I was only too happy to excuse my students from attending class. They went to demonstrate against the privatization of the academic preparatory programs that operate in colleges. One of them operates on our campus at Sapir College.
The fight for the prep programs is important in its own right, and especially important in view of the public atmosphere we see in Israel today - which legitimizes the privatization of any cultural activity under the state's responsibility and its transference to the custodianship of private bodies.
Is this measure meant to streamline performance? Perhaps. Is it a publicly responsible one? Certainly not. The state is shaking off irreplaceable cultural assets just to cut a little bit more off its budgetary expenditure.
The education and culture ministries' show window currently boasts pinnacles of cultural and educational activity, such as the "national culture basket," which subsidizes cultural learning in schools, the Educational Television channel and the academic prep programs. These three commodities will sell easily. The new operators will approach the task with good intentions and above all, an aspiration to improve and streamline performance. Their discretion will differ from the logic the state applies to its cultural projects. They will be guided by production feasibility and implementation, ratings and return on investment.
Educational and cultural considerations, and the desire to wisely spread the investment between the plump centers and the famished communities that live far away from the center, will be relegated to the sidelines. Professional committees of relevant thinkers may be formed, but it remains doubtful whether those who preside in them will think of anything beyond the logic of profit which guides the operating bodies.
The course of Israeli children's lives would no longer run through the melting pot of an educationally profound culture. Their parents and grandparents had the pleasure of enjoying artists who simultaneously provided them with entertainment and values. The children of the 21st century will view talents who will cost a fortune and leave plenty of broadcasting hours free for imports, complete with voice-over.
No new generation of performers like Gidi Gov, Moni Moshonov, Dov Glickman and the Brosh group will team up to invent a new "Zehu Zeh" - the famed entertainment show of the 1980s. Children's shows like "Parpar Nehmad" and "Bli Sodot" will no longer be produced, nor will funny lessons in English.
Schools will see cultural activities organized by an energetic contractor. What will go into the new cultural basket? Whatever works, whatever's cheap, whatever can be made national. If you're looking for entertainment, you've got it. But if you want to use the old noodle, especially in extracurricular hours, or if you're looking for endorsement for complex productions with a unique angle, then not in our school.
Academic prep schools, which have been operating since 1967, are there to give another chance to those who do not determine the acceptance thresholds of certain or prestigious academic programs. Since the colleges were established in the mid-1990s, they have taken on the lion's share of the work involved in introducing would-be students into academic programs.
The people who attend the preparatory programs in colleges are young men and women without a high school diploma or with low matriculation exam grades, who never had a fair chance of achieving better grades. The Council for Higher Education sought to correct the wrong and give another chance to weaker students, most of whom hail from areas of economic and social need.
Now they will be entitled to the worst of learning methods, that of "memorize-recite-pass to next question." Education will become a dirty word, to be replaced with skill.
The Ministry of Education is cutting short its impressive endeavor, which has bumped week populations out of the poverty cycle. The already high level of polarization within Israeli society will increase by another notch. The weakness of universal culture and education will deepen.
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