Commentary Magazine


Topic: teacher

McCain’s Iraq Challenge

John McCain put it bluntly yesterday: if he is unable to convince Americans that the troop surge is working in Iraq and that U.S. casualties there have fallen, he’ll lose in November. He immediately backed down from that stark correlation, but the fact remains that McCain is running as the heir to “George Bush’s war.” His challenge is a funny one. A “war-fatigued” public prefers an immediate end to the fighting over a gradual victory, and while the facts are overwhelmingly on McCain’s side, no one has yet been able to convince the public that the facts are, indeed, the facts.

As Rich Lowry notes in his new National Review article about Iraq:

Almost every indicator of violence is headed in the right direction. Last year’s indispensable abbreviation, EJK, or extra-judicial killings—meaning sectarian murders—is barely heard now. The sectarian civil war has dissipated in Baghdad. Nationwide, enemy actions are down about 60 percent since June. In December, American casualties were at early-2004 levels.

The al Qaeda violence that continues to plague the northern city of Mosul will, in all likelihood, soon come to an end as Iraqi and American forces are poised to route the remaining terrorists from their final stronghold. Furthermore, the long-awaited political progress preemptively dismissed by Nancy Pelosi and both Democratic frontrunners is now underway. The country’s parliament has passed three laws critical to the viability of Iraqi statehood.

So: why does McCain face a challenge at all? Shouldn’t Americans be thrilled at the turnaround in Iraq? Evidently not. The nation’s collective masochism seemed to pass a vital threshold once the Iraq War proved tougher than they expected. The two things anti-war Americans never tire of saying are “we can’t win” and, more importantly, “what does winning mean anyway?” In this last question lies the crux of McCain’s uphill battle. He’s got to convince an electorate that has deconstructed the concept of victory that we are indeed victors.

But before he can do that, he has to pierce the negativity that Democrats and the MSM have saddled us with. For all Barack Obama’s hopeful poetry, his true message is that things are currently abysmal. In the Wall Street Journal, Daniel Henninger punctured the bubble of rhetoric around a recent Obama speech. Henninger stripped the speech of lofty allusions and revealed its meager substantive core.

Here’s [Obama’s] American: “lies awake at night wondering how he’s going to pay the bills . . . she works the night shift after a full day of college and still can’t afford health care for a sister who’s ill . . . the senior I met who lost his pension when the company he gave his life to went bankrupt . . . the teacher who works at Dunkin’ Donuts after school just to make ends meet . . . I was not born into money or status . . . I’ve fought to bring jobs to the jobless in the shadow of a shuttered steel plant . . . to make sure people weren’t denied their rights because of what they looked like or where they came from . . . Now we carry our message to farms and factories.”

What’s resonating with voters is not the idea that America is great, but that she can be so after a little scolding. McCain’s telling them that there are some things already worth celebrating about our country puts limits on their Obama-inspired fantasies. Whether it’s the economy, class warfare, real warfare, or America’s standing in the world, McCain is up against the entrenched (and savored) impression that America is in decline. Not only will McCain have to convince the public that we’re winning the war, but he’ll have to make them see that we deserve to win it. Michael Moore made a record-breaking blockbuster film asserting that Iraqi insurgents are the moral equivalent of our Revolutionary War minutemen. Getting that movie’s millions of viewers to recognize (and celebrate) a U.S. military victory is John McCain’s task.

John McCain put it bluntly yesterday: if he is unable to convince Americans that the troop surge is working in Iraq and that U.S. casualties there have fallen, he’ll lose in November. He immediately backed down from that stark correlation, but the fact remains that McCain is running as the heir to “George Bush’s war.” His challenge is a funny one. A “war-fatigued” public prefers an immediate end to the fighting over a gradual victory, and while the facts are overwhelmingly on McCain’s side, no one has yet been able to convince the public that the facts are, indeed, the facts.

As Rich Lowry notes in his new National Review article about Iraq:

Almost every indicator of violence is headed in the right direction. Last year’s indispensable abbreviation, EJK, or extra-judicial killings—meaning sectarian murders—is barely heard now. The sectarian civil war has dissipated in Baghdad. Nationwide, enemy actions are down about 60 percent since June. In December, American casualties were at early-2004 levels.

The al Qaeda violence that continues to plague the northern city of Mosul will, in all likelihood, soon come to an end as Iraqi and American forces are poised to route the remaining terrorists from their final stronghold. Furthermore, the long-awaited political progress preemptively dismissed by Nancy Pelosi and both Democratic frontrunners is now underway. The country’s parliament has passed three laws critical to the viability of Iraqi statehood.

So: why does McCain face a challenge at all? Shouldn’t Americans be thrilled at the turnaround in Iraq? Evidently not. The nation’s collective masochism seemed to pass a vital threshold once the Iraq War proved tougher than they expected. The two things anti-war Americans never tire of saying are “we can’t win” and, more importantly, “what does winning mean anyway?” In this last question lies the crux of McCain’s uphill battle. He’s got to convince an electorate that has deconstructed the concept of victory that we are indeed victors.

But before he can do that, he has to pierce the negativity that Democrats and the MSM have saddled us with. For all Barack Obama’s hopeful poetry, his true message is that things are currently abysmal. In the Wall Street Journal, Daniel Henninger punctured the bubble of rhetoric around a recent Obama speech. Henninger stripped the speech of lofty allusions and revealed its meager substantive core.

Here’s [Obama’s] American: “lies awake at night wondering how he’s going to pay the bills . . . she works the night shift after a full day of college and still can’t afford health care for a sister who’s ill . . . the senior I met who lost his pension when the company he gave his life to went bankrupt . . . the teacher who works at Dunkin’ Donuts after school just to make ends meet . . . I was not born into money or status . . . I’ve fought to bring jobs to the jobless in the shadow of a shuttered steel plant . . . to make sure people weren’t denied their rights because of what they looked like or where they came from . . . Now we carry our message to farms and factories.”

What’s resonating with voters is not the idea that America is great, but that she can be so after a little scolding. McCain’s telling them that there are some things already worth celebrating about our country puts limits on their Obama-inspired fantasies. Whether it’s the economy, class warfare, real warfare, or America’s standing in the world, McCain is up against the entrenched (and savored) impression that America is in decline. Not only will McCain have to convince the public that we’re winning the war, but he’ll have to make them see that we deserve to win it. Michael Moore made a record-breaking blockbuster film asserting that Iraqi insurgents are the moral equivalent of our Revolutionary War minutemen. Getting that movie’s millions of viewers to recognize (and celebrate) a U.S. military victory is John McCain’s task.

