Saturday, December 06, 2008

More on the Damascus Community School

My post on the Damascus Community 'School' had generated some interesting points of view in the comments section and my blog stats showed that it was one of the more frequently visited posts. However, the trickle of comments eventually slowed and that would have been the end of it had it not been for the latest comment by an anonymous "Truth Seeker", who seems to be an American, and who assumes the defence of this ideological American 'madrassa'. I thought it might be interesting to post his/her comment and my reply:

Truth Seeker:

Maysaloon,American schools throughout the world have been established to support the educational needs of American children whose parents work in foreign countries--just as British, French, Japanese, and German schools are often found outside of those countries' boundaries--not the needs of host country nationals. Some countries make it a requirement for granting the school's charter that the school accept a minimum percentage of their student population as a condition for its very existence (22% in the Philippines); other countries forbid their nationals to attend the school (Indonesia). This reflects the wide disparity of views about American education within a country's borders. However, wherever the International Baccalaureate degree is offered--as it was at Damascus Community School--a very international mindset is presented, granted, via the hands of the presenting nation. As one poster above mentioned, developing a sense of responsibility toward the needs of humanity is a strong theme of the International Baccalaureate program which, incidentally, originated in Switzerland. As a part of its accreditation with the International Baccalaureate sponsoring organization, Damascus Community School must strive to adhere to those principles. A look at the International Baccalaureate website will help you to see what those principles are. I would be surprised if you felt those principles to be unworthy.

What you appear to be most unhappy about is that a) there are wealthy Syrians, and b) some of those wealthy Syrians have chosen to send their children to Damascus Community School, and risk them being indoctrinated in American thought. Is that not a different issue than whether or not Americans have access to American education within the boundaries of Syria? Is it not possible, as the poster above suggested, to be educated without being indoctrinated?
The primary reason that host country nationals send their children to American schools outside of America is to give their young people a chance to learn English, which seems to have become the international language of commerce. The reasoning of many non-native English speakers is that they are giving their children a gift that will make it possible for them to be successful in business ventures in their future lives that require English. A secondary goal of most of these parents is that an American school will prepare their children to be successful in being accepted at an American or British university. You might have a better perception than I as to why this might be perceived to be of value. It has been my experience that many parents throughout the world seem to feel that education at an American university will profit their young people in their adult lives.

One very strong tenet of American education is to teach children to question rather than to accept the status quo, and to do it openly. This is an aspect of American culture that many non-Democratic cultures find very threatening. However, it should also be reassuring, because it makes it far more difficult for wool to be pulled over anyone's eyes if students have been taught to question.

I would like to stand on the side of freedom to seek truth wherever it may be found, rather than on the side of book-burning. Does not having a little bit of America inside Syria's borders give Syrians a chance to better learn what America is about, first-hand? Does not having Americans inside Syria's borders give those Americans a chance to learn and hopefully spread the truth of what Syrians are really like, first-hand? Is this not, in fact, the only hope we have that we might learn to live together in peace?

I am a teacher who has taught at many international schools. After being offered a contract to teach at DCS this year, I did a great deal of research about what it would be like to be an American teaching in Damascus. I read nothing but kind, encouraging things about the hospitality of Syrian people, written by Americans living in Damascus. The only reason I did not accept the contract was the worry that something might cause the school to close, thus leaving me without a job. Sadly, my concern appears to have been well-founded.

Because we are taught to question, you will find--if you seek to understand--that Americans who choose to live overseas and teach are apolitical. We see ourselves as educators first, and we usually do all we can to be peace-makers. We are often called global nomads.

The loss of life is tragic wherever it happens, and we weep with you. We have made our views known in the appropriate place: the polling place. We are hopeful of positive change. But please do not excoriate us. We want the same things for your children--and the children of all countries--that you want: peace and mutual understanding. We want our young people and yours--of every nation--to grow up understanding each other, and solving problems peacefully, in ways that do not cause the loss of life. Being able to see the good in each other--rather than demonizing one another--is the only hope we have to make this a better and safer world. Can we all commit ourselves to that?


Maysaloon:

Truth Seeker,I am sure the principles of the International Baccalaureate are admirable and the Swiss had the best intentions in drawing them up, however, whilst the Swiss are fiercely neutral in their dealings with nations, the same cannot be said of your country (I am going to assume you are an American) who have put the Mongols to shame with the current occupation of the Iraqi Arab Republic. Please do not try to invoke these principles as somehow representative of this school again, or to claim I am arguing about something that I am not.

