Middlebury College is getting blasted in the blogosphere by Arabic Summer School teacher Franck Salameh. As many know, Middlebury is well known for their language studies especially their summer immersion programs. The issue Salameh brings up is that the immersion may go too far in that the program sponsors a strictly Arab-nationalist view, presenting the Middle East as “mono-cultural, exclusively Arab region.” He blames the teachers but also the institution itself. He points to the fact that the Arabic school (unlike almost all other language schools on campus) did not celebrate July Fourth and that the dining services “conformed to that halal dietary restrictions of Islam” when less than 20 percent of the Arabic school community was actually Muslim. Salameh broadens his criticisms, saying that Middlebury is only an example of how language programs “shouldn’t imbue language instruction with political philosophy.”
I agree with Salameh in that Middlebury should move away from “ideological conformity” from the adminstrative point of view. I don’t think there is much that can be done to change teachers’ minds on what to present in the classroom. It is important that a number of views, including the Arab-nationalist view, be presented to students.