Haaretz Editorial || McCarthyite education
Adar Cohen's dismissal is an example of an Education Ministry seeking to wipe out any independent thought or doubt.
The Education Ministry's decision to fire its civics supervisor, Adar Cohen, is another example of the mean-spirited atmosphere prevailing among the ministry's leadership, which is seeking to wipe out any independent thought or doubt.
Cohen was dismissed because he dared to instruct civics teachers, and through them the students, that it is their right to raise questions about Israeli democracy, including its less enlightened parts. Cohen's dismissal indicates that the Education Ministry heads are not interested in this approach.
The decision not to give Cohen tenure, and thus to fire him, was made by Education Ministry director-general Dalit Stauber, but the minister, Gideon Sa'ar, is responsible for it. Sa'ar failed to support Cohen over the past two years when rightists inside and outside the ministry conducted a campaign of smears and delegitimization against him. Now Sa'ar is hiding behind the move to oust Cohen on the pretext of "professional failures." It is difficult to accept such an attempt at feigned innocence.
Cohen served in his post for four years. During this time civics education has undergone a fundamental change. In recent weeks, as it transpired that the Education Ministry leaders were targeting Cohen, he has been supported by senior civics and political science academics. No less important, Cohen has received encouragement from hundreds of teachers from various education streams, who mobilized to attest to his commitment and professionalism. The Education Ministry chose to ignore all these.
On Sunday night, shortly after he was notified of his dismissal, Cohen released an open letter to the civics teachers.
"We weren't afraid of touching the painful, ruptured points in Israeli society, because our educational approach is intended to mend and include, not to divide and slander," he wrote.
Cohen's letter is a worthy educational legacy, but it is doubtful whether Sa'ar and his subordinates will fulfill it. Their goal is completely different - to remove any obstacle in the way of subordinating the public education system to nationalist political stands. The decision to fire Cohen is anti-educational and reflects an anti-pluralistic worldview.