Our outreach program works to promote and assist Middle Eastern and South Asian studies education for K-16 schools, businesses, civic and non-profit organizations, the media, governmental agencies, and the general public. Our attempt is to collate materials that offer a closer look at issues that pertain to these regions of the world. Our programs consist of the following:
- Curriculum units on culture and daily life in the Middle East and South Asia, which can be used individually or as a complete unit in classrooms.
- Lending library that consists of over 200 publications, films, audio recordings and artifacts about the Middle East and South Asia. These items are available for free check-out to educators and the general public.
- Professional development workshops for educators on the Middle East and Islam that may be taken for professional development credits.
- Programs that are customized for classrooms, libraries, and other community venues.
The Middle East, for many, is an area they know little of, shrouded in mystery, yet to be 'discovered' or worse; it is framed by the media images of a war-ridden landscape they see daily on their television screens. 'Demystifying' the Middle East is part of our mission as a National Resource Center. Our approach, however, is not to give voice to our perceptions of the Middle East but to understand how these nations perceive themselves. Towards that end, we have compiled and created units on culture and daily life in the Middle East, resources that can be used individually or as a complete unit in classrooms. The lesson plans and activities can also be combined with other units to offer a multi-faceted approach to the Middle East. In addition, we have other materials to offer that would further enhance this teaching approach.
What defines a nation? Is it the people, the culture, the iconography, the cuisine, the national symbols or the landscape? Is it the technology or the lack thereof, the currency and its purchasing powers, the language or the arts? Is it the history that shapes it or the future it envisions? What do they value, what do they celebrate and how does this shape their national narrative? Is it the social customs, the religious lore or the political strife that mold it? What is a nation?
Our attempt here is to collate materials that offer a closer look at all of these issues that contribute to defining a national identity with specific reference to the countries that constitute the Middle East. We blur boundaries even as we question and interrogate issues of homogeneity, we point to similarities but only to accentuate differences, we deconstruct the many stereotypes that have persisted in the media and we engage closely with issues of identity in the belief that this can all be successfully re-enacted in classrooms wherever this material is used.