ANDRE CARSON UNDER FIRE FOR COMMENTS MADE: U.S. SCHOOLS WILL STRUGGLE WITHOUT UNDERSTANDING MUSLIMS
U.S. Rep. Andre Carson, an Indianapolis Democrat who is one of only two Muslims in Congress, is coming under attack for a speech he gave to the Islamic Circle of North America.
The headline on one blog read: “Rep. Andre Carson: American schools won’t excel until the foundation is the Koran.”
Really? Well, no, Carson didn’t say that. What Carson did say was that schools could learn something about innovation from madrassas, the Islamic religious schools. It is about four sentences in a 19-minute speech, given May 26 in Hartford, Conn., as the group held its annual gathering.
“America will never tap into educational innovation and ingenuity without looking at the model that we have in our madrassas, where innovation is encouraged, where the foundation is the Koran, and that model we are pushing in our schools meets the needs of our students,” he said. “Most of us are visual learners. Some of us are auditory learners, learn by hearing. Many of us are kinetic learners, learn by doing, touching, feeling. I have found, as my wife is a (public school) principal, and we have a five-year-old daughter, Salima, that we need an educational model that is current, that meets the needs of our students. America must understand that she needs Muslims.”
The full speechis about being proud to be a Muslim-American and notes that Muslims have been part of the nation from its inception and have much to offer. The conference’s theme was on addressing Islamophobia.
In an interview, Carson said he has said the same thing talking about faith-based schools to Catholic, Jewish and Christian audiences, noting that something is happening in those schools that could help all schools excel.
“This is a message that I’ve given consistently to Christian groups, Jewish groups,” Carson said. “The question becomes for me, ‘Why are the graduation rates higher at faith-based institutions? What are they doing that we might be able to extract from that?’ That is not an argument saying that we should remove separation of church and state, because I think that is important in the public sector.”
He said he believed faith-based schools, with smaller class sizes, are able to be more experimental and address different kinds of learners.
“They’re given a different kind of freedom to tap into these young American minds,” Carson said.
Asked if he was saying that the Koran should be in the public school classroom, Carson said: “No, no, no.”
But, he added, one reason he mentioned education in a conference about Islamophobia is because “people across the country came to me because they were saying there are folks who want to shut down us building a school in the community. They’re having to fight back against Islamophobia, and they don’t want us to teach things from our holy book. That statement was made in reference to the faith-based schools that they have where they are allowed to teach from their book of choice.”
Carson said that whether a religious school teaches the Bible, the Torah, the Bhagavad Gita or the Koran, “there’s something to be said about the success rates of faith-based learning institutions that we might be able to extract some principles or some methodology from.”
This isn’t the first time Carson has stirred controversy at an out-of-state speech. Last August, while speaking at a Congressional Black Caucus event in Miami, Carson criticized the tea party movement, saying “some of these folks … would love to see you and me hanging on a tree.”
He later dismissed calls for an apology, saying: “I stand on the truth of what I spoke.” Still, he conceded then that his word choice wasn’t the best.
Next phase of the search
The search by Indianapolis city leaders for the next public safety director — a post that oversees the police and fire departments and several other agencies — is about to kick into high gear.
Friday was the deadline to apply to replace Frank Straub. He resigned in April, effective Aug. 1, after a 28-month tenure marked by reform and controversy.
We won’t find out the tally of applicants until early this week, but as of Thursday, more than 25 had applied, according to mayoral spokesman Marc Lotter.
Last week Mayor Greg Ballard named a dozen attorneys, public safety experts, pastors and community members to a search committee. It will narrow the field to several finalists in coming weeks.
Ryan Vaughn, the mayor’s chief of staff, told us that at least three of the applicants currently work inside city/county government, and there are others from the area as well as some from outside Indiana.
“There’s a good mix. I was very pleased to see responses from around the country,” Vaughn said.
Meanwhile, what about Straub?
Besides serving on the search committee, he’s seeking jobs elsewhere as his final day in charge approaches.
He confirmed last week that he applied for the police chief position in Spokane, Wash. And, he added, he applied for police chief in an East Coast city, one he would not specify. However, that city — unless Straub has sent applications to multiple East Coast cities — became clear Thursday night.
A search committee in Hartford, Conn., selected Straub and two others as finalists for police chief, the Hartford Courant reported.
“I was asked if I’d be interested in these jobs and said I was,” Straub told us before the Hartford announcement.
Straub said he had not interviewed yet for either job. He said he also made inquiries about a job in the federal government but decided against applying.
Not everyone agrees
Gov. Mitch Daniels will join the ranks of university presidents in January when he takes over the helm of Purdue University.
Not everyone, though, is thrilled.
A former Purdue dean of the university’s College of Education, Marilyn Haring, said she was so displeased that she was canceling the $1 million bequest she had planned to leave the university in her
“I regard the appointment of Mr. Daniels as a travesty and insult to academics,” Haring said in an email to the Purdue University Board of Trustees, which elected Daniels. “Further, in his political career, Mr. Daniels has taken stands that are counter to all that I believe in, such as support for public education, equity and unions to protect and further the well-being of those who labor.”
Daniels was pretty blasé about Haring’s decision.
Asked what he made of her call to withhold the gift, Daniels called it the gift “that no one had ever heard of before. Yeah.”
But, he added, “that’s what the First Amendment’s for. All I can tell you is by every measure I have and everything the school is telling me, there is an incredible amount of good will. I’ve been made to feel so welcome.”
In a “huge community of people when you count them all — students, alums, and all the rest — of course not everybody is going to agree,” Daniels said.
Including, it seems, people who can put their money where their mouth is.
Compiled from reports by Star reporters Mary Beth Schneider, Jon Murray and John Tuoh