We've written a few pieces about the Khalil Gibran International Academy's attempt to find a physical home. The dual-language Arabic public school that has declared itself non-religious is, nonetheless, having trouble finding and sharing space with educational neighbors, who fear that they'll be hosting a terrorist academy. The fact that Khalil Gibran was an American-educated Christian poet seems to have drifted off into the ether of historical irrlevancy.
The Department of Education initially wanted to house the school in P.S. 282, but parents there complained that their children would be overcrowded and possibly endangered by older kids. The city responded by splitting the new Arabic-themed school between two existing schools on 4th Ave. Enter more concerns. From the Daily News:
Parents at the topnotch Math and Science Exploratory School in Boerum Hill, Brooklyn, have called an "emergency PTA meeting" for Monday over plans to put the Khalil Gibran International Academy at its campus at 345 Dean St.
"Our issue is not with the substance of the school. It's with the space," said PTA Vice President Thomas McMahon. "If those concerns could be met, we are willing to work to make the new school a success." That, again, would be a reasonable complaint, but it's been echoed very vocal mother from the school. "There's definitely a space issue," agreed Katia Lief, who has a seventh-grader at the well-regarded middle school. "This can cause overcrowding and chaos. If parents can be heard, maybe there can be some kind of result."
We certainly sympathize with parents' complaints about space at P.S. 282. Parents there were echoing the same complaints of moms and dads who didn't want Ivy League intruders on the Upper West Side. Still, one of the widely-read parents, who has already expressed a certain gas-mask-ready paranoia regarding Arab terrorists, might not be the woman to make the best public case for putting the nix on an Arabic dual-language school, even while couching her concerns in feminist terms:
The school will be located in a neighborhood heavily populated by Arab Americans. Ms. Lief said she worried that the school population would end up becoming mostly "girls in burkas," and would further isolate a community that is already marginalized.
"Once you form a school that is based on one specific culture you're ghettoizing a group of people," Ms. Lief said.
And there's no better way to make sure a community isn't marginalized than by making sure it gets nowhere near one's own neighborhood, right?
One could make the case that international schools will result in hotbeds of anti-Americanism. That has, so far, not been the case at religiously affiliated schools like the 92nd St. Y (Jewish) or Regis High School (Catholic) on the Upper East Side. Nor has it been the case at the culturally affiliated and bilingual Shuang Wen School (Chinese, Lower East Side), a public school in which NYC parents have been falling all over each other to get their kids enrolled.
We're not parents of school-aged tots yet, so we'll reserve our judgment. And we think many NYC moms and dads would be wise to do the same. The Daily News has an interesting opinion piece from an NYU history professor accusing anti-Muslim school activists as being the true religious zealots in this fiasco.
Update: We'd like to note that the woman quoted above made her statement about "burkas" in 2001 under certainly different circumstances and in a context unrelated to our post above. She contacted us to clarify that she has no ill-will towards Muslims and/or their children. We certainly take her at her word and hope our readers do as well.
(TEACHER AFRAID OF PUPILS, by alarmist at flickr)