Learning Civics / In Praise of the Strike

This strike is destined to expire, if not this morning, then tomorrow or the next day. In a series of twists and turns, it lost its momentum and wound down. During this strike, the players avoided no mistakes, and fell into every pothole.

From the start the government should have been asked how much it was willing to invest in what it calls a "reform." There are no free reforms, not even half-price ones. No reform is possible for NIS 1.5 billion, only light repairs.

A strike of almost 60 days, one of the longest in Israel, is bound to end with a taste of disappointment.

With every passing day expectations soar and it's difficult to bring them down to Earth. Such strikes, aspiring for a brave new world, must be killed when they're still small, before they take root in the heart. Many teachers' hearts will now be broken.

In the twilight of every exhausting struggle, the media hastens to give grades: who won and who was defeated, who gained and who lost - as though it were a game. Usually they conclude with the sad mantra "everybody lost," or "education was defeated." This time the summary is more complicated.

And yet we come to praise the strike, before burying it. It exposed the country's leaders for having as little interest in education as their scheming and manipulative advisers. It exposed too the powerful labor unions, who watched from afar as their colleagues wallowed in their hearts' blood. Their turn will also come.

The faces of the wealthy were also unmasked - those whose applause resounded at their annual convention as their security guards threw out teachers, and the prime minister preached at them.

The strike also revealed teachers with great fortitude who are willing to lose their wages to save their honor. It exposed pupils who suddenly discovered their teachers and empathized with them. Teachers and pupils learned a civics lesson and took the test together. This alliance will make up for what the strike failed to achieve.

No less important, we found out how wretched the teachers' wages are, how many children are crowded into classrooms and how many teaching hours have been robbed from each child. It was an important strike, despite the wasted school time. But the struggle is not over, it's just beginning. The teachers must consider continuing to fight with other means, perhaps political.

After all, it was the state's president who described the education's deterioration yesterday as a greater threat than the Iranian nuclear program. This time he was right.