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Piano Teachers

The Piano Teacher, by Julia Cho, which opened recently at the Vineyard Theater off-Broadway to mixed reviews, features a haunted keyboard pedagogue with nasty secrets to hide. The Vineyard Theater production benefits from the presence of the veteran actress Elizabeth Franz in the title role of an isolated, shunned teacher who is only marginally more sane than the sado-masochistic piano teacher incarnated by Isabelle Huppert in the 2001 French film of the same title, based on a perverse novel by the Austrian Nobel-Prize winning author Elfriede Jelinek.

The reiterated imagery of peccant piano instructors is so ingrained in our culture that a Google Search of “piano teacher” by anyone actually trying to learn to play the instrument will bring up references to Jelinek’s book and film, first and foremost. The world of music education as represented by such writers belongs to an earlier, less psychologically acute era. It is a relief to escape such querulous and indeed unmusical paradigms and look at today’s real world of superb piano teachers, who represent a vastly more intriguing, mysterious, and gratifying accomplishment.

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The Piano Teacher, by Julia Cho, which opened recently at the Vineyard Theater off-Broadway to mixed reviews, features a haunted keyboard pedagogue with nasty secrets to hide. The Vineyard Theater production benefits from the presence of the veteran actress Elizabeth Franz in the title role of an isolated, shunned teacher who is only marginally more sane than the sado-masochistic piano teacher incarnated by Isabelle Huppert in the 2001 French film of the same title, based on a perverse novel by the Austrian Nobel-Prize winning author Elfriede Jelinek.

The reiterated imagery of peccant piano instructors is so ingrained in our culture that a Google Search of “piano teacher” by anyone actually trying to learn to play the instrument will bring up references to Jelinek’s book and film, first and foremost. The world of music education as represented by such writers belongs to an earlier, less psychologically acute era. It is a relief to escape such querulous and indeed unmusical paradigms and look at today’s real world of superb piano teachers, who represent a vastly more intriguing, mysterious, and gratifying accomplishment.

Juilliard’s Yoheved “Veda” Kaplinsky, the Tel Aviv-born chair of the school’s piano department, also teaches in the Pre-College division, where some of America’s most astonishing prodigies are currently thriving. One such is Conrad Tao, a pianist and composer born in Illinois in 1994, whose live recordings on CD and video convey a sense of musical line (with the entire score evoked in every measure of a given work) as found only in the greatest musicians. Tao is also a characterful, accomplished composer of charm and nuance; his early compositions on CD sound more adult, individualistic, and masterful than those by any preteen composer I have heard, including Mozart.

One of the most admirable aspects of Tao’s musicality is his collaborative acumen, and another outstanding Kaplinsky pupil, the Chinese pianist Peng-Peng Gong, born in 1992, often plays with Tao, in addition to his solo performances. Such brilliant students are allowed to flower into musical maturity in a healthy, non-neurotic way. Encouraging, rather than stifling, prodigies allows them to develop as artists and human beings, instead of condemning them to becoming the stunted, frustrated, unhappy leftovers, some of whom are alas still present on the concert scene today.

Another outstanding Juilliard piano teacher, Oxana Yablonskaya, is helping to guide the destiny of Alice Burla, born in Toronto in 1997. In such challenging works as Chopin’s “Variations brilliants,” Burla displays the suavity and maturity of an adult musician, quite apart from her fabulous technique. Tao, Peng-Peng, and Burla already are more accomplished artists than a number of adult pianists who trudge around the concert circuit; the challenge for their teachers is clearly not to spoil or discourage their inborn talent. This custodial task of wonderful young talent is far more thrilling than any fictional elaboration of a pathological teacher.

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Dave Brubeck

On November 24, jazz pianist/composer Dave Brubeck and his quartet will perform at Manhattan’s Blue Note nightclub. At 86, Brubeck still gives around 80 concerts per year, although he has not played the Blue Note since 1994. Since his rhythmically cunning 1959 album Time Out, Brubeck has won accolades from fans (Clint Eastwood, a jazz addict, is producing a documentary about him), but he is not resting on his laurels.

This past summer, Brubeck released a new piano solo CD on Telarc, Indian Summer, with his characteristic blocky-sounding chords tempered by a gentle sweetness that has characterized his music-making for decades. I well recall a chat I had with the genial Brubeck a decade ago, focused on his studies with the French Jewish composer Darius Milhaud. Brubeck began working with Milhaud at California’s Mills College in 1946, entranced by the French composer’s use of jazz in his classical ballets Le Boeuf sur le Toit and La Création du monde. Brubeck, who named his eldest son Darius in homage to his teacher, told me that his favorite Milhaud work is the monumental choral symphony “Pacem in Terris,” settings of an encyclical by Pope John XXIII.

Brubeck recalled:

Milhaud’s abilities were amazing; his 15th and 16th string quartets can be played as individual pieces or together as an octet. He wrote them separately in two books and just remembered what was in each quartet. I don’t think any other composer could have done that, maybe not even Mozart. Milhaud used to write in ink like a demon and never proofread; I can’t compose a bar without erasing something. I think of him almost every day, even now. He kept me involved in jazz. “Bubu”—that’s what he’d call me—”Bubu, don’t give up something you do so well. In jazz you can travel everywhere and you’ll never have to attend a faculty meeting!”

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On November 24, jazz pianist/composer Dave Brubeck and his quartet will perform at Manhattan’s Blue Note nightclub. At 86, Brubeck still gives around 80 concerts per year, although he has not played the Blue Note since 1994. Since his rhythmically cunning 1959 album Time Out, Brubeck has won accolades from fans (Clint Eastwood, a jazz addict, is producing a documentary about him), but he is not resting on his laurels.

This past summer, Brubeck released a new piano solo CD on Telarc, Indian Summer, with his characteristic blocky-sounding chords tempered by a gentle sweetness that has characterized his music-making for decades. I well recall a chat I had with the genial Brubeck a decade ago, focused on his studies with the French Jewish composer Darius Milhaud. Brubeck began working with Milhaud at California’s Mills College in 1946, entranced by the French composer’s use of jazz in his classical ballets Le Boeuf sur le Toit and La Création du monde. Brubeck, who named his eldest son Darius in homage to his teacher, told me that his favorite Milhaud work is the monumental choral symphony “Pacem in Terris,” settings of an encyclical by Pope John XXIII.

Brubeck recalled:

Milhaud’s abilities were amazing; his 15th and 16th string quartets can be played as individual pieces or together as an octet. He wrote them separately in two books and just remembered what was in each quartet. I don’t think any other composer could have done that, maybe not even Mozart. Milhaud used to write in ink like a demon and never proofread; I can’t compose a bar without erasing something. I think of him almost every day, even now. He kept me involved in jazz. “Bubu”—that’s what he’d call me—”Bubu, don’t give up something you do so well. In jazz you can travel everywhere and you’ll never have to attend a faculty meeting!”

