The ORT school system’s decision to call on the carpet a Kiryat Tivon teacher after a student complained that he expressed “extreme leftist” opinions in class is a badge of shame for the educational network. According to other students, the teacher, Adam Verete, conducted his classes with sensitivity, while giving voice to various points of view.
Instead of praising Verete for sparking interest in his classes, and in doing so possibly even educating students toward critical thinking, ORT is conducting a campaign of humiliation against him, at the end of which stands a possible dismissal. The support that ORT has gotten for its move from the Education Ministry - which recently declared that it intends to advance “meaningful learning” and the involvement of teachers - is no less worrisome.
In a letter to Education Minister Shay Piron and the management of ORT, Sapir Sabah, a 12th-grade student, claimed Verete said in class that he is an “extreme leftist,” since “as far as he is concerned our country is not at all a country of the Jews but of the Palestinians,” and that the “Israel Defense Forces is an institution that acts with exceptional cruelty and violence.” ORT quickly adopted the student’s claims, without taking into consideration the teacher’s explanations.
In the hearing last week Verete rejected the claims against him, but mainly tried to explain the difference between a one-sided presentation of a political opinions, which he adamantly denies having done, and the raising of a number of points of view, an educational approach he is proud of.
The informal recommendation from ORT at the hearing that Verete resign shows that the school system does not share his view of education. Furthermore, Sabah’s letter repeating the accusation that the teacher is an “extreme leftist” was published on the Facebook page of former Knesset member Michael Ben Ari, a Kahanist, and aroused a storm of inciteful comments that led Verete to file a police complaint. It is hard to understand why neither the ORT network nor the Education Ministry saw it appropriate to speak out against this development.
For many years teachers have been afraid to deal with controversial issues such as human and civil rights, the attitude toward the Arab minority, and Israel’s responsibility in the expulsion of the Arabs in 1948. These trends started well before Gideon Sa’ar became education minister, but they gathered strength during his term and reached their peak with the removal of Adar Cohen as the ministry’s supervisor for civics studies because of his stated political views.
This fear that besets educators results in their students receiving a one-dimensional view of a multidimensional reality, a view that is faithful mainly to right-wing ideological principles. Piron continues to insist that he wants to nurture curiosity and critical thinking in students. The proof of this must be in his support for a teacher who dares to do as Piron says, and in a halt to his persecution.
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