The New York Times video reporting from the Middle East over the past few days has been terrific. This piece on the Houthi forces in Yemen is interesting and vivid, focusing on the experience of ordinary people as the country changes. The reporter includes two video “sidebars.” (You can access them simply by clicking in the video when they appear. One is on the role of women during the protests, the other is on the use of khat, a commonly used stimulant. ) For me the strength of reporting is how effectively it moves between laying out the big picture and connecting it to what is playing out amongst the people on the ground. I recommend watching it.
Our new edition of The Middle East in Transition: Questions for U.S. Policy covers what is happening in Yemen now and helps students to consider what role, if any, the United States should play there. Without question, the political situation in the region is incredibly dynamic and multifaceted; it will certainly pose new challenges for U.S. policy. The value of this kind of reporting is that it allows us to visualize what is often understood only in the abstract, for example, Yemen, Sunni, Shi’i, Houthi, and violence. To my mind, the other value is that we see people in Yemen acting in and responding to the larger political forces at play. It helps to see things! I hope the Times keeps producing these kinds of smart, sophisticated pieces.
Blog Post by Choices Teaching Fellow Deb Springhorn
For 30 years I have lamented the lack of time to teach the current global situation in the context of a world history course that is supposed to go from the prehistoric to the present in one year! Given the global paradigm shift after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the rapid shift again after 9-11, it has become even more imperative to prepare students for global citizenship by developing their understanding of complex global issues and instilling the disposition to see others as they see themselves. Choices Curriculum units and Teaching with the News lessons do just this. The goal in developing the course, Global Issues Since the Fall of the Wall was to create an interdisciplinary, common core based course that would incorporate as many materials from the Choices Program as possible. Beyond the Choices materials, students will read articles from a wide variety of journals and literature of several genres. They will examine photographic images by James Nachtwey as a way of seeing themselves in such places Somalia, Bosnia, and Rwanda.
This year long course is divided into four units:
- The New World [dis]Order of the 1990s: Nationalism, War, and Genocide
- America After 9-11: The Single Story of Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iraq
- The Frustration and Hope of “The Arab Spring”
- Globalization: Geopolitical, Environmental, and Economic Issues.
Each of the four units is organized around 21st Century Skills, reflecting the Common Core. Choices Curriculum units and Teaching with the News lessons combine with the philosophical, literary, and artistic elements to provide students with an in-depth awareness of the complexities of the current global situation.
The web site for the course has unit overviews, detailed day-by-day plans, resource links, and annotated bibliographies of all the sources used for each of the units. The attached document illustrates each of the four units with materials from the Choices Program already incorporated in the first version of the course as well as others that will be added as the course continues to evolve. The key literary works are listed as well to show the literary connections.
An examination of the values that motivated historical actors is an important part of understanding history. I think one of the most effective elements of Choices materials is the role play that calls on students to first observe the values of historical actors, and then to articulate the values that underlie their proposed option for a contested international issue.
I use the values activity in the Shifting Sands: Balancing U.S. Interests in the Middle East unit in my semester long International Relations class. I first elicit from students (10th-12th graders) the values that they subscribe to and that they think should ideally underlie their own policy option for how the U.S. should interact with the Middle East.
After we discuss the concept of values and identify the values inherent in the four policy options that students are assigned to role play, they are ready to articulate the values that they would draw on to create their own U.S. policy towards the Middle East. In creating their own option, they must demonstrate their understanding of the history of U.S. relations with countries in the Middle East. This year students wrote a U.S. policy towards Libya, just as the U.S. was deciding on its level of involvement in this new regional flare up.
With all of the Choices units I’ve used, students have always commented that they learn more when they have to defend an option they normally wouldn’t support. This makes students more aware of the notion of competing perspectives and points of view in creating policy.
In sum, Choices materials help cultivate a habit of value-based decision making that’s based on a reflection of the values of historical actors, but also forces students’ self reflection on their own values.
How do you use the Values Activity found in many Choices units? What do your students say about the activity?
Posted by guest blogger Kevin Conlon, Francis Parker School, Chicago
Media coverage of pro-democracy protests across the Arab world – collectively known as the Arab Spring – has captured the world’s attention. Amy Sanders (Social Studies teacher) and Cathy Wolinsky (Instructional Technology Integrator) at Yarmouth High School in Yarmouth, Maine, seek classroom partners for a collaborative study of the Arab Spring. The project, modeled after the Flat Classroom Project, will begin in early October and last approximately one month. Utilizing the CHOICES Teaching with the News lesson, “Protests, Revolutions, and Democratic Change,” the project envisions students working in international collaborative teams to learn more about the protest movements in Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Syria, Yemen, and Bahrain. Students also will be asked to reflect on what they have learned and connect this to their experiences with democracy. If you would like to join the project or would like more information, please visit: http://arabspring.wikispaces.com/ or contact Amy Sanders at firstname.lastname@example.org.
While the media focuses on Libya, events in Yemen and Syria also deserve our attention. I think that the scale of the protests there suggest that change is coming soon.
Al Jazeera English is giving it good coverage.
The Guardian has put together an excellent interactive timeline that tracks the events in the Middle East over the past few months.