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In This Issue

Classroom Guide

For students: We hope this 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.


Class Activities

This issue’s Classroom Guide is organized around the single theme Crossroads. You’ll define the word and identify crossroads in your own surroundings. You’ll also explore different ways in which places are crossroads, including the geographical meaning, as well as in the sense of meeting places for ideas and cultures.

Theme: Crossroads

What is a crossroads?

Have you heard the word crossroads before? If you have, in what context did you hear it? What did it mean? If you aren’t familiar with the word, work with a few other students to see if you can figure out what it means. The word crossroads is a noun, which means it names a thing. The word is made up of two smaller words: cross and roads. What thing might a crossroads be, based on these two smaller words? To get a hint, look at the headline on page 17: “Tripoli: Crossroads of Rome and Islam.” Then read the subhead below it. What do these two additional pieces of information suggest might be the definition of crossroads? With your group, write down your best guess at a definition.

Then read this definition of crossroads.
crossroads |'kros-'rōdz|
usually plural a: the place of intersection of two or more roads. b: (1): a small community located at such a crossroads (2): a central meeting place.
How close was your definition to this one? Revise your definition if necessary. Have the class agree on a definition, and have a volunteer write it on a sign where everyone can see it as you work on these activities.

Where is there a crossroads in your world?

Think about the places you see and go regularly—in your school, your neighborhood, your town or city. Where is there a crossroads? Find or draw a map that shows the crossroads, and identify it by using a highlighter or a marker that makes it stand out for a viewer.

Of course your map shows that the place is a crossroads geographically speaking. But is it simply a place where roads or hallways or paths intersect? Or is it also a central meeting place? If so, who meets there, and what do they do when they meet there? Do they talk? Read? Text? Drink coffee? Shop? How can you tell? Is there a restaurant? Or a café with WiFi? Or a park with walking paths? Below your map, write a few sentences describing your crossroads. Post your maps and descriptions around the room and check them out. Then, based on what you’ve done, make a class list of the characteristics of crossroads.

What other crossroads can you identify?

You can identify other crossroads the same way you identified your local ones. Look, for example, at “Tripoli: Crossroads of Rome and Islam.” Find Tripoli on the map on page 21. Where is it, relative to Rome? Where is it relative to the rest of Africa? Where is it relative to the Middle East? How does its location qualify Tripoli as a crossroads?

“Abu Dhabi’s Bestseller” tells about another kind of crossroads: a book fair.
Monika Krauss, the manager of the fair, asserts that the Gulf region has been a crossroads for a long time. Locate Abu Dhabi on the map on page 12. Then, using a larger world map, answer the question: What places “meet” there that make the area a crossroads?

Education City, described in “Houses of Wisdom,” is also a crossroads. Read about it on pages 30 to 33, and find Doha, where Education City is located, on the map on page 34. Is it at a geographical crossroads? What does it connect? And what makes
Education City itself—distinct from Doha’s geographical location—a crossroads?

What happens at the crossroads you have identified? How can you tell?

Now read “Tripoli: Crossroads of Rome and Islam.” With your group, answer these questions: What economic activities take place in Tripoli and have taken place there for centuries? How do these activities relate to its location as a crossroads? Look back at the local crossroads you identified and described. Are any of the activities in Tripoli similar to those at your local crossroads? If so, which ones? In other words, what does your local crossroads have in common
with Tripoli?

Remember that you figured out how you could tell that your local crossroads was in fact a crossroads. You can ask the same question about Tripoli. The thing is, the Tripoli–Rome connection has gone on for centuries. If you want evidence that Tripoli was a crossroads in the past, a Starbucks on the corner won’t cut it! With your group, go through the article carefully and underline where it describes evidence of Tripoli’s status as a crossroads. (Don’t forget: There’s more than one time period mentioned in the article.) Add to your list of characteristics the kinds of evidence that reveal that a place is or has been a crossroads.

Turn next to the Abu Dhabi book fair. Who meets at the fair? What do they do there? What, if anything, do their actions have in common with what people do and did at your local crossroads and in Tripoli? In addition to individual people, ideas—many expressed in books—also meet at the fair. How is this similar to and different from what happens at your local crossroads and in Tripoli? For example, if people work on computers at the café at your local crossroads, are they sharing ideas? How is their virtual meeting of ideas similar to and different from what goes on at the book fair?

What gets exchanged at the crossroads?

“Houses of Wisdom” tells about educational institutions as crossroads in several ways. Many are crossroads in terms of their location. They are also crossroads in terms of the ideas that people exchange there. And finally, they are crossroads where different notions of education meet, mix and change each other. Have a look.

Read “Houses of Wisdom.” Because it’s a long article that covers a lot of ground, break it up and read it in smaller chunks. (In fact, the editors at Saudi Aramco World have already broken it into sections for you! Each section begins with a sentence in a larger font in a color other than black.) Use these section breaks as places to pause in your reading. Work with a partner. You can each read a section silently, then pause. Together summarize what you’ve just read. Write a summary of the section in a couple of sentences, putting each summary on its own piece of paper. If you can’t summarize the section, go back and reread it until you and your partner can do the summary.

As you pause to summarize each section, think about the notion of a crossroads. On the sheet of paper with the summary of the section, answer these questions: What kind of crossroads is described here? Who or what is “meeting”? When you’ve done that for all the sections, spread your sheets of paper out on a table or on the floor. What patterns do you see? Try writing a different kind of summary—an analysis, actually. Write three paragraphs. Use the following prompts as topic sentences for your paragraphs:

  • For centuries, schools have served as crossroads where people from the West have come together with people from the Middle East.
  • At these schools, people have shared ideas about what constitutes education and who should be educated.
  • At universities today, common western notions of academic disciplines “cross paths” with different reasons for asking questions and different ways of organizing knowledge.

