Protestant conception of the "good citizen." Anglo conformity was the goal of citizenship education. One of its aims was to eradicate the community cultures and languages of students from diverse groups. One consequence of this assimilationist conception of citizenship education was that many students lost their first cultures, languages, and ethnic identities. Some students also became alienated from family and community. Another consequence was that many students became socially and politically alienated within the national civic culture.

Members of identifiable racial groups often became marginalized in both their community cultures and in the national civic culture because they could function effectively in neither. When they acquired the language and culture of the Anglo mainstream, they were often denied structural inclusion and full participation into the civic culture because of their racial characteristics.

Citizenship education must be transformed in the 21st century. Several worldwide developments make a new conception of citizenship education an imperative. They include the deepening ethnic texture of nations such as the United States, Canada, Australia, Germany, the United Kingdom, and Japan. The large influx of immigrants who are now settling in nations throughout the world, the continuing existence of institutional racism and discrimination in various nations, and the widening gap between rich and poor nations also make the reform of citizenship education an imperative.

Balancing Unity and Diversity

Citizens in a diverse democratic society should be able to maintain attachments to their cultural communities as well as participate effectively in the shared national culture. Unity without diversity results in cultural repression and hegemony. Diversity without unity leads to Balkanization and the fracturing of the nation-state. Diversity and unity should coexist in a delicate balance in a democratic multicultural nation-state. The attainment of the balance that is needed between diversity and unity is an ongoing process and ideal that is never fully attained. It is essential that both mainstream groups and groups on the margins of society participate in the formulation of societal goals related to diversity and unity. Both groups should also participate in action to attain these goals. Deliberation and the sharing of power by mainstream and marginalized groups are essential for the construction and perpetuation of a just, moral, and participatory democratic nation-state in a culturally diverse society.

The Development of Cultural, National, and Global Identifications

A new kind of citizenship is needed for the 21st century, which Will Kymlicka calls multicultural citizenship. It recognizes and legitimizes the right and need of citizens to maintain commitments both to their cultural communities and to the national civic culture. Only when the national civic culture is transformed in ways that reflect and give voice to the diverse ethnic, racial, language, and religious communities that constitute it will it be viewed as legitimate by all of its citizens. Only then can they develop clarified commitments to the nation-state and its ideals.

Citizenship education should help students to develop thoughtful and clarified identifications with their cultural communities and their nation-states. It should also help them to develop clarified global identifications and deep understandings of their roles in the world community. Students need to understand how life in their cultural communities and nations influences other nations and the cogent influence that international events have on their daily lives. Global education should have as major goals helping students to develop understandings of the interdependence among nations in the world today, clarified attitudes toward other nations, and reflective identifications with the world community.

Non-reflective and unexamined cultural attachments may prevent the development of a cohesive nation with clearly defined national goals and policies. Although we need to help students develop reflective and clarified cultural identifications, they must also be helped to clarify their identifications with their nation-states. However, blind nationalism will prevent students from developing reflective and positive global identifications. Nationalism and national attachments in most nations are strong and tenacious. An important aim of citizenship education should be to help students develop global identifications and a deep understanding of the need to take action as citizens of the global community to help solve the world's difficult global problems, such as conflict and war, the AIDS/HIV epidemic, global warming, and world poverty. Cultural, national, and global experiences and identifications are interactive and interrelated in a dynamic way.

Students should develop a delicate balance of cultural, national, and global identifications. A nation-state that alienates and does not structurally include all cultural groups into the national culture runs the risk of creating alienation and causing groups to focus on specific concerns and issues rather than on the overarching goals and policies of the nation-state. To develop reflective cultural, national and global identifications, students must acquire the knowledge, attitudes and skills needed to function within and across diverse racial, ethnic, cultural, language and religious groups.

The Bellagio Diversity and Citizenship Education Conference

Nation-states throughout the world are faced with the problem of how to reflect the racial, ethnic, cultural and religious diversity within their societies while maintaining national unity. Increasing globalization throughout the world is also challenging nationalism and the nation-state. The Center for Multicultural Education at the University of Washington sponsored an international conference so that citizenship scholars and educators from different nations could share perspectives, research, and findings about how citizenship education programs can be reformed to reflect diversity and unity. The conference, "Ethnic Diversity and Citizenship Education in Multicultural Nation-States," was held at the Rockefeller Foundation's Study and Conference Center in Bellagio, Italy, June 17-21, 2002. The conference was attended by participants from eleven nations: Brazil, Canada, China, Germany, India, Israel (including Palestine), Japan, Russia, South Africa, the United States, and United Kingdom.

In the book based on the conference, scholars and citizenship educators from the above nations present their perspectives on how citizenship education courses, programs and curricula in multicultural nation-states can balance unity and diversity and respond to globalization. They also discuss how citizenship education can be reformed so that it will advance democracy as well as respond to the needs of cultural, ethnic, immigrant, language, and religious groups. The authors present historical and philosophical analyses of citizenship education programs, research, and curriculum guidelines to guide action and school reform. The final chapter of the book, written by Walter C. Parker, discusses the curriculum implications of the theories and findings in the previous chapters. The book, Diversity and Citizenship Education: Global Perspectives, is edited by James A. Banks and will be published by Jossey-Bass in the fall of 2003 (


This article is adapted from: James A. Banks, "Introduction: Democratic Citizenship Education in Multicultural Societies." In James A. Banks (Editor). Diversity and Citizenship Education: Global Perspectives. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2003 .

Recommended Readings

Banks, James A. (1997). Educating Citizens in a Multicultural Society. New York: Teachers College Press.

Banks, James A. (Editor). (2003). Diversity and Citizenship Education: Global Perspectives. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Banks, James A. , Cookson, Peter., Gay, Geneva., Hawley, Willis. D., Irvine, Jacqueline. J., Nieto, Sonia., Schofield, Janet W. & Stephan, Walter. G. (2001). Diversity within Unity: Essential Principles for Teaching and Learning in a Multicultural Society. Seattle: Center for Multicultural Education, University of Washington. Read more about this work.

Castles, Stephen & Davidson, Alastair. (2000). Citizenship and Migration: Globalization and the Politics of Belonging. New York: The Guilford Press.

Kymlicka, Will (1995). Multicultural Citizenship: A Liberal Theory of Minority Rights. New York: Oxford University Press.

Parker, W. C. (2003). Teaching Democracy: Unity and Diversity in Public Life. New York: Teachers College Press.

About the Author

James A. Banks is Russell F. Stark University Professor and Director of the Center for Multicultural Education at the University of Washington, Seattle ( He is a past President of the American Educational Research Association and a past President of the National Council for the Social Studies. Professor Banks is a specialist in social studies education and in multicultural education, and has written many articles and books in these fields.

His books include Cultural Diversity and Education: Foundations, Curriculum and Teaching; Teaching Strategies for the Social Studies; Educating Citizens in a Multicultural Society; and Diversity and Citizenship Education: Global Perspectives.

Professor Banks is the editor of the Handbook of Research on Multicultural Education (Jossey-Bass) and the "Multicultural Education Series" of books published by Teachers College Press, Columbia University. He is a member of the National Academy of Education. His e-mail address is:

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