free stats Carmen's Web: The Crusades in Brooklyn
Tuesday, November 28, 2006
The Crusades in Brooklyn
I grew up in a diverse migrant community and was exposed, at quite a young age, to the glorious poetry of the Quran, the miracles of the Bible, the borderlands of Gloria Anzaldua, and the double-consciousness of W.E.B. du Bois. I never believed that me or mine possessed THE essential truth, if there even is such a thing. I was literally able to have the best of all worlds (although many people claim that this potluck upbringing is what has led me "astray", with no solid beliefs).

I've always only felt comfortable when I was surrounded by immigrants. I need to hear different languages and savor different palates. When I got my current job, I was thrilled because it fit into the kind of world I have always been drawn to. I was going to have a bona fide global classroom. I kinda forgot that these kids are coming from places that haven't necessarily embraced this whole we-are-one-big-world idea. Instead of learning from one another, they seem to be forming alliances with their own kind and discrediting anything that doesn't fit into their worldview.

This becomes very frustrating for a global studies teacher, particularly when we're trying to learn about cultural diffusion. Last week, for example, we wrapped up our unit on the Middle Ages and were doing a final review. I asked the class to name someone from the medieval world who had a strong impact on the future and one Colombian kid, who had been researching the Islamic Empire, yelled out, "Mohamed! Because of him there are over a billion people in the world who believe in the Islam religion!" I put his answer on the board and he was so happy (he looked like a dolphin during feeding time) that he decided to create a rap song that went like this:

Mo-mo-mohamed was the man yo

He wasn't allowed to continue. The Muslim kids in class were ready to pounce on him.


R is not the kind of student who stops doing his thing when someone tells him to, so he continued mo-mo-mo'ing his way through his rap song.

The Muslim kids started getting really agitated. For some reason, I find it highly amusing when kids are agitated. That frustrated look they get on their face is just magic. I wish I had had a camera that day...

I told R to stop his rap song and asked the Muslim kids to explain to him why they were so bothered and found his rap song to be offensive. The problem with working with ESL students is that they don't have the language to express themselves properly. I think that even if they did have the language, they would've been unable to form their own opinions since all they've been doing recently is echoing what they hear at home.

This week we're talking about the Crusades, a very touchy topic when you consider the make-up of my school. Here are just brief snippets of the conversations:

When asked why the European Christians were so ruthless during the Crusades, the answer from one Bengali boy was:

"Because Christians are bad and hate Muslims."

When asked why the European Christians wanted to go on Crusades, the answer from my Israeli boy was:

"Because Muslims are evil and deserve it".

In addition to Christians being bad and Muslims being evil, Jews apparently were lazy because they just sat back and didn't fight.

It was good to see the prejudices come out of the closet (though these kids have been anything but subtle the past couple of months) because it'll help me battle them as we make our way throughout history. We dispelled a lot of myths today in class, but I know that this Crusade is definitely not over.
Thoughts shared by Carmen at 6:31 PM
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Who: Carmen

xx-something egyptia-yorker who's spent over half her life stuck in two worlds not of her own making. unable and unwilling to fully embrace one identity over the other, she created (is trying to create) her own place in the world where people love each other unconditionally, irrespective of artificial boundaries, and where dancing merengue is as necessary to life as breathing air.

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