(This course was designed for a separate general education
curriculum – outside the purview of particular departments - at our public
liberal arts college. Interdisciplinary
and collaborative teaching is encouraged in this academic commons, so the
course has faced few structural hurdles and encountered little political
resistance. We anticipate outside
funding to attract prominent guest lecturers.
We are mounting an exhibit of photos from September 11 and its aftermath
to open in the college’s art gallery as the course starts.)
CONTENT. On the
morning of September 11, 2001, Al Qaeda terrorists, on a suicide mission,
crashed hi-jacked Boeing 727s into the World Trade Center in New York City and
the Pentagon in Washington DC. The twin
towers of the World Trade Center imploded, these tallest of US buildings
vanished from the skyline, and nearly 3,000 officer workers, rescuers, and
airplane passengers died. In Washington
DC, the Pentagon suffered extensive damage and a death toll of more than
250. A fourth plane, apparently headed
for another prominent Washington target, was seized from terrorists’ control by
brave passengers. It
crashed into woodlands in the Laurel Highlands of western Pennsylvania, leaving
This cataclysmic event resists comprehension because it was
so unprecedented in design, unexpected and sudden in execution, and enormous in
impact. The tragedy resists, but does
not defy, comprehension however.
September 11 was a watershed in history that must be understood in order
to restore meaning to our world, to fight terror with enlightenment, and to
prevent the unspeakable from occurring again.
In particular, we believe September 11 raises five important
areas of inquiry, upon which this course will focus.
A. What has been and should be our role in world affairs?
B. What is the nature of terrorism in the 21st Century
and the extent of its threat?
C. How did Afghanistan come to be the base for Al Qaeda and
bin Laden, and what are the possible futures for this Central Asian country?
D. Do fundamentalist Islam and
Middle East conflicts breed
hostility and terrorism towards the West?
E. How has September 11 changed American life, and how do we
redefine what is normal?
Each class will take up one or more topics from one of these
five areas. We propose the following
America in the world
American internationalism – the debate on nation-building
multi-culturalism and the American neglect of foreign language
American hegemony after the age of European empires
the US in the Third World
from Cold War to post Cold War
Orientalism, the “clash of civilization,” and other paradigms
of conflict in the world
globalization, one world, and the end of history
the Al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden
terrorism in history
modern terrorism, domestic and foreign
chemical and biological warfare
Afghanistan and Central Asia
Afghanistan in the 19th and 20th
The Soviet-Afghan War (1979-89) and its legacies
Modernization in a tribal land, reconstruction in a devastated
Women’s rights and human rights
Islamic fundamentalism and other movements
modern political Islam
the politics and economics of oil
Palestine and Israel: the Arab-Israeli conflict
23. from September 11 until now: a
24. the culture of remembrance:
memorializing September 11
25. American patriotism
26. civil liberties and national
27. redefining normal, seeing
TEACHING. This is a
large-size class with an enrollment of over 200 students. Three teaching techniques will prevail. The course will be team taught by two
faculty members, each of whom will be present at all classes. Following brief lectures, the two
instructors, often with one or more guests, will engage in serious discussion,
including disagreement – a kind of academic “Firing Line.” Our aim is to demonstrate that truth may be
tentative and that disagreement is a defense against orthodoxy. Student questions and comments will be
encouraged. We will enlist outside
speakers, some from the Stockton faculty, others, experts from the
Boston-to-Washington corridor. Finally,
we will employ electronic media as an adjunct to course presentations – video
trailers, CD-R audio and video, photo and slide exhibits, and internet web site
ASSESSMENT. This is a groundbreaking course, in both content
and technique. We will assess the
impact of the course on students’ perceptions and understanding of September
11, its causes, context, and consequences.
A pre-test at the beginning of the course will measure student views and
knowledge of September 11. A post-test
at the end will document changes.
There will be mid-term and final exams.
Students will design a personal memorial about September 11, which
focuses on feelings, insights, and hopes about this event, its causes, or
consequences. A variety of media and
mediums can be used for this project.
Mid-term = 30% of
Final = 30% of grade
Project = 40% of grade
should purchase the following books for the course
Lewis. What Went Wrong: Western Impact
and Middle Eastern Response
Taliban: Militant Islam, Oil, and Fundamentalism in Central Asia
New Jackals: Ramzi Yousef, Osama bin Laden, and the Future of Terrorism
Anthology on America’s Role in World Affairs