EDUCATIONAL OUTREACH–How to Begin
- If you are a parent of school age children, meet with your children’s teachers. Discuss where and how the curriculum teaches about the Arab world and Arab-Americans. (World History, American History, Geography?) Where are ethnicity, discrimination, stereotyping, racism and hate crimes are taught about? (American History, Civics and Government, Current Events?) Gather information and make some assessment.
- If you are not a parent, you have the right to be concerned with the local schools, simply as a citizen. Attend meetings to which the schools invite the public. Raise the same questions.
- Donate books, films or other resources to teachers, schools. Simply offer a good book or article to your children’s teachers. Many ADC members have given the Arab World Notebook or other materials to schools.
- Offer to speak to a class about Arab-Americans or the Arab world. The ADC national office can provide information and ideas about your presentation. Speak personally about the historical experience of your own family and community.
- Join the PTA. Sign up for a committee, e.g. the Human Relations Committee. Get involved. Become a PTA official at the school or district level.Set up a booth at the school’s International or Ethnic Festival. Volunteer to work on the planning committee. Enlist the support of the ADC chapter, local Arab-American organizations, churches or mosques.
- Gather interested people to form an Education Committee. Include Arab-American teachers and parents school-age children.
- Identify persons with expertise on the school system. Teachers, administrators or those who have already been active in educational outreach. Get their advice and information on the school system. Most important: Identify sympathetic teachers and administrators within the school system who can help, advise and serve as a source of support.
- Research the structure and operations of the school system. Identify where in the curriculum Arab-American concerns about Arab history, culture and religions, Arab-American ethnicity, multi-culturalism, human rights, discrimination, racism or other issues are dealt with. Identify key officials responsible for handling these topics, which probably come under the heading of multi-culturalism. The Social Studies Coordinators for the school district and for individual schools are probably especially important to meet with, although there may be a separate office for curriculum development, multi-culturalism, global education or international education.
- Send a letter to key officials. Introduce ADC, express the desire to be a resource for teachers. Ask for a meeting.
- Form a delegation. Try to include Arab-American parents. Plan and rehearse your presentation ahead of time. Let each participant take responsibility for a part of the discussion.
Meeting with Officials
- Goal: Introduce ADC and establish credibility as a responsible and supportive community organization. Establish a continuing relationship.
- Praise the achievements of the schools. Try to be specific in your expression of your community’s appreciation of their good work. Indicate any already-existing relationship which you have to the schools, as a parent or citizen. Perhaps mention recent school-related issues in the local news.
- Ask whether she or he knows how many Arab-American, Arab Christian and Muslim students there are in the schools. Are Orthodox and Muslim holidays recognized? Discuss the local Arab-American community.
- Express concern about adequate and accurate portrayal of Arab history, culture and religion. Few teachers have formal training about the Arab world; many textbooks have serious shortcoming. Explain that inadequate education about the Arab world has sometimes fostered stereotyping and discrimination against Arab-Americans (e.g. during the Gulf War).
- Ask for an explanation of the schools’ approach to muticultural and global education. How does the curriculum deal with the Arab world, Islam, discrimination, racism, etc?
- If ADL’s World of Difference prejudice-reduction program is being used, ask whether it gives attention to the Arab-American community and to anti-Arab and anti-Islamic bigotry. Do not criticize the program until the local version has been examined. Accentuate the positive, especially in the initial meeting. Ask for a copy of the materials used and express the desire to have some input into the program.
- Describe some of the resources which ADC can make available for the school system’s program of multicultural or global education. Emphasize ADC materials, the Arab World Notebook and the Middle East Outreach Council’s textbook evaluations. Offer to make speakers available for classes.
- Share samples of a few of these materials. Ask about the formal procedures for submitting them for distribution to teachers and school libraries or for inclusion on lists of approved materials. How can speakers be offered to schools? Schools may have official printed information about such matters.
- Make a couple of specific requests which are within the power of your host and which can be complied with without imposing undue burdens on a busy public servant. These can serve as the beginning of positive and ongoing interaction. Remember, our initial goal is to establish a relationship. Substantive accomplishments grow out of trust and cooperation.
- Extend an invitation to the next ADC banquet or other major event to meet the Arab-American community. (Include her or his spouse in the invitation.) Ask for a brief presentation of the schools’ approach to multicultural education and its teaching about the Arab world. (If the schools give little attention to the Arab world, this request may be an eyeopener for your guest speaker.) Such good will gestures to community groups are routine for many educational officials.
- Ask who else in the school system you should meet with.
- Follow up the meeting promptly with a thank you note, which summarizes the meeting and provides a reminder of any specific promises which were made. Formalize the invitation to the banquet and to make a short presentation.
- A later meeting should be arranged at an appropriate time to discuss the follow-through on the specific requests made and whatever else has grown out of this initial meeting.
Long Range Goals:
The organized Arab-American community should become a active participant in the educational process. Its presence should become familiar, welcome and routine, just as in the case of other ethnic communities.