Learning from the News

Monday’s New York Times leads with an article titled Egypt Military Enlists Religion to Quell Ranks. This is an article worth reading, and it would be a great article to discuss and unpack with middle school students.

The article looks at the recent military crackdown on civilian protesters (more than 700 killed and 4,000 injured) and realizes that the people pulling the triggers are often killing their friends and/or family members. It’s a difficult thing to kill someone else, and the leaders of the military are worried that some of the soldiers will not follow orders. In an effort to quell (new vocab word — see below) the ranks of the soldiers, the Egyptian army is turning to religious justifications for killing those who have different views.


“Quell” is just one word/concept that students can learn from this article — here’s a screen shot of the article in the online version of the New York Times — I have numbered several vocabulary words/concepts that I think would be good to unpack with middle schoolers:


A second concept worth looking at with students is the idea of propaganda. That could be a short unit that students look at down the road. When we do talk in more depth about propaganda, students can refer back to this article about Egypt that we took time to discuss.

Students who have been following this series of blog posts about Egypt will know the word “ousted” and how President Morsi was “ousted,” but it’s good to review that one.

Similarly, “insubordination” and “precedent” are great concepts to go over with students. Moving on to #6 in the red annotations, a “mufti” is “a professional jurist who interprets Muslim law.”

This is a great place to stop and find out what students know about Islam. Before we can make much sense of what’s going on in Egypt, we’d need to know the basics of Islam’s history and how it came to Egypt. You can’t understand the Muslim Brotherhood (#6) without knowing anything about Muslims.

#8 above is to remind students that Egypt is still under a curfew — can they empathize with what that would be like?

The whole article might take an hour or more to read through and discuss with students. And it might be an article we would need to complete on the following day — there’s a lot in there. But it’s a great springboard for learning about Egypt, and by extension about the world we live in today.

The idea is to make sure students understand the basics, and then to let student questions direct the discussion.

As we get into the habit of learning from the news, I expect that students would start to look up vocabulary words and concepts that are new to them on a regular basis. To start with, I’m modeling how that would work — but by October or November, I’d expect to ask students to list the words/concepts that they learned from their reading of the news from around the world — that’s a part of our morning program at TLC Middle School.


About Steve Goldberg

I teach students at Research Triangle High School (RTHS) about US History. RTHS is a public charter school in Durham, NC, whose mission is to incubate, prove and scale innovative models of teaching and learning. The blog posts here reflect my own personal views and not those of my employer.
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