SPICE and documentary filmmaker team up to teach students about Afghanistan

The attacks of September 11, 2001, and the U.S. invasion that followed have thrown Afghanistan from the periphery to the center of international affairs. Prior to these events, Americans knew very little about Afghanistan and its history, culture, and politics. This lack of knowledge highlights the need to inform the U.S. public about Afghanistan, as it appears that the Central Asian country will be central to U.S. foreign policy and international affairs for many years to come.

SIIS's Stanford Program on International and Crosscultural Education (SPICE), which serves as a bridge between the Institute and schools across the nation, is working to address this need by developing a curriculum unit on democracy-building in Afghanistan for advanced high school and community college students. SPICE's Eric Kramon, a master's student in international and comparative education, who received his BA from Stanford in 2004 in political science and history, is developing the curriculum unit with support from faculty and staff from Stanford's Center for Russian, Eastern European, and Eurasian Studies. Using a documentary film and a variety of engaging activities, the curriculum unit will provide students with an understanding of contemporary Afghan politics, the process of creating a new constitution for Afghanistan, and the complexities of democracy-building.

The curriculum is being developed around a documentary originally aired on PBS's Wide Angle entitled Afghanistan: Hell of a Nation, directed and produced by Tamara Gould. CDDRL fellow J. Alexander Thier served as the project advisor for the documentary, which follows Afghanistan's recent constitution-making process. The collaboration between SPICE and the filmmakers will enhance the pedagogical power of the curriculum and will facilitate more widespread understanding of contemporary Afghan political issues. According to Gould, Our goal in making Hell of a Nation was to bring the political drama unfolding in Afghanistan to life. Working with SPICE will allow us to reach the classroom with our film in ways that are far more effective than a national broadcast. Through SPICE, teachers will be able to use this curriculum to teach thousands of students more about Afghanistan, its new constitution, and the process of creating a democracy. This partnership between the filmmakers and SPICE is a win-win for us, and for teachers and students across the country.