Brubeck has avoided faculty meetings to this day, and his classically-influenced jazz has duly drawn some criticism from academic purists. His 1961 jazz musical The Real Ambassadors is a quintessential anti-purist work, involving collaboration with Louis Armstrong to address subjects from Civil Rights to the Cold War. Textual complexity makes The Real Ambassadors especially intriguing listening.

A more grandiose, four-square example of Brubeck’s mixing of genres is his 1969 cantata The Gates of Justice, which contains musical settings from the Old Testament, Hillel the Elder, and Martin Luther King Jr.. Rerecorded in 2001 for Naxos with a resonant tenor soloist, Alberto Mizrahi, who serves as Hazzan for Chicago’s Anshe Emet Synagogue, Brubeck’s Gates of Justice is no less than an attempt to reconcile African-Americans and Jews. Its 1960’s-era social ambitions may belong to a more idealistic age, but Gates of Justice’s kaleidoscopic range puts it in the category of good crossover music, like the best of Leonard Bernstein. When Brubeck performs, he does not tread lightly on the keyboard; yet in life, he always treads the path of righteousness.

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An Unparalleled Tale of Chutzpah in Our Time

Andrew Trees has worked as a teacher at Horace Mann, the prestigious New York City private school, for six years. In 2006, he published a novel called Academy X, which a roman a clef about the students, parents, and faculty at a prestigious New York City private school. His conduct over the past two years is an object lesson in the degree to which shamelessness has become a way of life in new-millennium America.

His book was one of five published on exactly the same topic in the same year or so—there was one called Posh, a second called Glamorous Disasters, a third called Admissions, and still another called The Ivy Chronicles. (These other four books differ from Trees’s in that they all seem to be about the Dalton School, a wellspring of literary inspiration from Nora Johnson’s delightful The World of Henry Orient through Louise Fitzhugh’s glorious children’s novel, Harriet the Spy).

The proliferation of rich-kids-in-school books was clearly fallout from the wild success of The Nanny Diaries, after which there was a hungry market to acquire acid-dipped, lightly fictionalized portraits of Manhattan rich people. None of these novels actually sold well, but you can’t blame a publisher for trying. It turns out that adult readers don’t care much about the schooling issues of the well-to-do. A series of novels for teens under the rubric Gossip Girl (now a hit television series) did hit it big, which suggests Trees should have aimed for his students as an audience rather than their parents.

Had Trees’s book sold a fourth as many copies as The Nanny Diaries did, he would have surely high-tailed it out of Horace Mann, giggling all the way. But it didn’t, and he didn’t. Academy X is a fairly pedestrian book (if you want to read one of these, Posh is the best). It aspires to be Lucky Jim, but it’s hard to write Lucky Jim when your sense of humor is banal and when you are motivated primarily by envy of those you are parodying.

His novel having failed to make him rich and famous, Trees decided to stay at Horace Mann, where he earns $75,000 a year. This was not, to put it charitably, an honorable decision. It’s one thing to leave a place of employ and use your unhappy experience as grist for your mill. But it is, I think, unprecedented to try to stay at your place of employ when you have subjected it to ridicule and embarrasssment.

Horace Mann, in effect, said, “You have got to be kidding.” It informed Trees that his services would no longer be required at the end of the academic year.

And now Trees has done something deserving of a parody novel in itself: He is suing Horace Mann for wrongful termination. He claims that the school’s employee handbook basically promised him he could keep his job no matter what, since it says teachers’ contracts will be renewed “provided their performance and the needs of the school warrant continuation of their employment.”

In fact, the needs of the school—which include the privacy of its students, for whom it is in loco parentis—practically require Horace Mann not only to fire Andrew Trees, but to run him out of town on a rail for acting in a fashion injurious not only to it but to everyone associated with it.

The most interesting question here has to do with Trees and his character, to wit: Does he even have one?

Andrew Trees has worked as a teacher at Horace Mann, the prestigious New York City private school, for six years. In 2006, he published a novel called Academy X, which a roman a clef about the students, parents, and faculty at a prestigious New York City private school. His conduct over the past two years is an object lesson in the degree to which shamelessness has become a way of life in new-millennium America.

His book was one of five published on exactly the same topic in the same year or so—there was one called Posh, a second called Glamorous Disasters, a third called Admissions, and still another called The Ivy Chronicles. (These other four books differ from Trees’s in that they all seem to be about the Dalton School, a wellspring of literary inspiration from Nora Johnson’s delightful The World of Henry Orient through Louise Fitzhugh’s glorious children’s novel, Harriet the Spy).

The proliferation of rich-kids-in-school books was clearly fallout from the wild success of The Nanny Diaries, after which there was a hungry market to acquire acid-dipped, lightly fictionalized portraits of Manhattan rich people. None of these novels actually sold well, but you can’t blame a publisher for trying. It turns out that adult readers don’t care much about the schooling issues of the well-to-do. A series of novels for teens under the rubric Gossip Girl (now a hit television series) did hit it big, which suggests Trees should have aimed for his students as an audience rather than their parents.

Had Trees’s book sold a fourth as many copies as The Nanny Diaries did, he would have surely high-tailed it out of Horace Mann, giggling all the way. But it didn’t, and he didn’t. Academy X is a fairly pedestrian book (if you want to read one of these, Posh is the best). It aspires to be Lucky Jim, but it’s hard to write Lucky Jim when your sense of humor is banal and when you are motivated primarily by envy of those you are parodying.

His novel having failed to make him rich and famous, Trees decided to stay at Horace Mann, where he earns $75,000 a year. This was not, to put it charitably, an honorable decision. It’s one thing to leave a place of employ and use your unhappy experience as grist for your mill. But it is, I think, unprecedented to try to stay at your place of employ when you have subjected it to ridicule and embarrasssment.

Horace Mann, in effect, said, “You have got to be kidding.” It informed Trees that his services would no longer be required at the end of the academic year.

And now Trees has done something deserving of a parody novel in itself: He is suing Horace Mann for wrongful termination. He claims that the school’s employee handbook basically promised him he could keep his job no matter what, since it says teachers’ contracts will be renewed “provided their performance and the needs of the school warrant continuation of their employment.”

In fact, the needs of the school—which include the privacy of its students, for whom it is in loco parentis—practically require Horace Mann not only to fire Andrew Trees, but to run him out of town on a rail for acting in a fashion injurious not only to it but to everyone associated with it.

The most interesting question here has to do with Trees and his character, to wit: Does he even have one?

