The Education Ministry must soon decide whether the supervisor of civics instruction, Adar Cohen, will be allowed to continue in his role or will be fired. A decision to dismiss him would mean the ministry is giving in to a campaign by elements identified with the right wing who seek to distance from civics instruction any reference to disagreement with or criticism of the government.
Moreover, letting Cohen go would be further proof of the public education system's subjugation to Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar's political outlook. Cohen has been responsible for civics instruction in the state for about four years. During his tenure, instruction in this field has significantly evolved: learning has become less rote and more in-depth, and students have become more involved in the subject. The fundamental reason for the changes has been an almost desperate attempt to explain to students the complexity of maintaining a state that is both Jewish and democratic.
For the past two years Cohen has been the target of an incessant attack by elements from within as well as outside of the Education Ministry, while Sa'ar has remained silent. The comment by the former chairman of the ministry's pedagogical department, Dr. Zvi Zameret, that a central civics text book "contains too much criticism of the state," has not been forgotten. The book was revised, Cohen was presented as "post-Zionist" and his critics claimed that if he remained in his post it would be an "educational disaster."
About three months ago, in an exceptional move, the Education Ministry disqualified another text book that Cohen had been instrumental in approving. The attempt to remove from civics instruction any fundamentally democratic content is not unrelated to other actions taken by Minister Sa'ar on his frenetic educational rampage: supporting student trips to Kiryat Arba and to "the City of David" (operated by the Elad association in Jerusalem ) and banning any reference to the Palestinian Nakba in both Jewish and Arab schools.
The present record in politicization of the education system was set recently with the decision to recognize the academic institution in Ariel as a university, despite professional objections.
Cohen enjoys impressive support from both teachers in the field and senior academics. For the sake of the education system, which is trying to provide students with tools that allow them to deal with reality, he deserves to continue in his role.
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