September 07, 2007
F**kin' Alif, Dude! Arabic School Opens in Brooklyn
The Khalil Gibran International Academy school has opened in New York, part of the public education system. Being a wacko libertarian, I have my reservations even about public schooling as a general concept, but allowing it to be a virtue and necessity, still what advantage is it to have a specialized school devoted to Arabic culture and language for kids in Brooklyn USA? Folks, there does exist a private education option for establishing such things, if felt needed. This has a Euro feel of separateness to it, combined with the related US cult of the Great God Diversity. But I thought we yanks had passed on the "separate but equal" thing in public schools. Naturally, of course, the Daniel Pipes squadrons of haters-of-all-things-even-appearing-Muslimish-and-socially-acceptable made an unbelievably laughably weird xenophobic stink over it (Pipes: "learning Arabic in-and-of-itself promotes an Islamic outlook"). They even got the first chosen principal fired for correctly explaining that intifada in Arabic means a shaking-off, thereby apparently establishing that a school that teaches the Arabic language should most definitely not teach it accurately.
Posted by Matthew Hogan at September 7, 2007 12:47 AM
Filed Under: Ethnic Minorities , Gender Issues , Islam & Politics , Islam General , Media , Political Development , Religious Minorities , Society & Culture
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A non-American reader asks: what other forms of specialized public schooling are there?
On the second point, I haven't followed the operations of the Kata'ib Daniel Bibes very closely, but what little I've seen was stunningly vicious. I didn't think major newspapers would go that far, and Pipes, who has always tried to preserve some minimal veneer of respectability really crossed the line on this one. Islamophobia on street corners and in chat rooms is one thing, but this is another -- together with the Dubai ports hullabaloo, disturbing.
Posted by: alle at September 7, 2007 07:14 AM
I have never understood American "libertarian" (in some ways the terrible misuse of Liberal and the use of libertarian is useful to distinguish reasonable classic liberalism from bizarre American obsessions) hostility to public schooling.
Leaving this aside, as I believe I have understood the school is open to all comers, regardless of background, what's the Seperate But Equal item about (I believe you refer to racial segregation)?
The Pipes angle is certainly ... well very unsurprising.
Else, Alle, I believe NY has all kinds of public speciality schools including "cultural" ones. At least they did when I lived there now long ago.
Posted by: The Lounsbury at September 7, 2007 09:47 AM
The title of this post took me aback.
To answer alle: I'm hardly an expert on New York City public schools, but this article quotes someone as saying that an Asian school is opening in Flushing, Queens.
And Wikipedia has more info on specialized schools in NYC.
Posted by: alif sikkiin at September 7, 2007 09:52 AM
I believe NY has all kinds of public speciality schools including "cultural" ones. At least they did when I lived there now long ago.
They, as well as many other major U.S. metro areas (such as my own), certainly do - as well as all sorts of other specialized schools (math/science, etc.) And yes, the school is open to all comers. So Matthew, given that there is public education of all sorts in NYC, and that specialized schools are an established phenomenon there, are you still against the idea of an Arabic-language school?
(There is some familial expertise on this very issue, and I've actually been meaning to post about it myself for a while - I will see if I can pick a brain or two over the weekend.)
Posted by: Eva Luna at September 7, 2007 11:06 AM
" So Matthew, given that there is public education of all sorts in NYC, and that specialized schools are an established phenomenon there, are you still against the idea of an Arabic-language school?"
Kinda, yes. But that's not my libertarian side which doesn't like any public ed on principle (but not my issue here), but my old reactionary paleoconservative side that thinks that public education should be for no-frills encouraging of uniformity, and just the basics: reading, 'riting, and 'rithmetic, not cultural flights.
Posted by: matthew hogan at September 7, 2007 11:20 AM
Here is a list of new special schools in NYC for the current academic year; here is a list of the most established and competitive specialized public schools in NY; and here is a list of charter schools, just to give you an idea of the range of options available. And just for kicks, here’s an explanation of the different types of non-mainstream public education in NY.
Posted by: Eva Luna at September 7, 2007 11:27 AM
You don't think foreign language/culture skills are becoming more and more basic?
Posted by: Eva Luna at September 7, 2007 11:43 AM
And by the way, lest you think this sort of clamor is reserved for Arabic, something very similar is going on right now with a Hebrew-language charter school in Florida.
Posted by: Eva Luna at September 7, 2007 11:53 AM
Lounsb & Eva -- thanks.
Eva L -- something very similar is going on right now with a Hebrew-language charter school in Florida.
I don't know if it's all that similar if Pipes et al haven't chimed in with the blood libel yet...
By the way, I distinctly remember reading in the NYT a year or so ago, about a Chinese-culture/language school (or if it was kindergarten even?) that attracted lots of non-Chinese élite families who wanted to prepare their youngsters for the surging yellow menace. I don't think it was a public school, but the principle about separateness and linguistic indoctrination should be the same. And I'm pretty sure Daniel Pipes did not comment.
