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Basler Chairholder teaching timely spring courses

Wednesday, January 14, 2009JOHNSON CITY – Dr. Graham Leonard, an East Tennessee native who spent 35-plus years in the Middle East as an educator, will teach two special upper-level and graduate courses on issues pertaining to that troubled region this spring semester, which begins tomorrow (Thursday, Jan. 15).

ETSU students and area residents may still register for Leonard’s classes through Monday, Jan. 19; community residents are welcome to audit the courses (free to senior citizens) due to the timeliness of the topics.

In “Origins of the Problems in the Middle East” (HIST-4957/5957-002), Leonard will illustrate how many of today’s major conflicts in the region have their roots in the history, geography and religious-ethnic communities that make it up – differences that were “considerably complicated by European promises made during World War I to various communities then under the Ottoman Empire.”

Leonard explains that “the treaties that were made and remade between the end of World War I and 1923 will be central to the course. The European powers drew and then re-drew the borders of the former Ottoman Empire and of the neighboring areas. Geographically defined national states – often dominated or controlled by outsiders until after World War II – were a new concept in the area.”

This class will meet Tuesdays and Thursdays from 12:45-2:05 p.m. in 205 Rogers-Stout Hall.

“Modernizing Education vs. Westernizing Schooling in the Middle East” (HIST-4957/5957-003) is designed for both history students and education students. It contrasts Modernizing education with Western schooling, which is applicable to East Tennessee. Leonard says the course focuses on the history of education in a developing area, part of which has a surplus of money rather than a deficit, emphasizing the effects of education on history and the influences of history on education.

“The Middle East is atypical because of the ‘OPEC BONANZA (1972-present)’ – the largest and fastest transfer of riches in history,” he explains. “Those extraordinary riches are in part of a culture – Arabic/Islamic – with little experience of the Age of Reason and Individualism. For the most part, those riches have gone to the least educated, less sophisticated or cosmopolitan areas of the entire Arabic/Islamic culture, or the least civilized in the sense of living in cities. It is not only petroleum riches, because OPEC countries – mostly Arabic and Islamic – now own or control over a quarter of the world’s capital, and that percentage is growing. They will thus influence the world for at least a century after the oil is gone or people no longer need it.”

Leonard believes the lessons of this course will have “direct implications for the needs of education in East Tennessee and the USA in this critical period in our immediate history.”

“It is no longer enough,” he says, “to have an ordinary high school diploma to get jobs, especially higher paid ones. Even average workers need much higher mental or intellectual skills, hence the need for better education. Also, in the future, almost everyone will have to change jobs several times in their working career. They will need to know how to learn and to be flexible. Studying Arab/Muslim educational needs mirrors what East Tennesseans will also need for the 21st century.”

This course will meet Tuesdays and Thursdays from 4:30-5:50 p.m., hours which participants may agree to adjust to best meet the needs of in-service teachers. The location – 220 Rogers-Stout Hall – is also subject to change.

Leonard is teaching these courses as the chairholder of ETSU’s 2008-09 Wayne G. Basler Chair of Excellence for 

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