Chapter five draws out the analytic benefits of considering learning and instruction as fields of social practice. The fact that over the years the field has continuously produced the same undesirable, unintended consequences calls for a systemic account of the dynamics of the field. The chapter then develops the broad implications of the analysis in the book. It argues for a grounded approach to the study of cognition in practice. It further seeks to historically account for the systemic dynamics that fix the field in its permanent, sub-optimal position.
Chapter four makes the case that the Arabic grammar that is taught in the Jewish sector, and the Arabic grammar that is taught in the Arab sector, are two distinct, incommensurable bodies of knowledge. Arab university students arrive ill prepared for the encounter and are therefore disorientated by the educational approach in the university Arabic grammar classroom. The chapter compares this kind of disorientation to Lévy-Bruhl’s originary moment of cross-cultural incomprehension that led to the formulation of his cognitive relativism. A ubiquitous metacognitive blindness prevents participants in the academic educational exchange from realising how profound the differences are. Arab students’ underachievement is therefore not perceived as a systemic problem, but is rather experienced as a personal failure of individual students.
Chapter one delves into the perplexing nature of the two conundrums of Arabic instruction. The underachievement of Arabic instruction is clearly not premeditated, and at least on the Jewish side flies in the face of an abundance of resources and a concerted effort to inculcate Arabic proficiency in students. The chapter then traces the evolution of the research project that culminated in this book. The research straddles the divide between observant participation and participant observation, and entails elements of observational, participatory and textual analysis.
Chapter two analyses the field of Arabic instruction in the dominant, Jewish sector. It ascribes the failure of the education system to inculcate proficiency to numerous processes that largely result from the Zionist particularist imperative which affects the field in contradictory ways. These include the Latinisation of Arabic—the constitution of Arabic as a dead, classical language; the alienating educational agenda that is imposed on Arabic instruction by the securitist rationale of Arabic instruction; the devaluation of Arabic proficiency in the academic system; the de-Arabisation of autochthonous Middle Eastern Jewry; and the general devaluation of Arabic as cultural capital.
The preface outlines the two conundrums of Arabic instruction in Israel, namely the failure of the school system to inculcate Arabic proficiency in its Jewish students, and the failure of Arab university students to translate their native knowledge of the language into superior academic performance. The current work is then situated within the literature, especially the research on Arabic language policy, the Arabic Linguistic Tradition, securitisation, Arabic instruction in Israel, and cognition across cultures.
Chapter three analyses Arabic grammar instruction in the Arab sector. The double marginalisation of Israeli Arabs—both in the Arab world and in Israel—emerges as critical. Arabic students throughout the Arab world are alienated by the prevalent outmoded approach to Arabic grammar instruction. The approach reflects the pre-Modern conditions of its emergence, is preoccupied with the stylised declamation of desinential inflection, and is exclusively focused on Classical Arabic. This forms an already fraught basis upon which Israel’s higher education system adds a further layer of alienation. The Arabic grammar that is taught at universities is different from the one that is taught in the Arab education system, is entirely irrelevant to Arab students, and is delivered in alienating ways by a tertiary system that is dedicated to satisfying the educational needs of Jewish students and the intellectual interests of Jewish academics. Jewish institutions monopolise the institutional power that affects Arabic grammar in Israel. Arab intellectuals lack the necessary resources to assume control over Arabic grammar and its instruction even in the Arab sector.