School Climate & Safety

Pen Pal Effort With Muslim Children Overseas Takes Off

By Lisa Fine — December 12, 2001 3 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

The 6th graders at a New York City elementary school, children who had a firsthand view of the dust and smoke rising from the Sept. 11 attack on the World Trade Center, have been talking in class about questions they have for their counterparts in Muslim nations.

Find out more about the Friendship Through Education Initiative.

Read more about America’s Fund for Afghan Children.

The pupils at Mott Hall Elementary School in Harlem wonder whether their overseas peers might hate them just because they are American. Others want to know how the daily lives of students in the Islamic world differ from their own.

Now, to find out the answers, all they have to do is ask their electronic pen pals in Egypt.

About 100 members of the 6th grade at Mott Hall are e-mailing youngsters at two schools in Cairo through President Bush’s Friendship Through Education initiative, which connects American students with students in predominantly Muslim countries. The program is part of a campaign by the Bush administration to hammer home its oft-stated point that the U.S.- led war on terrorism, launched in response to the September attacks in this country, is not a war with Muslims or the people of Afghanistan.

Friendship Through Education program coordinators say the e-mails allow the students to get to know one another as individuals and replace stereotypes with nuance.

“Before we start talking, I would like to say I have no grudge against you for the incident on September 11,” wrote one of the New York 6th graders to a student at the Nefertari Language School in Cairo. “One question I want to ask you is do you hold a grudge against me? I don’t want to bring this up anymore but just in case you hold a grudge, then we can talk it over and maybe help you through it.”

This introduction came from that Cairo school: “I am Amr from Egypt. ... I want to change the ideas of many people who think that Arabs and Muslims are terrorists,” the student wrote. “I think that’s all for now and I hope to hear from you very soon.”

Teachers and students are coming up with other projects for the students involved in Friendship Through Education. Some students are putting together Web pages to build links with their partner schools; others are making “friendship quilts” to exchange with the overseas schools. Program coordinators are even trying to set up online chess matches.

Marc Briller, a coordinator at Mott Hall Elementary School, said the 6th graders there would be preparing a package of descriptions and diagrams of New York City street games, like stickball, to send to their Egyptian pen pals. The New York students hope the Egyptian students, in return, will send an explanation of games they like to play, Mr. Briller said.

Rising Interest

Since the Friendship Through Education program was announced on Oct. 25, American schools have shown increasing interest in participating, organizers say. The program is being run by a consortium of international organizations that are working with the White House and the U.S. Department of Education. At first, primarily schools in the areas most directly affected by the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks signed up. Now, about 350 schools around the country are in the process of establishing relationships with corresponding schools overseas.

Meanwhile, interest in America’s Fund for Afghan Children, another administration goodwill initiative that enlists U.S. students, has also held steady in recent weeks.

President Bush on Oct. 12 asked American children to each stuff a dollar in an envelope and send it to Washington to augment taxpayer-financed relief aid to Afghanistan. Donations had reached $1.53 million as of Dec. 4. So far, the Red Cross has processed 242,000 letters to the fund. That number has not increased in several weeks, however, because of mail holdups caused by anthrax contamination at the White House’s off-site postal facility. (“Relief Donations Languish at Contaminated Facility,” Nov. 14, 2001.)

In addition to the mailed donations, the Red Cross has collected $47,727 through online donations, and $14,000 from Coinstar machines.

Related Tags:

A version of this article appeared in the December 12, 2001 edition of Education Week as Pen Pal Effort With Muslim Children Overseas Takes Off

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
School & District Management Webinar
Deepen the Reach and Impact of Your Leadership
This webinar offers new and veteran leaders a unique opportunity to listen and interact with four of the most influential educational thinkers in North America. With their expert insights, you will learn the key elements
Content provided by Solution Tree
Science K-12 Essentials Forum Teaching Science Today: Challenges and Solutions
Join this event which will tackle handling controversy in the classroom, and making science education relevant for all students.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Webinar
Stronger Together: Integrating Social and Emotional Supports in an Equity-Based MTSS
Decades of research have shown that when schools implement evidence-based social and emotional supports and programming, academic achievement increases. The impact of these supports – particularly for students of color, students from low-income communities, English
Content provided by Illuminate Education

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

School Climate & Safety What the Research Says Bullying Dropped as Students Spent Less Time in In-Person Classes During Pandemic
Researchers based their findings on an analysis of internet searches on online and school-based harassment.
5 min read
Cyber bullying concept. Paper cut Woman head silhouette with bullying messages like disgusting, OMG!!, loser, hate, ugly, and stupid.
iStock/Getty Images Plus
School Climate & Safety Interactive School Shootings This Year: How Many and Where
Education Week is tracking K-12 school shootings in 2022. See the number of incidents and where they occurred in our map and data table.
2 min read
Sign indicating school zone.
iStock/Getty
School Climate & Safety Infographic School Shootings in 2021: 4 Takeaways, in Charts
In 2021, there were 34 school shootings that hurt or killed people, the most since 2018. Here's what we know about school shootings this year.
Illustration of a gun and a school in the background.
iStock/Getty collage
School Climate & Safety Opinion Assessing Shooting Threats Is a Matter of Life or Death. Why Aren't Experts Better at It?
To take the right actions before the next tragedy occurs, schools need all the help they can get, write three experts.
David Riedman, Jillian Peterson & James Densley
5 min read
Conceptual illustration of young person in crisis
iStock/Getty