Daily Archives: December 31, 2015

Civics Studies , Education or Unidirectional Indoctrination?

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Dr. Yizhak Geiger

In the past few years, the study of Civics has become an integral part of the Israeli curriculum.  This development, which is positive in its nature, was accompanied by fundamental failures such as inadequate preparation of the core curriculum and the publishing of unsuitable textbooks and materials. These steps were taken without proper public discussion and granted too much power to the current dominant ideological group in the Israeli academia, when it allowed it to design the curriculum according to its will and to leave a long term impression on the conscious of the citizens ofIsrael and the future of the State.

This position paper demonstrates that this failure is a painful blow on four dimensions: Zionist education, democratic education, the teaching of critical thinking, and the chance of reducing the tension between the various sectors of Israeli society.  The full position paper, by Dr. Yizhak Geiger, civics teacher and former member of the civics committee in the Education Ministry, presents the situation report in detail and includes summaries and recommendations. Included in his recommendations are: revising the values and viewpoints included in the core curriculum, stressing the importance of supervision over the implementation of this plan, rewriting the tests and developing new literature in the subject.

 

Downloadable Documents (In Hebrew):

 

  1. Position Paper on Civics Studies – Operative Recommendations.

 

  1. Abstract – Civics Studies , Education or Unidirectional Indoctrination?.

 

  1. Meeting Of The Knesset Education Committee Concerning The Paper

 

  1.  Bias In Civics Studies- Select Examples

 

  1.  Teaching of Civics– Full follow-up report 2012

 

 

Teaching History in Israel and the World

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Prof. Yoav Gelber

Abstract

For years, Israeli society has been in a state of bewilderment.  It has been experiencing conflict over its identity, sources of authority and ethos. The line of division is the Six Day War – the elimination of the existential threat eroded the ethos of one for all in favor of self-fulfillment.

Under market and political pressures, educational institutions – universities, colleges and schools – speculate over the quality of their national purpose (and if they even have one), over their social function and over their academic and educational direction.  The public controversies over the teaching of history in universities and schools reflect the Zionist movement’s loss of direction.  Historians consider the contradictions between the extent and profundity of scientific work on the past and their desire to influence the present by means of participation in debates in the public sphere.  Often the submission to the constraints of the media lowers the level of historical discussion and confines it to the framework, language, time and scope of television talk shows and newspaper opinion columns.

In academia, the discipline of history has been split into a number of sub-disciplines, to the extent that it may be becoming too eclectic.   Despite the scope of the disciplines and the variety of their subjects, the position of the discipline of history in Israel is on the decline.  The number of students is dwindling, and the relative ease of acceptance is often what persuades students to choose history, and students are met with the postmodernist, post-Zionist and relativist approaches of some of their educators, who are intolerant of other approaches.  These trends tailor the character of high school history teachers to be less qualified and more conformist.

In an era of mandatory education, when history classes are obligatory for at least some years, the entire population is exposed to the curriculums, syllabuses, textbooks and teachers of history.  Schools in general, and specifically history classes, are a key tool that influences the “collective memory” and instills it in our youth.

Since the nineties, post-Zionist academic scholars seeking to destroy the Israeli “collective memory” blamed the public school system for indoctrinating students (as they claimed), and instead of instilling values originating from national history they emphasize the postmodernist view which presents different narratives and their political functions.  However, unlike universities, schools must educate their students, not provide them with disciplinary training.  The dubious contemporary Israeli practice – concealing national history by merging it with world history – reverses the proper order in which things should be done.

A curriculum must present the few basic concepts that a society wishes to instill in (or teach) its future generation, and not what students (or their parents) wish to acquire (or learn). There will always be discontented teachers, parents and students. Teachers will adapt the curriculum to their personal approach to teaching and to history, and to a certain extent this is legitimate. Certain parents will always be critical of the curriculum and they have the means at their disposal by which they may and even should be able to partially influence it.  Better students will not be satisfied with what their school has to offer and may be directed to additional sources of information beyond the textbook.  Other students may have difficulty grasping the basic concepts presented in such a curriculum, but the large majority should fall between these two extremes and should be the target population the curriculum attempts to reach.

To The Full Position Paper (In English)

The Pedagogic Commitie In Israel

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Dr Zvi Tzameret, who served as the director of the Pedagogic Secretariat at the Ministry of  Education in the years 2010 and 2011, sums up his period of office and presents a number of fundamental failings in the Israeli educational system: the limited functioning of the Pedagogic Secretariat; the politicization underlying the subject of Israeli culture; the multiplicity of subjects offered for the Bagrut examinations; the status of the core subjects; and the methods of teaching civics.

For the Full Position Paper

Public Diplomacy Studies for Israeli High School Students

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Zeev Ben-Shachar

In recent years the State of Israel continually finds itself isolated in the international arena. A significant rise in anti-Israeli sentiment is evident, especially during times of political stagnation or regional instability.
At times like this, there is a tendency, sometimes justifiable, to point the finger at flawed government policy and ineffective Israel advocacy.
After delivering hundreds of lectures to thousands of students in Israel and abroad, we believe that there is another reason for the decline in Israel’s international standing.

