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Teaching the Saudis

Reader comment on item: [Is Israel] Winning by retreating?

Submitted by Janet Godfrey (United States), May 22, 2002 at 16:10

Dear Mr. Pipes,

First of all, thank you (a thousand times) for providing a measure of light and hope to a politically conservative and rather eccentric Christian in these past months.

I have long wanted to ask your advice on a question, but have hesitated to trouble such a busy man.

I am teaching English to Saudi royal children (teens) in Switzerland this summer. I did this last summer, and to my surprise fell absolutely in love with them--something I rarely allow myself to do with students. I then determined to teach in Saudi Arabia itself as soon as possible. September 11th happened, and I have been increasingly horrified not only by that unspeakable event but perhaps even more by the fact that our country is greatly despised by the very people I taught and felt kindly toward.

I've labored to understand how I could have been the Arab "apologist" at Leysin American School, as indeed I was. I've wondered how I, of all thoughtful people, could have been taken in by their imaginative stories, their playful lies and excuses, their unwillingness to study, their promises, their warmth, and responsiveness.

Having learned that generally Saudi children are not educated in the humanities, I've developed a program based on using the arts in teaching English in hopes of broadening their world and enlarging their hearts. That may again be as ignorantly idealistic an approach as I had last year.

My question is do you have any suggestions for a teacher of Saudi royal children? How can I impress upon them the value of honesty when it appears to be something they neither practice nor understand nor respect? How can respect for classical music be taught when some Muslims forbid the use of any instrument but the drum?

Briefly, Mr. Pipes, can you advise me on the approach I should take to these children whose culture I now see so much more clearly than I did last summer? I find myself wondering if I should not teach them at all--do you think the cause is hopeless?

Thank you for your work; I have the greatest respect for you and what you do.

Sincerely,

Janet Godfrey

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Note: Opinions expressed in comments are those of the authors alone and not necessarily those of Daniel Pipes. Original writing only, please. Comments are screened and in some cases edited before posting. Reasoned disagreement is welcome but not comments that are scurrilous, off-topic, commercial, disparaging religions, or otherwise inappropriate. For complete regulations, see the "Guidelines for Reader Comments".

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