The "Teaching About the Middle East" workshop, at Central Connecticut State University's campus in late October, illustrates the university's commitment to international education.
The seminar hosted middle and high school teachers for a daylong series of lectures and discussion of the Middle East. In collaboration with the University of Hartford, the annual workshops have taken place for five years. This year was the first Central-hosted event.
CCSU Associate Professor of Political Science Ghassan El-Eid has been liaison to the initiative since the program's beginnings. This workshop is critically important, because it promotes education about a region of the world that affects us all, he says. The Middle East is beset with conflict and violence, and the stakes are very high. We have a right to know about this, and what better approach than to inform through education? The more informed we are, the better equipped we will be to grasp and deal with these complex issues.
Professors of both universities spoke about the sources of conflict and problems that beset the region. El-Eid's presentation discussed religious extremism and the ongoing Arab-Israeli conflict, and the present situation in Iraq and Afghanistan and the confrontation with Iran as it pursues its nuclear weapons program.
Other topics included how religion impacts politics in the Middle East and the human element in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Other sessions explored teaching methods, reading materials, and using electronic technology.
El-Eid emphasizes the importance of teaching fairly in the classroom. "My approach is to expose students to different perspectives while explaining key events that have shaped the region's history. After reading a variety of sources and being exposed to different opinions, students will be in a better position to form their own conclusions." CCSU has a rich history of promoting discussion and visitation of the Middle East. The Middle Eastern Studies Committee has sponsored several lecture series in the past with guest speakers representing diverse perspectives.
"Historically, we have collaborated with the University of Hartford for these workshops, and we're looking to expand the relationship," notes El-Eid.
He hopes to co-sponsor courses abroad, to be taught by faculty from both schools, and says that such endeavors are very important because international education is key to enhancing students' understanding of the increasingly interdependent world. This is, El-Eid notes, compatible with Central's mission. The CCSU George R. Muirhead Center for International Education has been designated a statewide Center of Excellence in International Education by the Board of Governors for Higher Education. With over 20 university partnerships, the center, as noted in its mission statement, fosters a spirit of cross-cultural understanding and provides opportunities for students to respect the customs and values of others, learning more about themselves in the process.
Submitted by Luke Albertson, Central Connecticut State University, on 2009-11-11.