Educators have sociopolitical identities that impact the way they teach and the materials they use in class. These identities are tied to our race, nationality, religious background, immigrant status, ethnicity, and other aspects of our lives that shape whom we are and inform the perspectives we choose to share with our students.
In the context of teaching Arabic as a second language, textbooks used in Western academic institutions are largely de-politicized, and authors have traditionally shied away from presenting topics that some audiences and publishing houses consider “sensitive.” On top of this, our language programs are often designed as achievement-based programs where teachers are viewed as “technicians” who don’t need to respond to students’ needs or create a curriculum that promotes critical thinking or bring pedagogical novelty. In these programs, Arabic language instruction is typically “scripted” by poorly designed textbooks, and this ultimately determines the kind of conversations that emerge or get suppressed in the classroom.
For teachers who want to generate meaningful conversations in the classroom, the challenge is double: On the one hand, they need to find the time to incorporate intellectually engaging content from outside the “script,” and, on the other hand, they need to deal with the discomfort of addressing sociopolitical topics that have become controversial (if not taboo) in their academic institutions.
The current events in Palestine are a good example and a timely reminder that we need to reflect more often on our role as educators and on the core values that inform our pedagogy; because in moments of crisis, these can guide our teaching practices.