Thursday, August 16, 2007

The Public Be Warned

These are the responses to my August 15st article, "Warn Public if You Can Before Disaster Strikes, By Cell Phones, Landlines. Questions for Engineers", please continue to provide us with your feedback


  1. Wonderful, anecdotal story. I am forwarding it to a few friends (sadly, including some of whom who do NOT want to be on your e-mail list and got off, but I do send them some items which I know they'd find of interest. Oh, my friend from London, Stephen Burke, who is now touring the Western states with his wife, likes your columns.).

    Right on! Gibran was NOT a Muslim.

    You are correct: Ed.'s description is b.s. And Ed. Dept.'s "Tweed" flack should write essays on Why I want to attend this college/high school/grad school/law school, "whatever."

    Best point: Public schools are not to serve "to isolate."

  2. accompanies a large photograph of Ms. Salzberg, with glasses and wild wavy hair, her fingers on a computer. An inset shows Ms. Almontaser, wearing a hijab (a headcovering worn by devout Muslims), as she always does. Under the Salzberg photo is the subheadline, "New principal 'Chosen'." The story, by Chuck Bennett, leads: "A Jewish educator who can't utter a phrase of Arabic has been tapped to head the city's controversial Arabic-themed school, officials announced yesterday. (Monday).

  3. You write that the Post started it all but the New York Sun exposed the project in March with Andrew Wolf's column. Daniel Pipes called it a madrassa in April and I was pilloried by the Times for calling it a monstrosity in May. I've been on Steve Malzberg's radio show twice reporting on the movement to stop this plan. My hate mail would disgust you.Check out our online timeline for the archive of related articles.
    The Post got on board after the grassroots coalition battled for the media attention. No need for any correction. Just wanted to bring you in the loop.

  4. Your piece has so many errors of fact and of interpretation, I don’t know where to begin.

    The mission statement is not phony. You could substitute “Japanese” for ”Arabic” and it would describe the public school my children were lucky to be able to attend in Fairfax County, Virginia while we were posted to Washington. It was one of many created by the State Department in a number of difficult foreign languages and eagerly sought after by achievement-oriented D.C. families.

    Like that Virgina public school, the overwhelming majority of students who enrolled in Kahlil Gibran have no background in the foreign language. Except for a handful, the students are seizing an opportunity to learn a difficult and critical, major world language (not that Japanese is so critical anymore, but it was then. There would be more demand there for an Arabic School in Virginia than Japanese today I’m sure.) Ideally, immersion programs work best if there are some foreign language speakers among the students. (The best ones are two-way immersion programs, but it always more difficult to get the foreign language students to enroll because THEIR parents are more interested in their learning English in an English-immersion environment!)

    If there is a difference between the two groups of students taking advantage of this kind of language immersion program, it is that the Virginia students were fairly rich. The NY students who are likely to be deprived, appear not to be. They are 75% black, with parents who are sophisticated consumers of education and jumped at the chance to give their children an education that would allow them to graduate from high school with high level Arabic language skill. It would be interesting to ask the admissions officers at a couple of elite colleges how they would view an applicant with such a preparation.

    You see the Khalil Gibran Academy as some kind of Trojan horse to usher in Islamic ideology. That is simply paranoia. I never went to either Hebrew School or Cathechism, but I assume that the content is religious. In language immersion programs, the content is simply whatever is prescribed by the school system. (Yes, I know, every language class conveys culture, but would you have our French/Chinese/Spanish classes ban all context??)

    You question how a non-Arabic speaking woman can lead this school. Our Japanese immersion program was led very well by someone who knew nothing about Japan. She was called upon to host the Emperor and Empress of Japan when they visited the United States, and managed to do just fine.

