Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Rashid Khalidi, Electoral Reform

1) Middle East Studies in America Developments:

Middle East Studies: The New York City Department of
Education will prohibit a professor of Arab studies at
Columbia University from appearing in an occasional
training program for secondary-school
teachers, citing the professor's criticism of Israel.
Rashid Khalidi, director of Columbia's Middle East
Institute, had spoken this month at one of a series
of teacher-development workshops, paid for by the
university, about Middle Eastern culture and politics.
But last week, after The New York Sun
published an article assailing Mr. Khalidi's
involvement in the program, Joel I. Klein, the city's
schools chancellor, announced that the professor
would no longer be allowed to participate.


2) This is the article that caused Dr. Khalidi to be
blocked from interacting with secondary school
teachers in the New York area:

Khalidi Is Tapped To Teach Teachers About Middle East
BY JULIA LEVY - Staff Reporter of the Sun
February 15, 2005
http://www.nysun.com/article/9209

A Columbia University professor who has called Israel
a "racist" state with an "apartheid system," and who
has supported attacks by Palestinian-Arabs on
Israelis, is scheduled to lecture a group of New York
City public school teachers on how to teach Mideast
politics to schoolchildren.

The professor, Rashid Khalidi, is director of the
Middle East Institute at Columbia University. His
professorship is named in memory of Edward Said, a
divisive scholar, and is paid for in part with a
donation from the United Arab Emirates.

Mr. Khalidi is one of more than a dozen Columbia
professors expected to give city public-school
teachers an overview of the history and culture of the
Middle East, as part of a professional-development
course offered by the city's Department of Education.

A course description in a booklet published by the
education department and bearing the name of the
schools chancellor, Joel Klein, says kindergarten
teachers, high-school teachers, and everyone in
between is eligible for the Middle East course. Its
topics include religion, history, government,
language, art, the economy, the status of women,
foreign relations, and literature.

Before the course started early this month, regional
education officials contacted principals throughout
the city, informing them about the class. An e-mail
message told principals that the course would be most
helpful to social studies teachers, but that it was
open to all educators from all disciplines.

"The course on The Middle East will be about that
region's cultural patterns and complex history," the
message, obtained by The New York Sun, said. "It will
be given in conjunction with and under the sponsorship
of The Middle East Institute of Columbia University."

The class, which meets in a public school on the Upper
West Side, started early this month.

The education department is offering the course with
Columbia despite a scandal that has been unfolding in
recent months at the university, stemming from
students' complaints that some professors in the
Department of Middle East and Asian Languages and
Culture treated pupils who are sympathetic toward
Israel with hostility.

When The New York Sun told some public officials about
the course, many were outraged.

"I think it's an abomination," a member of the City
Council from Brooklyn, Simcha Felder, said. "I am
certain that once the administration is made aware of
this, they will make sure that a person who has a
record of being racist and anti-Semite is not a person
who is educating educators who are educating our
children."

He said the inclusion of some other lecturers in the
course who have pro-Israel stances doesn't excuse the
city department's subjecting public-school teachers to
Mr. Khalidi's opinions.

One of the Democrats running for mayor, Rep. Anthony
Weiner, said: "It's pretty outrageous that this guy is
still teaching college students. For my money, this
guy shouldn't even be teaching at Columbia, let alone
being recruited to train our Board of Ed teachers.
Anyone who refers to Israel as a racist and an
apartheid state and claims that America has been
brainwashed by Israel ... should not be on the city
payroll."

A spokesman for the education department, Keith Kalb,
said the courses in the After School Professional
Development Program catalogue are offered to teachers
across the city "to build their knowledge in a variety
of subjects."

"Our division of Human Resources compiles this
publication with the courses available, but does not
provide the professional development itself," Mr. Kalb
said. "... Courses are taught by independent scholars
and educators from across the city, and curriculum
varies with each course. We do not endorse any
specific course."

Under the professional-development program, each
public-school teacher who signs up for the class pays
the department $145. According to a source familiar
with the program, the department then pays speakers.

The Sun's telephone call late yesterday to a Columbia
spokesman was not returned.

Two union leaders who talked to the Sun did not
condemn the class outright but did raise questions
about it.

The president of the principals union, Jill Levy, said
her union has received some complaints about the class
and said the union is investigating exactly what's in
the curriculum. "We have received information that has
caused us great concern," she said.

The president of the teachers union, Randi Weingarten,
said she was "concerned" by the situation. "How could
the school system get itself embroiled with what's
going on at Columbia?" she asked. "Don't we have
enough issues?"

Successful completion of professional-development
courses, like the one in which Mr. Khalidi is to
participate, qualifies a teacher for higher pay.


3) Move-On Petition to reform electoral system in the
US:

After the last two presidential elections, it's
incredibly important to repair our election system. We
need to guarantee paper printouts for electronic
voting machines, cut long lines, and prohibit partisan
election officials.

There's lots of legislation in Congress to do just
that, and we need to demand our representatives pass
it immediately.

I just signed a petition to Congress. Can you join me
by signing this petition?

http://www.moveonpac.org/repairthevote/

This is urgent because states are preparing to spend
over a billion dollars on new electronic voting
machines. Unless Congress requires paper printouts
now, we'll be stuck with expensive machines that can't
do a simple recount.

I hope you'll sign this petition to Congress:

http://www.moveonpac.org/repairthevote/

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