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Wednesday, December 1, 2010


Having completed their across-the-pond literacy projects with UM-Dearborn students, my AUB 'Advanced Academic English' students are writing more traditional research papers right now. I don't usually assign traditional research papers (which don't have much of an existence outside of English classes), but the entire curriculum here centers on "The Research Paper," so I'm playing along, albeit with a lot of attention to audience analysis and informed advocacy of social change. What, you may ask, do Lebanese college students choose to write about?

--traffic laws (x 3...definitely on people's minds in Beirut!)
--the addictive properties of social networking
--admissions standards at elite U.S. vs. Lebanese colleges
--definitions of "democracy" in Lebanon
--Westernization of Beirut (x 4...also a popular topic)
--female circumcision in the Arab world
--working conditions of "domestic help" in Lebanon
--Arab-American youth culture in Boston
--sex taboos in the Middle East
--the Lebanese Jewish diaspora
--how collectivism informs formal schooling in Lebnaon
--homophobia in Beirut
--a cultural history of tabouleh
--the job market in Beirut

It's been a few years since I've taught "the research paper." In recent years, I've had classes collaboratively critique and respond to a non-fiction text (such as Half the Sky by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn) by contextualizing the text's ideas and placing them in broader contexts. So it's been interesting to return to the old-school, pick a topic-analyze an audience-enter into a conversation about a social issue, practice. I'm familiar with the limits of this model, but I'm accentuating what I think is most useful about it. Lastly, I suspect some have chosen topics they think I'll like (you can guess which ones), but, still, good to see them write about whatever they choose.

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