Posted by: alle at September 7, 2007 12:43 PM
The really funny thing is that this school, at least in principle, has the full support of the feds who are absolutely desparate for people with arabic language/cultural expertise. Half of the graduates will probably end up working for the CIA/FBI. This school is an important piece of the war against terrorism!
Tell me, Daniel, why do you hate America?
Posted by: Anonymous at September 7, 2007 02:09 PM
"And by the way, lest you think this sort of clamor is reserved for Arabic, something very similar is going on right now with a Hebrew-language charter school in Florida."
Judging by that story on the Hebrew school, the ACLU appears actually as loopy as Pipes.
They want an order stopping the teaching of Hebrew because it amounts to the state teaching religion!
Pipes: "learning Arabic in-and-of-itself promotes an Islamic outlook"
ACLU, in effect: "learning Hebrew in-and-of-itself promotes a Judaic (or Judeo-Christian even) outlook"
Personally I think these specialized cultural academies are not the purpose of *public* education (here I am being nice about public ed and assuming it a public necessary good.), although I dont think they constitute religious coercion or establishment.
Foreign languages classes and clubs are fine, even necessary. But *public* education should be about promoting accessibility to the political economy of the prevailing society, the old melting pot thing.
The Arabic school thing is dangerously close to the old "bilingual education" counterproductive farce. (Go, Ron Unz!)It smacks of all the difficulties Europe has had in promoting ghettoization of newer communities rather than integration.
....enjoying my paleo moments....
Posted by: matthew hogan at September 7, 2007 03:46 PM
But *public* education should be about promoting accessibility to the political economy of the prevailing society, the old melting pot thing.
Depends on what you consider to be the "prevailing society." I'd like to think of it more globally than that, but then maybe I am still bitter at not having had the opportunity to study a foreign language until age 13, and even then only for 40 minutes a day - no immersion until college (and then only because I went out of my way to create the opportunity). It would have been nice to grow up bilingual.
Re: the private sector providing expanded educational opportunities: who do you propose is going to make such opportunities available to those kids whose parents don't have the means? Or how, otherwise, do you propose leveling the playing field?
Posted by: Eva Luna at September 7, 2007 04:40 PM
". . . the private sector providing expanded educational opportunities: who do you propose is going to make such opportunities available to those kids whose parents don't have the means? Or how, otherwise, do you propose leveling the playing field?"
I don't propose to level the playing field, at least by any public mechanism. Private sectors may be better at it. Or not. I suspect the former. But public education is for giving the basic tools, not creating broad opportunity.
Languages are important, just not very much in America for the most part, where learning effective English should be essential to educational training, especially for the poorer and newer. I happen to be pro-multilinguosity to a near fanatic level, even for esthetic reasons alone, but I don't feel I can compel others (ie via public mechanism/program) to finance it for my own, my kids, or anyone else's kids' opportunities or inclinations.
Posted by: matthew hogan at September 7, 2007 07:01 PM
But public education is for giving the basic tools, not creating broad opportunity.
Reminds me of a discussion I've had with an Arab Canadian economics professor not long ago. She was supportive of the public health system, and she was saying that authorizing a private system would create a flight of the good quality docs to the private sector and deprive those who can't afford them. My argument was that she was leveling the field by pulling it down. Instead of arguing that they should keep access to those by preventing them from offering better services through private means, they should try to bring whatever public sector up to the quality of the private one(*) if they hold it so dear. For some reason that escapes me, there was no way to have that logic sink through her neurones.
(*) obviously not with tax money since tax is just plain fucking theft and should not exist to start with.
Matthew, I tend to share your wariness of bilingual schools that focus on promoting or "teaching" a particular culture, even if from a more left-ish perspective. Schools should equip children with foreign language skills and cultural awareness, but that's something that has to be mainstreamed, rather than creating islands of self-congratulatory immersion that are intended basically for a cultural community and aimed at helping it preserve its language and culture (an old American tradition, btw, Ben Franklin did like to moan about German schools in Pennsylvania - but such cultural-preservation initiatives should be private, and not part of public education).
What made me uncomfortable about the Hebrew school was that it was initially headed by a rabbi and the Hebrew curriculum used a lot of religious texts and contained lessons using religious scriptures, not critically, but as a way of "passing on cultural heritage." I'd have a problem with Arabic classes that used a lot of Quran too, particularly if they did so uncritically. Schools that are thinly veiled public substitutes for religious schools should not be funded by taxpayers, no matter how much we might support the desire to develop language and cultural skills. Look at "faith schools" in the UK - all they do is cater to families who want a subsidized version of parochial schools for their kids.
Posted by: SP at September 17, 2007 05:09 AM