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Said What?

Posted on May 14, 2010
Wikimedia Commons / Justin McIntosh

A memorial to the academic Edward Said, a man so powerful that mere mention of his name and nationality can set the “anti-Israel propaganda” patrol aflutter.

Sound the alarm: The Advanced Placement English Literature and Composition exam taken by high school students across the U.S. uses a quotation from the late Palestinian-American scholar and activist Edward Said. Some Jewish students are complaining that use of the Said material politicizes the test.

Never mind the fact that Said has been at the forefront of English literature criticism for decades and the quote makes no mention of Israel’s oppression of the Palestinian people.

The quote appearing in the test reads: “Exile is strangely compelling to think about but terrible to experience. It is the unhealable rift forced between a human being and its native place, between the self and its true home: its essential sadness can never be surmounted.” —JCL

Jewish Daily Forward:

Nearly 2 million high school students worldwide are taking Advanced Placement tests this May, hoping to impress college admissions counselors with high scores and, perhaps, earn a few college credits. But one test question citing the late Palestinian-American scholar and activist Edward Said on the theme of exile is prompting protests from some Jewish students.

The English Literature and Composition test, in which the question occurs, requires students to read excerpts of poetry and prose and compare them to other works they have studied in class. The passage from Said contains no reference to Palestine or Israel. But the test’s description of the late Columbia University humanities professor as a “Palestinian American literary theorist and cultural critic” has led some pro-Israel students to object that the test has been politicized.

“I was really startled to see that quote because both of the practice questions didn’t mention the writers’ nationalities,” said Ayelet Pearl, a senior at New York’s Bronx High School of Science. “For me including this one clearly had political implications.”

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By Sodium-Na, May 16, 2010 at 8:57 pm Link to this comment

Re: MarthaA,May 15 at 12:42 pm.


“Exile is strangely compelling to think about but terrible to experience. It is the unhealable rift forced between a human being and its native place,between the self and its true home:its essential sadness can never be surmounted.”-JCL

This is a truth.




I had met through the years the late Dr. Edward Said three times after he gave his speeches to three different large getherings. As we chatted,I could tell from the expression on his face that he was true to himself-Very impressive,indeed.

I am certain,Martha,that if he is still alive he would have appreciated greatly the profound meaning of the above quote because he was an exile from his beloved Jerusalem in Palestine. He was born and raised until he was a teenger,when he fled with his family from the war 1947-1948 to Egypt. He attended Victoria College in Alexandria,Egypt. He then left Egypt for the United States,attending Princeton and finally received his Ph.D.from Harvard and end-up a Professor of English literature at Columbia. But,he never had forgotten his city of birth,Jerusalem,till cancer killed him.

A wonderful human being by any standard of measurment.

Thank you,Martha,and Truthdig for bringing his memory to one of his listeners who numbered in the thousands.

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By Rodger Lemonde, May 15, 2010 at 9:24 am Link to this comment

Sounds to me like the students are supplying the
politicization themselves.
The sentiment is universal and was most likely
profoundly felt by the many of the Jews displaced by

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By MarthaA, May 15, 2010 at 8:42 am Link to this comment

“Exile is strangely compelling to think about but terrible to experience. It is the unhealable rift forced between a human being and its native place, between the self and its true home: its essential sadness can never be surmounted.” —JCL

This is a truth.

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By gerard, May 14, 2010 at 7:24 pm Link to this comment

The world is so stormy that any teapot offers the opportunity for developing a pint-sized tempest in less than five seconds.  Sad, sad!

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By Daeggman, May 14, 2010 at 6:41 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Its good not to believe in fairy tales, see where you end up. Instead of being able to write an essay on what it feels like to be exiled, maybe you should have taken your ire to write an essay about how it made you feel to see the quote. Instead you backpedal and get a lower grade. And well deserved, you failed under emotional pressure to come up with the answer. Welcome to failing, letting your emotions get involved when taking a test. You deserve the grade you get. I sent a letter to the college board too, they didn’t have the right answer on one of the questions. Life will always throw you curves, if you can’t handle them, who’s going to hire you. “You want fries with that?” is looking pretty good right now for you my dear.

