Friday, November 30, 2007

Class Project on Islamic Politics




Class Project on Islamic Politics

Given the enormous amount of misunderstanding between Islamic and Western societies, education seems the only hope of avoiding needless disaster. Speaking for my own society, it is clear that American society has an extremely serious shortage of specialists in Islamic affairs: nowhere nearly enough to educate Americans about the economic, social, and political conditions in the Islamic world. I have also found in speaking to both academic and general public audiences that Americans thirst for information about Islamic affairs.

American society needs to think creatively about how to share the expertise that it has. This is by no means impossible in the Internet age. By using blogs, WIKIs, GoogleEarch, and a carefully selected set of online news sources, small schools can have access for free to an almost limitless range of information. As an example, I offer the classroom exercise described below for any educational institution that wishes to take advantage of it.

I pledge to provide support to this project if a professor wants to try it, and I invite specialists in Islamic affairs to offer their own volunteer, on-line support. Imagine a team of specialists in Islamic affairs ready to participate in an on-line dialogue with any group of students looking for guidance on this confusing area of such significance for the world.

One could imagine any number of projects. Here's an initial proposal...


Step 1. Select a posting from this blog that raises a question worth

Step 2. Assign your students to:

  1. Read the posting;
  2. Submit a comment to my blog at the end of that posting. (You may
    wish to inform students that you will grade them on the logic of whatever
    argument they make in their comment.)

Step 3. I will, to the degree feasible, try to respond to the comments – possibly by means of a follow-up posting to the blog.

Optional Step 4. Ask students to select at least one of the news sources or blogs listed on the right column of my blog and search through it to find evidence that would:

  1. support their argument;
  2. undercut their argument.

In conclusion, assign the students to write a short essay evaluating their argument taking both sets of evidence into account.

Optional Step 5. I invite students who are proud of their
essay to submit it to me. I will consider publishing it on my blog.


Let’s see how informative a dialogue we can generate!

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