Resolution on Identity-Based Public Schools

Resolution on Identity-Based Public Schools

Resolution on Identity-Based Public Schools

As American cities and suburban communities become increasingly linguistically, ethnically and culturally diverse, the role of public schools in teaching mutual respect and shared values, essential for social cohesion in a pluralistic society, grows more critical. Simultaneously, the challenges that schools must overcome in order to provide a quality education for all students have increased, and school systems across the country are responding with innovative efforts to reform public education in their communities.

In some cases, smaller experimental schools have replaced traditional, large, unsuccessful ones. These schools include those that focus on a particular theme or area of interest, such as New York's Food and Finance High School or The Green School: An Academy of Environmental Careers. Other schools focus on identity-based classifications, among them "dual language/culture" schools that incorporate a chosen language and culture into the school's curriculum. These schools not only teach students in two languages, but also integrate into the curriculum lessons about the history, literature, and culture of the societies with which the languages are associated. Some are operated directly by the public education system, while others are charter schools run by a non-profit board of trustees. Two recent examples are the Ben Gamla School (Hebrew) in Florida, and the Khalil Gibran International Academy (Arabic) in New York.

Controversy has surrounded these schools, particularly regarding their constitutionality with respect to church-state separation where the beliefs and practices of a single religion permeate the curriculum, and the wisdom of an educational policy which we believe is likely to encourage ethnic balkanization and discourage social integration because it accentuates ethnic and cultural identity at the expense of our common American culture.

RECOGNIZING the foregoing controversy, AJC reaffirms its commitment to the following principles:

           (1) AJC supports and encourages rigorous curriculum standards to prepare students for post-graduation success in an increasinglyglobal economy, which includes the teaching of foreign languages and diverse cultures; and

            (2) AJC believes one of the primary purposes of public education is the inculcation in every student of a strong sense of American civic values and acculturation of societal norms founded upon mutual respect and understanding.

Therefore, AJC RESOLVES to endorse choice and innovation within public education, but opposes the use of public funds or other public resources for dual language/culture schools whose curriculum further an educational agenda that promotes a particular religion, ethnicity, or national identity.

Adopted by the Board of Governors
September 8, 2008

Date: 1/26/2009 12:00:00 AM