Editorial

Loyalty Test in the Classroom

Dr. Meir Baruchin
Meir Baruchin's Facebook page

The firing of civics teacher Meir Baruchin from a Rishon Letzion high school is the latest rotten fruit of the nation-state-law government, its incitement and denial of the occupation, headed by the indicted Benjamin Netanyahu. A week after the education minister revealed his dark and dangerous worldview, the firing of Baruchin proves that the informant culture and the demand for blind loyalty to the government have been trickling down.

Students, parents, teachers and principals are increasingly realizing that their ability to present a multifaceted reality is being curbed. The firing of Baruchin, an order by a local government, makes it clear to educators who consider skepticism and criticism vital tools that it’s better to shut up.

Baruchin has taught for over 30 years, the last eight teaching civics in Rishon Letzion. His students, who hold a range of political opinions, speak of an exceptional teacher who cultivates learning through discussion, debates and the challenging of conventions, not rote learning. The debates in his class were stormy, but they taught the student to think independently.

In one of his classes, Baruchin met opposition from students and parents. Complaints were sent to the principal, and the situation deteriorated to the point of aggression against the experienced teacher. The Education Ministry only made things worse. Baruchin “harshly attacks the army and expresses strong opinions against the prime minister and the political system,” the principal said. In a letter, the municipality said that in his classes he espoused opinions “not in line with the state education system.”

In vain, Baruchin tried to explain that some of the things attributed to him were said in an attempt to encourage thinking, and other things weren’t even said in class. Baruchin struggled to stand up to the murky wave, and “agreed” to the city’s offer to stop working at the school immediately and to receive his full salary this year, on condition that he not teach in any other school in Rishon Letzion.

Many teachers are complaining that they’re afraid to debate human rights issues, the occupation and the domination of millions of Palestinians in the territories. It’s a fundamental mistake to believe that you can keep politics out of civics classes. The attempt to keep the occupation and the control of the Palestinians outside the civics debate in Israel is itself a political act of silencing voices and distorting reality.

Absent backing from the Education Ministry, the minefield that parents fear entering is expanding to other areas of life. The result is self-censorship, shallow debates and a justification of the status quo. It’s the duty of every student, parent and educator to oppose this policy.