    I think the opponents of this school need to get out of New York and see how other cities are educating their brightest, most motivated students these days

  5. Another very charming and informative piece. One additional note Kahil lived for some time on West 10th Street in a brownstone now torn down and replaced by a red brick high rise apt bulding. but he was adored in the Village and is still a well known personage for the many years he lived there. One point about the Maronites is that their clergy can marry. This causes lots of concern among the regular Catholics. Keep up the good work. Your blog is the best thing going. I ran into former Mayor Koch who has his own blog. You both contribute to political and cultural literacy in a city which is sorely lacking in both. I read the obit for Mrs. Astor today. She was at the Bronx Zoo when we got our esteemed and shortstayed panda. I observed her to chat with the Chinese Ambassador. She spoke Chinese having grown up in China. she told him to come up to the Met and see "my little tea house there". When she made a major contribution to the Elephant House and had Astor Court named after her she was asked if she wanted a favor. She said "Yes, I want to serve tea to the staff of the Zoo". She did just that on her terrfic english tea service underneather the Elephant House.

  6. Thank you for covering this issue and for recognizing the quagmire the chancellor and mayor have created.. I too have grown up with the NYC school system and recall everything you mentioned. We have come to this crossroads because the city has allowed over 60 such Dual Language Schools to develop. In doing so, they have created the slippery slope that allowed Almontaser to ask for a piece of the pie. This reminds me of what the Aspira consent decree has done to the city in allowing the educationally unsound bi lingual programs to develop. Perhaps now that we are all awake, we should start questioning whether taxpayers should be funding these type of schools and shouldn't the main focus in our public schools be English. I would also submit to you that if you are including links for information to your readers on the issue of KGIA, you should also include the link to There your readers will get the history and understanding of why some concerned citizens saw something happening that they knew was wrong and started investigating. The investigations by Beila Rabinowitz and William Mayer at Pipeline .org reveal much in Almontaser's affiliations with many Muslim groups that have more radical orientations. Unfortunately our mayor and chancellor have refused to educate themselves on this topic and continue to place the city in jeopardy by going forward with such a foolhardy project. What gives me some sense of solace is that finally many have been awakened to the problem that only a handful of us could see right from the start. Thanks again for calling attention to it. The very simple question I asked the mayor in a letter I initially wrote to him is how he thinks Israel would be treated in a school of this nature? Perhaps if he had given it some thought , he would not have had to be surprised by Almontaser's nonchalant response to Intifada NYC. Actually it is fortuitous that my question has been answered before the school has opened. How many more of these answers will the mayor and chancellor have to get before they will wake up and shut it down?

  7. I'm old enough to fondly remember the "melting pot" theory of education; then mildly accepted the "salad bowl"; but can never approve of the "balkanization" of the education system.
    My wife, who is from a foreign country, finds it even more unbelievable than me, how "America" can't deal appropriately with Muslims (who are out to kill us). I have to keep reminding her that New York City is not America.
    Although I approve of Mayor Mike 99% of the time, and admire his accomplishments as a businessman, this whole Gibran idea is too bizarre.

  8. I thought the “Chosen” in quotes was a reference to Chaim Potok (though it had no particular resonance in this circumstance). Just a headline editor run amok.

    I enjoyed the column.

