Anne Osborne

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Anne Osborne

Rider BRIDGE - Debates in the World History Survey

  • First half of required history core sequence

  • Mandated coverage: The entire world from prehistory to 1500 C.E.

  • Students mostly freshmen, non-majors, with little interest or background


  • This course does not teach History, in the sense of critical thinking about the past or the application of historical information to gain understanding of the present

  • History appears to be just one damn thing after another -- BORING!

  • Our more successful students gain the factual background knowledge that would be a useful foundation for studying history. Unfortunately, most of them will never take another history course beyond the core.

  • Our less successful students gain ???


  • Engagement

  • Content mastery

  • Authentic historical thinking


  • Create debate packets for 5 or 6 debates, each (ideally) including:

Primary sources

Short work of scholarship

Contemporary "hook"

Debaters debate

Audience questions and participates

Audience fills out debate response form

  • On 1 or 2 subjects, class then writes short essay, using debate materials to make a historical argument


Were the policies of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan mandated by the Quran, permitted but not required by the Quran, or a violation of the letter or the spirit of the Quran?
DEBATE PACKET (see Blackboard site: Click on Blackboard, World History HIS150-H1.)

  • Primary sources: selections from the Quran and from the hadiths

  • Scholarship: an abbreviated, intrinsically interesting article about two of Muhammad's wives

  • Contemporary hook: information on Taliban policies from the US State Department and the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan

ASSIGNMENT: Muslim Women in Traditional Practice and in the Quran
Assume the identity of an Arab Muslim newspaper editor in the Middle East. You need to write an editorial on the policies on women adopted by the Taliban regime in Afghanistan. Because you and your reading audience are believing Muslims, the legitimacy of those policies depends upon whether they have sanction in the Quran as well as in traditional practice. Decide whether you believe that the policies on women adopted by the Taliban government in Afghanistan are mandated by the Quran, permitted but not required by the Quran, or violate the letter or the spirit of the Quran. Consider also whether these policies conform to the traditional practice of mainstream or other Muslim groups. You will then write an editorial expressing your position on this issue.
Base your decision on the primary materials we read, especially the texts from the Quran, as well as on the historical scholarship by Ahmed. You should refer as appropriate to the points made in the debate. You should also include background information from the textbook and the lectures.
In preparation for the debate, which can be envisioned as an editorial meeting at your newspaper in which the staff argue about what position the paper should take, you should

  • Analyze the Quranic verses on women

  • Interpret those verses according to fundamentalist/ conservative/ reformist criteria

  • Consider whether traditional practice, as described by Ahmed and/or the textbook, corresponds to the current Taliban policies

  • Decide whether the verses of the Quran support, allow but do not mandate, or proscribe those policies

After the debate, you will prepare an essay, which should

  • Describe the policies on women adopted by the Taliban regime

  • Include a strong thesis: that is, you should take a clear position

  • Present evidence to support your position, through reference to the Quran and to Ahmed, as well as through description of traditional practice and how it relates to the sources. You should also make use of background knowledge gained from the debates, textbook, and lectures

  • Address claims of the alternative position: if you have argued that the Taliban policies are mandatory, how do you refute opposing interpretations, and vice versa


  • 2-3 pages, typed, double-spaced, with 12 point font and 1 inch margins

  • Standard English: correct grammar, punctuation, usage and spelling. You may consult the Writing Center for assistance.

  • Reference the sources and textbook by entering the author’s name and the page number, or the Quran, with chapter and verse numbers, in parentheses after the end of the relevant sentence. E.g., (Ahmed 21) (Quran 2.33)

  • Due Friday, April 12, 2002. Late papers will be penalized.

Evaluation criteria

A Essay describes Taliban policies, asserts a clear position, defends it with appropriate factual evidence from the primary source readings, considers traditional practices, and rebuts counter-arguments.
B Essay describes Taliban policies and asserts a clear position, and defends it with evidence from the primary source readings, but

the description is not clear

the connection between primary sources and traditional practices is not well thought out and/or

the evidence is incomplete and/or

it ignores counter-arguments
C Essay asserts a position and offers some evidence, but does not defend it adequately

factual evidence partially inadequate / incorrect / or inappropriate

significant errors in language
D Essay described historical data, but

does not make an argument

argument is irrelevant

offers no supporting evidence

F Essay does not address the question

F for the course: Essay is dishonest


"Debates helped me think about topics I would have never given much thought to"
"Cool" … "Fun" … "Interesting" … "Hard" … "Delved deeper"
"I learned more from seeing both sides"
"I hate to talk in front of people"
"I had to really think about the issues"
"With debates, you have to understand the material. If the teacher just lectures, you don't have to pay attention"
"They made me look at other cultures differently"
"By the end, I was a better critic of others, b y closely observing them"
"I felt enriched"
Given a choice of two sections of World History II,

One with debates, one without:
Debate class: 82% would choose the debate class

Non-debate class: 78% would choose the debate class



  • 2 sections, one with debates, one without

  • same textbook

  • same essay assignment (on materials discussed in both classes, debated in one)

  • track 3 individual students w/ similar class rank, SATs from each class



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