Rethinking the Region:

New Approaches to 9-12 U.S. Curriculum on the Middle East and North Africa

This curriculum consists of 15 lesson plans (with appended and accompanying resources) to help U.S. World History high school educators teach about the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) in their classrooms.

Born out of a need to contextualize the MENA region in a more nuanced manner, we grounded the project with a rigorous process of U.S. World History textbook analysis and review, which subsequently served as a springboard for the curriculum design.

This resource analyzes how peoples and societies interacted collaboratively and fluidly at different political and historical junctures, integrating this analysis into vibrant curricula for high school teachers.

The breakdown of themes is as follows:

Lesson 1: Women in the Middle East & North Africa: Past and Present
Lesson 2: Using Primary Sources to Explore Gender in the Middle East & North Africa
Lesson 3: Contemporary Realities of Women in the Middle East & North Africa

Lesson 1: Late Ottoman Life: A Tale of Three Cities - Salonika, Jerusalem, and Istanbul
Lesson 2: Gallery Walk of Baghdad in the Early 20th Century
Lesson 3: Cosmopolitan Alexandria

Lesson 1: Innovations in Empire
Lesson 2: Three Traits, Three Leaders, Three Paths
Lesson 3: Revolutionary Poetry

Lesson 1: “Free Trade” and the Colonial Roots of Revolt
Lesson 2: Nationalization of AIOC in Iran, 1951-53
Lesson 3: More than “Muslim Rage”: Popular Depictions of Public Opinion in the Middle East & North Africa

Lesson 1: Arabic Music Across Time and Space
Lesson 2: Innovation and Interaction
Lesson 3: Art as Artifact

The themes in this curriculum were chosen because they are often framed incompletely and reductively in textbooks. We wanted to provide lessons and curricula that integrate the multiplicity and diversity of experiences and realities. The lessons—drawing heavily on primary source materials—were generated in specific response to the findings and are aligned with the Common Core Standards.

These lessons can be taught sequentially or can stand alone, even within each theme, if a teacher chooses to do so. In this sense, they are designed for teachers to be able to choose when they want to pause and delve in more depth on a particular theme or topic, while still adhering to the state curriculum. This curriculum also utilizes open source and web-based materials for many of the sources.

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Our Shared Past in the Mediterranean

This module provides an innovative approach to the deep past of the region, keyed to the eco-historical forces that have shaped its successive transformations since the dawn of civilization. It emphasizes the role of the environment and the hand of humankind in the shaping and reshaping of the region.

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Module 2 examines the classical Mediterranean from an unusual vantage point: the empire of Carthage. It also examines technology and inventions, economic exchange, cultural innovation, power and authority, and spiritual life across the Mediterranean region in the formative period of 5000-1000 BCE.

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Module 3 covers the period 300-1500 CE. Among other topics, it emphasizes the transformation of various Mediterranean cities, migrations within and beyond the region, and Mediterranean trade in the medieval period. The increasingly global, yet intensely local, character of Mediterranean trade is emphasized.

From the silk roads to the spice trade, to the trans-Saharan gold trade, to the Arabian coffee trade, the Mediterranean has been deeply enmeshed in trade that spans Afro Eurasia. This module also provides lessons that survey religious tolerance and intolerance in an increasingly diverse Mediterranean society. The result gives a more complex understanding of how cultural differences worked locally and across the region.

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Module 4, part of a six-part curriculum on the history of the Mediterranean from Antiquity to the present, surveys the rise of the Hapsburg and Ottoman Empires in the post-1500 CE period. It links this development to long term waves of global change in the early modern period. This module contains important lessons on the political and cultural transformations of the region, and how they affected different groups, together with lessons on slavery within the region.

Topics include:

Beyond the Golden Age and Decline Expansion, Exploration and Exploitation: population movements in the Age of Empires Networks of Trade,Technology and Taste: Sugar, Coffee and Silk Cosmopolitan Port Cities on the Mediterranean Slavery in Mediterranean Contexts.

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As old empires crumbled across the region, new economic, political, and cultural forms struggled to be born. Economically, the Mediterranean path to industrialization was rendered more difficult by the lack of significant deposits of coal within the region.

The construction of the Suez Canal, on the other hand, renewed the place of the region in the global system of trade and commerce. Politically, the example of France and French military, political and economic models were widely influential within the region from Italy and Spain to the Ottoman Empire in North Africa.

The nineteenth century Ottoman reform process known as the Tanzimat thus paralleled the introduction of French reforms in Spain and Italy. The module explores the impact of these changes in the Ottoman province of Tunisia. The onset of colonialism in the Mediterranean and human migration are studied as regional examples of global processes of change.

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Module 6 explores the period of 1914 to the present, with emphasis on the post-1945 period in the Mediterranean. It shows how the changes that have affected the region are manifestations of larger global patterns of change. For instance, the cases provided in this module link the end of colonialism, the rise of petroleum as a leading global energy source, and the dissemination of large-scale engineering projects such as the construction of the Aswan High dam and other major water projects to global patterns of change.

Students come away from Module 6 with an increased understanding both of the specificity of local change, and the ways it echoes broader global patterns.

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Teaching the Middle East: A Resource Guide for American Educators

An on-going work, this resource guide was developed by the Middle East Policy Council. As of now, the chapters available are:

What and Where is the Middle East On Teaching the Middle East The Ottomans Refugees and Forced Migrants The Roots of Modern Islamism Women, Rights, and Leadership

As other chapters are released, they will be made public here.

The Arabs: Activities for Elementary School Level

This resource provides a series of activities ranging from nursery school rhymes, to coloring activities and dancing, geared towards elementary school aged children.

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