A Schoolgirl’s Odyssey

Al Jazeera’s 2009 documentary about the courageous Swati girl Malala Yousafzai who was critically injured in a cowardly assassination attempt by the Pakistani Taliban.

On October 9, 2012, masked gunmen ambushed a van carrying schoolgirls home in Pakistan’s Swat Valley. They shot 14-year-old Malala Yousafzai at point blank range in the head and neck leaving her in critical condition. The Taliban in Pakistan claimed responsibility for the attack and vowed to “finish the chapter” in Malala’s story. Bringing and end to education for girls has long been one of their goals. The young activist was only 11 when she first stood up to the Taliban and despite numerous threats she continued to speak out against them.

This documentary filmed in 2009 follows the journey of Malala and her father as the deteriorating security situation forces them to leave not just their home in Swat Valley but their life’s passion.

Pedagogy of the Connected

This was published in the August issue of Learning Curve (India) and republished at Bella Caledonia. (Art: Computer Chaos by Joana Coccarelli)

In Amusing Ourselves to Death, a prophetic work on the impact of television on culture, the late media scholar Neil Postman compared two dystopias. One was George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-four, a world of strict thought control and surveillance where dissent was drowned under screams of torture. The other was Aldous Huxley’sBrave New World, a culture of permanent distraction, immobilized by entertainment and diminished by superficiality. One society was watched by Big Brother; the other entertained by it.

Postman found Orwell’s vision irrelevant to western democracies. Modern society, he said, was less a prison than a burlesque. Like Huxley’s nightmare vision, culture was being impoverished by distraction and trivia, and thought devalued. The problem wasn’t so much entertainment as the habit of mind that resulted from being permanently stimulated and amused, leaving little space for reflection.

The case against television may have been overstated. It was after all a passive medium and individuals were free to walk away. Internet too in its first incarnation had limited claim on our lives. But things have changed dramatically with Web 2.0. We no longer just consume information; we also create it. Barriers to entry are lower and technical skills are no longer necessary. Combined with smart phones and wireless technology, we are in the midst of an epochal change. We are dependent on technology in a way we have never been before.

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Tightening the Siege

by Amal Amireh

“We Travel Like Other People”

“Mamnou3,”* she said from behind the window. The harshness of the word was neither softened by its familiarity nor by the lazy gesture that accompanied it when she threw my application back to me.

It was eleven on a cloudless June day. I have been standing in line since 5 o’clock that morning. I was twenty-four. She looked eighteen. I ventured, “Why?”

Her laziness immediately turned into impatience. “Mamnou3!” She repeated, already looking at the next heavily stamped travel application in front of her. Then as if to end any possibility of a conversation, and my future with it, she uttered the dreaded words: “Roukh baitak!”**

There she was in my city, actually few blocks from my home, shooing me away in an Arabic accented with contempt, and deciding my life for me. Her military uniform, her gun which is never far from her, and the bureaucratic authority of an illegal occupation gave her words a finality designed to crush. Just like bulldozers.

These words were the final stamp that sealed my application—an application that I had submitted a month earlier requiring permission to travel from El Bireh in the West Bank to Boston in the United States after receiving a Fulbright scholarship via AMIDEAST. I had graduated from the English Department at Birzeit University two years earlier, despite checkpoints and closures that in my senior year alone totaled seven months. This scholarship was my only chance for graduate education.

But the gods of military occupation had decreed that summer that no one between the ages of eighteen and thirty is allowed to leave the West Bank until further notice. Of course there was no official announcement of such a decree. That would spoil the arbitrariness of it all and give the occupied the dangerous notion that they are owed any explanation at all. You just learn of it when you compare notes with other crushed souls who were told to go home.

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Why Academic Boycott?

Last week I thoroughly dealt with the not-so-scholarly and o-so-fallacious Nobel Laureates’ statement on BDS.  In almost pure cosmic irony I just got a link from a friend to a Prime Minister’s Office “non-tender”: Request for information about improving Israel’s image on U.S.A campuses.

Now that those talkback-esque arguments are out of the way, let’s get into the direct cynical use the Israeli government makes of the academia, in order to further its propaganda.

[Limited by my translation]:

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