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Teaching the Crisis in Egypt

barclay_barrios
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One of the reasons I love teaching with Emerging is that the readings are so contemporary—I find they often speak to current situations in the world. This allows me to show students how ideas from an essay in class operate in real life; it also allows my students to bring in contemporary events when thinking about a particular author during class discussion or in their papers. The current crisis in Egypt offers both opportunities. Here are some of the ways I might invite students to think about what’s going on in Egypt using readings from the text:
  1. Madeleine Albright’s “Faith and Diplomacy”: As the United States considers its reaction to the events in Egypt, to what extent should we take into account differences in religion and faith? Albright examines how politics and religion—strictly separated here—are often integrated in other parts of the world. That perspective can help students think about the complex motivations for protestors in Egypt.
  2. Kwame Anthony Appiah’s “Making Conversation” and “The Primacy of Practice”: Students often interpret Appiah’s central concept of cosmopolitanism as a fanciful, utopian concept of a world in which we all get along. But Appiah’s more pressing point is that we now live in a world so interconnected and so crowded that we have no choice but to learn to get along with others. The interconnection between the revolution in Tunisia and the protests in Egypt is an apt example of what happens when we live in a cosmopolitan world.
  3. Thomas Friedman’s “The Dell Theory of Conflict Prevention”: Friedman argues that countries embedded in global supply chains are unlikely to go to war with each other. More generally, he looks at how a globalized economy stabilizes geopolitics. But Egypt presents some unique challenges to Friedman’s ideas, while also revealing a definite slant toward Asian countries in his analysis.
  4. Steven Johnson’s “Listen to Feedback” and Marshal Poe’s “The Hive”: Both of these essays talk about the success of bottom-up versus top-down systems, which provides a unique frame for looking at the conflict between the bottom-up protests and the top-down government response. Given that Egypt effectively blacked out the Internet (in part to stop the kind of collaboration and connectivity that Poe and Johnson discuss and that was being used to coordinate the protests), these essays are particularly appropriate.
  5. Kenji Yoshino’s “Preface” and “The New Civil Rights”: Yoshino’s discussion of competing paradigms for civil rights would be a useful way to think about the kinds of changes that the people of Egypt are arguing for.
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About the Author
Barclay Barrios is an Associate Professor of English and Director of Writing Programs at Florida Atlantic University, where he teaches freshman composition and graduate courses in composition methodology and theory, rhetorics of the world wide web, and composing digital identities. He was Director of Instructional Technology at Rutgers University and currently serves on the board of Pedagogy. Barrios is a frequent presenter at professional conferences, and the author of Emerging.