“I Never Meant to Say That”: Rhetoric in Education Abroad


  • Michael Woolf CAPA: The Global Education Network




Ideologies, nationalism, elitism, rhetoric, education abroad


We function in an increasingly politicized environment, hostile to Socratic discourse and the pedagogies of education abroad. The classroom has become a battleground in which ideologies of right and left collide, making debate and dissent problematic. These pressures have distorted the ways in which we talk about our endeavors. We believe that international education is a social good with benefits that transcend individual interest and those of any single country. Yet, if we scratch beneath the surface of the rhetoric of education abroad, we unearth ideas that, inadvertently and unconsciously, mimic neo-conservative elitism and ultra-nationalism. The intent of this essay is to deconstruct those notions and to suggest that an urgent imperative is to revise our agenda, to use language that better reflects the principles that have motivated us to commit to education abroad. The issues analyzed here suggest that, in short, we do not believe what we say, nor do we say what we believe.


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Author Biography

Michael Woolf, CAPA: The Global Education Network

Dr. Michael Woolf is Deputy President for Strategic Development at CAPA. He holds a PhD in American Studies, has taught at universities in the UK and Italy, and worked as a researcher-writer for BBC Radio. He has held leadership roles in, and has written extensively about, international education for many years. He served on the Board of Directors of The Forum on Education Abroad, 2006 to 2012, and was awarded the Wollitzer Advocacy Award (2020). A selection of his short essays is accessible at: https://capaworld.capa.org/author/dr-michael-woolf.


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How to Cite

Woolf, M. (2023). “I Never Meant to Say That”: Rhetoric in Education Abroad. Frontiers: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Study Abroad, 35(1), 188–208. https://doi.org/10.36366/frontiers.v35i1.761

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