What problems arise with the exchange that takes place at different crossroads?

Both “Houses of Wisdom” and “Abu Dhabi’s Bestseller” identify problems that can arise when people from different places and cultures come together. Take language, for example. People who come from different places often speak different languages. They may come together at a book fair or a university—a crossroads—but they bring their own languages with them. How can they best communicate with each other? The situations described in the two articles offer different answers to that question.

Start with the book fair. The problem there isn’t so much that people can’t communicate with each other; it’s that books are in different languages. One of the goals of awarding prizes to good books at the fair is to encourage them to be translated from Arabic into other languages. Think about this as a kind of trade issue. What do booksellers bring from Arab countries to the rest of the world? As a point of comparison, what did traders bring from Tripoli to Rome? Then think about the effects of trade. Make a web that shows some of the effects that Tripoli’s exports had on Rome. Then make a web that shows some of the effects that the booksellers’ “exports” have on the rest of the world—and on the Middle East itself.

“Houses of Wisdom” reports that many classes at the universities discussed in the article are taught in English, and many are about topics that are not directly related to life in the region. But those are controversial. Why? Working with a partner, complete the following activity. Draw a vertical line down the center of a piece of paper. On one side, list reasons why it’s a good idea to teach in English about non-local topics. On the other side, list reasons why it would be a good idea to teach in Arabic about
topics specific to the region. Take one side and have your partner take the other. Debate which side seems more convincing. Then think about what Fatima Badry says: “It doesn’t have to be either-or. It is a false dilemma.” With your partner, discuss how to bring the two sides together. Come up with a proposal that describes how a university could do both. Present your proposal to the class.

TripoliHow can you show a crossroads in a photograph?

You’ve looked at visual images of crossroads on maps. But what about photos? The three articles you’ve read for these activities are richly illustrated with photos. Look closely at them. Choose one that you think shows what a crossroads looks like.
To help you, look back at your definition of crossroads, and at the characteristics and evidence of crossroads that you’ve identified. For example, the panoramic photo of Tripoli on page 16 shows a crowded city with an active port. You might say that it shows Tripoli as a crossroads for trade that comes by sea. Or, thinking more in metaphor, you might say that the arch pictured on page 17 suggests setting apart a specific place, separate from the road that leads into it, as a meeting place. You get the idea. Share with your group the photo you choose and your analysis of it as a crossroads. Then, if you can, go to the local crossroads you identified and mapped. Take some photos that show that it’s a crossroads. Bring them back to class and share them with your fellow students.

Curriculum Alignments

McRel Standards

Abu Dhabi’s Bestseller

Standard 3. Understands the characteristics and uses of spatial organization of Earth's surface

Standard 5. Understands the concept of regions

Standard 9. Understands the nature, distribution and migration of human populations on Earth's surface

Standard 10. Understands the nature and complexity of Earth's cultural mosaics

Standard 11.  Understands the patterns and networks of economic interdependence on Earth's surface

Finding the Essence

Art Connections
Standard 1.Understands connections among the various art forms and other disciplines

Visual Arts
Standard 2. Knows how to use structures (e.g., sensory qualities, organizational principles, expressive features) and functions of art

Standard 3. Knows a range of subject matter, symbols, and potential ideas in the visual arts

Standard 4. Understands the visual arts in relation to history and cultures

Behavioral Studies
Standard 1. Understands that group and cultural influences contribute to human development, identity, and behavior

Tripoli—Crossroads of Rome and Islam

Standard 3. Understands the characteristics and uses of spatial organization of Earth's surface

Standard 9. Understands the nature, distribution and migration of human populations on Earth's surface

Standard 10. Understands the nature and complexity of Earth's cultural mosaics

Standard 17.  Understands how geography is used to interpret the past

Historical Understanding
Standard 1. Understands and knows how to analyze chronological relationships and patterns

Standard 2. Understands the historical perspective

World History
Standard 6. Understands major trends in Eurasia and Africa from 4000 to 1000 BCE

Standard 8. Understands how Aegean civilization emerged and how interrelations developed among peoples of the Eastern Mediterranean and Southwest Asia from 600 to 200 BCE

Standard 11. Understands major global trends from 1000 BCE to 300 CE

Standard 28.  Understands how large territorial empires dominated much of Eurasia between the 16th and 18th centuries

Standard 42. Understands major global trends from 1900 to the end of World War II

Standard 45. Understands major global trends since World War II

Houses of Wisdom

Standard 3. Understands the characteristics and uses of spatial organization of Earth's surface

Standard 5. Understands the concept of regions

Standard 9. Understands the nature, distribution and migration of human populations on Earth's surface

Standard 10. Understands the nature and complexity of Earth's cultural mosaics

Standard 17.  Understands how geography is used to interpret the past

World History
Standard 13. Understands the causes and consequences of the development of Islamic civilization between the 7th and 10th centuries

Standard 26.  Understands how the transoceanic interlinking of all major regions of the world between 1450 and 1600 led to global transformations

Standard 37. Understand major global trends from 1750 to 1914

Standard 45. Understands major global trends since World War II

Focus on Film

Standard 6. Understands the context in which theatre, film, television, and electronic media are performed today as well as in the past

Standard 10. Understands the nature and complexity of Earth's cultural mosaics

Language Arts
Standard 9. Uses viewing skills and strategies to understand and interpret visual media

Standard 10. Understands the characteristics and components of the media

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.