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Volume 55, Number 2 March/April 2004

In This Issue

Click for the Table of Contents

Reader's Guide

By Julie Weiss

For students: We hope this two-page guide will help sharpen your reading skills and deepen your understanding of this issue’s articles.
For teachers: We encourage reproduction and adaptation of these ideas, freely and without further permission from Saudi Aramco World, by teachers at any level, whether working in a classroom or through home study.


Analyzing Visual Images

Usually the activities in this section focus on one photograph, walking you through an in-depth analysis of it. This month, we take a different approach. “Promises and Possibilities: Images of Islam in America” is a collection of photographs—a photo essay—whose images are both visually appealing and narrative: They tell a story about Muslims in the us. To address it as a photo essay, these activities ask you to look for similarities among the photos, so you can identify themes that emerge from the collection.

Most of the time, photographs contain a horizon—that is, a horizontal line that divides the picture in the same way that the actual horizon appears to separate earth and sky. It’s less common to see photos with vertical lines that divide them left and right, yet several of the photos here are split, or nearly split, vertically. The result is that the photos appear to be cut in two.

  1. Choose three such photos.

  2. With a partner, locate the vertical line or lines. What effect does the vertical split have on the way each picture looks? To answer the question, as you look at each of the photos, ask yourself what catches your eye first. Why? What do you look at next? What after that? Do you find the photos appealing? Interesting? What pleases your eye? What don’t you like?

  3. Then think about the symbolic effects of the vertical lines. Again, start by looking at each photo on its own. Write or speak the story that the photo tells. What role does the vertical line, or the split it creates, play in the story? What’s the feeling? Why do you think Alexandra Avakian took the pictures this way? After you’ve told the stories of your three photos, discuss with your partner any pattern that emerges among the three. Write what you think the vertical lines might symbolize in each one. Remember that there are no right answers, but be prepared to explain how you came to the conclusion you did.

Class Activities

The activities in this section are designed to engage students with the material in Saudi Aramco World while encouraging them to connect it to the larger themes in their other studies. This month’s activities revolve around three themes: Cause and Effect, International Conflict and Cooperation, and Interpreting Evidence.

Theme: Cause and Effect

Actions produce results. You make decisions every day about what to do to bring about something you want to happen: This is called a desired effect. You want to see your friends at school, so you have to get to the bus stop on time or else you’ll miss them. You want a new bicycle, and so to bring about that effect, you have to work at the movie theater to earn the money to buy it. Of course, there are many cause-and-effect relationships that people have no control over: Hurricanes Charley, Frances and Ivan had effects no one either desired or controlled.

How can examining cause-and-effect relationships help people solve problems?

Solving a problem in the natural environment might seem pretty straightforward: To save the argan tree from extinction, outlaw cutting them down. But it’s far more complicated, as Zoubida Charrouf discovered. Read “Ardent for Argan.” As you do, notice how her efforts set off what’s called a “domino effect”—a sequence of effects—because the argan tree was connected to southwestern Morocco’s ecology, economy and culture.

If you’re going to grapple with a problem like saving the argan tree, you need to be able to think far ahead: What’s your goal? What actions will lead to that goal? What other outcomes will your actions lead to? Which will be good? Which will be bad? For whom? How will you address them? Then, what else might those actions put into motion?

At the top of a horizontal white board, write Charrouf’s goal: “Save the argan tree.” Make a flowchart of her actions. Start on the left by stating the current situation. Then record what Charrouf did. By the time you finish, your flowchart should show the steps she took and their consequences. Remember that Charrouf and her colleagues could not anticipate all the consequences ahead of time, but once they happened, they had to deal with them anyway.

Now try it yourself. Identify a problem at your school or in your community, and pretend you have to ask for money and people to solve it. (It might be a lot of money and many people—that’s okay.) Instead of making a flowchart, make a web. Put the problem in the center. Spin out possible actions you might take, and allies you might seek to help you. Then from each action, spin out as many effects as you can think of. Consider both the effects you’re trying to accomplish and the unintended ones that might happen anyway. (If you can see that a proposed action would have bad effects, you will know ahead
of time either to avoid or modify that action, or add other actions that address the bad effects.) When you’ve made the web, evaluate which options will be your best choices for solving the problem. If it will help you clarify your thinking, translate the web into several flowcharts, one for each proposed plan. Based on your analysis, write a proposal of how you recommend solving the problem.

When is it worth investing a lot of time to bring about a desired effect?

