American-Style Prep School Comes To Jordan

Jordan Prep School--Phillips
Jordan Prep School--Phillips

The leafy glades of a New England prep school are an educational dream world to some. It's a dream one student took and built somewhere else, CBS News correspondent Mark Phillips reports.

That graduate was a clean-cut, blazer-and-school-tie type — a tough-looking little wrestler in the class of 1980. Now he is Abdullah II, King of Jordan.

"I am sure this is a bit of nostalgia in it," says Safwan Masri, chairman of Kings Academy.

So Deerfield Academy, King Abdullah's alma mater, in the hills of Western Massachusetts has been cloned as Kings Academy, in the scrubland of the Jordanian dessert. It will open for business next year under a former Deerfield headmaster.

Whatever King Abdullah's nostalgia for his school days, the fact is there is a crisis in education in the Arab world. By almost all measures of literacy and modern technical skills, Arab societies lag far behind. The new school isn't about nostalgia; it's about the future.

It's about trying to pull an education system — in many cases based on Koranic teachings and breeding suspicion of the West — up by its bootstraps and into the 21st century. It's about trying to build bridges between clashing cultures.

"The clash, I think, is a superficial clash. There is a lot more that is common between the cultures, the West and the East," says Masri, though he acknowledges it doesn't seem that way lately.

The kids — ambitious ones from well-to-do families, at least — want to come. For kid reasons, of course.

"The boarding school idea, I really like," says one student, laughing when asked if it's just a way to get away from his parents.

Maybe that culture gap isn't quite as wide as it seems.