See Those Golden Arches? Globalization and the History of McDonald’s

See Those Golden Arches? Globalization and the History of McDonald’s
Betty Ford: Economics, Discovery and Daily Life

Skill: Middle School
Time Required: Two to three class periods


Although globalization is a term that has become familiar only within the last decade or so, the process of globalization has been occurring over the past forty years.  When Gerald and Betty Ford accompanied President and Mrs. Nixon to China in 1972, they were witnesses to a major breakthrough in the internationalizing of American business and the creation of a global economy.


The purpose of this lesson is to introduce students to the idea of globalization, and give them an opportunity to consider its effects, using as an example the history and expansion of McDonald’s, and to look at cultures that may be on their way to extinction.

Materials Required:

Access to the Internet; access to print materials; paper and pens or pencils, or a word processor.


1.  Begin the lesson by asking students if they know what globalization is, if they can give any examples of its effects, or if they’ve heard anyone talking about it. 
2.  Give students time to read the National Geographic article, “Globalization,” (below).  This can be done online or you can distribute copies of the article to each student.  Have them take careful notes on the effect of globalization described by the author.  Which country’s culture seems to be having the biggest impact on the world?  What does the author say about U.S. culture and how does she feel about globalization in general?

3.  As an example of globalization, give students the time to explore the three sites listed below outlining the history of McDonald’s, and showing the international reach of the
company.  Particularly interesting are the pictures of McDonald’s in other countries, their advertising, and pictures of their customers.
4.  Then, ask students to explore (or explore with them) National Geographic’s “Vanishing Cultures” site (below), and consider the effects of globalization on the cultures portrayed.
5.  Divide the class into small groups, and have each group make a four-column chart with "American culture" in the left heading, "European culture" and "Japanese culture" in the middle columns, and "Indigenous cultures" on the right. Define indigenous cultures as cultures like the ones they saw on the "Vanishing Cultures" site.
6.  Ask students to list all the impacts they think globalization might have on these cultural groups. [Note: Make sure they understand that these groups are gross generalizations and that there are really many cultural groups within each one.] They should list both positive and negative impacts and write a plus or minus sign next to each one. They may need to conduct some basic research on these cultures before making their lists. This can be done on the Internet or in the school or community library.
7.  Have groups compare and discuss their lists. What might be the pros and cons of globalization for the world's cultures? Do the students agree with Erla Zwingle's statement that "globalization will give us new ways not only to appreciate other cultures more, but to look on our own with fresh wonder and surprise"? Do they think globalization will have the same type of impact on indigenous cultures?

8.  Have students write paragraphs answering the question "Is globalization a good thing, a bad thing, or a combination of good and bad?" They should provide specific examples from their research.

Extending the Lesson:

This lesson might be extended by having students all the ways that globalization has affected them, personally, and have them write paragraphs about whether they think these changes are positive or negative, and why.

Sources & Resources:

McDonald’s History 

More McDonald’s History 

McDonald’s Around the World 

"Globalization," from National Geographic 

Vanishing Cultures, from National Geographic 

This lesson was only slightly adapted from a National Geographic lesson plan on globalization by Averil McClelland, Kent State University.