International education news over the last few days has spanned from scary, to depressing, to downright weird. But here’s a tidbit that should be overall heartwarming: The embassy of the United Arab Emirates is donating $500,000 to schools in tornado-ravaged Joplin, Mo., to help supply every high school student there with a laptop, reports The Joplin Globe.
The embassy has also pledged to match up to another $500,000 in outside contributions. According to the Globe, UAE embassy official Dana Al Marashi said, “When we saw the devastation that took place, the ambassador (of the UAE) decided that we needed to do something as a country.” The UAE is a small, oil-rich country bordering Saudi Arabia.
Joplin’s One-to-One laptop initiative is particularly important as students transition between temporary and permanent classrooms during the 2011-2012 school year.
However, blogger and Joplin-based English teacher Randy Turner writes in The Huffington Post that some responses to the donation have been less than heartwarming—and tinged with anti-Muslim rhetoric. “Deep torrents of bigotry are unleashed” in the comments on his blog and in the local newspaper, he writes, and are “almost always by people who hide behind the cloak of anonymity.”
Turner says the destruction in Joplin has brought people together in many ways, but this undercurrent of “undisguised hatred” has him fear for his students. “As an educator, my job is to make sure that students get past blind hatred and prejudice and learn to reason,” he writes. “There are times when I wonder if I am swimming against an overwhelming tide.”
A version of this news article first appeared in the Teaching Now blog.