Forward Thinking

Shimon Peres's Civics 'Class' That Wasn't

By Nathan Jeffay

  • Print
  • Share Share

Shimon Peres / Getty Images

Israel’s President Shimon Peres has just secured his second appearance in the Guinness Book of Records. But he missed an opportunity when setting his new record yesterday.

I was excited to watch Peres — who is already in the book as oldest head of state — teach the largest ever civics class, using videoconferencing to connect with 9,000 students from across Israel’s ethnic divides. And he started well, talking about the importance of knowledge. He said that money “comes and goes” while knowledge endures, and if we all read three times a day like we eat three times a day, we would be in a good position. Even at his age, he said, he’s still learning.

In a country where teachers all too often talk at students, this looked promising. The President was becoming a teacher for the day.

Not many people of his age would have the charm, vision and appeal to address such a huge number of youngsters, and it was moving to see him do so. But he could have done much more with the opportunity.

Instead of engaging with the challenges of teaching, instead of engaging with the kids, and instead of engaging with the civics curriculum, he went on to do exactly what he does nearly every day — give an address in which he delivered his thoughts on wisdom, coexistence, technology etc. The style, the ideas, and many of the words were the same. Why is it that when other people try a new job, such as the kids who become mayors for a day, they try to learn about the profession and jump into the mindset of the people who hold that job — while Peres, instead of becoming a teacher, was just his normal president self?

Had this been billed as a chance for kids to watch an amazing old man deliver insights for life, it would have been great. But it wasn’t. The kids were promised a class and got the equivalent of a Sunday afternoon listening to their (admittedly wise) grandpas. He took only a handful of (rehearsed) questions and didn’t exploit the two-way communication that videoconference facilitates for listening as well as talking. If it resembled a lesson, it was only because of the worst aspects of the Israeli school system — frontal teaching with a lack of creative interaction between teachers and students.

Peres gave a good speech, just like he does for politicians and business leaders. But was it really a class? The Guinness Book of Records says yes. I would beg to differ.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: education, civics, Shimon Peres, Israel, Guinness Book of Records

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • A grumpy Jewish grandfather is wary of his granddaughter's celebrating Easter with the in-laws. But the Seesaw says it might just make her appreciate Judaism more. What do you think?
  • “Twist and Shout.” “Under the Boardwalk.” “Brown-Eyed Girl.” What do these great songs have in common? A forgotten Jewish songwriter. We tracked him down.
  • What can we learn from tragedies like the rampage in suburban Kansas City? For one thing, we must keep our eyes on the real threats that we as Jews face.
  • When is a legume not necessarily a legume? Philologos has the answer.
  • "Sometime in my childhood, I realized that the Exodus wasn’t as remote or as faceless as I thought it was, because I knew a former slave. His name was Hersh Nemes, and he was my grandfather." Share this moving Passover essay!
  • Getting ready for Seder? Chag Sameach! http://jd.fo/q3LO2
  • "We are not so far removed from the tragedies of the past, and as Jews sit down to the Seder meal, this event is a teachable moment of how the hatred of Jews-as-Other is still alive and well. It is not realistic to be complacent."
  • Aperitif Cocktail, Tequila Shot, Tom Collins or Vodka Soda — Which son do you relate to?
  • Elvis craved bacon on tour. Michael Jackson craved matzo ball soup. We've got the recipe.
  • This is the face of hatred.
  • What could be wrong with a bunch of guys kicking back with a steak and a couple of beers and talking about the Seder? Try everything. #ManSeder
  • BREAKING: Smirking killer singled out Jews for death in suburban Kansas City rampage. 3 die in bloody rampage at JCC and retirement home.
  • Real exodus? For Mimi Minsky, it's screaming kids and demanding hubby on way down to Miami, not matzo in the desert.
  • The real heroines of Passover prep aren't even Jewish. But the holiday couldn't happen without them.
  • Is Handel’s ‘Messiah’ an anti-Semitic screed?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.