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Said What?

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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