Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Education: San Diego Adopts Arab-American's Textbook

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Education: San Diego Adopts Arab-American's Textbook

Article excerpt

Education: San Diego Adopts Arab-American's Textbook

Professor Mounir Farah's textbook, World History: The Human Experience, published by Glencoe, was selected this spring for adoption by the San Diego Unified School District. The teachers who used the book along with two others during a yearlong review process chose The Human Experience despite attempts by the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith to influence them to select a competing title. Details of the controversy were presented in the July 1992 issue of the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs.

University Educators Find Middle East Visits Eye-Opening

American university educators might be expected to return with ambivalent feelings from personal visits to the Middle East, a region whose troubles are recounted daily in major U.S. newspapers. However, one group of educators invited to Israel and another invited to two Arab states of the Gulf, could hardly have been more enthusiastic about their experiences. Seven presidents of historically Black colleges spent eight days in Israel at the invitation of B'nai B'rith and the government of Israel. A 13-member group of professors from colleges in Indiana and Ohio visited Oman and the United Arab Emirates in a study visit organized through the Joseph J. Malone Faculty Fellows Program of the National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations.

The Malone Fellows, who had had little or no prior exposure to the Middle East, were impressed by the modern cities they saw in the United Arab Emirates and Oman. Clifford Staten, professor of political science at Indiana University Southeast, commented, "In 20 years they've made unbelievable progress. Twenty years ago the UAE was desert with hardly any roads. Now it looks like downtown San Diego!" Larry Thornton, professor of history at Hanover College in Hanover, Indiana, was struck by how much effort went into irrigating the country.

Oman, Thornton said, "has a kind of innocence because there is so little international traffic." Prof. Anna Bellisari, who teaches sociology at Wright State University, said she was impressed by Omani efforts to preserve the country's environment. Oman, she said, is the first Gulf country to protect the endangered falcon.

A major misconception dispelled by the visit concerned the level and quality of education available to all citizens of the Gulf countries. Professor Staten concluded that "education is the centerpiece" of the UAE's national development program. During a visit to the UAE National University, the American professors were surprised to learn that women students out-number men. "They are encouraging women to get an education," Staten said. "We met many educated women who hold high positions in the government."

Professor Bellisari said that Dr. Thuwayba Al-Barwani, assistant dean at Sultan Qaboos University and the highest ranking woman in Oman's educational administration, was one of the two most impressive Omanis she met.

A second misconception that was dispelled, said Professor Staten, was the tendency among Americans who have never visited the Middle East to think of Islam as monolithic. The professors found instead that Islam as practiced in Oman and in the UAE differed from that practiced in Iran. They were impressed by the tolerant attitudes of the Muslims they met. …

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