Seeing the World in New Ways
Students will probe their own histories to record how they have had to expand their worldviews. This is the second lesson to support the "Three Lessons" series.
About the story
Each of this story's three sections focuses on a different lesson the author learned from serving as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Morocco. Morocco's population is almost 99 percent Muslim. Religion permeates every aspect of the culture. In exploring some of the cultural features that shape the people of Morocco, Storti focuses on experiences that made him aware of how people of a different cultural background can view the world in fundamentally different ways. He describes his growing realization that his own perspectives and tastes, which he had always taken for granted as being fairly universal, don't necessarily prevail in another culture.
Students will find more meaning in this story if they understand the importance of prayer in Muslim culture—and that central to Islam is the importance of the submission of one's will to the will of Allah. In submitting to the will of Allah, a Muslim expects to find peace. Moroccans and other Muslims commonly end statements with the term inshallah, meaning "God willing," because, for them, Allah controls their destiny.
Muslims pray five times a day. Prayers are said at dawn, noon, mid-afternoon, sunset, and nightfall. Muslims are called to prayer by a muezzin, or crier, who chants from the tower of a mosque. The chant is often sung through a loudspeaker so that it can be heard throughout an entire town or a large part of a city. Although it is preferable to worship together in a mosque, a Muslim may pray almost anywhere, such as in a field, an office, a factory, or a university. Muslim children are taught to pray when they are 6 or 7, and are expected to pray by the time they are 10.
Wherever they are, Muslims face Mecca to pray. Mecca, in Saudi Arabia, is the birthplace of the prophet Mohammed and the holiest place on Earth to Muslims. Facing Mecca creates a sense of unity among Muslims by providing a spiritual and social focus.
About the setting
Morocco, a monarchy on the northwest coast of Africa, has a population of some 30 million people, almost all of whom are Sunni Muslims of Arab, Berber, or mixed Arab-Berber ancestry. Arabic is the official language, though Berber is spoken in some areas, as well as French and Spanish. The chief cities all lie along the Atlantic or Mediterranean coasts: Rabat, the capital; Casablanca, to the south; and Tangiers, to the north.
Morocco is a land of contrasts—from the range of the High Atlas Mountains in the north, where the temperature may be extremely cold, to the Sahara in the south, where the temperature and humidity are characteristic of a hot desert.
The Peace Corps has been active in Morocco since shortly after the agency began. More than 4,000 Volunteers have served in the country since 1963—working and living in both large metropolitan cities and the smallest traditional communities. Author Craig Storti served in the coastal city of Safi, some 150 miles south of Casablanca.
Largely dependent upon tourism, Morocco also exports citrus fruits and has a sizable bauxite mining industry.
The current monarch, King Mohammed VI, is working hard to improve the quality of life in rural areas, raise the social and economic status of women, and relieve poverty.
To learn: "Everyone has a culture. It influences how we see the world, ourselves, and others."
- Minaret: [min-uh-RET] A tower that is part of a mosque, with a balcony used by a muezzin to call Muslims to prayer
- Mosque: [MAHSK] Muslim house of worship
- Prayer call: A signal to Muslims to pray, issued by a muezzin
- Cadence: A beat of sound; a rhythm
- Muezzin: [myoo-EHZ-in] A crier who calls Muslims to prayer
- Irrevocably: Unalterably; permanently; unable to be changed
- Staging: A three-day orientation session in the United States for new Peace Corps
- Eschew: [es-CHOO] To avoid
- Unrelentingly: Unyieldingly
- Auxiliary verb: A verb used to help form the tense or condition of another verb. For example: will do, have done, may happen
- Write out the expression so commonly heard in American culture: "Where there's a will, there's a way." Ask students whether they believe that if they want to do or achieve something strongly enough, there's always a way to do or achieve it. If so, when have they experienced this? If not, why not?
- Ask students to re-read the third lesson of Storti's. Have students turn to the passage that begins, "Our two cultures confront each other across the tea cups." Ask them to distinguish between the meaning of the word "perhaps" as Storti heard it and the way his friend meant it. How do they think the saying "Where there's a will, there's a way" developed in American culture? (To explain the differences in cultural beliefs, you may want to review with students the role of religion and the importance of prayer and submission to Allah in Muslim culture, explained in the overview.) What English language expression is similar to inshallah? ["God willing."] Is it used in the same literal sense that it is used in Arabic? [Answers may vary here; some users in English mean it literally; others probably use it more freely to suggest that something is up to fate.]
- Introduce students to the enduring understanding: "Everyone has a culture. It influences how we view the world, ourselves, and others." Explain the concept of cultural differences—differences among deeply held beliefs about what is expected of us in behavior, thought, music, art, dress, and the like. Explain to students that one of the fundamental ways cultures differ is in people's beliefs about the "locus of control." In other words, where does control over one's fate reside? Do individuals see themselves as actively in control of their lives, or is their fate seemingly determined by forces outside their control? Do students think that the locus of control has changed in the United States over the past few years? (For an explanation of the four fundamentals of culture, see the Peace Corps publication Culture Matters. For additional lesson plans on understanding culture, see the Peace Corps publication Building Bridges: A Peace Corps Classroom Guide to Cross-Cultural Understanding.) Ask students how Storti's cultural upbringing caused him to see things differently from the way his Moroccan friend saw them.
- Ask students to turn to the sentence in the next-to-last paragraph of the story: "It was as if I had discovered a parallel universe, one founded upon a different auxiliary verb, on may rather than will." Conduct a class discussion focused on the following questions: What is the difference, to Americans, between the sayings "You may reach your goals" and "You will reach your goals"?
- Have students complete Resource Sheet 2 (see link above) in class in preparation for writing a story about an important lesson they have learned in their lifetime. For homework, ask students to choose the one lesson of the three in the graphic organizer that they think is the best and write a draft of the story.
The next day, ask students to exchange with a partner the rough drafts of their own lesson learned. Ask the partners to write constructive observations and questions in the margins—in particular, comments and questions that will help their partners improve their story.
Provide students time in class to review their partners' feedback and revise their stories. Mention to students that if they get stuck—or want to make their writing better or their point more strongly—they can go back to Storti's story to see how he did this.
The class might appreciate your binding the stories together for class visitors to read.
Frameworks and standards
- Everyone has a culture. It shapes how we see the world, ourselves, and others.
- Living and serving in another culture can teach important life lessons—if one is open to learning.
- Living in another culture challenges us to understand the world from that culture's point of view.
- How do my cultural values and beliefs shape how I view individuals from other cultures?
- What can I gain from being open to learning from people who are different from me?
English Standards: 1, 6
Social Studies Standards: I, IV, IX
National Geography Standards: 6, 10