Dr. Nancy Dale’s “Living Classroom” Gives Students a Greater Appreciation for Freedom
To some college students, the democratic protests in Egypt, Libya, and other Middle Eastern and African nations may just be events that are happening “in some other countries.” But to Dr. Nancy Dale’s students, the protests have played an active role in their college education.
Since the Egyptian protests began on Jan. 28, Dr. Dale’s communications classes have worked as what she calls “living classrooms” and are actively engaged and aware of the events in the Middle East as they happen. “We are gathering real-time data and information and watching how it changes daily,” she said. The class also participates in the Facebook page Voices of Egyptian/Americans, in which they engage in direct dialogue with Egyptian protestors, scholars, and students.
The project came about after Dr. Dale spoke to an Egyptian friend about what was really happening with the protests. She wanted her students to create a dialogue with each other and with the protestors to better understand the democratic movement in the Middle East. “We wanted to find out our own information instead of relying solely on information from differentiating media,” Dr. Dale said. “In the process, we’ve found that not only are we interested in what the protestors have to say, but the protestors are interested in what Americans have to say.”
Along with talking to the protestors, the students also research the Facebook postings of the protestors and present their findings to the class. The postings reflect a variety of topics and concerns in the region including Sharia Law, the police in Egypt, former Egyptian president Mubarek’s panel for reform, and the possible influence of Nobel Peace Prize winner Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei on the Egyptian government.
SFCC student David Frost believes the project has encouraged his fellow students to pay attention. “People tend to be passive and don’t generally want to look at the issues,” he said. “I’m a bit older than most college students, and I think this project will help broaden the younger students’ minds about what could happen. History has a way of repeating itself.”
“Everybody wants their rights,” said SFCC student Giro Bruzzese. “We are a blessed country, and it’s inspiring to see how we put down the foundation for other countries that are now doing the same things we once did. The Egyptians accomplished something great, and hopefully it will become something good for them.”
With the protests spreading to other countries, the students have expanded their project to now include many other Middle Eastern and African nations including Libya, Sudan, Algeria, Iraq, and Bahrain, and the Facebook page’s name was recently changed to Voices of Freedom Worldwide to include these additional countries.
“The protestors who overthrew the Egyptian dictator are the same majority age group as American college students,” Dr. Dale said, “but to the best of our knowledge, we are the only college class in the country that is participating in a project of this type. It’s important that our students understand what is happening and that they have a lot more power to change things than they realize.”