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Teaching Syria

posted: 9.18.13 by Barclay Barrios

As I write this post, a lot is happening in Syria.  I’ve been thinking about how one might use essays in Emerging to help students both unravel this tense international situation and to help them understand that what we do in the classroom doesn’t just exist in the classroom but connects to the world we live in.

Several essays come to mind:

  • Madeleine Albright’s “Faith and Diplomacy” is always a useful reading when thinking about international affairs.  Albright’s central argument—that while we may separate religion from politics other countries do not—can give students tools for understanding the complexity of the conflict in Syria.
  • Kwame Anthony Appiah’s essays “Making Conversation” and “The Primacy of Practice” are in many ways the heart of Emerging because they speak so universally.  Appiah’s notion of “cosmopolitanism”—the necessity of living with difference—is being put to the test on the global stage.  His separation of values and practices also underscores how difficult it is to simplify a situation like Syria.
  • Thomas Friedman’s “The Dell Theory of Conflict Prevention” is also a faithful go-to when thinking about global politics, since his central argument is that the economic forces of globalization have a stabilizing effect on geopolitics.  Students could use Syria to both confirm and complicate Friedman’s claims.
  • Malcolm Gladwell’s “Small Change,” new to the second edition, is a wonderful piece (because, well, Gladwell is a wonderful writer).  His examination of “high risk activism” and his debunking of the “Twitter revolution” are both applicable to what’s going on in Syria.

It’s not clear what’s going to happen.  What is clear is that something will and must.  I like to think that the work we do in our writing classrooms produces students who are ready to emerge as political agents in the public sphere. Thinking about Syria is one such opportunity.

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