The professors worry that U.S. politicians and media outlets label the Middle East as the enemy, and the educational system sometimes neglects the region.
“The Middle East and Islam have been used for better or worse by our politicians, so coming here was a great way for me to know the truth,” Nowacki told The Jordan Times. She fears that many Americans fall prey to stereotypes.
The political science professor was in Amman for the week-long seminar, “Middle Eastern Women: Tradition, Development and Change,” sponsored by the Council on International Educational Exchange. Faculty looked at topics such as women in politics, development, law, economics, health, Islam and Christianity in the region in general, and in Jordan in particular.
The American professors also met Bedouin men and women and sampled the traditional “shrak” bread.
Nowacki said the seminar gave her the chance to hear the “official, semi-official and unofficial” accounts of women in the Kingdom and the region and provided her with a sense of how Jordan is unique and different from other places in the region, but also similar.
“We know enough now to ask intelligent questions,” she says.
Nowacki hopes to bring a classroom of students to the Middle East for an educational immersion experience.