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Academic “Freedom”

Higher education deeply cherishes the notion of skeptical and unsparing critical inquiry—just not about itself. Last year, the Students for Academic Freedom (SAF) drew up a Student Bill of Rights, a carefully worded manifesto about the importance of intellectual freedom for teachers and students. Insisting that students not be subjected to political indoctrination in the guise of instruction, the document invoked the 1940 Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure, drawn up by the American Association of University Professors (AAUP).

According to it, “Teachers are entitled to freedom in the classroom in discussing their subject, but they should be careful not to introduce into their teaching controversial matter which has no relation to their subject.” The AAUP is evidently unhappy at having its own words quoted back to it. It has just issued a lengthy committee report, suggesting that those words don’t exactly mean what they say:

Modern critics of the university seek to impose on university classrooms mandatory and ill-conceived standards of “balance,” “diversity, and “respect.” We ought to learn from history that the vitality of institutions of higher learning has been damaged far more by efforts to correct abuses of freedom than by those alleged abuses. We ought to learn from history that education cannot possibly thrive in an atmosphere of state-encouraged suspicion and surveillance.

The AAUP considers four specific charges leveled against the modern university: that many professors routinely practice political indoctrination, fail to present alternative points of view, are hostile to students’ political or religious views, and introduce irrelevant political digressions into class. In each instance, the charge is not so much as considered but explained away.

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Higher education deeply cherishes the notion of skeptical and unsparing critical inquiry—just not about itself. Last year, the Students for Academic Freedom (SAF) drew up a Student Bill of Rights, a carefully worded manifesto about the importance of intellectual freedom for teachers and students. Insisting that students not be subjected to political indoctrination in the guise of instruction, the document invoked the 1940 Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure, drawn up by the American Association of University Professors (AAUP).

According to it, “Teachers are entitled to freedom in the classroom in discussing their subject, but they should be careful not to introduce into their teaching controversial matter which has no relation to their subject.” The AAUP is evidently unhappy at having its own words quoted back to it. It has just issued a lengthy committee report, suggesting that those words don’t exactly mean what they say:

Modern critics of the university seek to impose on university classrooms mandatory and ill-conceived standards of “balance,” “diversity, and “respect.” We ought to learn from history that the vitality of institutions of higher learning has been damaged far more by efforts to correct abuses of freedom than by those alleged abuses. We ought to learn from history that education cannot possibly thrive in an atmosphere of state-encouraged suspicion and surveillance.

The AAUP considers four specific charges leveled against the modern university: that many professors routinely practice political indoctrination, fail to present alternative points of view, are hostile to students’ political or religious views, and introduce irrelevant political digressions into class. In each instance, the charge is not so much as considered but explained away.

How can there be personal bias, it asks, when course descriptions are vetted by departments and administrations? The possibility that those departmental colleagues might themselves have an overwhelming ideological uniformity is not considered. Complaints about hostility? Students have no “right not to have their most cherished beliefs challenged.” Ideological one-sidedness? One must not restrict the legitimate prerogative of a teacher to present his material in his own way. And so on, in alternately blithe and testy tones, to the conclusion that the only chronic problem truly afflicting higher education is the fascistic disposition of its critics: “calls for the regulation of higher education are almost invariably appeals to the coercive power of the state.”

Anyone who follows education will recognize some of the serious controversies and scandals that go utterly unmentioned in the AAUP report. Just to name one, there is the matter of “disposition assessment.” The guidelines of the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education, formulated in 2002, explain that universities should not only evaluate such understandable criteria as punctuality and dress but the political views of its students: “if . . . a commitment to social justice is one disposition it expects of teachers who can become agents of change, then it is expect that unit assessments include some measure of a candidate’s commitment to social justice.”

This came to light in 2005, when Ed Swan, a student at Washington State University, was kicked out of its teachers program for his conservative views. The revelation that professors of education were entitled to act as grand inquisitors, drawing out the political orientation of their students by carefully formulated “unit assignments,” inspired a strongly worded protest by the National Association of Scholars to the U. S. Department of Education.

About all of this there is not one word in the report of the AAUP. Although it warns sternly of “the coercive power of the state,” it ignores how state power is already at play, massively and implacably, wherever its state-supported universities and public schools are enforcing the “disposition” control of the NCATE. The AAUP has issued a document that is deeply discreditable to all concerned, a sad performance of shooting the messenger from behind circled wagons. This time, however, there are far too many messengers to shoot.

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The Two of Us

As summer wears on, and movie houses offer ghastly fare like Underdog and I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry, film lovers may choose to stay home and watch a classic film on DVD. One such classic, now happily available from the Criterion Collection (which has reissued Night and Fog, Alain Resnais’s 1955 meditation about the Holocaust), is a newly restored version of French writer/director Claude Berri’s The Two of Us. The 1967 film fictionalizes Berri’s own real-life experiences, those of a Jewish boy in wartime Paris who is sent to the countryside to live with an old Catholic couple until France is liberated from Nazi rule. Born Claude Langmann, Berri narrates the film’s beginning, as he announces: “I was eight years old and already a Jew.”

Young Claude (portrayed by Alain Cohen) pretends to be Catholic in order not to alarm the rural couple, and amuses himself by teasing his anti-Semitic old host (Michel Simon). This playfulness infuses the film with a childish joy, despite the tragic context. In a bonus interview featured in the DVD release, a fiftyish Alain Cohen today admits that Berri’s film “does not show the horror” of the Holocaust. Instead, The Two of Us (its original French title, Le Vieil homme et l’enfant—The Old Man and the Boy—has an abstract, Hemingwayesque sound) is a “parable about prejudice.” The old man who hates Jews without ever having met one is like someone, says Cohen, “who says he hates tomatoes without ever having tasted one.”

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As summer wears on, and movie houses offer ghastly fare like Underdog and I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry, film lovers may choose to stay home and watch a classic film on DVD. One such classic, now happily available from the Criterion Collection (which has reissued Night and Fog, Alain Resnais’s 1955 meditation about the Holocaust), is a newly restored version of French writer/director Claude Berri’s The Two of Us. The 1967 film fictionalizes Berri’s own real-life experiences, those of a Jewish boy in wartime Paris who is sent to the countryside to live with an old Catholic couple until France is liberated from Nazi rule. Born Claude Langmann, Berri narrates the film’s beginning, as he announces: “I was eight years old and already a Jew.”

