Children of Jihad

I’m listening now to a fascinating presentation by a book author who has spent substantial time with young people in the Middle East. The book is:

Cohen, Jared. Children of Jihad a Young American’s Travels among the Youth of the Middle East. New York: Gotham Books, 2007.

Information about the book, including library holdings in local areas, can be found at . Information about the author’s talk can be found below, with links that will show future airings on US cable (including 8:00 am EST on Monday Dec 31), as well as a link to view the program with RealPlayer.

Cohen gives a great deal of attention to how young people are using new media to do things that would not be permitted by the authorities in their countries. His reporting gives some heartening support, I think, to an outlook expressed by Jay Lemke which has been a point of difference between Jay and me for many years — with me being more skeptical about the likely liberating effects of these new media. (For instances of this difference, see this post by Jay on XMCA, and my response.)

This program also will have value for me in teaching social studies for undergraduate pre-service future elementary school teachers. In response to a question from the audience (at about 52:35 in the RealPlayer recording), Cohen relates how, when he was asked about his views on the Ayatollah Khomeini, and he answered making reference to the U.S. hostages, they didn’t know what he was talking about, and said that no such thing had ever happened. He suggested that they go to an Internet Cafe to look it up. They did; but they still didn’t believe it — suspecting that it must just be some sort of propaganda. Cohen thought that they were so committed to their received narrative that the inconsistent facts that he was offering simply were not going to be accepted. A day or two later, he tells us, they emailed him to let him know that they had checked it out more extensively, and now realized that these events had actually occured.

I think this is related to a phenomenon reported by Keith Barton in

Barton, Keith C. “”I Just Kinda Know”: Elementary Students’ Ideas About Historical Evidence.” Theory and Research in Social Education 25, no. 4 (1997): 407-430.

Keith’s research shows that even when elementary school students have learned skills for critically analyzing and evaluating historical evidence, this does not mean that they will use those skills, when not explicitly directed to do so, when they are forming judgments and conclusions about historical events and developments. Like Cohen’s young interlocutors, their tendency is to leap to conclusions that fit comfortably into already comfortable narratives.

I’ve tried to address this with my undergrads; but they often don’t see the tendencies that Barton reports as a problem that they need bother dealing with in this standards-driven world. I think this example will help, when it is turned around to reveal the possibility of the same tendencies as problematic when exhibited by young people in the US.

Information about the television program from (ncludes links for purchasing the book, or viewing RealPlayer recording of the program — also, I think whenever there is a future showing scheduled, it will be noted on this page):

Children of Jihad: A Young American’s Travels Among the Youth of the Middle East
Author: Jared Cohen

About the Program

Jared Cohen discusses the views and lifestyles of the young living in Iran, Lebanon, Palestine, Syria and Iraq. This talk was hosted by the Middle East Institute in Washington, DC.

About the Author

Jared Cohen, currently serving at the State Department, is the author of “One hundred Days of Silence: America and the Rwanda Genocide.”

Additional information from
Children of Jihad
Middle East Institute
Washington, District of Columbia (United States)
ID: 202008 – 11/05/2007 – 0:56 – $29.95


  1. Keith Barton
    Posted January 1, 2008 at 2:50 pm | Permalink

    Tony, this is fascinating stuff, and I’ll definitely have to look at this source. You might be interested to know that college faculty who teach introductory surveys in U.S. history sometimes report that when they show the documentary _Eyes on the Prize_, they have students who refuse to believe that it’s true–they think it’s just a studio production of something that never happened.

    I think the question for all of us as educators is to figure out what circumstances can motivate students to doubt their pre-existing narratives so that they do indeed look further into the evidence.


  2. Posted February 1, 2008 at 12:08 pm | Permalink

    To be re-aired Sunday, February 3, at 3:00 AM EST

  3. Posted March 7, 2008 at 2:09 pm | Permalink

    Monday, March 10, at 2:00 AM Eastern DAYLIGHT time.

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  1. […] without regard for evidence, based on what’s most comfortable for them to believe. (Click here for my use and citation of Keith’s research in a prior post on “Children of […]

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