Please meet the plumbers, carpenters and police officers of 2040. They are now six years old. They don’t know yet that their fate has been sealed. They started – or not – the school year without a computer, which is now what the pencil and notebook were to their grandparents. They will learn, maybe, how to read and write next year, maybe in another two years – and maybe never. There is no special urgency to learn reading and writing at age six, they say in the Education Ministry – nothing will happen if the child begins to read only at the age of seven.
Haaretz Podcast: Could a Trump triumph be Netanyahu's get out of jail free card?
Show me a mother in north Tel Aviv who will wait until her child is seven. She won’t wait until they find a better education minister than Yoav Gallant and a better system than Zoom. After all, she learned to read and write when she was five – so of course she’ll hire a tutor so her child will manage to learn because teaching over Zoom has failed.
Alternative education is flourishing. The internet is flooded with searches for tutors in Tel Aviv. All the mothers in Ofakim and Netivot can do is be jealous. They don’t have the money for computers, tutors or enrichment activities. Their children will be placed far from the starting line, where the children who have computers, activities and private tutors are already waiting. When they are 13, they will be sent to a semi-private school, when they are 18, they will go to the army’s Unit 8200, and at 21 to high tech. Their unlucky contemporaries will serve them, fix their cars and beat them at demonstrations.
It is impossible today to study without a computer. Not with the coronavirus and not after it. The government is unable to supply computers to the 120,000 children who don’t have one. It doesn’t have an alternative curriculum either. It makes do with a pat on the head and the statement: Maybe next year, maybe the year after that.
When these 120,000 children without a computer grow up, they will be a bit more than three Knesset seats of voters. They could have been doctors, judges and pilots – but they will be hairdressers, mechanics and police officers. The government won’t waste math, English and science on them – it will invest, in the words of the Education Ministry statement, “Zionist and national values” in them, in the hope that this investment will be paid back at the ballot box.
It is not just that the children of 2020 will be left with only Zionist values in hand – their children won’t have much more either. Underprivileged parents pass on the torch of underprivilege from generation to generation. Today’s underprivileged children are the protesters of tomorrow. When they reach the age of today’s protesters, they will spend their formative years looking for work or planning to leave Israel.
The educational failure is similar to the health failure. The government was given months to prepare, and it did nothing. Now it can blame the entire world, the coronavirus, Kahol Lavan and the good-for-nothing education minister. That won’t remove from its shoulders the responsibility for the national educational tracking enterprise, which will turn an entire generation into wood choppers and water carriers.
- How many children in Israel have no access to distance learning? The Education Ministry has no idea
- For many Arab Israelis in the coronavirus age, online learning is not even an option
- It's not just the ultra-Orthodox: Israeli culture is at fault for pandemic debacle
Right-wing governments like them that way, ignorant, humiliated and filled with admiration and gratitude. It is easy to fool them, easy to convince them that being underprivileged is fate and that the government is their only support. They are in the pocket of politicians just like the yeshiva students are in the pocket of their rebbe. A few will protest, but most will be loyal, easy to incite and weak from their acceptance of their situation.
Protesters who have no future come out into the streets. Where will the six year olds go? No one cares. After all, they aren’t as good a photo op as the Asi Stream and not a target at the shooting range like Amir Haskel. When they grow up, they will be exploited, screwed over and pissed on at every opportunity — and convinced that loyalty is more important than education.
They are the answer to the question – what will be after Netanyahu? They will be the workers of the loose autonomous federation that will arise here. The Haredi autonomy, the Arab autonomy, the one that is for Netanyahu and the one that is against him. All of them suspicious, bitter and hostile to one another.
Every autonomy will need plumbers to unclog the drains and carpenters to fix doors. The children of 2020 will join the Arabs and Blacks in building the Land of Israel. They will do the dirty work of every government, from the right or the left. A bit above the Blacks, and far below the bourgeois, rightists or leftists. They will be the cannon fodder of the politicians, who will always speak in their name because they have no voice – and even if they do, who pays any attention.