Amos Oz to Protest Leaders: Education System Is Misguided

Dozens of teachers and students who are active in the socioeconomic tent-protest gathered in the Seminar Hakibbutzim Teachers College in Tel Aviv yesterday to outline the campaign's education goals.

"We want a system that would provide equal rights, not a budget that gives more to those who have more," said Amnon Rabinovich, 27, an 11th-grade teacher and one of the protest leaders. "We want a significant improvement in public education and stopping the privatization processes in the education system. We want the state to be responsible for toddlers up to the age of 3 and free education from the age of 3. And we want to encourage education toward values that develop the children's curiosity and love of knowledge, instead of the standardization and race after grades that prevails in the system today."

Author Amos Oz, who took part in yesterday's meeting, supported the campaign. A high-school literature teacher for many years, Oz said a teacher must teach only what he loves. "A history teacher should teach history chapters that excite him, that in his youth made him study history in university. Schools should not have a program requiring students to study for matriculation. The variety of subjects should be large enough for every teacher to choose the subjects he loves," he said.

"That requires changing the whole idea of the matriculation-exams format, in which millions of students march three abreast to the same goal and receive an entrance certificate to university," Oz continued. "The universities can hold entrance exams instead of the matriculation exams. One subject must be compulsory in school, and that is civics. Just like a driver may not drive without knowing the traffic rules, a person cannot enter civilian life without knowing terms like majority, minority, tyranny of the majority, regime, separation of authorities. All the rest should be a matter of choice - from philosophy to astronomy, from literature to mathematics."

"In any case the human-knowledge menu in the first half of the 21st century is so vast, there is no chance under that outdated model, whose source is in the Middle Ages, of a school trying to give a taste of everything," Oz said.

Oz also spoke about the recent changes in civics studies effected by the Education Ministry's pedagogical secretariat with Zvi Zameret as its chairman. "They turned civics into the history of Zionism. I'm all for history of Zionism and the state - on condition that it is not at the expense of the rules of the game, those terms that every person is not only entitled to know but must know, otherwise he is a danger to the public."

Speaking about the socioeconomic protest in general, Oz said he was amazed by the protest's width, but it remains to be seen if its depth could equal it. "It was the most pleasant surprise of my political life," he said. "I didn't think it was possible ... reaching hundreds of thousands of people is an achievement unparalleled in Israel's history. But will it be as deep? Depth is patience and perseverance ... breaking the campaign up into details, talking about education, health, welfare, economics, legislation, civil rights, the occupation, the territories, the settlements. And not only talking about it but also acting, so that come election day this mass must be translated into political weight," he said.