The Shmooze

Education Ministry Overturns Decision To Cut Civics Budget

By Josh Tapper

  • Print
  • Share Share
Gideon Sa’ar

The education policy debate — most notably the decision to cut funding for the high school civics curriculum in favor of increased spending on Bible studies — in Israel last week is turning out to be rather uncivil.

The decision — overturned after national uproar — reflects Israel’s ongoing internal discussion over the limitations of operating as a “Jewish democratic state,” and whether or not those two qualifications are inexorably polarizing. The new funding cuts would have given high school students less opportunity to learn about democracy and government; some schools most likely would have shut down their programs. Even with the policy reversal, the civics budget, according to Haaretz, “will still be about half as last year’s.”

A stated goal of the new education minister, Gideon Sa’ar, has been to introduce more Jewish studies programs, according to the Los Angeles Times. That means more time spent on yeshiva-style learning, like Tanakh and Talmud, as well as Jewish philosophy.

Naturally, some teachers thought the changes were to discourage debate over democratic citizenship and discrimination. “It is not possible to sweep under the carpet the rifts in Israeli society,” one civics teachers told Haaretz.

Israeli civics classes, teachers argue, are meant to engage students head-on with the country’s often-divisive social fabric. “There are raucous discussions in class, but they are genuine because they touch on issues that are among the most painful in society,” another teacher said. “This is how I was taught education should be. The Education Ministry decision to cut the support says that the subject of civics is too risky for the pupils, that there should be no challenge to accepted views.”

The decision to overturn the funding shift couldn’t have come at a better time. A Tel Aviv University poll last week of Israeli teens 15 to 18 shows that 64 percent believe Arab Israelis “do not enjoy full equal rights in Israel.” More startling, however, is that 59 percent of that group is okay with that. Twenty-three percent said they wouldn’t want to share a classroom with homosexuals and 50 percent of the 500 respondents said the same of Arab students.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Gideon Sa'ar, Funding, Education, Bible, Israel, Jewish Yeshiva

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!
  • Taglit-Birthright Israel is redefining who they consider "Jewish" after a 17% drop in registration from 2011-2013. Is the "propaganda tag" keeping young people away?
  • Happy birthday William Shakespeare! Turns out, the Bard knew quite a bit about Jews.
  • Would you get to know racists on a first-name basis if you thought it might help you prevent them from going on rampages, like the recent shooting in Kansas City?
  • "You wouldn’t send someone for a math test without teaching them math." Why is sex ed still so taboo among religious Jews?
  • Russia's playing the "Jew card"...again.
  • "Israel should deal with this discrimination against Americans on its own merits... not simply as a bargaining chip for easy entry to the U.S." Do you agree?
  • For Moroccan Jews, the end of Passover means Mimouna. Terbhou ou Tse'dou! (good luck) How do you celebrate?
  • Calling all Marx Brothers fans!
  • What's it like to run the Palestine International Marathon as a Jew?
  • Does Israel have a racism problem?
  • This 007 hates guns, drives a Prius, and oh yeah — goes to shul with Scarlett Johansson's dad.
  • Meet Alvin Wong. He's the happiest man in America — and an observant Jew. The key to happiness? "Humility."
  • "My first bra was a training bra, a sports bra that gave the illusion of a flat chest."
  • "If the people of Rwanda can heal their broken hearts and accept the Other as human, so can we."
  • Aribert Heim, the "Butcher of Mauthausen," died a free man. How did he escape justice?
  • 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.