My assignment for the rest of the summer is revising my university's third year Arabic curriculum, which I will be teaching the in Fall. Unlike Spanish Prof, I am not particularly into politics, and the idea of incorporating politics into the classroom is not something I find particularly exciting. On the other hand, these are the topics from the textbook that we will cover in the Fall:
1) Journalism in the Arab world
2) The Role of the University
3) Modern Arabic Literature*
4) Pioneers of the Arab Feminist Movement
Add to this:
1) The Arab Spring
2) 9/11 and the wars on Iraq and Afghanistan
2) Most students who study Arabic in the United States are majoring in something like Political Science or International Relations
3) One of the first questions Americans are usually asked when studying abroad in the Arab world is What do you think of Obama/Bush/Israel/Palestine/the war on Iraq/Afghanistan etc?
Essentially, I simply cannot envision a decent upper level class that doesn't involve politics.
Then there's religion. For example, the following speaking activity from the textbook:
"What is the position of religion towards women? Discuss the opinions of different religions (Islam and Christianity and Judaisim and any other religions you know about)--on women's rights and their duties and position in society. Remember and use the new words and expressions."
Which I'd tend to want to change to something like: "How is religion appealed to in support different attitudes towards women and their duties and position in society?" since I've seen religious justifications for just about everything.
In the past, when dealing with controversial topics at lower levels, I've assigned different opinions rather than letting students choose their own, to make it more about using the language to express ideas rather than using the language to express your ideas and antagonize your classmates. Also, I don't think it's ever a bad idea to have to think through an idea you disagree with.
Then there's my opinion, which I don't have to state in the classroom, but will be pretty obvious to anyone who pays attention to the texts I choose. On the one hand, there are certain stereotypes I (and clearly the authors of the textbook) want to combat (like Arab women are poor, oppressed victims) and this is where a chapter on the Feminist movement comes in. On the other hand, I don't want to ignore gender-based problems in the Arab world--I would just like students to think a little bit more critically about them than the dreaded "East-West" "male-female" "powerful-oppressed" dichotomies allow. All of that in a 3.5 week unit? rabbina yustor!
So, any ideas on this rambling post? How political would you make the class? What would you do to make students think a bit more critically?
*This tends to be fairly political