Lessons from Kahlil Gibran
May 7th, 2007
There are many lesson to be drawn from last week’s decision by the Department of Education to abandon its plans to locate a new small school in PS 282 in Park Slope.
If you’re an optimist, you could be cheered that the Department of Education paid attention to the parents at 282 concerned that sharing their space with the new school would create overcrowding.
Or you could see the school system’s decision as a victory for bigotry. The small school was not just any school but the new Kahlil Gibran Academy, a school that, along with the regular city curriculum, would offer Arabic and culture. Arabic was the only word some people in the city needed to hear.
Creating such a school – and catering “to the strident demands from Muslim immigrants has allowed the latter to indulge some of their worst customs, including wife-beating, depriving women of full civil liberties, and genital mutilation of their daughters.” Lorna Salzman wrote in a letter to the Brooklyn Paper. (Salzman did not say whether bilingual Chinese or Spanish schools posed a similar threat to life as we know it.)
“A public school dedicated to Arabic language and culture in Brooklyn,” marveled Right Truth. “The state of public education in America has never been worse and the Department of Education thinks this is a proper use of taxpayer money?” (Unlike the school for sports management or fire safety – both of which already exist – thanks to taxpayer money.)
Simply learning Arabic can be dangerous, opined Daniel Pipes who knows Arabic. “Arabic-language instruction is inevitably laden with pan-Arabist and Islamist baggage,” he wrote in the Sun. “Learning Arabic in of itself promotes an Islamic outlook” (Pipes did not explain how he managed to avoid this taint.)
Keeping up the drumbeat in the Sun, Alicia Colon went even further: “How delighted Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda must have been to hear the news — that New York City, the site of the worst terrorist attack in our history, is bowing down in homage to accommodate and perhaps groom future radicals.
Some rushed to defend the school, which was being established under the auspices of New Visions, which has played a key role in the city’s small school movement. In his blog
Old First, Daniel Meeter, the reverend at Old First Reformed Church, said he had agreed to serve on the school’s board, as had a local rabbi. Meeter said the reaction to the school – and the invective heaped on principal Debbie Almontaser, caught him by surprise, “I didn’t expect the New York Sun to oppose it by means of slander. I won’t honor the articles by repeating them, but I will say that they were slanderous. And hurtful to my friend, Debbie Almontaser, and insulting to her faith” (Almontaser has written for Gotham Gazette, and we know many people in common – most of whom have high regard for her.)
Some allied with the PS 282 parents decried the fact that the crowding issue became caught up in an apparently acceptable (in some circles) post 9/11 bigotry. Writing in the Brooklyn Paper, Councilmember David Yassky said it was “entirely appropriate” for PS 282 parents to express their concerns. But, he continued, “suggestion that religion or ethnicity is at issue in the PS 282 disagreement gives credence to a reprehensible bigotry that, regrettably, does exist.”
So what is the Department of Education going to do next. It says it will try to find a new location but would not say where that might be and some questioned whether it would be in time for the new school year in September. Interestingly Schools Chancellor Joel Klein did not offer the school a home in Tweed Courthouse, as he did for a charter school caught up in a similar conflict over space (but not the Middle East) last year.
So what’s the lesson? The Quick and the Ed came up with one: “People who support choice and diversity in delivery of publicly-funded education need to come to terms with the reality that real choice includes some schools that not everyone will like.”By Gail Robinson on May 7, 2007, 4:35 pm
In category: Civil Rights, Education, Gotham City | 6 Comments »