Critical Global Curriculum (CGC) requires multiple approaches, and must adapt to the particular situation of any given classroom. Therefore, it is difficult to prescribe certain formulae for its implementation. There are certain goals and standards for implementation, however, which can be quite useful. I hope this study also provides illustrations which teachers will find practical. The criteria of CGC:
  1. Define culture academically and incorporate substantive knowledge about cultural communities around the world. Respectful cross-cultural communication and interaction start with respectful inquiry into culture. Even in classrooms in which students are predominantly Muslim, there is much to learn about Islam. Studying Muslim communities entails a great deal of diversity, cultural difference, and an accounting for evolving contexts (or abruptly changing as in the case of immigrants) in which Muslims of diverse ethnic and national communities practice Islam. In order to do justice to the topic of Islam (or any colonized country of community) an educator must recognize:
    • the importance of history and geography for understanding current realities.
    • that culture is not a trait (Rogoff, 2003). Cultural practices and norms are rooted in patterns of activity that have evolved over time and in dialogue with particular spaces (Cole, 1996). In other words, “cultural context" is a set of circumstances, shaped by time and space (Cole, 1996).
  2. Teach/conduct inquiry about the cultural norms and local circumstances of any given group or community, through both etic and emic perspectives. Teach lessons on multiple perspectives, but with the following caveats:
    • On a developmental level, teachers should recognize when students are operating at the denial stages of cultural awareness (Bennett, 1986) and adjust lessons toward gaining an understanding of cultural differences.
    • Avoiding cultural relativism and projecting certain assumptions onto communities which foreclose on authentic engagement with difference; engaging with cultural diversity (Crocco,2004), rather than denying it because it may cause discomfort or require work to understand it.
    • Non-appropriation of culture. Westerners often feel entitled to appropriate culture, which furthers imperialistic dominance and unethically ascribes credit where credit is not due (Subedi, 2013). Appropriation includes speaking for “the other", expressions of identity utilizing language, images or material culture of the “other".
  3. Address dominant narratives of the Other through deconstruction. It takes skill to do this without reifying the associated representations, however. An anti-oppressive approach includes such narratives, but supplements them with curriculum which seeks to change them: "When activists labor to supplement harmful associations they are participating in altering them. . ." (Kumashiro, 2000, p. 43). This “labor" entails deconstruction through various means. The following can be instrumental:
    • Discourse analysis
    • Postcolonial theory
    • Representation theory
  4. Conduct a deeper inspection of knowledge, and using a variety of sources, seeking first person testimonials, primary sources, and insider perspectives. Materials should disrupt (Kumashiro, 2000) mainstream knowledge of the world. These means allowing difficult subjects of war and violence (Merryfield, 2005). While there is some knowledge of traumatic histories which will remain forever inaccessible due to their traumatic nature (Britzman, 1998), making space for discussion of the negative side of “first contact" or of global imperialism is critical for students to understand how these histories still affect people today (Merryfield,2005). This material must be presented to the students skillfully, without fetishizing pain (Tuck & Wang, 2012), and without rushing through aspects of these histories which may cause distress.
  5. Allocate time in lesson plans, or spontaneously making time, for processing the trauma of oppression, either to self or Other. Student inquiry, discussion and activities which may deepen understanding the community/ies currently present in the curriculum, and one’s assumptions about self/other. Allowing time for “crises" (Kumashiro,2000) when students come to understand their complicity in oppression, or the impact they receive personally from “othering" discourses. The process begins with reflection on the culturally situated nature of epistemology, and one’s own worldview. This allows the possibility of one can gain an awareness of self as a cultural being with views on knowledge rooted in a cultural standpoint.
These criteria are by no means exhaustive, but they provide a framework for the kind of curriculum I am investigating in this study. Many of these are inter-relateed. Criterion 2 relates to criterion 3 as it requires an awareness of the culturally constructed nature of “truth" and the ways in which worldviews are rooted in particular histories and cultural milieus. Discourses have the power to racialize, and to project definitions of gender which promote an imperialist agenda. For CGC, the postcolonial theorists who identified particular colonizing discourses, and rendered visible their mechanisms for creating harm, are of central importance. I seek what the implications for Islamophobia in particular with regard to what the teachers in this study share about this curriculum.


Image credit: By Ohannes Umed Behzad [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Edward Said’s description of othering in his seminal work Orientalism (1979):

“What matters here is that Asia speaks through and by virtue of the European imagination, which is depicted as victorious over Asia, that hostile “other" world beyond the seas" (p. 56).

The work pointed out a critical need: to recognize the dominant, Eurocentric way of seeing the world, and work toward a knowledge system which privileges the perspectives of insiders.

Lila Abu-Lughod prods researchers out of complacency over thirty years after Said first wrote Orientalism by pointing out the continued function of othering in processes of Western knowledge production:
“as long as we are writing for the West about the ‘other’ we are implicated in projects that establish Western authority and cultural difference."

Prominent narratives and/or representations of “the East" found in official curriculum, the media, historic texts, fiction and our collective imaginations pose significant challenges for teaching about the Middle East and Asia in an equitable way. The place of Islam, Muslims and Muslim communities in the curriculum convey important implications for U.S. society, including the impact of Islamophobia, which is on the rise. The purpose of this study is to develop knowledge of more ethical, ways of including and learning from “the other" (Subedi, 2010). This study focuses on curriculum which allows room for questioning dominant narratives of gender and women’s rights in the ‘Third World’[1].

Citations:

Abu-Lughod, L. (2013). Do Muslim Women Need Saving? Retrieved from http://public.eblib.com/choice/publicfullrecord.aspx?p=3301358

Bennett, M. J. (1986). A developmental approach to training for intercultural sensitivity. International Journal of Intercultural Relations, 10(2), 179–196. https://doi.org/10.1016/0147-1767(86)90005-2

Cole, M. (1996). Cultural psychology: a once and future discipline. Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.

Crocco, M. S. (2004). Dealing with Difference in the Social Studies: A Historical Perspective. International Journal of Social Education, 18(2), 106–120.

Kumashiro, K. K. (2000). Toward a Theory of Anti-Oppressive Education. Review of Educational Research, 70(1). Retrieved from http://osu.worldcat.org/oclc/5762275398

Merryfield, M. M. (2005). chapter 15: Whose Worldview? Representation and Reality in the Social Studies. In Social Studies--The Next Generation: Re-searching in the Postmodern (pp. 217–221). Peter Lang Publishing, Inc. Retrieved from http://proxy.lib.ohio-state.edu/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=ehh&AN=38801748&site=ehost-live

Rogoff, B. (2003). The cultural nature of human development. Oxford [UK]; New York: Oxford University Press.

Said, E. W. (1995). Orientalism (Vol. Reprint with a new Afterword). Harmondsworth: Penguin.

Subedi, B. (2010). Introduction: Reading the World Through Critical Global Perspectives. In B. Subedi (Ed.), Critical global perspectives : rethinking knowledge about global societies. Charlotte, NC: Information Age Pub.

Subedi, B. (2013). Decolonizing the Curriculum for Global Perspectives. Educational Theory.

Tuck, E., & Wang, K. W. (2012). Decolonization is not a metaphor. Decolonization: Indigeneity, Education & Society, 1(1), 1–40.