Sometimes, you have to keep working at something to get the effects you want. It can take a long time, as both “Ardent for Argan” and “What Was Jiroft?” describe. Zoubida Charrouf began her work in 1984. Twenty years later, she is still involved in carrying out the program she helped begin. Similarly, archeological work goes on longer than one person’s life. As one scholar notes, some 500 teams of archeologists have been digging in Mesopotamia over the past 100 years. Think about someone you know or have read about who achieved something that took a long time. What did the person do? What steps were involved in doing it? List them. For example, say your aunt is a surgeon. That involved four years of college, four years of medical school, plus internships and residencies. For parents to raise a family is an even longer process. How about an Olympic athlete’s training? Write a letter to Charrouf or archeologist Yousef Madjidzadeh (“What Was Jiroft?”), and tell her or him what you admire about the perseverance their achievements show. If you’ve got a goal you can imagine working at for a long time, explain it in the letter. Include why you think the project will hold your interest for years. If you don’t have a goal you can imagine working at for a long time, explain why you don’t think you’d want to undertake something like they have, what you envision instead, and why you prefer it.

Theme: International Conflict and Cooperation

You can read in the newspaper every day how countries deal with conflict. But of course countries deal with each other all the time on other kinds of issues, including trade, health care, famine relief and so on. In these activities, you’ll look at international efforts in science and economic development.

How does social context affect scientific research?

A common belief is that the work of scholars and scientists in universities doesn’t really matter to any of our daily lives. That belief, though, couldn’t be farther from the truth, as you’ll discover when you read “What Was Jiroft?”

Highlight the parts of the article that discuss how the political situation in Iran, and between Iran and other nations, affected the archeological work at Jiroft. Make a timeline that includes the key points in the story: 1979, 1997 and 2003. Under the time periods (pre-1979, 1979–1997, 1997–2003 and beyond), list the ways international relations affected archeological research at Jiroft.

Now step back. Identify at least two different ways that politics, economics and cultural values have affected archeological research in Iran. Write three complete sentences about each one. Make your sentences into a paragraph by writing a topic sentence that summarizes what you want to say about the relationship between international relations and scientific research. Finish with a second paragraph in which you take a position to agree or disagree with the statement, “Isolation kills science.”

When, if ever, is it appropriate for outsiders to intervene in a country’s environmental or cultural affairs?

“Ardent for Argan” reports that the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) stepped in to protect the endangered argan tree. In “What Was Jiroft?” scholars from the us, France and other countries have stepped in to protect cultural artifacts. These stories suggest that when what’s at stake affects the world beyond one country’s borders, others have the responsibility to intervene. But is this always true? And what might be the effects of doing so? Choose another controversial situation in the world today, and plan a class debate in which one side argues that outside intervention is acceptable while the other argues that it is not.

Theme: Interpreting Evidence

Artifacts may tell us something about an ancient civilization. On the other hand, since the artifacts themselves don’t speak, it’s really up to archeologists to say what the artifacts reveal. Interpreting what they say, though, is far from an exact science. Look again at “What Was Jiroft?”

How do archeologists decide what artifacts reveal about people from the past?

Yousef Madjidzadeh believes he has found the legendary city of Aratta. Other archeologists aren’t so sure. On what evidence does Madjidzadeh base his belief? What do other archeologists say about his conclusions? Fill in the chart below to help you answer the questions.

Based on this

concluded that:

But other archeologists
concluded that:













How might future archeologists interpret “artifacts” from us?

It’s easy enough to accept what archeologists say about civilizations that existed thousands of years ago. But think about how future archeologists might interpret what they find from our world, say, 4500 years from now. You’ll quickly see it’s not nearly so clear-cut. Let’s say archeologists in the year 6504 have uncovered the remains of what appears to be a settlement. They might find that nearly every home has a room with a box in it, and that all the chairs in the room face the box. That’s what they would observe, and even though you know it’s a television set, would they know that? If they couldn’t figure that out, what might they conclude? Perhaps that the people in 2004 believed the box was a kind of a god, and that they organized their homes around paying homage to it? That some homes probably belonged to priests because they had more than one of the boxes? You get the picture.

As a class, brainstorm a list of everyday objects—anything from dental floss to cans of soup to Palm Pilots. Divide the class into groups, and assign each group five of the artifacts on the list. With your group, prepare a presentation about the objects from the point of view of archeologists in 6504. Show a sample of each object, if possible, along with a description of the context in which you would have found it. For each object, come up with several ideas of what it might have been. You’ll probably find that the incorrect analyses are more interesting and more revealing than the correct ones. So have fun with the exercise—and remember that you’re dealing with the serious issue of how archeologists interpret the objects they find.

Julie Weiss Julie Weiss is an education consultant based in Lowell, Massachusetts. She holds a Ph.D. in American studies and develops curricula and assessments in social studies, media literacy and English as a Second Language.