Also, I sure you do not know the first thing about me to assume knowing about what makes me unhappy. I would be interested to see how you have come to these three conclusions since you instantly present them as a given. You also take for granted the claim that the American educational curriculum really does teach students to question everything. You bravely assume that it manages to teach anybody anything at all and, provided that it does achieve this, teach them anything apart from questioning everything. There is an argument which says that a person in this situation does not need to have wool pulled over their eyes because they do not use their eyes in the first place, since they cannot trust them. On this understanding a lot about America and Americanism would actually begin to make sense.

You say you prefer to stand with freedom to seek truth rather than book-burning, a bizarre set of choices to put yourself between but I will grant you that for the sake of argument. You ask me:

Does not having a little bit of America inside Syria's borders give Syrians a chance to better learn what America is about, first-hand?

and my answer is no, our neighbours have a lot of America inside their borders and the Iraqis have learnt more than they ever wanted to about you - by force.

Does not having Americans inside Syria's borders give those Americans a chance to learn and hopefully spread the truth of what Syrians are really like, first-hand?
No it doesn't. I'll believe that when I see Americans stop treating Syrians applying for visas like chattel.

Is this not, in fact, the only hope we have that we might learn to live together in peace?
We don't want to live with you, we don't want you to come anywhere near our lands and we want you to take your pet poodle Israel with you.

I hope this has answered your questions sufficiently. Please don't ever get confused, you are not our teachers, you are not our peace-makers and we do not want anything from you. We do not want you to weep with us, we have had enough of your crocodile tears. When you say to us that the loss of life is tragic, we are under no illusion that these words mean nothing to you. I couldn't care less where you make your "views" known and please, don't ever come to me writing paragraphs of useless drivel about "our" children, peace, understanding and the value of human life. If your educational curriculum cannot inculcate these into your leaders and people then we are more than happy to send you educators and peace-keepers.

You are the people who say one thing and do the other, who make the good appear bad and the bad, good. You promote corruption on this earth but think you are practicing virtue. If you can "commit" to one thing "Truth Seeker", then can you commit to all stop being pathological liars? To yourselves at least, if not to the rest of the world.

7 comments:

yaman said...

America gets up in arms when a public school tries to open up in NYC that teaches Arabic, and also when a school that teaches English in Syria is criticized. Seems like a lack of perspective to me too, even if I don't agree with your posturing 100% Wassim.

Ace said...

great post. i think the phrase summarizes everything:

"If your educational curriculum cannot inculcate these into your leaders and people then we are more than happy to send you educators and peace-keepers."

Clearly, the american educational system is a failure, since it gave birth to one of the most terrorizing leaders and administrations of modern history. Why then we expect such system to work in our lands??

on any case, I stand in ovation to all brave teachers in the world. not an easy job and the fate of future generations rests in their hands... if done right, unbiased and with truth of course.

qunfuz said...

I agree with a lot of what Truth Seeker says, but this paragraph goes far too far: "One very strong tenet of American education is to teach children to question rather than to accept the status quo, and to do it openly. This is an aspect of American culture that many non-Democratic cultures find very threatening." I must say that, to generalise, I have found Americans to be the least questioning, most accepting of the status quo, and most ignorant of all the peoples I have come across (which is a lot). The public education system in America is appalling - because America is ideologically opposed to public education. I know a young man from a good private school, and a bright young man: he can tell you about hundreds of TV shows but didn't know that Guantanamo Bay existed when I told him. British frinds who have travelled in America are full of comic stories of the ignorance of the Americans; Arab friends are full of unpleasant stories of racism, which arises from ignorance. American right wing Christian fundamentalists have burnt more books than have ever been burnt in Syria. As Yaman points out, the Arabic language and culture school in New York, actually run by an Arab Christian, was closed down in a anti 'Muslim terror' witch hunt. Academics of Arab-Muslim origin, or anbti-Zionists like Professor Finkelstein, are slandered, sacked, and sometimes falsely prosecuted. The US mainstream media is no better than propaganda. Far more criticism of Israel, for instance, is permitted in the Israeli than US press.

So your complacency, Truth Seeker, is a bit much.

Maysaloon said...

Posturing Yaman? Can't I be even a little bit upset with this person?

DCSer said...

Excuse me, but who are you to talk about DCS. You obviously know nothing about it. DCS students are the most educated and well-rounded students there are in this country. I don't know where you get your information from but I can assure you that it is all wrong. Before creating a blog you might as well research a little.
It is sad to think that there are such ignorant, close-minded, and pathetic people in this world like you. Every comment you write shows how much of an idiot you truely are.

DCS said...

Not to mention the weak, weak connection you are trying to establish between US
terroryzing leaders" and a humble American School in Damascus. Keep in mind that we are students, not revolutionaries.

shoffmeier said...

really great post