Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, October 1989, Page 38


By Audrey Shabbas

Amideast's Video Meets Need

Amideast's new video, "Introduction to the Arab World," fills a real need. The 45-minute video explores the diversity and unity, cultural traditions, and contemporary concerns of the Arab world. It is divided into three 15-minute segments; Overview, Islam, and Arab Society Today. Each is designed to be used separately as the basis for an in-depth discussion, assisted by an accompanying guidebook to help teachers or group leaders tailor the program to their own particular requirements.

The careful sorting in the overview of Arabs and non-Arabs in the Middle East, of Arabs who are not Muslims and Muslims who are not Arabs fulfills the promise of the title. Islam is set in a global context, and its final summary of challenges confronting Muslims todat is valuable as a basis for discussion. In Arab Society Today, old and new clips enliven the discussion of today's transformation of all aspects of life. For a brochure describing details and cost, contact Leslie Schmida Nucho, AMIDEAST, 1100 17th St. NW, Washington, DC 20036.

Cincinnati Public Schools Offer Arabic Language Program

The public school system of Cincinnati, Ohio, offers Arabic as early as kindergarten in a program that may provide a model for other school systems. Beginning at the elementary level, any student may enroll in the program which offers Arabic as well as Chinese, French, German, Japanese, Russian and Spanish. Called the Bilingual Alternative Program, 10 elementary schools now offer the language as an "immersion" program-as the language of instruction in content areas such as art, math, science and social studies. The goal is to communicate in the immersion language about topics appropriate for the age and grade of the student, and to understand and appreciate other cultures.

Students who select a foreign language program in the Cincinnati schools may pursue the selected language from kindergarten through grade 12. Children develop a better knowledge of their own language through the study of a foreign language. Say proponents: "They also have an opportunity to understand the position of the United States in a world society, as well as examine the roles of various ethnic groups within our country." For more information about the Cincinnati program and to receive its newsletter write: Editor, World Language News, Cincinnati Public Schools, 230 E. 9th St., Cincinnati, OH 45202.

Cultural Information on Arab Civilization for Teachers

The William G. Abdalah Memorial Library produces a free bulletin of cultural information on Arab civilization for teachers. This interesting bulletin is the brainchild of Evelyn Menconi. Recent issues have dealt with Arab contributions to geography and commerce and have provided information and classroom ideas for examining the role of Arab-Americans within American society. To request a copy, contact St. George Community Center, 55 Emondale Rd., West Roxbury, MA 02132.

Middle East Outreach Council Welcomes New Members

The Middle East Outreach Council (MEOC) is gearing up for a new school year of service to secondary school educators. Begun as an umbrella organization for federally funded centers for Middle Eastern studies at universities around the country, MEOC is now an organization for anyone interested in what's happening in Middle East education at the precollege level. MEOC, like its parent organization, the Middle East Studies Association (MESA), defines the "Middle East" as including all of the Arab states, plus Israel, Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan. MEOC can be reached through its officers. Incoming president is Mounir Farah of Connecticut: secretary (inquiries) is Laurence Michalak, Center for Middle Eastern Studies, University of California, Berkeley, CA 94720.

Using Palestinian-Israeli Conflict As an Exercise in Critical Thinking

The San Francisco Bay Area Chapter of New Jewish Agenda teamed up with Najda: Women Concerned About the Middle East to produce a program that has been "taken on the road." "Using Critical Thinking: The Case of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict" was first offered to California teachers at their statewide convention in March. Given again at UC Berkeley in April, the presenters were asked to prepare an article on the approach for the journal of California Social Studies Teachers, Social Change and Review. Most recently, the Center for Critical Thinking and Moral Critique asked for the program to be presented to participating educators at their Seventh International Conference on Critical Thinking and Educational Reform, held in August in California.

The program focuses of critical thinking skills that can be applied to any issue. It demonstrates how teachers can help students to question assumptions, stereotypes and myths, gather facts, evaluate what they have heard or read, and reach their own conclusions. For more information about this method for introducing a "difficult" subject into a school curriculum, write for a copy of the Social Studies Review article: Najda, 1400 Shattuck Ave., Suite 2, Berkeley, CA 94709.

Stanford Offers Palestine Course

Stanford University is the most recent among universities to offer a course on Palestine, following the example of the University of California at Berkeley which started its "Palestine" course in 1984. Organized with the Peace and Conflict Studies Program, PACS 119 at US is coordinated by Jock Taft, assisted by a team of graduate students under the supervision of faculty members. Among scholars who speak at the seminar each year are Noam Chomsky, Edward Said, Eqbal Ahmad, Zachary Lockman, Joel Beinin and Ibrahim Abu-Lughod.

Since its inception, the Berkeley course has been under constant and relentless attack, both by some faculty members and by students organized through the campus Hillel center. Many lectures have been seriously disrupted, in some cases making it impossible for the speakers to be heard. But, thanks to its wide support, the university has persevered in offering the course, now starting its sixth consecutive year.

Two of the professors who, early on, criticized the course have been given an opportunity to participate in it. Visiting Professor of History Yonathon Shapiro taught History 100, the Society and Politics of Israel, without Arab scholars on his list of references, nor a Palestinian viewpoint referred to in any topic on the course outline. Professor R. A. Webster's History 174 also gave no references to Palestinian sources, although the course treats in detail the history of the solidification of the state of Israel. "Palestine" and "Palestinian" appeared nowhere in his two-page course outline.

Berkeley's PACS 119 provides a model for the presentation of the Palestinian question in a college environment. Despite disruption and controversy, it is regarded by many students and faculty members as one course that provides balance on a topic where all too often only one side has been heard. For information contact Peace and Conflict Studies Department, University of California, Berkeley, CA 94720. 

Audrey Shabbas, director of Najda:Women Concerned About the Middle East, is editor of the forthcoming Arab World Notebook, 350 pages of information and lesson plans for junior high and high school use.

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