Young Claude (portrayed by Alain Cohen) pretends to be Catholic in order not to alarm the rural couple, and amuses himself by teasing his anti-Semitic old host (Michel Simon). This playfulness infuses the film with a childish joy, despite the tragic context. In a bonus interview featured in the DVD release, a fiftyish Alain Cohen today admits that Berri’s film “does not show the horror” of the Holocaust. Instead, The Two of Us (its original French title, Le Vieil homme et l’enfant—The Old Man and the Boy—has an abstract, Hemingwayesque sound) is a “parable about prejudice.” The old man who hates Jews without ever having met one is like someone, says Cohen, “who says he hates tomatoes without ever having tasted one.”

Berri densely interweaves visual metaphor, showing the shaved heads of Frenchwomen punished after the Liberation for bearing the children of German soldiers, and the shaved heads of country children stricken with lice. Young Claude’s head is also shaved by a teacher, in punishment for addressing a love letter to a schoolgirl.

Alain Cohen gives a gentle, intuitive performance (Claude Berri recalls in an interview that Cohen’s own grandparents had been murdered in Auschwitz, so the boy fully understood the film’s historical setting). Michel Simon is astonishingly (almost animalistically) vital, rivaling other actors who are forces of nature, like Raimu or Zero Mostel. As he demonstrates in other Criterion releases like Jean Renoir’s Boudu Saved from Drowning and Marcel Carné’s Quai des brumes, Simon can shift instantly from tragedy to comedy. He tends tearfully to an invalid dog and roars out with vulgar abandon marching songs from World War I.

In another bonus feature from the DVD, the actual woman who sheltered Berri at her parents’ farm explains how “shocked and hurt” she was at the way The Two of Us portrayed her parents: “They were not uncouth people or alcoholics!” François Truffaut alleged that The Two of Us reveals how most French people endured the Occupation, frozen like “characters in a Beckett play,” being neither collaborators nor resisters. More to the point, the film shows how a number of Jews survived the Nazi Occupation in France, shielded by French people who happened to hate Germans even more than they hated Jews.

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Bookshelf

• Eight years ago, Wendy Shalit published A Return to Modesty: Discovering the Lost Virtue and became the Nice Girl Aging Feminists Love to Loathe. Then she got married, became a mother and launched a Web site, ModestyZone.net, that allows young women who feel ill at ease with the postmodern regime of casual sex to meet in cyberspace, put their hair up and blog about their discontents. Now she’s back in bookstores with a sequel to A Return to Modesty, and I have little doubt that Girls Gone Mild: Young Women Reclaim Self-Respect and Find It’s Not Bad to Be Good (Random House, 352 pp., $25.95) will make at least as many people as mad as did its predecessor.

The puzzling thing about this anger is that Shalit sounds nothing like the baby Savonarola of her critics’ nightmares. Not only is her style even-tempered, sweetly reasonable, and full of pleasing glints of dry wit, but she is no zealot, at least not in the usual sense of the word. Nowhere in her writings, for instance, does she suggest that sexually active teenagers should be arrested, or strapped into electroshock units and zapped until they agree to stop sleeping around. So why did Katha Pollitt feel moved to propose that the good-humored author of A Return to Modesty be put in charge of designing “new spandex chadors for female olympians?”

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• Eight years ago, Wendy Shalit published A Return to Modesty: Discovering the Lost Virtue and became the Nice Girl Aging Feminists Love to Loathe. Then she got married, became a mother and launched a Web site, ModestyZone.net, that allows young women who feel ill at ease with the postmodern regime of casual sex to meet in cyberspace, put their hair up and blog about their discontents. Now she’s back in bookstores with a sequel to A Return to Modesty, and I have little doubt that Girls Gone Mild: Young Women Reclaim Self-Respect and Find It’s Not Bad to Be Good (Random House, 352 pp., $25.95) will make at least as many people as mad as did its predecessor.

The puzzling thing about this anger is that Shalit sounds nothing like the baby Savonarola of her critics’ nightmares. Not only is her style even-tempered, sweetly reasonable, and full of pleasing glints of dry wit, but she is no zealot, at least not in the usual sense of the word. Nowhere in her writings, for instance, does she suggest that sexually active teenagers should be arrested, or strapped into electroshock units and zapped until they agree to stop sleeping around. So why did Katha Pollitt feel moved to propose that the good-humored author of A Return to Modesty be put in charge of designing “new spandex chadors for female olympians?”

The answer, of course, is that a great many contemporary women have come to feel deeply equivocal about the fruits of the sexual revolution. Nothing scares an ideologue quite so much as heresy—especially if she’s been harboring secret doubts of her own. Shalit puts it neatly in her new book: “Although we live in a supposedly liberated age, our hysterical witch-hunting of those who question our ideal of recreational sex suggests something else: that our liberation does not extend quite as far as we imagine.”

As for Girls Gone Mild, it contains more than enough horror stories about the immodest way we live now to sew considerable additional doubt on the part of anyone not actively inclined to pedophilia:

Bratz Babyz makes a “Babyz Nite Out” doll garbed in fishnet stockings, a hot-pink micromini, and a black leather belt. To look “funkalish” (whatever that means), the baby also sports a tummy-flaunting black tank paired with a hot-pink cap. Dare one ask what is planned for “Babyz Nite Out” and what, exactly, she is carrying in her metal-studded purse? Is it pacifiers, or condoms? It might be both: “These Babyz demand to be lookin’ good on the street, at the beach, or chillin’ in the crib!” The dolls are officially for ages “four-plus,” but they are very popular among two- and three-year-old girls as well.

But Girls Gone Mild is not a Roger Kimball-style tour d’horizon of the approaching apocalypse. Instead, Shalit has drawn on the considerable body of e-mail she has received at ModestyZone.net since its launch in 1999 to write an intelligent, illuminating, and unexpectedly optimistic book about those young women who have chosen to opt out of the revolution. They are looking, she says, for “a new set of role models,” and so Girls Gone Mild also contains profiles of several young women, most of whom are black, who have publicly broken ranks with the hookup culture.

I like a good cultural horror story as much as the next Cassandra, but it is these profiles that turn out to be the most provocative part of Girls Gone Mild. Why are young black women playing such prominent roles in the abstinence movement? One of the few people willing to talk to Shalit about this fact was a “prominent sociologist” who insisted, not surprisingly, on remaining safely nameless:

The fact is, black women have paid the heaviest price from the sexual revolution in the United States. There are many socioeconomic reasons for this, but both as individuals and in their communities as a whole, they now see the value of abstinence as a way to renew family life.

A teacher at Spelman College, one of America’s best-known historically black colleges, put it more bluntly—and on the record:

African American women are the largest racial group of single mothers in America. Add the STD [sexually transmitted disease] and HIV/AIDS epidemics and it just makes sense. Marriage in the African American community is at an all-time low.

