The Brooklyn Daily Eagle covered the response to Stop The Madrassa’s demands for curricula that came from Chancellor Klein’s office yesterday. Klein’s spokesperson blatantly evaded all the key questions about the curricula that are at the heart of the concerns about this school. We’ll analyze why below, but first an excerpt or two from the Eagle article:
Community Group Opposing Arabic-Themed School Files for Information
by Mary Frost (firstname.lastname@example.org), published online 07-30-2007
Khalil Gibran International Academy
In Brooklyn Still Proves Controversial
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
BOERUM HILL – Brooklyn’s planned Khalil Gibran International Academy, named for the peace-loving Lebanese-American poet and philosopher, is designed to build bridges between cultures and promote greater understanding. But the very idea of a school with an Arab theme has triggered questions and even hostility both online and in print, as detailed in past issues of the Brooklyn Eagle.
Now, a group calling itself the Stop the Madrassa Community Coalition has sent a Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) request letter to Governor Eliot Spitzer, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the New York State Board of Regents, Chancellor Joel Klein and other city and state officials.
The article quotes spokesperson Melody Meyer on the City’s response:
Melody Meyer, spokesperson for the New York City Department of Education, addressed some of the issues brought up by the group yesterday.
“The school has chosen from curricula that has been approved and designated for New York City public schools,” she told the Eagle. “For math, they’ve ordered Impact Math; for science, they’ve chosen Option C, published by Harcourt. In humanities, they’re using the Social Studies Module approved for the 6th grade. They’re also using the Teachers’ College Reading and Writing Workshops, and they’ve ordered the Arabic Language Library from Scholastic, which translates English children’s books into Arabic.”
In a nutshell, “They’re using the same curriculum packages as other New York City public schools,” Meyer said.
As to the teacher certification question, Meyer said that Principal Debbie Almontaser has been “hiring teachers through the summer. She’s hired two Arab-Americans, plus Irish, Greek, Jewish and West Indian teachers – certainly a diverse group.”
All of the teachers are certified, Meyer said. While New York State “doesn’t offer certificates in Arab-language instruction, all of the teachers are certified including the Arab-language teachers – one in math, the other in humanities.”
As to the questions raised for months about the City’s choice of a religious advisory board for a public school, complete with three imams (apparently there were no secular Muslims available…) and no educators or specialists in teaching Arabic, Ms. Meyer rapidly changed the subject, rather than answering the question or taking responsibility for her office’s complete violation of principles of separation of church (mosque) and state:
DOE’s Meyer responded to this by saying, “The advisory board, in this case, is not affecting the curriculum or instruction. Now that she knows where the school will be sited, the principal has reached out to political and other kinds of community leaders,” such as the local councilman. Principal Almontaser chose many religious leaders for the school’s advisory board initially “because she has experience in building cross-cultural bridges through religious leaders,” said Meyer. “They can speak to their community members and explain how the school benefits the community.”
Let’s analyze just what Ms. Meyer tries to explain, step by step, evasion by evasion. We’ll leave the curriculum for last, because it is the most blatant evasion and act of disinformation to the public.
1. Ms. Meyer explains about the advisory board: “The advisory board, in this case, is not affecting the curriculum or instruction.” So we assume that in other cases – that is, any school other than KGIA – a school advisory board would affect the curriculum or instruction, but not “in this case.” Why is this case unique? Because this advisory board is both 1) religious (violating the principle of separation of church/mosque and state) and 2) its members are Islamist in their political ideologies (extremist in their politics and conviction of the superiority of Islamic sharia law over other religions, legal systems and political systems). Don’t just take it on our assertion – review the evidence of the statements of the members of the board and their religious professions. So why should the Department of Education suddenly decide – yesterday – that after all these months, this advisory board “is not affecting the curriculum or instruction”? Because Chancellor Klein has publicly stated:
“If any school became a religious school, as some people say Khalil Gibran would be, or it became a national school, in the sense that it really wasn’t an American public school, I would shut it down.”
Well, given that advisory board, Klein should keep his word and shut it down. Rather than keep his word, he sent out Ms. Meyer to make his excuses that this advisory board – “in this case” – won’t affect curriculum.
2. Ms. Meyer explains about political leaders: About principal Almontaser, she reassures us that “Now that she knows where the school will be sited, the principal has reached out to political and other kinds of community leaders.” Well, she won’t have to reach out very far, because the political and community leaders in the new site (345 Dean Street) are the same as those for the old site (180 6th Avenue) – exactly 9/10 of a mile apart, in the same zip code in Brooklyn (11217). Ms. Meyer seems to think that it was impossible to reach out to political and community leaders before, hence the packing of that advisory board with religious figures. Except that kind of community outreach to political and community leaders is exactly what principal Almontaser’s publicity features as her specialty, and she successfully involved them in the planning committee for the school way back in March 2007:
The committee that designed the school included the principal, Debbie Almontaser, a former teacher, and several nonprofit groups, including Lutheran Medical Center, the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, the Salaam Club of New York, and the Arab American Family Support Center, a Brooklyn-based nonprofit that will act as the main support organization. The organization’s top funders include the U.S. government, the American Jewish World Service, and the Christian Children’s Fund.
So no, Ms. Meyer, the religious, imam-packed advisory board was not a result of Almontaser’s not knowing the final site of the school, since she was quite capable of finding political and community leaders months before.
