11 August 2008

11 August 2008 - The facts stand unchallenged

Richard Greenberg of the Washington Jewish Week has a piece following up on the article I wrote a month ago in the Washington Post about Arabic instruction at American universities, and the Al-Kitaab textbook in particular.

Greenberg focuses on the maps in the textbook. I didn't think this was the main point of my article, but to each his own. What stands out for me in this article--and in the many comments out there attacking my position--is that hardly anyone is willing to contest the basic factual claims of my article:

"Richard Brown, the director of GUP [Georgetown University Press], disputed Pollak's contention that Al-Kitaab has an anti-Western and anti-Israel agenda, but declined to evaluate the factuality of Pollak's claims."

I think the following comment on my article over at the Post, posted by "rabbidanny," says it best:

"I am taking Arabic over the summer at a major university and we are using the same textbook. Disclosure: I, like Mr. Pollak, am a Jew, which may admittedly color my views. My objective in taking the course is to learn the Arabic language so that I can study medieval Arabic philosophical texts that influenced Jewish thought in the middle ages. Accordingly, I find the political commentary in the textbook gratuitous and distracting. While Maha may accurately depict Egyptian sentiments, the language AND the culture could have effectively been conveyed without touching on sensitive current events and without fomenting political sentiments. My two professors - two delightful people who happen to be Muslims - do this quite effectively. To clarify some past mistaken commentators: The Alif Baa book does identify Israel as 'Israel and Palestine.' The Al-Kitaab book (the second in the series), which is the main textbook for the course, comes with DVD's. In the first DVD, Israel is identified simply as 'Palestine,' and I, too, was disturbed by this. Finally, I used to teach Hebrew language at another college. I would never have dreamed of conveying - nor did my textbook convey - my political views about the Middle East and Zionism to my students. In fairness, though, cultural and political indoctrination is rampant on college campuses, not only in Arabic language classes. English Lit. professors espouse their own political doctrines, as do law school professors and physics professors. I worry for our children and the next generation of Americans."

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