How SEGL is responding to the current situation in the Middle East

February 03, 2011

At SEGL, we are watching the events in the Middle East unfold with great interest.  Students are sending links to news articles, watching Al-Jazeera English in-between classes, and requesting more information.  And the learning extends into the classroom as well.

Too often schools ignore world events that will shape the lives of their students.  Tackling these events inside the classroom is challenging in a world of high-stakes testing and cutthroat college admissions.  The subject matter is also often outside the comfort zone of teachers.  But by refusing to discuss global issues in depth, our schools tell our students they are not important.  At SEGL, our intellectually entrepreneurial staff, our flexible schedule, and our firm mission allow us to learn about these events together while maintaining the integrity of our rigorous academic program.

On Monday, we provided students with a basic background on the situation in Egypt.  Ethical and diplomatic questions informed the interactive, multimedia presentation.  In particular, students considered how Secretary of State Hillary Clinton might respond on the Sunday morning talk shows like “Meet the Press” and “This Week.” Should the Obama Administration support the demonstrators or President Mubarak, or should it remain neutral?  How strong should the response be?  After a lecture and a spirited dialogue, we showed them the Secretary’s actual answers and discussed them.

Today we have adjusted our schedule to allow students to attend a panel discussion at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.  The Carnegie Endowment, an SEGL partner located a block from our academic building, is one of the leading think tanks in the world.  At the end of the day, students will be able to learn more in Arabic class.  On Friday, we will videoconference with two SEGL graduates who live in Jordan to hear their take on recent events in Jordan and around the Arab world.  And in the next few weeks, we will visit Al Jazeera English, whose offices are just a few blocks south of us.  We also have speaking requests in to two Arab ambassadors who are friends of the school.  We are taking time to reflect on our learning; this allows students to solidify and increase their understanding.

The results are important: students who think more critically, who connect current events to disciplinary learning, who gain confidence through interactions with policymakers and others, and who lead their classmates and communities when they return home.

This is a defining moment in modern world history, and we are glad our students are a part of it.

Update: Click here to watch the Carnegie Endowment event on C-SPAN.