3. Ms. Meyer explains the benefits: We sense a certain exhaustion in Ms. Meyer’s statement: “Principal Almontaser chose many religious leaders for the school’s advisory board initially “because she has experience in building cross-cultural bridges through religious leaders,” said Meyer. “They can speak to their community members and explain how the school benefits the community.” Clearly Ms. Meyer is having problems explaining how the school benefits the community, and hopes that someone somewhere will do that now embarrassing and truly impossible job (and yes, see that we support the benefits of teaching Arabic far more widely than this single school). Why can only religious leaders explain the benefits of this public school to Brooklyn? Is Brooklyn suddenly overcome with such a fear of advice from secular experts, teachers or journalists – all of whom have published extensively on their concerns – that Brooklyn must harken only to the wise words of an imam from Harlem (Imam Talib Abdul-Rashid), an imam from New York University (Imam Khalid Latif) and an imam from Queens (Imam Shamsi Ali)? We think Brooklyn is pretty smart and can figure out the benefits of learning Arabic, and the costs of having Islamists establish a front in the public school system, and the differences between the two.
4. Ms. Meyer explains the curriculum: The curriculum package outlined above is indeed the “same curriculum packages as other New York City public schools.” But school officials – particularly Mr. Klein, principal Almontaser and Office of New Schools Chief Executive Garth Harries – have all made a special effort to describe how the Khalil Gibran International Academy goes way beyond that curriculum package. As Mr. Harries states in a May 7, 2007 letter:
“The program integrates intensive Arabic language instruction and the study of Middle Eastern history and historical figures to enliven learning across all subject areas…KGIA may apply its theme by, for example, studying the ancient Arab approach to astronomy in science classes or studying the history of Arab instruments or tapestries in music and art classes…”
We have two examples of curricula, associated with KGIA sponsors, to tell us exactly how the program will “enliven” learning with Middle Eastern history and historical figures.
KGIA “Enlivened” Curricula Example #1: The primary sponsor of KGIA is the Arab American Family Support Center. In fact, ever since the KGIA website (http://www.kgiany.org) was taken down , the AAFSC acts as information central for KGIA. The single curricula link at AAFSC’s website is to the radical Council on Islamic Education (CIE). CIE teachers’ guides refer to Muhammed as a Prophet and the Quran as revelation. In an interview with The Message Magazine in May 2004, CIE stated:
“There are more full-time Muslim schools being established all the time. This is a positive development, especially if Muslims recognize that to be an “Islamic” school it takes more than adding some deeniyat and Qur’an studies to the curriculum. The ‘Islamic nature’ of the institution should become evident in all areas of study, but not simply through a naive effort to simply ‘Islamize’ the curriculum.”
In a typical passage from a lesson on the Crusades, CIE describes Muslim leader Salah Al Din:
“The qualities for which he is praised revolve around Muslim ideals of justice, piety and good conduct rather than military courage or prowess alone. This contrasts with the greater emphasis placed upon military prowess by the Crusaders with regard to their rulers.”
This isn’t history, it is Islamist propaganda.
KGIA “Enlivened” Curricula Example #2:
Principal Dhabah (or “Debbie”) Almontaser was part of the curriculum design team that created “(Re)Embracing Diversity in NYC Public Schools – Educational Outreach for Muslim Sensitivity.” On February 14, 2002, Columbia University’s Muslim Communities in New York City Project conducted training for over one hundred New York City high school teachers to use “(Re)Embracing etc.” to address “the problem of intolerance towards Arab-, South Asian- and Muslim-Americans in the wake of the tragic events of 9/11.” Components of this curriculum – still available for all public schools for download – included:
Handout 3 (from the Council on Islamic Education – listed at the bottom of the page): the pillars of Islam
Handout 5 (from the Council on Islamic Education): “At their worst, such incorrect adjectival constructions produce oxymorons such as ‘Islamic terrorists’ and ‘Islamic militants’ and ‘radical Islam’ or ‘Islamic Extremist groups’ frequently used uncritically…”
Handout 6 (from the Council on Islamic Education): on Divine Scriptures
Handout 9 (from the Council on Islamic Education): “What is Jihad?” “Systematic, forced conversion to Islam is a historical myth. Muslims defeated hostile forces (Byzantines and Persians for example) and gained control of new lands where Islamic rule was established, yet non-Muslim inhabitants were not forced to become Muslims….For various reasons, and in the course of time, many non-Muslims did find the message of Islam appealing, and converted to Islam, resulting ultimately in the transformation of society at all levels.”
Handout 14 (from the Islamic Affairs Department, Embassy of Saudi Arabia): “Islam – A Global Civilization” –
The Farewell Address of Muhammed (Handout 15)
So, let’s review. We have the word of the Chief Executive of New Schools Garth Harries that the KGIA curriculum will include “the study of Middle Eastern history and historical figures,” and we know that the KGIA sponsoring organization has a single link to the Council on Islamic Education, and we know that the KGIA principal Almontaser created a public school curriculum that borrowed extensively from Council on Islamic Education materials, as well as materials from the Saudi Embassy, in which public school teachers were trained.
As Ms. Meyer stated yesterday:
“The school has chosen from curricula that has been approved and designated for New York City public schools.” Given Mr. Harries statements and the curricula that are linked or created by KGIA sponsoring groups or the principal herself, Ms. Meyer’s “approved curricula” seem to be provided by the Council on Islamic Education, the Saudi Embassy, and others.
Chancellor Klein, this disinformation has been extended not only to the parents, children and citizens of the community but to the press and DOE city officials themselves.
Keep your promise. Shut down the Khalil Gibran school.