The Death Camp Scoop: Confessions Of An Arabic School Survivor


Previously, I touched upon the horrific institution of Arabic School as a last resort for parents who want to discipline their kids. Of course, that is an exaggeration. Arabic School is not meant to punish kids. It’s meant to serve a number of far greater purposes, such as language education, cultural awareness, and religious foundation.

But more often than not, it fails miserably.

Let me explain. After all, only its shell-shocked victims know the true horrors of this institution. Catholic school has its parallels, but nothing is quite like this. I called this one “The Death Camp Scoop” because that’s exactly what Arabic School is: a death camp.

And I was there. Oh God I was there…

Among others, Arabic School kills the following three things in a child’s life experience:

The weekend: You waste Friday night doing all of the homework at gunpoint and Saturday morning living out your future nightmares. And if your parents are real troopers then you’ll do it all over again on Saturday night and Sunday morning. Most Arabic Schools are held on the weekend, so you just lost a good chunk of your childhood experience right there, kiddo.

The love of learning: Arabic School’s primary methods of instruction are the Three R’s: repetition, rote memorization, and reprimand—all of which are damaging in one way or another, and all of which destroy a child’s pursuit of learning—because they’re either painful, or painfully boring! At any rate, nobody walks out of Arabic School thinking “I’d like to learn more about Arabic!” Nope. Whether they know it or not, they send you outta that place never wanting to see or hear another Arabic letter again. And they do it well.

The love of the Arabic language: I’ll be fair and say this. I did learn, without a doubt. Thanks to Arabic School, I can now read Arabic and write it. But the catch? I do it poorly, I haven’t improved since the day I was released, and I HATE it! And I was a good student, by the way. Yet to this very day, I have no interest whatsoever in the Arabic language. There’s a mental block that possesses me whenever I have to read or write, even when I choose to do it! Is that the cost of teaching me the alphabet and some parts of speech?

Now, enough with the melodrama. Let’s get to the point. I’m not gonna call for a reform of Arabic Schools. That, frankly, is far beyond their reach. But I will say this. Parents, put your good intentions and sincere hopes aside, and consider the facts. Arabic School does very little, if anything at all, to improve your child’s love of Arabic language and culture. And it fails for the following reasons:

1. It’s Forced I’ve never met a child who’s willingly gone to Arabic School. It’s a forced activity. Force doesn’t work. It hinders retention, stifles interest, and cooks up one hot boiling pot of resentment. And kids won’t take it out on the school. They’ll take it out on what the school taught them, which (sadly) is Arabic language, Arabic culture, and religion.

2. It’s Traditional Written tests. Dictation. Spelling Tests. Penmanship. Rote Memorization. Repetition. It didn’t work back then, and any educator will tell you that it doesn’t work today. Especially not for our kids, who nowadays are so coked on graphics and visual stimulus that unless you’re teaching them with fireworks, you’ve already lost their attention.

3. It’s Boring So boring that these kids hardly take it seriously. You can’t learn when you’re bored, and you certainly can’t retain anything.

4. Its Content is Outdated and Aloof Listen to this: “Laila awakens to a shining sun and chirping birds and blooming flowers. She brushes her teeth, eats her breakfast, does everything her mother tells her to do, goes to school, gets perfect grades, and is a darling little angel.”

Or this:

“Samer is a good boy. He cuts the grass, feeds the cow, carries the sacks into the barn, and fetches water for his mother. Then he sits down, does his homework, gets into bed, and goes to sleep. The End.”

Now. Why do these stories SUCK? Here are a few reasons: weak plot, no conflict, no character development, unrealistic premises, pretentious themes…the list goes on.

Kids laugh at this kind of garbage. It isn’t setting an example for them to follow, or inspiring them to good faith, or engaging them, or teaching them. It’s putting them to sleep. And even they can see through its agonizing phoniness. Get some new books.

In closing, let’s talk alternatives. From a broken, despairing, forever damaged soul to another, PLEASE! Let’s talk alternatives.

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