Attacking Curriculum by Souad Salem for EDU 6460: Curriculum, Culture, and Language

Attacking Curriculum by Souad Salem for EDU 6460: Curriculum, Culture, and Language

While the airplane was in the air between my country Egypt and USA, I reflected on how lucky it was to have the visa to the United States. Winning an Oscar is much easier than having the USA visa issued on your passport especially after the 9/11 attacks. In addition, most of the Egyptians dream about reaching a country where they can work, be rich, get married, breath clean air, learn English, experience freedom and justice, and most importantly obtain American citizenship. I am one of them and those were my dreams as well.

Our imagination about America was through media, the only source of curriculum we had that time. I cannot believe how we were naive and ignorant to believe all media lies and think that America is our heaven. A voice behind me cut down my dreams saying, “those Arabs son of …are going to my country while I am going to Iraq to fight for them”. I looked back and I saw soldier in an army uniform. He looked at me, as if he wanted to kill me. At that moment I was so scared I could not breath. This specific moment broke my dreams about America and it fell down from the airplane to the deepest point in the earth were everything has changed in my innocent mind. You may wonder how he knew that I am Arabic? Did he speak Arabic to figure out who am I? Did my face show any specific features which show my identity? The answer is no, he only figure it out from the way I dress, my headscarf, to be more specific. As Northrop Frye (1971) answers such questions by saying that “who are we” is attached to the answer to “where is here” (p. 220). I am an Arabic and Muslim woman and my scarf in many ways symbolizes my culture, identity, language. And yet at the same time, it is my curriculum where everybody can understand that she is Muslim, as Kanu’s concept (2003) “curriculum has been and will always remain a culture practice” (p. 69). Yet, “who we are” in Canada is not reflecting our identities as a Muslim women because the answer for “where is here” is totally different than the answer if we live in a Muslim country where the media introduces us in unrespectable way and it does stuck in people’s minds. This kind of curriculum distorts our culture practice which is the scarf as a Muslim curriculum.

In her article (From the Streets of Peshawar to the Cover of MacLean’s Magazine), Diane Watt argues that media as a curriculum has more power than the textbook which is the main source of education. So it controls and influences minds by what is being introduced whether it is true or not. She discusses the role of western media in introducing the Muslim women where it focuses only on their appearance and gives a narrow picture about them which could misguide people and give something else but the truth. Here, the social and political issues have the upper hand. This kind of marginalization for Muslim women role in society shows a connection between the local and the global context and perception. Also, the role of educators to correct what has been imposed wrongly about certain subject, as Geneva Gay (2002) says, “one specific way to begin this curriculum transformation process is to teach preservice (and inservice) teachers how to do deep cultural analyses of textbooks and other instructional materials” (p. 108). Her experience in a Muslim country with Muslim women gave her a chance to analyze the truth and see it with a new lens then transfer it to others in order to correct what mass media has done. As Howard (1999) stated in his book title, We Cannot Teach What We Do Not Know.

After taking her information about Muslim women and Muslim countries passively for granted from the mass media, Watt had the experience to live one year in the capitals of three Muslim countries, which are Islamabad, Damascus, and Tehran. She realized that what you hear and see, could be totally different than the true image. She read the true image of Muslims through transferring curriculum as a noun to curriculum as a verb (Pinar, 2004, p. xiii). Her photos accompanied with narratives from the photos’ characters’ mouth, so what she saw was attached to what she heard and the experience she lived. Now, she has the full image about Muslim women that they are not ignorant, stupid, or slaves to their husbands. Following her return with a rich experience carrying all the memories, stories, and photos, 11 September crisis happened. The notion of Muslims being terrorists is informing people’s minds and the good stories which are carried by Watt could not resist the grand narratives through the mass media. Ali-karamali (2008) says that September 11 attacks gave” a blanket justification for anything negative anyone might possibly dream up to say against Muslims” (p. 215). She heard through her project different stories from the participants as some young women chose not to wear a scarf in order to wait until they found their identity and to allow others to understand it first. Other group of Muslim women chose to cover in order to show their Muslim identity and culture.

Watt says, “I am interested in how educators and researchers might make connections between bodies we see in mass media, material bodies we meet in our everyday lives, and our social relations both locally and globally” (p. 67). Same connection is made by people who are not researchers to discover the notion that what they are seeing and hearing is totally different than the truth and that they are having brain washing, serving political purposes. Media is the “most powerful and extensive systems the circulation of meaning” (Hall, 1997, p. 14). A lot of stories were told by Muslim students in Ottawa that they were seen in a way made them feel unwelcome, target of hate and sometime face physical acts of aggression.

What really attracted my attention in the article is the photo of the covered Muslim woman on MacLean’s magazine cover (March, 2007) with an offensive title “do immigrants need rules?”, As if all immigrants are Muslims and all Muslim are covered with Neqab. They are wondering if we need rules assuming that we are uncivilized, ignorant, and savages which reminds me when Joseph Weenie, was interviewed in the Globe and Mail on August 18, 1990 (“Memories haunt native,” 1990), he states “They called our parents savages, but they were the savages. . . . They should have treated us like humans”. Yes, people, countries, or governments who are thinking or saying that we are the savages, actually, they are the ones who see themselves in what they are calling us. We reflect their image about themselves. They see in us what they feel unconsciously about themselves. The American soldier who offended me in the airplane where he actually was going to kill innocent Iraqis; his country offered that without any request, sent him there and forced us to accept it in order to control the oil in the gulf area. The mass media which shows us as terrorists and uncivilized people, ignoring what they have done and still doing with aboriginals people, the real owner of this land. They are trying to conceal their mistakes by blaming others, as Atwood (1972) claims “people can look at a thing without really seeing it, or look at it and mistake it for something else” (p. 18). My scarf is my identity as a Muslim and if they cannot see it I will remain unseen. Watt extended Wolfreys’ (2000) idea of “ reading to avoid having read” with” what if we were to practice seeing to avoid having seen, and listening to avoid having listened?” (p. 80) and I will extend it with “they are not even able to smile themselves before asking about the source of the stink.” even their souls are full of discrimination.


  1. Cynthia chambers (1999) says “if we cannot learn to speak to each other, at least we can begin by learning to hear each other”(p. 146). How can we communicate with others and interpret the mass media which is trying to damage our picture as a Muslims in people‘s lenses?
  2. How can educators correct the wrong images which media is giving as a source of curriculum?


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Cynthia chambers (1999).A Topography for Canadian Curriculum Theory. Canadian Journal of Education.

Frye, N. (1971). The bush garden: Essays on the Canadian imagination. Toronto: Anansi  Press.

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Hall, S. (1997). Representation: Cultural representations and signifying practices. London, UK: Sage.

Howard, G. R. (1999). We can’t teach what we don’t know:White teachers, multiracial  schools. New York: Teachers

Kanu, Y. (2003). Curriculum as culture practice: postcolonial imagination. Journal of The Canadian Association For Curriculum Studies. Teacher preparation for the 21st century. Journal of Professional Studies, 9(2), 50– College Press.

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Wolfreys, J. (2000). Readings: Acts of close reading in literary theory. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.