All good to know, though the question begs itself: is Wendy Shalit describing a counter-revolution in the making, or merely indulging in anecdote-driven wishful thinking? It happens that I know quite a few under-40 single women, most of whom are unwilling to curtail their premarital philandering even though they admit that the sexual revolution gave men the upper hand.

On the other hand, I don’t know any teenagers of either sex, and it surprised me to read in Girls Gone Mild that “the rate of virginity among teenagers has risen for the tenth straight year,” and that “a number of high school kids . . . haven’t had sex (estimates are typically around half).” Might it be that a significant number of teenage girls, unlike their older sisters, have changed their minds about the advantages of becoming, in the current euphemism, “friends with benefits”?

Shalit herself makes no exaggerated claims about the size or reach of the abstinence movement. Her properly modest purpose in writing Girls Gone Mild was simply “to expand the range of options for young people, who I believe are suffering because of the limited range of choices available to them.” But the point of view from which she writes has changed not at all since 1999:

History has taught us a surprising lesson: Intimacy flourishes where there is also restraint. Having sex for its own sake, without waiting to integrate our deepest emotions and hopes, at best becomes boring, fast. At worst, men and women end up competing over how cruelly they can use one another. And in between, there is much confusion.

To “the ancien régime of the 1960’s” (Shalit’s phrase) those are fighting words. It will be interesting to see whether their grandchildren feel the same way.

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Slava’s Real Legacy

The much-deserved tributes to the late cellist Mstislav “Slava” Rostropovich (1927–2007) stopped short of examining the future of the instrument that he loved so well. Rostropovich was so determined that the cello should flourish as a solo instrument that he commissioned (and inspired) literally hundreds of new works, many of permanent value, by major composers like Witold Lutosławski (1913–1994), Henri Dutilleux (b. 1916), and Sergei Prokofiev (1891–1953), among many others.

The cellist who will, for good or ill, inherit Rostropovich’s public mantle is Yo-Yo Ma, a technically adroit and charming artist and a fixture in the popular imagination. A young cellist pointed out to me recently that a cello soloist is required for about 120 symphony orchestra concerts per year in America; of these, almost 100 are performed by Ma. Although Ma is a highly accomplished musician, this situation is clearly inequitable.

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The much-deserved tributes to the late cellist Mstislav “Slava” Rostropovich (1927–2007) stopped short of examining the future of the instrument that he loved so well. Rostropovich was so determined that the cello should flourish as a solo instrument that he commissioned (and inspired) literally hundreds of new works, many of permanent value, by major composers like Witold Lutosławski (1913–1994), Henri Dutilleux (b. 1916), and Sergei Prokofiev (1891–1953), among many others.

The cellist who will, for good or ill, inherit Rostropovich’s public mantle is Yo-Yo Ma, a technically adroit and charming artist and a fixture in the popular imagination. A young cellist pointed out to me recently that a cello soloist is required for about 120 symphony orchestra concerts per year in America; of these, almost 100 are performed by Ma. Although Ma is a highly accomplished musician, this situation is clearly inequitable.

Rostropovich taught his audiences to beware of such monopolies: he knew that the cello sings in many voices, expressing many different viewpoints. This vision was reflected in his being an inspirational—if only intermittently available—teacher. His real legacy lives on not in Ma’s ascent, but in brilliant cellists who are young or in mid-career. These include the remarkable Hai-Ye Ni, who recorded a CD for Naxos of works by Schumann, Beethoven, and Schubert while playing with the New York Philharmonic. (She was snatched away by the Philadelphia Orchestra, where she currently serves as principal cellist.) Another outstanding talent is Canadian-born Shauna Rolston, whose emotive CD of concertos by Edward Elgar and Camille Saint-Saëns is on CBC Records. A third is Wendy Warner, who infuses passion into Paul Hindemith’s music for cello and piano on Bridge Records.

On the European scene, Slava’s heirs include the young Danish cellist Henrik Dam Thomsen, who has recorded with panache thorny solo works by Zoltan Kodály and Benjamin Britten for Chandos, and Germany’s elegant Alban Gerhardt, who has performed a varied program of Astor Piazzolla, Maurice Ravel, and others on EMI Classics. One of the most poetic of Slava’s musical inheritors is France’s Xavier Phillips, who has recorded on the Timpani label a work by the contemporary composer Jean-Louis Agobet in homage to the great cellist Emanuel Feuermann (1902-1942).

Like the magically deft Feuermann, Rostropovich’s historical place is secure beside his predecessors and near-contemporaries Pablo Casals, Pierre Fournier, Maurice Gendron, Antonio Janigro, Maurice Maréchal, Frank Miller, Aldo Parisot, Miklós Perényi, and János Starker (all must-hears for anyone even vaguely interested in the cello). Yet the forward-thinking Slava would surely also welcome the aforementioned newer talents as essential listening too.

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Thoughts in a Freiburg Cemetery

As the Jewish world commemorated the Holocaust last weekend, I happened to be at a conference in what was once the heart of darkness. Freiburg, a small town in Germany, was the scene of perhaps the most notorious single example of trahison des clercs, the betrayal of reason by the intellectuals.

In May 1933, Martin Heidegger inaugurated his term as rector of the university by extolling the “glory and greatness” of the new Nazi state and its Fuehrer, Adolf Hitler, on behalf of professors and students alike. Heidegger immediately distanced himself from those of his former friends and colleagues who were Jewish—with the partial exception of his lover Hannah Arendt—and above all from Edmund Husserl, to whom he had dedicated his masterpiece, Being and Time, in “admiration and friendship” only five years before. Even today, his record makes painful reading, though he has never lacked for apologists.

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As the Jewish world commemorated the Holocaust last weekend, I happened to be at a conference in what was once the heart of darkness. Freiburg, a small town in Germany, was the scene of perhaps the most notorious single example of trahison des clercs, the betrayal of reason by the intellectuals.

In May 1933, Martin Heidegger inaugurated his term as rector of the university by extolling the “glory and greatness” of the new Nazi state and its Fuehrer, Adolf Hitler, on behalf of professors and students alike. Heidegger immediately distanced himself from those of his former friends and colleagues who were Jewish—with the partial exception of his lover Hannah Arendt—and above all from Edmund Husserl, to whom he had dedicated his masterpiece, Being and Time, in “admiration and friendship” only five years before. Even today, his record makes painful reading, though he has never lacked for apologists.

The odious pettiness of Heidegger’s personal conduct, and the moral collapse that it implied, was brought home to me by a visit to the little cemetery in Günterstal, a suburb of Freiburg. We were there to pay our respects at the grave of Walter Eucken, the great economist whose work inspired the post-war “economic miracle” and helped to set Germany back on the path of liberty and democracy.

