Arab American youth counter stereotypes through survey project
The Arab Resource & Organizing Center (AROC) is leading the charge in community-building activities in the San Francisco Bay area through leadership development, education, and awareness campaigns. For 5 years AROC has worked to create justice and self-determination by strengthening the voice of the Arab American community.
As a 2009 Center for Arab American Philanthropy (CAAP) grantee, AROC’s Arab Youth Organizing (AYO) was able to comprehensively study the way Arabs are portrayed and perceived in the California school system. The team of AYO youth, aged 14-22, ventured out to 10 area schools to conduct a survey among high school students, focusing on how those students learn about and perceive Arab history and culture. AYO reviewed data compiled from more than 500 survey responses. Additionally the youth team examined the curricula of area schools, and reviewed commonly used textbooks for information regarding Arab history and culture.
All of this diligent research resulted in the newly printed publication Teaching, Understanding, and Representing Arabs Throughout History (TURATH). In the report, AYO makes the following conclusions:
- Overwhelmingly, students do not learn about Arab history in schools. When textbooks do mention Arabs in history, it is largely in relation to U.S. immigration, or to the events of September 11, 2001.
- Students are not accessing Arab literature or other writings through their school experience.
- Students reported hearing their teachers and classmates make racist statements about Arabs or Muslims in class.
- The lack of curriculum on Arabs makes Arab students feel that their opinions and cultures are irrelevant in the classroom.
This general lack of understanding seems especially disproportionate in California, home to the largest Arab American population in the U.S. In relation to their findings, the authors of TURATH make several recommendations to teachers, students, and school districts - which, if taken up, will go a long way towards institutionalizing a reformed perception of Arab Americans and other communities of color.
To learn more about the TURATH report, or to purchase a copy, please visit AROC’s website.
Image courtesy AROC/AYO
Center for Arab American Philanthropy
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Dearborn, MI 48120