  9. Well done. You demolished this brainless idea with wit and substance.

  10. Thank you for this excellent article. You have covered every aspect clearly and simply.

  11. Commissioner Stern (and Chancellor Klein and Mayor Bloomberg), If a few public schools were designated to offer courses in Arabic language and culture...just as there are a few public schools that
    offer courses in, say, Russian, Chinese, Hindi, and similar less
    commonly taught languages...this experiment might make good sense.
    However, in my opinion, the last thing we need in public schools is anything that tends to polarize...most especially from an ethnic or racial point of view. We need to teach our children how to live
    together in a world city, not to mention the world itself! This
    means rubbing shoulders with all the citizens of the world, not
    just those few who agree with the views of a particular ethnic
    group of whatever culture or creed. This is discrimination, pure and simple, and in my opinion does not pass constitutional muster. I am frankly stunned that the leadership of this City, committed as it is to a democratic (small "d") America, cannot see that this is
    no way to create intercultural harmony. In fact it destroys it.
    Affirmative action, however flawed in application, was meant to bring us all together. This is its very antithesis, which perhaps should be called "destructive division". It has no place in a world City that has already seen the destruction of 2,793 lives because a certain group of people, educated in places where only a single view of the world was espoused, decided they were infidels. Commissioner Stern is right. Those wishing religious or cultural education for their children that embraces only a single faith or language are free to obtain it, but not within the public schools. The United States of America established itself as a democratic republic in the traditional "liberal" sense, meaning "free" of the narrow ignorance of thoughts other than one's own. Indeed the founders of our nation, not to mention our City...Adrian van der Donck comes to mind...understood that civility was required for
    civilization, that civil rights are the foundation upon which civic life must rest in a multicultural society...which America was then, and is even more so now. The only way to sustain this, they knew, was through the level playing field of mass public education, which seeks to promote an honest understanding of other people's ideas, hopes, dreams, and beliefs...rather than vigorous embrace of one set of ideas versus another. Let us not retreat from this premise, which remains the light of the world, as Miss Liberty reminds us constantly. America is still the last best hope of humankind, and
    our City still the shining example of how well humans can get along when they are committed to doing s...even when their shoulders arerubbing constantly, and multiculturalism is not merely educational jargon, but the way we have insisted on living for some 400 years.Our forebears came here to escape the religious exclusivity and thecultural xenophobia of the old world. We dare not reinvent it.

  12. Ah Starquest, your coverage so comprehensive. I suspect you also feel as I do that the greatest education needed is how to get along with one another, communication skills and conflict resolution skills from the cradle to the grave

    Starquest,The person killed in park was in his 70s and not on parkway - and someone said swerved to avoid striking a dog - off the leash? Very few recreational bikers on park walkways where they really don't belong, do they? wear helmets. Dogs should not be off leash except for designated hours. Anyway it's tragic and more so because it received no coverage. it might have if the victim were a young person - a child. ageism. do you agree or have suggestions for me?

  13. Good column. I agree

  14. Good stuff...I'd missed this little Bloomberg misadventure.Two things to fear in others: Insecurity and those who do not know what they do not know.L'il Mike still knows so little substantively that he's all over the place...he's ready to lead the nation in 'congestion' solvbing as long as he gets $350 mil of Federal money but he's afraid to fight to get the same money to fix the holes in our over the Triborough lately...your car can drop into those holes if you hit them wrong..
    He's changed the school system for the fourth time and now all that exists is confusion but nobody covers that and so it's a wonder that the press has covered a Jewish principal in so-called arabic school. Your points about Hebrew and Catholic schools are on-the-nose. Mike is all over the place and in the end will turn out to be no better a Mayor than Abe Beame.

  15. Like others of our age, I encountered Gibran while in high school, as a literary figure, not a religious or politico-social one. I liked “The Prophet,” but I never took Gibran seriously, or thought much of the few of his other books I read.

    I do think it’s interesting that Gibran began writing in Arabic, then switched (permanently) to English. He thought he could bring East and West together, but it would have to be in the Western language, because few Westerners could or would speak Arabic. Your comparing him to Norman Vincent Peale is right on the money; both were harmless – and free of prejudice – mass-market inspirational feel-gooders.

    Naming a New York City public school after Kahlil Gibran could be appropriate, if it followed his “teachings,” which were universalist and nonviolent in every sense. Having a New York City public school offer Arabic language and cultural studies could also be appropriate – we certainly need more people versed in both in today’s world - but such a school would probably not be named after Gibran, and should certainly not get into “intifada” studies – or T-shirts!

    You drew a clear distinction between the secular schools of our youth and the Hebrew and Catholic schools we attended after “regular” school let out. So far, we have kept Church and State separate, even when the religious education taught in those “extra” schools was benign. We do not want our public education system to run seminaries, yeshivas, or madrasas. Ms. Almontaser’s actions and words show why.

  16. good for you. one of the reasons we try to save school designed by cbj snyder is that he offered, light, air, beauty and dignity to increasing numbers of immigrant children. his buildings said education was important and they were important. but we were all in it together.

