Monday, January 26, 2009

To the Dead Sea and beyond...

How many of us can really hold down an intelligent conversation about the Middle East, or can even really identify which nations belong to the region? Though some may shy away from “Islamic World Studies” because it sounds too ultra-smart, it’s not only a hotbed of opinion, it’s a neglected area of study in general, and that might be in part because mainstream American education ignores what it perpetuates as menacing. I sailed through the first and second grades during the first Gulf War and never studied the area again. Facts about the region are so complex and contested, I often don’t even trust what I hear people saying.

“I would like to, at first, teach high school history at a school that would allow me to focus on the Middle East. High school history tends to be very Euro/America-centric, leaving the younger students’ education about the Middle East to political slogans and CNN reports. I would like to show the complexity and nature of the region through it’s history.”

Mark his words. His name is Max Crumpley, and he has identified a gaping black hole in our educational system. By majoring in history, he is working toward credentials in education. By minoring in Islamic World Studies, he’s working on education gaining its own credibility.
Though he stumbled into the minor via a freshman history course, he’s backpacked his way into much more than a 6-course sample platter of Islam. DePaul sponsors study abroad visits in the short term, like the two week trip Max took to Turkey, extending it on to Israel and Jordan. That trip was the declaritive sentance to his Islamic World Studies minor.

If that wasn’t experiential learning at its apex, Max returned his junior year to study at the American University in Cairo, Egypt. Beyond Egyptian exploration, Max returned to Israel, and headed into Lebanon and Pakistan. This has been much more educational than any classroom debate. DePaul has been scorched in the media over Gaza controversy already, with last year's dismissal of Norman Finkelstein - the poli-sci professor who was denied tenure over some of his own Palestinian sympathies (to acknowledge a popular belief), sparking a world-watched movement for academic freedom.

Though I had to ask Max how he views the Gaza situation, Max had to go see a movie. More thoughts to come on that note, but at least we can trust them to be credible.

1 comment:

  1. This is a great post. I took an IWS class my freshman year and I learned so much! I am glad that Max is minoring in IWS and that he has traveled so much in the Middle East. I wish he could have been my high school history teacher.