Going global: a contrast ethnography of new cosmopolitan elites and their world schools, in Beijing and New York City
Item statusRestricted Access
Embargo end date09/01/2024
Kirkwood, Jennifer Ann Lang
World Schools are examples of an emergent category of elite schooling guided by the pursuit of creating global citizens as a key educational aim. They provide a cosmopolitan, globally minded education. This new form of independent schooling, recently created institutions found in global cities around the world, offers an expensive and privileged fee-paying primary and secondary education to the children of the new economic and global elite. Interested in the production of educational ideals, and by focusing on reinvigorating certain distinctive cosmopolitan values, these schools develop an educated cosmopolitan elite that live, work, and aim to thrive in the twenty-first century. My research conceives of these world schools as sites that allow exploration of elite class (re)production, power, and cosmopolitanism in an age of high globalization. This research draws from studies of cosmopolitanism and studies of elites and education to explore where, how, and why elite parents use world schools as an essential component of their child’s being and becoming a worthy, meritous elite. Drawing contrast between two cases of world school, two cases of cosmopolitan elite, one in New York City and the other in Beijing, this dissertation fractures the powerful universal narratives of cosmopolitanism, reorienting exploration of its nature and value. As such, this research recognises cosmopolitanism as an aspirational, normative and strategic concept that is rooted and given life within the social mobilities and (re)production of the new global elite. Using theories of class privilege and its (re)production I draw attention to the production of elite cosmopolitanism and the confluence of its discursive value and associated dispositions. By viewing elite cosmopolitanism as parental aspirations and as educational strategy this thesis explores the nature and production of the new global elite in those terms. Through ethnographic methods this research shows families and institutions engaged in the pursuit and definition of themselves as worthy, meritous and powerful cosmopolitan elites, within and through world schools. In both New York and Beijing, I provide an insider account of the familial and institutional (re)production strategies of the new cosmopolitan elite. As a result, abstractions of cosmopolitanism become specific and gritty instantiations serving real life motives, emotions and beliefs. And this academically ill-defined group become parents, with faces and children and security lanyards that give them access to luxurious world schools, where real world goals and expectations are pursued within materially privileged circumstances. This dissertation speaks ethnographically to the ways these new schools negotiate relationships with voracious parents and engage in the daily, messy work of ensuring young learners thrive. All the while, world schools actively reassert cosmopolitan ideals, both internally and externally. As a result, I present the cosmopolitanism of these families and schools in two forms; as reflecting elite worldviews and aspirations for freedom, as strategic cosmopolitanism acutely leveraging notions of inclusion and, as cosmopolitan conditioning of young people through which a core set of attributes reflect a selective cultural openness. So, while elites in both cities commit to the educational ideals of cosmopolitanism this research contrasts two cases to show the ways in which they negotiate and construct a version that is all their own. This research draws attention to the pluralities and specificities of these two forms of elite cosmopolitanism. And, in doing so, I show what it means for the new cosmopolitan elite to be, “Going global” with their choice of World School.