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Journalism Dept. Emerson College Boston MA email@example.com David wrote-- >>About the study of the Middle East and Islam, a >>Massachusetts >>high school teacher is quoted as saying that "in most schools there's >just >>a bit about the crusades in world history, and then 30 minutes at some >>point during the school year to talk about the current crisis." The >>article includes Internet resources for teachers and a list of books for >>k-12 students. Well, unless things have changed from when I was in college, the way of teaching the Crusades (and most world history) was to stress the global impact and the clash between the Christians (good guys) and the Muslims (bad guys)-- and to totally ignore how any of this affected the Jews. During the Crusades, for example, Jews were rounded up in a synagogue and then the synagogue was set on fire as the crusaders cheered. I don't recall the on-going anti-Semitism of the crusaders as being considered worthy of discussion. Perhaps it's because I grew up in Boston, an overwhelmingly Catholic city, but the Crusades, like much of western civ, was taught in the old style of the "great men, great wars"-- nothing about how any of this affected the PEOPLE, especially those not white, male, and Christian (no offence to the white Christian men on this list-serv). And while the newer textbooks do in fact mention something about the Muslim viewpoint of the Crusades, I'm a Big Sister and I can tell you the book my "Little Sister" is studying for World History seems to mainly be written from a Christian point of view, just like the books I studied 30 years ago. Jews, Sikhs, Hindus, Buddhists and other minorities who lived in Christian countries get perhaps a paragraph, if that much. I realise today we are not as simplistic nor as Eurocentric in our text books-- Christians are not arbitrarily presented as the good guys, colonialism is not always depicted in a positive light, and some of the leaders of other cultures and belief systems are now mentioned, rather than just famous popes and kings. But even when my husband went back to college 6 years ago, his western civ book still presupposed that the crusades were noble and said little about any resistence, as well as minimising other ideologies. We do seem to have moved beyond the double-standard of indicting Muslims for spreading their faith by the sword, while when Christians did much the same, they were praised for it (or at least some rationalisations were offered). But I still feel we have a long way to go in terms of integrated the experiences (including the oppression and persecution) of minority religions and ideologies into our high school and even college texts. And while the "New History" may do a better job than the traditional "great men" style, I wonder if this isn't a band-aid approach, as in, "oops let's quickly insert a sentence about Islam" or "quick, who knows something about Uzbekistan?" I don't know if text book publishers have the time or the ambition to truly research the causes of conflicts in the Muslim world. My fear is a knee-jerk approach to history-- when I studied at Northeastern several years ago, I was appalled (and probably made a few enemies) by what I felt was a totally pro-Palestinian bias in many books about the Middle East. Since I come from the media, it made me wonder just how much of what passes as "history" really falls under the category of "revisionism," or even "propaganda"-- watching the news and seeing what students in other countries are taught about America, about the West, about the Jews, is very interesting and also very disconcerting. When Newsweek issued a study yesterday (commissioned by Gallup) it showed 85% of Pakistanis believe that it was possibly George W. Bush but most likely Israel who planned and executed the World Trade Center attacks to discredit Islam. The lack of objective information isn't just restricted to Pakistan, of course. If you listen to the talk shows, you hear plenty of American callers expressing some equally misguided views about what "the Arabs" are allegedly like-- and I am not especially comforted by the disclaimer that "our" Arabs (the ones who live here and are citizens) aren't like "those other Arabs". Myths and stereotypes about certain cultures persist, and I am not sure the textbooks do an effective job of dispelling them or even explaining and/or addressing why they persist. It is my belief that the myths about a culture are a worthy subject for historical study. (I still get asked at least once a semester by a foreign-born student how the Jews manage to control the media, and I think most American students have been given the idea that all of Iraq's problems are because of Saddam Hussein.) One more time, as I have done on this list before, let me put in a plug for the study of media history-- most students get their information from TV and from the internet, and it is useful for us to know what ideas they are assimilating, yet few texts that I see even consider the role of the media in the creation and spread of cultural beliefs-- witness the impact of Al Jazeera, for one current example. I know it is difficult to write a good textbook for the teen aged demographic, and I know that in this post-literate society, American students are not as engaged in reading as we might like. But over-simplifying complex world events or putting them in a framework of "good guys versus bad guys" strikes me as a dangerous approach which will leave students even more confused than they may be already.