Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Didn't we abolish segregation?

My friend Rob sent me this link from NY1 News about how the City School Board is opening an Arabic Public School in Brooklyn . According to the Article, the Khalil Gibran International Academy will enroll a diverse student body, even though many courses will be taught in Arabic. While I think that it is great that Brooklyn's burgeoning Arabic-speaking population has a school of its own, I think that this is a bad idea for two primary reasons.

Firstly, all 60's-style segregation arguments aside, this school is only going to work to segregate the Arabic community from the rest of New York. The point of Public school is to blend the diverse ethnic groups in a community so that members learn about each others cultures and appreciate them, while preserving their own. How does this accomplish that? Yes they want to enroll a diverse group of students, but how many Jews, Asians, Italians, and Hispanics will send their kids to this school? How is teaching in Arabic any different from Teaching in Spanish? I understand that some of these new immigrant students need extra help learning ESL, but we should accomodate that so that they gain fluency in English, and not Arabic. If they stay in the US, how will it help them to learn Algebra in Arabic? While I am all for teaching Arabic language and culture in regular public schools, and giving native Arab speakers some help in their native language, this concept, IMVHO, is counter-productive to societal integration of an ethnic group that already has issues with societal integration.

Secondly, this opens the door for creating, essentially, state-sponsored ethnic schools. Okay, fine, the board of ed insists that the school will have a 'diverse' student body. Let's say for arguments sake, the first year, there are a bunch of Asian kids in that school. Their parents get involved, and see how there is this rich Arabic curriculum, in both language and culture and realize its their tax dollars paying for it. They then say amongst themselves that we need to create something similar for Asian culture. They lobby the board of ed, and the 'Mandarin and Cantonese' academy is born. They pull their kids out of the Arabic school, and put them into M and C. This kills the diversity at the Arabic School, but that's okay, because all of the wait listed Arabic speakers now have spaces. After the Asians, the Spanish-Speakers follow suit, and then the Jews, etc. Until we've completely killed the diversity of our public education system.

Maybe this is a little extreme, but is it really that far-fetched? If a couple of smart Jews lobby the Board of Ed to create a similar Hebrew School that promoted Hebrew Culture. That taught nothing of a Religious nature, I would gladly move back to the city and enroll my kids there and give them religious instruction in an afterschool program?

I think this is a bad idea, and I am eager to see how it fares.

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