Pomona College Magazine
Volume 41. No. 2.
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Correcting the Madrassa Frenzy
Pomona professors are conducting important research on topics ranging from religious schools in Pakistan to educational reform in California.

Tahir Andrabi, associate professor of economics, has been crunching numbers,
and some of those numbers are making international headlines. His study, conducted with the World Bank and Harvard University, reveals that less than 1 percent of school-going children in Pakistan study in madrassas—disputing Western media reports that 10 percent of Pakistani children attend these religious schools.

These misconceptions about the data affect how foreign policy unfolds and fosters fear that millions of Pakistani children are being trained as terrorists. Andrabi hopes that these new numbers will funnel more resources towards Pakistani public and private education and help 99 percent of students, rather than following the media frenzy and targeting such a small extremist population. Andrabi’s main concern is not that Pakistani children are being taught extremist views, rather he is concerned that they are not being taught at all. According to Andrabi, there are a few madrassas that are problematic, but poverty and the lack of a basic education are what really breed terror. www.economics.pomona.edu/Andrabi/.

Chumash Landscapes

For Jennifer Perry, assistant professor of anthropology, her study of Native Americans and Channel Islands history raises 5,000-year-old questions that still resonate today. In her work on Santa Cruz Island off Santa Barbara and other sites in Southern California, Perry explores how the Chumash Indians understood land and resources, focusing on how they intensified fishing and maritime trade through time to become a chiefdom-level society. She is most interested in how people relate to their landscapes and how they form an identity based on their geographical location. Perry’s study of Native American rock art also speaks to these questions. Chumash paintings and carvings include depictions of bears and swordfish and their canvases are sandstone and granite. Perry is intrigued with how the Chumash not only saw mountains or natural formations as resources but how they also viewed them as sacred spaces. This connection between the natural and spiritual created both respect and restraint in their relationship to the land. The danger for us now, Perry said, is looking at places like the Channel Islands in a strictly materialistic way. Perry’s Web site: www.anthropology.pomona.edu/html/jperry.html.

K–12 by the Numbers

For David Menefee-Libey, professor of politics and coordinator of the Public Policy Analysis Program, there are two main questions in his work on the politics of K-12 school reform: What are the conditions of public education? How does the education system work politically? Through his research (conducted with students from across The Claremont Colleges and funded in part by the David L. Hirsch III and Susan H. Hirsch Research Initiation Grant Fund at Pomona College), Menefee-Libey is also trying to understand what Americans want from schools and what makes school reform so hard. With Charles Kerchner from Claremont Graduate University, he is working on a book about big city public school reform, with Los Angeles as a case study. They will present their findings next spring at the American Educational Research Association. A study led by Menefee-Libey found vast disparities in graduation and dropout rates among Los Angeles County high schools, with less than 20 percent of graduating students at some high schools meeting the University of California or California State University eligibility requirements. Menefee-Libey’s Web site: www.politics.pomona.edu/menefee-libey.html. Also visit: Southern California Consortium on Research in Education at: www.sccore.org.
—Sneha Abraham (SC ’00)
 

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