A stone’s throw away from the memorial to Eucken is the Husserl family grave. A young scholar at the Walter Eucken Institute, Nils Goldschmidt, told me how Freiburg treated the founder of phenomenology, who was then the most famous living German philosopher. Having already retired when Hitler came to power, Husserl avoided the teaching ban that was imposed on Jewish professors, but he was not even allowed to use the university library. Socially, not only Heidegger but practically all the professors at Freiburg shunned Husserl—with the exception of Eucken, whose wife Edith was herself partly Jewish and who continued to pay visits to the Husserls. While Heidegger was busily excising all references to his former master from new editions of Being and Time, Eucken made a point of quoting Husserl.

When Husserl died in 1938, only two professors attended his funeral: the economist Eucken and the historian Gerhard Ritter. Long afterwards, in an interview he gave to Der Spiegel in 1966, Heidegger excused himself by claiming that it was the Husserls who had broken off relations, not the other way round. But he admitted that “it was a human failing that I did not express once more my gratitude and my admiration” at the time of Husserl’s death. I do not think Heidegger ever grasped the enormity of his “human failing,” of which his treatment of his teacher was only a symbol. But it is Heidegger the Nazi who still basks in the posthumous limelight, while the names of Husserl and Eucken are known only to specialists.

On a warm April evening in that lovely place surrounded by hills, the stillness broken only by the church bell, I tried to imagine the unimaginable repeating itself here in Europe. A lifetime—threescore years and ten—now separates us from the great betrayal. Just long enough for a combination of anxiety and amnesia to wipe out the memory of those days. In British schools, many teachers are afraid to talk about the history of anti-Semitism because they fear confrontation with their Muslim students, who have often been told at the mosque that the Shoah is a myth.

Even in Germany, where Holocaust denial is a crime, there is vast ignorance about both the past and its implications for the present. Few are prepared to entertain the thought that, unless Iran and other Islamist states or terrorists are prevented from acquiring nuclear weapons, our generation, too, may witness another Holocaust. They do not seem to grasp that this time, Israel’s fate is directly linked to Europe’s.

One retired German professor, just old enough to remember the Third Reich, has this week made a symbolic commitment to that shared destiny. Joseph Ratzinger, writing under his own name, not as Pope Benedict XVI, has published the first part of a book about Jesus Christ. To judge from extracts in the German press, the main import of this work is finally to lay to rest the age-old enmity of the Church and the Jews. For the first time, a Pope has not only portrayed Jesus as an observant Jew, “the living embodiment of the Torah,” but has written with humility and love about the Jews of Jesus’ time. Gone is the old caricature of the Pharisee as hypocrite and the “Old Testament morality” as un-Christian. John Paul II already embraced the living covenant and divine purpose of Israel. But Benedict has gone even further: in his view, only the person of Jesus divides Jew and Christian, and the universal mission of Jesus is entirely compatible with the special status of the Jewish people.

A lifetime separates Heidegger’s betrayal from Ratzinger’s reconciliation. How long before Europe recognizes the present danger to Jew and Christian alike, and unites against the common enemies of Western civilization?

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Cleaning Up Israel

The sorry spectacle of Israel’s political system going through one financial scandal after another—the latest involves finance minister Abraham Hirchson, accused of embezzling large sums of money when he headed an HMO in the 1990’s—is more than just an embarrassment. Coupled with the growth of organized crime and frightening rumors of its inroads into politics and law enforcement, these scandals are making Israelis feel these days as if they were living in a Jewish Sicily.

Is it that bad? Probably not, although it’s hard to say. Corruption in Israel is something that, even today, you’re far more likely to read about in the newspapers than to experience personally. Israel is still a country whose citizens assume, when dealing with government officials, the police, or business contacts, that they are facing someone honest. It’s not some third-world state or banana republic where you routinely slip money into your car registration papers when you’re asked for them by a traffic cop, leave a gift on the desk of the official you’ve applied to for a building permit, or promise a kickback to the executive you’re negotiating a contract with. But then again, I don’t suppose that routinely happens in Sicily, either.

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The sorry spectacle of Israel’s political system going through one financial scandal after another—the latest involves finance minister Abraham Hirchson, accused of embezzling large sums of money when he headed an HMO in the 1990’s—is more than just an embarrassment. Coupled with the growth of organized crime and frightening rumors of its inroads into politics and law enforcement, these scandals are making Israelis feel these days as if they were living in a Jewish Sicily.

Is it that bad? Probably not, although it’s hard to say. Corruption in Israel is something that, even today, you’re far more likely to read about in the newspapers than to experience personally. Israel is still a country whose citizens assume, when dealing with government officials, the police, or business contacts, that they are facing someone honest. It’s not some third-world state or banana republic where you routinely slip money into your car registration papers when you’re asked for them by a traffic cop, leave a gift on the desk of the official you’ve applied to for a building permit, or promise a kickback to the executive you’re negotiating a contract with. But then again, I don’t suppose that routinely happens in Sicily, either.

In this sense, Israel is in the third and murkiest of the three categories that you can divide the world’s countries into. There are countries in which corruption hardly exists and no one would dream of trying to solve his problems by resorting to it. There are countries in which it is omnipresent and everyone understands that it is the only way to get things done. And there are countries, like Israel, in which the rules are simply not clear, and you never know if a bribe will pay off, be dismissed by whoever it is offered to with an indignant glare or weary smile but no worse, or land you in jail. Most people would never run the risk, but most people have also heard rumors or stories of others who have run it successfully. This makes corruption a phenomenon that everyone is aware of but of whose true dimensions no one has a clear idea.

The fact of the matter is that, even in cleaner times, Israel was always a country in which the rules were never quite clear. I’ve heard it said that there are countries, like Japan, in which “yes” never means “yes.” But in Israel, “no” has never meant “no.” It has always meant, “Let’s argue and negotiate.” And in Israel, you negotiate with everyone: the phone company about its bills, the storekeeper about his prices, the teacher about his marks. You don’t generally do this by offering bribes. You do it by reasoning, wheedling, shouting, crying, pleading, threatening, joking. Only suckers take “no” for an answer.

It took me a while to learn this when I immigrated to Israel in 1970. One of my first lessons came when filling out my first Israeli income-tax return. When it came to house expenses such as electricity and water bills—on which, as a self-employed writer living at home, I had a right to a partial deduction—the accountant scratched his head and said, “You know what? Let’s try deducting 50 percent.”

“What do you mean, let’s try?” I said. “What are the rules?”

“There are no rules,” said the accountant. “And even if there are, they’re too complicated to figure out.”

“Then why don’t you call the tax authorities and ask?” I suggested.

