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Volume 59, Number 4July/August 2008

In This Issue

Classroom Guide

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

Magazine editors and designers make decisions about how to present the photographs in the magazine’s pages. Their decisions have to do with the kinds of photos they have available, the content of the article the photos accompany, and the effect they are hoping to create. Without reading the articles, look at the photos that accompany “Following Washington Irving” and “Mushaira: Pakistan’s Festival of Poetry.” Pay particular attention to how the photos are presented on the page. With a partner, discuss what you notice. For example, a single image can fill a whole page (as on page 2) or half a page (as on page 4), or it can be tucked into the written text (as on page 5). Do the photos and how they’re presented make you interested in reading “Following Washington Irving”? Why or why not?

Now look at “Mushaira: Pakistan’s Festival of Poetry.” The team has made very different choices about layout. What do you notice about how the photos are presented? Compare the way the photos are laid out on the pages with the photo layout of “Following Washington Irving.” With your partner, discuss how the photo “strips” make you feel. What do they suggest about the content of the article? Do they pique your curiosity and make you want to read the article? Why or why not? Which layout do you prefer? Why?

Class Activities

This month’s Classroom Guide is organized around three themes: Celebrity, Ceremonies and Creating Unity.

Theme: Celebrity

People might say that ours is a society that is obsessed with celebrities. We see stars’ pictures splashed on magazine covers and tabloid television shows. In fact, it can be difficult to get away from reports about Brangelina’s babies or Britney’s latest debacle. And a recent ad for an American presidential candidate negatively likened his opponent to celebrities Paris Hilton and Britney Spears. It’s important and timely, then, to think about celebrity—what it means and the role celebrities play today and have played in the past. It’s also important to decide what you think about celebrities, be they movie stars, politicians or billionaires. Three articles in this month’s Saudi Aramco World include celebrities, and so the following activities, based on the articles, will help further your thinking.

What is a celebrity?
With your classmates, brainstorm definitions for the word celebrity. Have a volunteer write them on the board or chart paper. Look the word up in a dictionary (hard copy or online). Add to your class definition of the word. To push your thinking to a deeper level, respond to these questions to expand your definition: Is there a difference between being famous and being a celebrity? Are all famous people celebrities? Do you admire celebrities? Why or why not?

Now think about this: In 1961, Daniel Boorstin, a historian, defined a celebrity as “a person who is well-known for his well-knownness.” As a class, discuss Boorstin’s quote. What do you think he meant? Did he think highly of celebrities? How can you tell? Do you agree with him? Boorstin contrasted celebrities with heroes. Use the contrast as a way to further expand your definition. Finally, as a class, write one definition of the word celebrity. It can be two or three sentences long if necessary—or shorter if possible. Keep the definition posted in the room as you proceed with these activities.

What kinds of people are celebrities?
Read the three articles in this month’s magazine that mention celebrities: “Mushaira: Pakistan’s Festival of Poetry,” “Mayfair to Makkah” and “We, the Syndicate of Troy.” Find and circle the places in the articles where celebrity comes up. Make a list on the board of the kinds of people who become celebrities. Start with the three articles, which identify as celebrities a) people who do something considered exotic (Lady Evelyn Cobbold), b) poet-performers (Wasi Shah) and c) criminals (Johann Schliemann). List other people who fit into these three categories. In addition, identify other categories of people who are sometimes celebrities, and list people who fit those categories.

Do you think of celebrities in a positive or negative way? Why?
Review your definition of celebrity, the articles you have read and your lists of celebrities and types of celebrities. If you want to expand your research, look at a few magazines in the supermarket checkout line or watch a few celebrity-reporting TV shows. Then write an essay that answers the question: Do you think of celebrities in a positive or negative way? Your essay should have a thesis that states your answer to the question, and then supporting evidence and arguments that will let your reader know why you hold the opinion you do.

Theme: Ceremonies

Ceremonies are formal events. They may mark rites of passage, like high school graduations, weddings and funerals. They may celebrate public events, like treaty-signing ceremonies or the ceremonies that open and close the Olympics. Or they may be part of religious occasions, like a circumcision or a first communion. Anthropologists study ceremonies. They learn from ceremonies what different groups of people believe to be important. “Suitable Luxury” describes diplomatic ceremonies, with a focus on ceremonial clothing. Read it and think about ceremonies by completing the following activities.

