JULY 20, 2015 By Joanie Harmon
Carlos Alberto Torres, Distinguished Professor of Education and Director of the UCLA Paulo Freire Institute at the UCLA Graduate School of Education & Information Studies, has been appointed the inaugural UNESCO Chair on Global Learning and Global Citizenship Education, the first such appointment in the University of California system. As one of the world’s most ethnically and culturally diverse learning communities in the world, with its commitment to diversity and equity in education, UCLA and the distinction of housing the first-ever UNESCO Chair of Global Learning and Global Citizenship makes a significant contribution in support of research, teaching, and further dialogue on global citizenship education.
UCLA Wasserman Dean Marcelo Suárez-Orozco underscores the historic appointment of Professor Torres by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as the inaugural UNESCO Chair in Global Learning and Global Citizenship Education at UCLA Ed & IS as “a tribute to the monumental scale of Carlos’ standing in our field. Carlos is a scholar’s scholar, a public intellectual without borders, and the embodiment of engaged citizenship at its best. We are blessed to have Carlos in our faculty.”
The UCLA Graduate School of Education & Information Studies has been selected as a site for a renewable five-year UNESCO Chair because of the graduate school’s commitment to global education and strong alignment with the goals of the specialized agency of the United Nations. UCLA Ed & IS was also supported by the UCLA Academic Senate and the UC Office of the President with their consideration of Professor Torres for this landmark appointment.
“Being the first UNESCO Chair in Global Citizenship Education in the world, and the inaugural holder of the first UNESCO Chair in the University of California humbles me,” says Professor Torres, “helping renewing my commitment to social justice education through teaching, research and lecturing worldwide. My work as a global public intellectual seeks to recognize that peace is an immaterial treasure of humanity, that life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are inalienable rights of all human beings, and that we need to defend the planet, our only home, promoting planetarian citizenship against predatory cultures. I have always been reminded of the lovely sentence by Paulo Freire in the preface of “Pedagogy of the Oppressed,” words that I made (my credo): “I hope at least the following will endure – my trust in the people and in the creation of a world in which it is easier to love.”
Professor Torres has extensive expertise in the political sociology of education and international and comparative education. His contributions to the growing body of knowledge of Global Citizenship made him an ideal fit for this appointment. As UNESCO Chair in Global Learning and Global Citizenship, Professor Torres will be closely linked to the establishment of a teaching and research hub pertaining to global learning.
The creation of the UNESCO Chair will serve to delineate and present theories and best practices of global citizenship education around the world through the attraction of students and scholars interested in conducting research projects, by fostering various international student and teacher exchanges, and through publications and the creation of a website. Through the building of international networks, the Chair will work to strengthen the cooperation of global learning and global citizenship education between the various institutions of higher education, civil society groups, and development organizations.
The position of Professor Torres as UNESCO Chair will be officially launched this winter, with a formal inauguration to take place at UCLA. He will select eight regions around the world, and within each region key countries will be selected for comparative studies. The work timeline includes research and activities in the Middle East, North and South Africa, South Africa, Asia, Europe, the Americas and the Caribbean, and Oceania. Research in each region will be conducted in a period of two years. In 2016, a regional conference in collaboration with a local institution will be organized to set up the framework for analysis, template for data collection and data analysis, and instruments as well as a timeline for research. A similar conference will be organized at UCLA to present the results of the research, including data analysis and the strategy of dissemination. A new region for each conference will be chosen every 12-15 months, with the research at the conference drawing from topics covered at the previous conference, in order to aim data that is comparable across regions.
As a Freirean scholar and champion of social justice education, Professor Torres looks forward to successfully establishing the high level of research and expertise on global education and citizenship that is needed in a diverse range of nations and regions.
“Being a member of the Argentinean Diaspora and having been forced out of my country because of one of the most brutal dictatorships in the Continent, I become a nomadic scholar – a globetrotter who has managed to work in all continents and in many universities on questions of social justice education and global citizenship,” says Torres. “As a critical theorist, and as a Freirean scholar, I cherish dialogue as a method of civic engagement and deliberation, but also jointly with action research, dialogue is a method of research and praxis.
“Dialogical action in the best of the Freirean and critical theory traditions will animate the research and teaching we plan to do with the UNESCO Chair, but also we hope to participate in international fora to promote these concepts that are so important for the future of humanity. We need to promote a concept of global democratic and multicultural citizenship. Democracy is a messy system, but it has survived because there is a sphere for debates and a set of rules that people follow even if they don’t benefit from them.”