Year of the Child? Come on

The main advantage of children is that they evoke a consensus. Children are always beautiful, children aren't controversial, we all have children.

It's tough to think of anything more meaningless than the decision to choose children as the theme of the 60th Independence Day celebrations. When choosing an annual topic, it is extremely important to convey that the subject requires attention. But it is difficult to think of anything that has enjoyed more awareness, attention and alertness by the authorities than children, nurturing children, children's rights and safety. In other words, to choose children as the main topic of the 60th-year celebrations is to urge affirmative action for an already prioritized group.

If children are indeed chosen to be the focus of the festivities, they should be briefed on why the state is so important - not the state on why children are so important. But evidently nobody had the nerve to choose a subject like Zionism (now identified with the right), the pioneers (tedious), industry (a whiff of communism, a worker brandishing a hammer), settlement (bad for ecology), the front line (not sexy enough), aliyah (there isn't any), the Diaspora (what's that?) or the army (militaristic, war-mongering). As for the Land of Israel - forget it, the right gave it such a bad name.

The main advantage of children is that they evoke a consensus. Children are always beautiful, children aren't controversial, we all have children. And even though we are so divided, we can all celebrate our children and hope they will be the tomorrow of Israel (or of Beverly Hills). By the same token, they could have chosen ecology, another topic that has been spared political division. In other words, it would be hard to find a truly Zionistic subject for the 60th-year celebrations without taking the courageous decision to release Zionism from the basement into which we've shoved it.

Yet if the government's resolution to choose children as the main theme of the 60th-year celebrations attests to genuine policy-making intentions and priorities, then maybe it's worth it. As the government says, "children are the State of Israel's tomorrow."

If the government invested content and money in that cliche; if it truly tackled children's rights, not only in family and school (meaning under someone else's auspices) but where it really counts (in the national budget) - then picking children as the flagship topic of the 60th-year events would flower beyond a mere exercise in pinching cute cheeks.

The same would be true if the government instituted mandatory education from age 3, and a longer school day from age 3 through 18; if it ensured that these children could study for free at university; if during the extra hours of that extended school day, pupils learned about civics and their homeland and the history of Zionism; if they received lessons in Hebrew literature and Zionist thought (so they have some idea why they're here and why they have to go to the army); if the government instituted mandatory social-involvement lessons in all grades; if they started teaching computer science and English from the first grade so children have a better chance of participating in the modern economy; if they limited the number of children per class and number of classes per school; if they raised teachers' salaries and launched a campaign to bring more men into the teaching profession.

If they implement even a small number of these ideas - the decision to choose children as the theme of the big day would be worthwhile.

But all of these things cost a lot of money, so they won't happen as part of the 60th-year celebrations. Education will remain the paramount subject only in speeches but not in the stark priorities of the national budget, and we shall continue to pay thousands of shekels a month for free education.

One might ask whether pumping money into schools or higher education is economically rewarding - in that it contributes to economic growth - and, as such, if it would be justified to use budget surpluses to this end, rather than to reduce our national debt. But that would take a leader with vision, and vision is sorely lacking in our parts. Therefore, when our politicians take oaths during the 60th Independence Day celebrations on behalf of the children, it will not only be pointless - it will be condescending.