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Session R4818 (Teaching Middle East Studies in a Controversial Time: Between Activism and Accountability), 2017
My presentation looks at teaching controversial topics on the Middle East in Political Science classes. I view my contribution as part of a larger conversation with the panel and audience on the issues. My focus will be on the following.
1. Teaching the news. I will discuss some problematic issues in US coverage of Middle East news, including bias, fake news, and satirical sites. I will also discuss introducing students to Middle Eastern news sources (and their biases). I will then discuss using this topic as a springboard for sourcing heuristics in the classroom more broadly (evaluating the credibility of the books and articles we read).
2. Our own opinions. I teach at a very conservative, large, southern state university. I will talk about how I reveal (or conceal) my own political views on controversial issues and how such strategies may vary depending on whether I am teaching undergraduate or graduate students, my position at the university (tenured, tenure-track, contingent, graduate student), and the broad relationship between my own views and the views of most of the students (i.e., a blue dot in a red state vs a blue dot in a blue sea).
3. Teaching in public venues (panels and talks open to the university community and to the public). I will discuss my participation in (and organization of) panels, brown-bags, and a speaker series for more public audiences from 9/11 to the present.
4. Engaging the university on these issues. The TRO recently issued by the 9th District Court foregrounded the role of the university in the Court’s decision to temporarily halt the Muslim ban. Many universities (including my own) have put forward statements (of varying quality) on the issue. I will discuss the roles the university (and we, as stakeholders) may play in engaging timely issues related to the Middle East.
5. Censorship. I will discuss the dangers (and perhaps necessities) of self-censorship and the issue of pressure from the University when teaching these topics and s the varying strategies that different instructors (e.g., tenured full professors vs graduate student) may adopt in engaging these issues.
6. Pedagogy. I will explore active-learning approaches to these issues but hope the discussion will include large lecture, online, and other courses.