Ask yourself a different question: Is New York an American city? Should it be? The answer: yes and yes. Is New York a typical American city? Should it be? The answer shifts: no and no.
The increasing dominance of English in higher education and research over the last few decades is often assumed to be a linear, unavoidable, and cumulative process resulting in improved, perhaps more egalitarian, international academic communication worldwide. In this note I want to challenge this view of a global trend in the adoption of English and to discuss some dilemmas confronted by academics in developing countries where English is not the national lingua franca (i.e., outside the British Commonwealth countries).
English as the language of academic publication
At Columbia University we are engaged in a fascinating experiment, which I am going to call “on-the-ground globalization” to convey its felicitous pragmatism. I see the experiment, not from Morningside Heights, which is my usual vantage point as a professor in the Arts and Sciences, but in my current position as director at Columbia Global Centers|Europe, working out of the charmingly aged Reid Hall in Paris and thus in continuous contact with European colleagues and students engaged in similar experiments in Europe and elsewhere, including the United States.
Today, the university, and more particularly the American university, appears in need of direction. It is disoriented and reoriented by the fact of globalization, although the nature and dimensions of this phenomenon remain opaque. What does it mean to be a citizen of the world? This is an urgent question for those who are attempting to conceive of the pedagogical task that confronts the Global University seeking to train students for global citizenship.