Saturday, September 22, 2007

Re: The Khalil Gibran School

I am writing as a parent who has had a long and deep involvement with her child’s education. I was the President of a parent-run cooperative day care for many years and have been the Parent Association Co-President in my son’s local public school for the past three years.

In our school my family happens to be in the cultural and racial minority (we are white and the school is just under 90% Asian). It has been a pleasure to be steeped in a community whose values and culture are new to us and at the same time so utterly familiar. It has enriched our lives as we have added this community to the rest of our family of friends. My son’s world is larger for it. It has been heartening to see children of immigrants thriving because their culture is validated while they learn to live in and honor the surrounding heterogeneous society.

The future will rely both on our ability to absorb the positives and sift out the negatives of every culture (especially our own). It will require hard work, open minds, many mistakes, and determination. A vibrant society that reflects the world we live in is well worth it. Xenophobia makes us less intelligent and weaker. It makes us foolishly unaware or self-righteously arrogant, or worse. Those of us intimately involved in education, whether as teacher, administrator, parent or student include in the work of education the vital task of supporting each young person to become a citizen of the world. Our global lives no longer will allow for narrowness of any kind.

The Khalil Gibran School appears to be an attempt to make a home base for children whose culture, language and way of life is vilified or ignored. If I had any doubts about that, they were erased upon reading the range of opposition against this institution. From the self-absorption of schools that were asked to share space to the malicious slander against a principal whose track record on education was impeccable (as well as, ironically, on bridge building with other religions and cultures).

We live in a de facto racially, culturally, ethnically and economically segregated city.
Deliberately setting up some schools that honestly face that reality can create a place where children, free from oppression, can be themselves and feel free to learn. With that as base a child can then join the larger society as a full partner. And it affords the opportunity for children of all backgrounds to join in someone else’s cultural home. A gift.

Fear of “the other” is used to perpetuate illogical and hurtful outcomes. Our city needs for our citizens to have the choice of schools like this. And this school needs to be led by the principal whose vision and passion was integral to its creation. Reinstatement with an apology for our momentary collapse into xenophobia and racism is wanted. It is in everyone’s best interest (even those who feel that its very existence threatens theirs).

We are an immigrant city. It is our strength. As we near the sad anniversary of 9/11 and we reflect on our unity as a city that day we can declare ourselves a proud city of many communities who, whenever needed, act with the force of one.

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