Dr. Anne Sa’adah on "Education and Political Change in the Arab Middle East"
On Thursday, February 23, 2012,the Cultural Hour at Haigazian University hosted a lecture by Dr. Anne Sa’adah on "Thinking is the Solution! Education and Political Change in the Arab Middle East".
The guests were welcomed by Dr. Arda Ekmekji, Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Science, who examined rational thinking through Aristotle and wondered whether thinking has "become an expensive commodity" in the modern age. Ekmekji then introduced the speaker, who is currently working on a book called Stay Safe: A Personal Account of Lebanese Politics.
Dr. M. Anne Sa’adah, a professor of government at Dartmouth College who is on her sabbatical year in Beirut, was invited to come to the podium to present her ideas on education reform in relation to politics, particularly when it comes to teaching history.
Sa’adah, who holds a Ph.D. in Political Science from Harvard University, first outlined the problem in the Middle East region, namely an issue of sovereignty, and mentioned a couple of popular solutions before introducing hers: thinking. She then immediately provided a concrete example of the problem. With the help of photographs, Sa’adah showed how different monuments around Beirut lack plaques to properly explain their history. "There is no agreed national narrative," she explained.
Moving from monuments to curricular reform, Sa’adah revealed that while most school subjects were updated post-civil war, only with history is the reform still "coming soon". While she acknowledged the challenges facing such a task, Sa’adah warned that in politics, a reluctance to think criticallyencourages "violence, miscalculation and stagnation".
Sa’adah then argued that there are bigger, prior problems in the education system that need to be addressed before the issue of the history curriculum, and these include poverty, an emphasis on rote learning, and a "multilingualism" that results in having "no linguistic proficiency in any language." She concluded by lauding the great efforts of individual teachers and expressing a hope that this could move to an institutional level.
The lecture was followed by aQ&A session and ended with refreshments.