Egypt's Uprising and Howard Swearer's Vision

Ian Straughn, Brown University

What is happening in Egypt? Ian Straughn and a panel of Brown faculty spoke to an overflow crowd at the Watson Institute for International Studies on January 31, 2011 about the events in Egypt and the greater Middle East. It was great. Scholars from multiple disciplines added richness and complexity to how we understand unfolding events in Egypt.

Former Brown President Howard Swearer and the founding director of the Watson Institute used to say, “The University’s research should not stop at the University's gates. We owe something back to our community.” In this digital age, I think the definition of community is broader than Swearer may have imagined it.

With the community of high school social studies classrooms in mind, The Choices Progam has moved quickly to bring the intellectual richness and complexity of the panel to a wider audience. Ian Straughn sat down on Monday and filmed a series of videos to capture what was said in the panel, giving it life and reach beyond College Hill. The videos are part of lessons and activities that introduce students to what is happening in Egpyt, the role of media (both ”new” and traditional), as well the U.S. response. The materials are part of Teaching with the News, a free resource for teachers. Within twelve hours of making the materials available, more than 2,400 unique visitors had viewed the video.

The events of the last several weeks have upset the apple cart in the Middle East. With potentially historically significant changes looming, media outlets in the United States and around the world are devoting a huge amount of attention to these events. The media plays an important role, but the University should continue to take Swearer’s vision to heart and do its part to encourage informed discussion and informed decision making. The public matters.