Emotions, stereotypes, preconceived notions, and misinformation about Islam and immigration in the United States persist. Misinformation creates challenges for college instructors trying to help students set those biases aside and bring a better understanding of the issues. One effective teaching method is to step away from the emotionally charged areas and first focus attention on distant places where there are parallels similar enough so that students can build knowledge, or displaced learning. Then students may apply that understanding to other places with similar issues.
The stresses of immigration and Islamic fervor are not unique to the United States. Through displaced learning, American college students in twelve different world geography and anthropology course sections first learned about the controversial topics of immigration and Islam elsewhere where they had no emotional reactions. For example, unlike Mexicans in the United States, students do not have preconceived biases about Romanian immigrants in Canada. Then, they can apply that knowledge to areas related to the United States. Similarly, college students generally bring biases with them into the classroom gained from the sound bites they hear from the mainstream media. A discussion about Islam beginning with the context of Iraq or Afghanistan may not be productive in breaking through those biases. Most college students, however, have little to no prior knowledge of Chechnya in Russia. There are enough similarities in the violence enacted in the name of Islam in Chechnya to those in Afghanistan and Iraq. The teaching method of starting a discussion on Islam using the context of Chechnya shows preliminary signs of success of breaking through negative stereotypes towards Muslims.
|Keywords:||Immigration, Islam, Teaching Methods|
Instructor, Arts/Communications/Social Sciences, Kishwaukee College, Malta, Illinois, USA
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