What do you know about Egypt? And we’re not talking about the stereotypes. Everybody is a familiar with the pyramids and sphinx. Most people remember the ‘80s song “Walk Like An Egyptian.” But ask someone to tell you what Egypt is really like and you’re liable to get an explanation that lumps the country in with the rest of the Middle East. But the Middle East isn’t a homogenous mass. It is a region made up of many different cultures and countries. Fortunately, with countries in the region playing a more prominent part in the news, now is a perfect time for teachers to expand their students’ horizons.

A recent Education Week article highlighted the ways that some teachers — including one in Falls Church – are using the situation in Egypt as a jumping off point to expand student understanding of what the country is really like.

Oftentimes, the news focuses on foreign countries only when it involves a war the United States is participating in, or when the United States is in some way directly connected to the events. With Egypt, teachers and students have a chance to see a country transforming itself and pushing for many of the same democratic principles that power our nation. Studying news reports of what’s happening and the steps that led to this point can start a discussion about the value of democracy and a free and responsive leadership.

Also, by studying the situation in Egypt, teachers can use the country as a stepping stone to a conversation about how democracy formed in the United States. The opportunities to use this poignant moment in Egypt’s history are nearly endless when it comes to engaging student interest.

Revolution is not limited to Egypt. Other countries like Tunisia are also rising against the status quo, and each new incident provides an additional teaching focus for teachers. The news is a good way to make history and current events come alive for students.

Additional material can be found in the economic crisis sweeping places like Greece and Spain. Given that the United States is experiencing a similar economic situation, the ability to educate through comparison and contrast is unique.

Whatever the country or situation, the world news provides the means by which teachers can open their students’ eyes to the rest of the world. This way they can have a vision that does not rely on stereotype and misinformation, but is solidly based on fact.