Then Satan Said/ Natan Alterman
(translated from Hebrew)
..Satan then said:
How do I overcome
This besieged one?
He has courage
And talent,
And implements of war
And resourcefulness.
…only this shall I do,
I’ll dull his mind
And cause him to forget
The justice of his cause

It has to do with the notion that we – the Israeli people – have lost conviction in the justness of our cause, Zionism. This assessment is based on the premise that Israel advocacy needs to start from within – we believe that the degree to which Israelis better understand and acknowledge Israel’s right to exist, is the degree to which we will be able to represent ourselves effectively abroad.
The purpose of this proposal to the Ministry of Education is to introduce the study of public diplomacy to Israeli high schools. The public diplomacy track (The program will either be required of all students, or made optional for specialty track students) will provide Israeli teenagers with a basic understanding of the history and current status of the Arab-Israeli conflict, something that has thus far been significantly lacking from the history and civic studies tracks. It will also teach students the theory and practice of public diplomacy, and provide them with practical skills in effective communication. Throughout the program, students will be exposed to books, articles, literature and films about improving Israel’s standing in the international arena.
Contributing Team
Project Manager and Lead Author: Ze’ev Ben-Shachar, Educator and Program Manager at The David Project
Lead Researcher and Co-Writer: Maor Shani, PhD Fellow at the Bremen International Graduate School of Social Sciences
Consulting Committee:

    1. Senior Consultant: Adi Arbel, Program Manager at the Institute of Zionist Strategies
    2. Professor Asher Cohen: Chairman of Civics Studies Panel at Ministry of Education and Political Science Professor at Bar Ilan University
    3. Dr. Simcha Goldin: Chairman of History Studies Panel at Ministry of Education and Jewish History Professor at Tel Aviv University
    4. Professor Orit Ichilov: Sociologist and Emeritus Professor at the School of Education, Tel Aviv University
    5. Dr. Zvi Zameret: former Chair of the Pedagogical Secretariat at Ministry of Education and Professor at Herzliya’s Interdisciplinary Center
    6. Ari Applbaum: Director of Israel Operations, The David Project

Contributing Writers: Adi Arbel, Ari Applbaum, Tal Bar-On, Yoni Biron, Sara Kampler, Noa Sherman-Goldfinger
Note: The purpose of this proposal is to give students a basic understanding of the conflict, provide them with effective communication skills, and to instill in them Zionist values ​​and “Ahavat Ha’Aretz” (love of the land).  At the same time, the program will strive as much as possible, to avoid taking a stand on political issues and matters of government policy. Ultimately, the goal of this program is to train and inspire young Israeli leaders to continue engaging in public diplomacy as part of their public service in Israel and abroad, and to be comfortable doing so regardless of where they are across the political spectrum.
Additionally, much public diplomacy talent can no doubt be found in the periphery, where there are as many capable youngsters as in the center of Israel. This program will be congruently by offered and developed in the periphery, with the goal of helping students overcome social and economic obstacles.

Appendix 1: Program Syllabus
The following is a sample of themes and topics that will be included in the curriculum of public diplomacy:

  1. Historical Dimension:
    1. The right of the Jewish people to a homeland in the land of Israel: historical, international and legal rights
    2. Key events and processes in the history of the Arab-Israeli conflict and their impact on the State of Israel today: the British Mandate, the 1948 War of Independence, the Six Day War, the Intifadas, and the peace process
    3. Historical context for central issues often discussed such as refugees, occupation and Apartheid
  1. Physical Dimension:
    1. Israel in the regional context: geopolitical maps of Israel and the Middle East
    2. Geopolitical changes in the Middle East: the 2010-2013 turmoil in the region (“Arab Spring”), tensions between “moderates” and “radicals,” the Sunni-Shiite divide, the Iranian threat
    3. Israel in the global context: between international support and opposition (boycott, divestment and sanctions).
  1. Moral Dimension:
    1. Moral dilemmas and right vs. right decisions Israel faces
    2. Where does one draw the line between legitimate allegations and Israel hatred? (using Natan Sharansky’s 3D Test for anti-Semitism: de-legitimization, demonization and double standards)
  1. Israel beyond the Conflict/ “Tikun Olam”:
    1. Innovation and technology
    2. Humanitarian initiatives in third world countries
  1. The Palestinian Narrative:
    1. The rise of Palestinian identity
    2. A national struggle
    3. The peace process
  1. Public Diplomacy:
    1. Understanding the place of public diplomacy in advancing a country’s interests
    2. Nation branding – theory, examples of successful branding, and understanding the rationale behind the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ Brand Israel project
  1. Communication skills:
    1. Public speaking
    2. Debating skills
    3. Responding to difficult questions on core issues surrounding the conflict
  1. Leadership skills:
    1. Principles of effective activism
    2. Planning and implementing Israel advocacy campaigns in the community
  1. Media:
    1. Becoming critical consumers of the media
    2. Learning to utilize mass media to shape public opinion on Israel
    3. Using Social Media (Facebook, Twitter, Youtube and other platforms) to run campaigns, influence existing social networks and expand reach of message to additional social networks
  1. Tours in Israel:
    1. Visiting places and people in the heart of the conflict: security barrier, checkpoints, Sderot and East Jerusalem
    2. Getting to know Israel and Israelis beyond the conflict: high-tech companies, encounters with Israeli entrepreneurs, non-profit organizations engaged in humanitarian initiatives in third world countries
  1. Regional Conferences:
    1. Nation-wide debate competitions
    2. Continuous communication and updates through student blogs, online forums and social media campaigns

For the full position paper (in Hebrew)