Sunday, November 05, 2006

Cultural Awareness Class

It's been another long week of boring classes. Things could definitely be worse, but this isn't anywhere near as much fun as they keep implying it's supposed to be. Of course, the rumor is that the OBC classes used to get out around 2 or 3 in the afternoon rather than 4 or 5 so that would definitely make a difference. I think R's description perfectly sums this place up: "It's like college, except you have to go to every class and you're in a crappy major." And you didn't get to choose any of your classes.

We had a class on cultural awareness on Wednesday, and the major that taught it kept asking the student from Afghanistan, "is that right?" He also showed us different gestures we might want to avoid making, while saying, "I'm probably offending the guy from Afghanistan right now." Smooth. The class was basically what I would have expected from an Army slide show. First, they started off by showing us some American stereotypes of Arabs including the film Aladdin (of course, Disney and race is its whole own topic). After that we got into deeper topics, such as shame and honor, illustrated by an old drawing featuring the decapitated body of one man lying at another man's feet. During the discussion on women, they used a picture of a woman surfing in her burka right next to a picture of a belly-dancer to demonstrate the difference between public and private. Then, there was a very long discussion about camels. The actual slideshow had more stereotypes in it than the "this is a stereotype" slide. I mentioned something about it to the major afer class, and he just said, "we contract those out." Maybe they should find someone with a bit more knowledge and subtlety to do the cultural awareness slides next time.

Of course, as we learned in our next class about giving a briefing, all these slideshows come with a script so basically, anyone could teach any of them - isn't that nice. I'm not expecting experts on Arab culture but someone who has done a little bit more research than simply reading through a script would be nice. Does anyone have any recommendations for good books about Arab culture, and the role of women in particular? Unfortunately, by the time I took feminist theory, I was a senior so I didn't get a chance to pursue some of the topics that we addressed, such as global feminism, because my schedule was too full.

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