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By JDmysticDJ, May 14, 2010 at 5:55 pm Link to this comment

The Texas School Board removed all reference to Thomas Jefferson from their School Books, so why shouldn’t Jewish students be able to remove quotations from Edward Said from their tests?  It’s only fair. Censorship rules!

The thing that really bothers me is that our founding fathers politicized the Constitution of the United States. All politicians should be censored, along with:  All news agencies, the internet, and every other form of communication: Speech, the written word, signing, and smoke signals. Every citizen should be questioned under oath and asked, “Do you now, or have you ever politicized.” Those found guilty of politicizing should be ostracized, blacklisted, deported, or given long prison sentences. Texas school kids should be free from being traumatized by exposure to Thomas Jefferson, and Jewish students should also be free from being traumatized by quotations from Edward Said. It’s a freedom issue.

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By diamond, May 14, 2010 at 3:42 pm Link to this comment

More madness. Will people like this ever grow up or can we expect this extremist, prejudiced,juvenile view of the world to dominate their thinking for the foreseeable future? It reminds me of that priceless sketch from ‘The Goodies’ where they showed white South Africans in apartheid era South Africa only walking on the white line on a pedestrian crossing and wearing sunglasses with white lenses because, obviously, they couldn’t wear ones with black lenses. The only consolation to being mad is that you don’t know you’re mad. Think about it.

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By photoshock, May 14, 2010 at 3:42 pm Link to this comment

It is high time that all religionists of any stripe get over their religion and start practicing the tolerance and respect they supposedly teach as part of their religion.
We, the non-religious people of the world, have no need for the excuses of the religionists of the world. We are not going to stand for this kind of hatred and bigotry being taught any longer. What makes this so hard to comprehend is the fact that while this learned and able man taught at Ivy League schools, some of his students had to be Jewish. You did not hear any hue and cry regarding his teaching skills or his supposed heritage then did you? NO!
It is only now that the hard-core religionists have gotten a hold of the test that you hear any hue and cry regarding this mans heritage.
Enough with the bigotry and disrespect of any man already, if you are a religionist you have a disease that can be cured by stopping and thinking before you
speak about any subject, especially another persons faith or heritage. To think that now in the 21st Century, the religionists have little or no tolerance
for a person of another faith is absolutely mind-boggling and utterly ridiculous.
What must happen is an awakening of the fact that we
are all one, no matter what colour, race, creed or sect, we are all one. We must get over the hatred and
bigotry of the past and start afresh, with a cosmological religion which recognizes no personal God, no creator God and no God which espouses hatred and bigotry like we have had to endure in the past.
Everyone must get along, or we, the human race are doomed to repeat the sorrows and ideological errors of the past. If we can get over this idea that one religion is better than another then and only then will we truly have peace on earth, good will towards all men.
And this without the politicization of any persons heritage or past. For if we do not, we cannot survive the coming fight for our very lives, we the people must stick together in the face of the coming disasters, financial and ecological, if we are to survive these things.
I for one, will gladly give up the idea of ‘superiority’ and the overt way in which the leaders of any religion proclaim theirs to be the only way to
‘heaven, nirvana, paradise or any iteration of that idea.’ Sadly, our young people are being indoctrinated into the mindset of proclaiming theirs to be the one, true religion, and no one who does not
practice that religion is going to hell in a handbasket. This must cease, we the parents and teachers of our young must stop indoctrinating our children in hatred and bigotry, and this is a prime example of such a religion, facing another religion which says the same thing.

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By P. T., May 14, 2010 at 11:59 am Link to this comment

I wonder if the complaining students would regard a quote by Anne Frank as politicizing the test.

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