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'Jihadi' School?

| 14 Comments

Start a charter school focused on medicine, the arts, or business, and people applaud, shrug, or yawn.

But a school based on Arabic language and culture? Financed by taxpayers? In the city hardest hit by 9/11’s Islamic terrorists? It’s little wonder the Khalil Gibran International Academy has found itself under fire even before its doors open.

"Segregationist" and "Jihadi" are among the epithets that have been flung at the school, which plans to open in Brooklyn, New York, this fall.

On the contrary, replies academy principal Debbie Almontaser, a Muslim and a veteran New York City teacher of Yemeni background.

"It is a school that is going to be working quite hard in building bridges of understanding, tolerance, and acceptance, valuing diversity and truly just developing students into global citizens," she says.

What do you think? Should there be restrictions on what public schools can focus on?

14 Comments

I've been reading a lot about this charter, given that I live in NYC. It should be a fabulous resource to the children of NYC. Brooklyn, like the rest of NYC, embodies a very diverse and vibrant population. Bigots insulting the school represent, in my estimation, a very minute portion of the population. In reality, my guess is that very few people in NYC even know this school is going to open. So, to me, the crucial step in making sure a good school doesn't get scuttled for political reasons is to have an informed and active press corps that is seeking out more than the bigots decrying the school. The pedagogy should be sound, the teachers will be well-qualified and multi-lingual, and there will be an emphasis on more than just "learning to a test." Sounds like the beginnings of an ideal atmosphere in which to learn.

Isn't this a religious school (in disguise, perhaps) ... do we have publicly funded schools on Italian culture and language? How could this be a constitutional or good idea?

Tim, CULTURE and LANGUAGE are not RELIGION. Explain to me how teaching culture and language, essentially sociological and historical perspectives, can be unconstitutional. Besides, the history of religion is a fundamental part of any sound history program. It has nothing to do with religious DOCTRINE. That you are linking the two is very disturbing.

Erin is right in saying that the role of religion is a basic part of a sound history program. The difference, however, with the history of Arabic culture is that the doctrine and history of Islam are indivisible features of Arabic culture. Remove the doctrine of Islam from a study of its history and you are left with a hollow subject and a shallow culture.

Erin,
Islam is not a country with a culture. Islam is a way of life stemming from a religion. I really think this cloaking of the truth needs to be evaluated. I am transplanted from Brooklyn,New York and would be very upset if this school opens. Perhaps the book "While Europe Slept..." by Bruce Bower would help to open the eyes of the school officials. I believe it would be an insult to New Yorkers and taxpayers to pay twice for 9/11.

If religion is truly as imbedded in history as stated here, and there is no way to remove teaching how religion shaped this country, then why bother seperating church and state? Why do we not allow christian and parochial schools to operate as charters? Perhaps they should call themselves the Irish Avenger school or the tower of papal montessori.....ah, the ways to hide agendas can be so exhausting.

I'm sure that you have noticed that doctrine and history of Christianity are indivisible components of Western culture. Studying the doctrines of either Christianity or Islam (or Judaism or Buddhism) are necessary to an understanding of history and culture, but studying the doctrines in order to be conversant in them is much different than practicing the religion.

Dale,
My point is that *teaching* Islam is very different from teaching one to *be* Muslim. The school is not converting kids. The school is teaching them about a religion so that they have a better understanding of said religion, which it seems that MANY need, since so many seem to be erroneously equating Muslims with terrorists.

Sam,
I have yet to come across a public high school that does not already teach the history of Catholicism, Judaism, and yet, often Islam. It can't be ignored - these were the basis of wars and empires. Eliminate them and you eliminate much of the history of how the world was formed, INCLUDING the basis of how and why this country was formed.

The whole concept of "charter schools" is for them to be outside the public school realm and restrictions. When we approve charter schools we say public schools are not doing the job, charter schools can do it better. It is a political attempt to divide and conquer any unifying force for the masses. Same thing with last 25 years and unions. It is a general political ethos that devalues institutions representing large groups and favors the balkanization of political forces in our country. Individual responsibility is the prevailing political ideal,even as we are suffering declines in people's ability to support themselves and have basic services such as health care. We are suffering the devisivness of this in our body politic today.
We allow an Office of Faith Based Initiatives to exist in our government that for example funds day-care centers at churches where a single mom who brings child there is counseled to come to church more to help solve her problems. (This was reported on an NPR newscast some years ago.)I'd love to see a follow-up on that story.
If someone can start a charter school for other cultural focus, it would be discriminatory to say something based on one culture can't exist. The question really is will this school prepare students to be productive citizens of our country or will it contribute to the greedy and devisive culture we have slipped into? If they don't have to meet "standards" how can we know if they do?

WAKE UP. ISLAMISTS ARE USING AMERICAN INSTITUTIONS TO INFILTRATE. ISLAM IS A RELIGION BASED ON THE POLITICS OF CONQUERING, NOT LIVING SIDE BY SIDE. THEY ARE TELLING US LOUD AND CLEAR WHAT THEY WANT.
I AM OUTRAGED THAT TAXPAYER MONEY IS BEING USED TO FUND THIS SCHOOL. THEY CAN OPEN ONE MORE MADRASSA IF THEY NEED ANOTHER SCHOOL.
CHARTER SCHOOLS IN AND OF THEMSELVES ARE A TERRIBLE IDEA AND FURTHER WEAKEN THE PUBLIC SCHOOL SYSTEM, WHICH IS THEIR GOAL.

Sara, you clearly know little to nothing about neither Islam not charter schools. Re: Islam, I won't waste my time b/c you clearly won't listen.
Re: charters: Yes, I'm sure that the subversive leaders behind those evil charter schools are seeking to bring education down, kids be damned! Because of course the public system is educating all of our kids brilliantly. How silly.

Who are the kids that are anxiously awaiting the opening of this school? I live in the community where the school is being opened. I wonder why the communities interests and needs were not addressed as a whole. Would an Islamic school in which Arabic will be taught be the first choice of the majority of residents? We don't have dual language middle schools in Spanish, French, Mandarin or anything else.
Also, Khalis Gibran was Christian and spoke FRENCH!!!

Katy, we do have other dual language schools in New York City. The Shuang Wen Academy which is a dual language Mandarin/English school (and gets glowing reviews) and the Amistad Dual language school which is Spanish/English.

Mr Anonymous,
You clearly have no idea the agenda of the Right who have for the last twenty or so years attempted, successfully I might add, to privatize public institutions. When something smells rotten, don't spray it with deoderant. Take a bath. In other words, if we continue to ignore what is happening in the US because we understand neither or constitution nor our civil liberties, then it is only our fault when we are living in a Brave New World.

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