My accountant looked at me with astonishment. Clearly I had been born, not yesterday, but sometime in the previous hour. “If I ask, they’ll tell me it’s 10 percent,” he said. “Let’s put in for 50.”

We put in for 50, and it worked. Since then, I’ve deducted 50 percent of my house expenses from my tax returns every year. Is that what the law permits me to do? Don’t ask me, I just do it.

All this has a certain charm. It can be frustrating and unnerving, of course—there’s something to be said for knowing where you stand, instead of having to find out ad hoc each time—but it has made Israel in many ways a much more flexible place to operate in than other countries. Although people complain about Israeli bureaucracy, Israeli bureaucrats are models of human kindness compared to bureaucrats I’ve encountered in other places. You can actually get them to change their minds or make an exception for you if you’re skillful enough in presenting your case.

Such a modus operandi becomes deadly, however, the minute corruption enters into it. It’s one thing for an official behind a desk to give you the permit he really shouldn’t have given you because you’ve burst into tears or turned out to be his third cousin once-removed. It’s another thing for him to give it to you because a wad of cash has fallen unnoticed from your wallet while you were leaving. And this, once rare, is becoming a more and more accepted practice.

If Israel is not going to end up in corruption category 1, it is going to have to change its ways of doing things and learn to go by the rules—everywhere. In some ways this will be too bad. Just last week my wife phoned the cable TV company and got it to lower the rates it charges us by threatening to move to a rival. An Israel you can no longer do this in will be a less simpatico place. But it will also be a cleaner one.

Indeed, if one wants to be optimistic, this is what is happening in Israel right now. Case after case that might have gone unprosecuted before is now ending up in the courts, the cases of ranking politicians not excepted. It looks bad, and it is bad. But eventually, the lesson may sink in. There may be a golden mean between Denmark and Nigeria, but if you have to choose, it’s a lot better to be Denmark.

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A Muslim Magnet School?

Two weeks ago the New York City Board of Education announced that it would be establishing a new magnet high school to teach Arabic culture and language. A week later, the BOE revealed plans to place the school within an existing elementary school; the resulting hue and cry from concerned parents put an end to that. But the city is set to go ahead with the project as soon as it finds a physical space.

One goal of the Khalil Gibran International Academy (for such is the school’s name) is to recruit enough native Arabic speakers to comprise 50 percent of the student body. It seems perverse to take immigrant students, who most need immersion in the language, culture, and values of the United States, and teach them more about the culture from which they came. As leading education historian Diane Ravitch told the New York Sun, “It is not the job of public schools to teach each ethnic group about its history.”

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Two weeks ago the New York City Board of Education announced that it would be establishing a new magnet high school to teach Arabic culture and language. A week later, the BOE revealed plans to place the school within an existing elementary school; the resulting hue and cry from concerned parents put an end to that. But the city is set to go ahead with the project as soon as it finds a physical space.

One goal of the Khalil Gibran International Academy (for such is the school’s name) is to recruit enough native Arabic speakers to comprise 50 percent of the student body. It seems perverse to take immigrant students, who most need immersion in the language, culture, and values of the United States, and teach them more about the culture from which they came. As leading education historian Diane Ravitch told the New York Sun, “It is not the job of public schools to teach each ethnic group about its history.”

There is no intrinsic reason that Arabic language and culture should not be taught in city schools, as long as the curriculum can be kept free of political or ideological bias. But there is very little reason to believe that politics and ideology can be kept out of Middle Eastern studies, especially in an educational establishment in love with the ideology of multiculturalism, an establishment to which American cultural unity is a myth. And especially when one looks at the lineup of organizations responsible for the school’s design: the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, the Salaam Club of New York, and the Arab American Family Support Center of Brooklyn, all committed advocates for their own culture. The leading candidate for principal is a former teacher named Debbie Almontaser, an emigrant from Yemen, who routinely wears a hijab.

As much as supporters claim that there is no politics involved, that has rarely been the case when American curricula have dealt with Middle Eastern or Islamic matters. As the Family Security Foundation recently documented, the educrats tasked with creating these curricula have frequently inserted biased and partisan explanations of the region’s conflicts, out-and-out anti-Semitic slurs, and an uncritical portrayal of Islam into textbooks and approved curricula. (As a practical matter, the people most involved in writing these textbooks, as well as in reviewing them for state Boards of Education, are quite often advocates themselves of militant versions of Islam.)

While this essay cites numerous examples of Islam encroaching on education in the U.S., its assessment of how far this phenomenon has progressed in England (which has no equivalent of a constitutional Establishment Clause, and which has a number of state-subsidized Islamic schools) is truly chilling. Adrian Morgan, the author, points out that many such schools have graduated young men who have had short, inglorious careers as Islamic terrorists, at home and abroad. That fact alone should be a testament to the difficulty of proper oversight in these matters, and it should give the New York City Board of Education pause. The way to prevent the spread of Islamism in the U.S. isn’t to segregate Muslim children socially, but to encourage them to enter the broader cultural conversation that makes up American life. Whatever benefits the Khalil Gibran International Academy may provide, it will leave its students severely deficient in that respect.

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Academy of Hatred

Less than a mile from my house in West London is a prestigious, Saudi-funded Muslim private school, the King Fahd Academy, which has been much in the news recently. Colin Cook, a former teacher there who is suing the school for wrongful dismissal, claims that Arabic textbooks used there contain passages in which Jews are described as “apes” and Christians as “pigs.” Religions other than Islam are described as “repugnant” or “worthless.”

Some of the students at King Fahd are the children of Saudi diplomats, but most are British Muslims, among them the children of the jailed, hook-handed Islamist preacher Abu Hamza. On Tuesday the principal of the school, Dr. Sumaya Alyusuf, confirmed that these books are indeed used. She told the BBC that “these books have good chapters . . . that will serve our objectives.”

This raises two questions: What “objectives” might those be? And did Dr. Alyusuf mean to speak so frankly?

Less than a mile from my house in West London is a prestigious, Saudi-funded Muslim private school, the King Fahd Academy, which has been much in the news recently. Colin Cook, a former teacher there who is suing the school for wrongful dismissal, claims that Arabic textbooks used there contain passages in which Jews are described as “apes” and Christians as “pigs.” Religions other than Islam are described as “repugnant” or “worthless.”

Some of the students at King Fahd are the children of Saudi diplomats, but most are British Muslims, among them the children of the jailed, hook-handed Islamist preacher Abu Hamza. On Tuesday the principal of the school, Dr. Sumaya Alyusuf, confirmed that these books are indeed used. She told the BBC that “these books have good chapters . . . that will serve our objectives.”

This raises two questions: What “objectives” might those be? And did Dr. Alyusuf mean to speak so frankly?

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