What ceremonies have you participated in?
Think about ceremonies you have attended or been part of. Have you been to a family member’s wedding? Been part of a graduation ceremony? What was the experience like? Write down some notes using these questions to guide you. What occasion did the ceremony mark? Did you or others have to dress a certain way? Were you expected to behave a certain way? Was the ceremony conducted in a lighthearted way, or a grave, serious way? Were there specific foods (or restrictions on food) associated with the ceremony?

How was the ceremony similar to and different from other ceremonies of its kind? For example, what did the wedding you attended have in common with other weddings, and how was it unique? How was one school’s graduation ceremony similar to and different from other schools’ graduations? Make a Venn diagram to compare and contrast two ceremonies of the same type. Then, with a partner, answer this question: What, if anything, must be part of a particular kind of ceremony for it to be recognizable as that ceremony?

What was the khil‘a ceremony? What purposes did it serve?
Read “Suitable Luxuries.” Think about the characteristics of ceremonies that you have already considered and apply them to the khil‘a. For starters, what was the khil‘a? Who participated in it? When and where was it practiced? What special clothing did participants wear? Were there special behaviors and foods associated with it? Write a short response to this passage from the article: “Khil‘a thus became a network of ceremony that crossed boundaries of religion, region and ethnicities. Just as it was practiced in Christian Constantinople and Confucian China, so was it practiced in ancient Central Asia.”

Now think like an anthropologist. Think about the khil‘a as a window into the cultures that used it. What purposes did it serve? What did people hope to accomplish by doing the khil‘a? What did it mean, and what made it meaningful?

What kinds of ceremonial clothing do people wear today?
Now that you’ve thought about the khil‘a, think again about modern ceremonies. As a class, make a list of the different kinds of ceremonies you identified earlier. Are specific clothes associated with any of them? For example, many brides wear white dresses, and many graduates wear caps and gowns. To get an idea of how important ceremonial clothing might be, imagine the ceremonies you have identified without anyone wearing the ceremonial clothes. For example, what would a wedding feel like if the bride and groom wore jeans? What would a graduation feel like if the graduates didn’t wear special robes? Are the clothes essential to the ceremony?

What makes a ceremony a ceremony?
Look back at the work you have done on this theme. Make a table that shows the different characteristics of ceremonies across the top. Down the side list different ceremonies. Fill in the table to show which ceremonies include which characteristics. Step back from the table and answer this question: Which characteristics are necessary for a ceremony to be a ceremony? Which are not essential?

Theme: Creating Unity

How do people create unity where there are differences and divisions? To answer the question, read “Suitable Luxury” and “Mushaira: Pakistan’s Festival of Poetry” and complete the following activities.

What causes divisions among people and groups of people? Why might people want to create unity?
“Mushaira: Pakistan’s Festival of Poetry” reports that the festival began in the 1980’s as a way “to bring the city [Karachi] together around a common value.” What political and social strains divided the city at the time? Why do you think people wanted to bring the city together? To help you answer the questions, think about a situation you’re more familiar with, such as something that has divided your school or community, or something that has divided a place you have seen on the news. What caused the division? What were the symptoms of the division? For example, did people avoid each other? Was there violence or crime? Did the division trouble people? Why or why not? Did they want to do something about it, rather than let it be? Why or why not? Make notes to answer these questions. Then write a newspaper article reporting on the division, its causes and symptoms, and reasons why people do or don’t want to deal with it.

How do people create unity?
Sometimes ceremonies can help create unity. To see how, turn your attention to “Suitable Luxury.” What kinds of divisions does it describe? How did the khil‘a ceremony attempt to deal with those divisions? Find and highlight the places in the article that answer the questions. Think back to the example of division that you looked at earlier. With a partner or a group, think about how you could create a sense of unity. For example, what kind of ceremony (like the khil‘a) might you develop to create a sense of unity? Or what kind of event (like the Aalami Mushaira)? Plan your ceremony or event. If it’s a ceremony, act it out. If it’s an event, design a Web page that announces and describes it.

Julie Weiss Julie Weiss is an education consultant based in Eliot, Maine. She holds a Ph.D. in American studies. Her company, Unlimited Horizons, develops social studies, media literacy and English as a Second Language curricula, and produces textbook materials.