Reading Humanitarian Heroes for Global Citizenship Education?

Curriculum Critique of a Novel Study on Craig Kielburger’s Free the Children

  • Carrie Karsgaard University of Alberta
Keywords: Global citizenship, Global citizenship education, Humanitarianism, Literary theory, Standpoint theory


Literature classrooms hold great potential to educate students for critical global citizenship through serious engagement with marginalized stories that test or subvert mainstream knowledges and structures, including the familiar humanitarian framework that dominates Western thinking about the Global South. Unfortunately, much existing literary curriculum in the Global North often does just the opposite. Instead, Western-oriented texts and safe, traditional reading practices contribute to a form of global citizenship that perpetuates Western hegemony and limits expressions of citizenship to benevolent actions. This is especially the case where global citizenship curriculum is developed by NGOs and humanitarian organizations, such as Me to We, a popular social enterprise with increasing influence over education in Canada, the U.S. and the U.K.

Using the frameworks of critical global citizenship education, Slaughter’s (2006) theory of humanitarian reading, and Stone-Mediatore’s (2003) notion of reading for enlarged thought, this paper will undertake a close reading of the unit materials for Free the Children, a unit developed by Me to We, which aspires to educate for global citizenship. Unit activities problematically appropriate the voices and viewpoints of child laborers in South Asia by establishing dichotomies between readers and the populations that Me to We aspires to help. This unit provides a means by which to examine the effectiveness of reading a memoir by an exemplary humanitarian, particularly when unit activities are framed by an organization with a particular humanitarian agenda.

Author Biography

Carrie Karsgaard, University of Alberta

Carrie Karsgaard is a doctoral student in educational policy studies at the University of Alberta (Canada), specializing in theoretical, cultural, and international studies in education.