Fascinating NYT article about NYC DoE’s efforts to open an Arabic immersion school in Brooklyn and the opposition it’s facing. I’m not sufficiently familiar with all the context to know whether or not there are legitimate issues here, but the level of racist venom some right wing opponents are spewing about the school is absolutely disgusting. And it’s really rich when the same people pushing military adventurism in the Middle East also vehemently oppose efforts to equip kids with the language skills and knowledge our country needs to engage with the region.
There’s another lesson here: 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. The most radical and evangelistic school choice supporters like to argue that choice will reduce social conflict around education because people who want schools to serve different social purposes can send their kids to different schools. But this ignores the fact that the mere existence of certain types of schools is offensive to some people, all the more so if those schools get public funding (and, yes, vouchers or tax expenditures in the form of tax credits are public funding). To the extent that greater choice leads to a greater diversity of educational options, we’re going to be seeing more controversy and conflict over these issues–at least in the near term–not less.
This story also put me in mind of Star International Academy, a Detroit-area charter school, founded by Lebanese-born Muslim Nawal Hamadeh. The curriculum includes Arabic and multi-cutural content. While the school serves many Muslim, Arab, and immigrant students, who are concentrated in its community, it’s also diverse, with about 8 percent African-American or Hispanic students, and has strong academic performance considering that 90% of its students qualify for free and reduced price lunch. Hamadeh Educational Associates, which runs SIA and two sister schools, was identified in 2006 as a promising charter school network by the Charter School Growth Fund, and given advice and support to expand its model.