Monday, December 24, 2007

The Idea That is America

More than half the 380 students at this unusual school outside Atlanta are refugees from some 40 countries, many torn by war. The other students come from low-income families in the community, and from middle- and upper-middle-class families in the surrounding area who want to expose their children to other cultures. Together they form an eclectic community of Buddhists, Christians, Hindus, Jews and Muslims, well-off and poor, of established local families and new arrivals who collectively speak about 50 languages.

“The fact that we don’t have anything in common is what we all have in common,” said Shell Ramirez, an American parent with two children at the school....

Linda Dorage, who teaches English as a second language at the school, said she has even had to introduce children to “just the concept of a two-dimensional image meaning something.”

One early student, a goat herder from Mauritania, did not know how to use a door knob. A Sudanese girl was so traumatized from war and relocation that she insisted on sitting on the floor beneath her desk each day.

“The teacher decided she would go under the desk with her and do lessons under there,” Ms. Thompson said. “She lured her out in her own good time.”

-Georgia School Melds a World of Differences

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