  17. Dear Henry--- we all belong to one tribe here--- we are called Americans.
    I don't have anything against religion or ethnic pride, etc. But as Teddy Roosevelt
    noted, we shouldn't be hyphenated Americans.
    My parents were fairly agnostic--- Public schools are for everone, Arab, Jew, etc.
    At P. S. 6, we read a prayer every assembly, and said the Pledge with "under God."
    I wasn't harmed much by it, even with my agnostic secular upbringing.
    And I rather liked the prayer readings--- I even did one--- the 23rd Psalm
    was a big hit.

    These specialized schools--- for gays, for Arabs--- why not for tall kids, or a school
    just for kids with brown hair? We all have to live together, and each kid better get used to black kids and Hispanic kids and gay kids and Arab kids.

    (Actually, we had virtually no black kids at PS 6--- one black girl in about 900--- her name was
    Mary Moses, I still recall).

  18. Ethnicity has no real place in the school system. One must pay homage to it I suppose and be sensitive to it but that's it. Why should we support other people's values which are antagonistic to our own? It makes no sense. Especially when it comes to stone age thinking from the Middle East. All cultures are not equal.

  19. Wonderful!

    I read it in an earlier version… somehow…

    The idea of this school is obscene…. The Arab babe only proved it… another Jewish liberal “educator” just made it worse… let\’s just get back to community schools… what a wonderful reminder you did.

    I published a great book about “when the NY Schools worked” by a labor organizer…. That pointed out the Melting Pot did a lot better than we thought in the early years of the last century

  20. Thank you Star Quest for this thoughtful and personally reflective piece of high quality journalism. In our society white guilt has led to such poisonous experimentation such as this debacle called the Arab school. Such passions of the day will surely be fed into young impressionable youths who will only have resentment that a hatred spewing former principal was ousted and replaced by an infidel. Your analysis connecting this with the indoctrination of German youth in the 1930's by the Nazis was outstanding. You certainly have a sharp wit and non-politically correct courage to state the truth.

    Congratulations to your son on his marriage. You and your wife certainly did raise a fine young man who will only enhance the human race.

    My wife Lidia is now 38 weeks along with our son. We are in anticipation on his soon arrival into this screwed up world.

    I need to pose a question to you sir. How much blame does Bloomberg need to reflect upon himself for allowing this Arab school to be in the dilemma it is in now and for the existence on schooling using public tax monies for a religious ideology?

  21. This was by far your best column to date. A few points. First, why aren't we focusing on developing excellent neighborhood schools? Neighborhoods around the City are now experiencing a renaissance and new found prosperity due to the health of the real estate market, lets extend that to our schools. Second, public schools which demonstrate integration encouraging diverse ethnic groups and cultures to study, learn and discuss issues together is truly the hallmark of our American democracy. Finally the development of an Arabic separatist school is symptomatic of larger issues in our local political culture which often seeks to appease and take the least line of resistance rather than attempt to truly promote the interests of our children, particularly people of less means and influence. Remember open admissions which only served to devalue a CUNY diploma. Good column.

  22. Isn't there an acute need for more Arabic speaking people in the military intelligence and law enforcement communitys? Couldn't this school address those needs instead of becoming a "petri dish...".-sweet 6

  23. Bravo, Henry! I agree with your argment that our public schools should,
    in addition to educating our children, serve as part of the melting
    pot. E pluribus unum!

  24. Good intentions? "Intifada New York" is good intentions? Was my Hebrew School funded by taxpayers?

  25. Here's an offer of proof of the "spitz" involvement:
    Both Shpritz and Bruno agree that Bruno went to Schpritz and said, "...Pataki took the right to use state planes away from me, will you let me use them." As only a prosecutor could or would, Schpritz jumped at the opportunity and said ,"...of course,yes."
    After that, it was probably less than 5 minutes for the plan to hatch.

    If he was a half of an honorable man, he would have simply said," can't fly free anymore."