Last week, a warning bell was sounded in our lives. I am talking about the terrible and intolerable murder of a 13-year-old girl, Tair Rada, at her school, a place we assumed up until this week at least was safe for our children (as the incident is still under investigation, I am only referring to the fact it happened and do not blame anyone for it.)
Regardless of how different our worldviews regarding education may be, I know that many parents feel discomfort over the education provided to their children. Some complain about the school itself, the curriculum, the level of teachers, the social environment, and about other parents.
Parents relate stories about violent children, parties where property is damaged, low level of knowledge, exposure to improper movies and inferior TV shows, and a lack of discipline and manners.
Teachers complain of a heavy atmosphere where at times they are scared to walk into classes, recklessness that is becoming worse, difficulties in teaching the material and assigning tasks, students who don't listen, and a lack of knowledge. The students themselves tell of severe incidents. At times it is hard to believe this is how things are.
It is clear that anger, concern, and resentment will not make things better, but the fact is we see disquiet and dissatisfaction, and as of last week we also have fear. I think that to many parents it is clear that the common denominator of this change is the absence of values, or their slow disappearance from our lives and from the education system at all levels.
When I talk about education, I am talking about it as a whole, ranging from manners and relationships between people to national and social values. I am talking about the tone of voice when speaking, the inability to listen, the rude interruptions when others speak, and the lack of tolerance and inability to engage in a debate through quiet disagreement as opposed to yelling.
I am talking about the conduct within the school, the wild "raid" on convenience stores during breaks, violence while waiting in line, and the demanding tone of the loud requests. The culture of "I feel like it…"
I am talking about the selfishness that has turned into a leading force in social behavior, and its social manifestation is "I say and do as I please." There is no burden of proof when it comes to knowledge, no obligation to consider and respect others' views, and no obligation to seek the truth.
We reconciled ourselves too easily to low-level slang and many are concerned about the level of Hebrew and the meager verbal abilities teachers complain about, particularly at universities meant to deal with specializations yet having to address inferior writing and analysis abilities.
A step back needed
Another question is bothersome: Why is it that in this age of permissiveness of all times, when everything is acceptable, accessible and possible, the different types of violence are on the rise? To me, the answer is clear: Because we went too far in splitting and separating.
To some extent we need to take a step back, to the values that connected us to each other and to this country. I am not talking about returning to the nostalgia of "the good old days," but rather, to going back to the basic values that accompanied us at the outset of our life here in the country and created different relationships between us and others. Values that nurtured respect for the language, the sanctity of life and human dignity.
From childhood they taught us Zionism, to love our country, and good manners. Nobody feared indoctrination because on this moral path we were also given the accompanying tools: The ability to appreciate without sanctifying, the ability to reject without insulting, and the ability to cope without evading. The fact is we grew up to be independent and different.
The arguments between us existed back then too (as a Jerusalemite child I remember the force of political debates,) yet they did not disturb us in assuming the burden together, living together while respecting the other, and also respecting our history and Jewish tradition.
Volunteering to a combat unit is no longer fashionable? We must bring back the old fashion! It's a vital matter for us. Being Zionist is no longer "In"? We'll redefine what keeps us alive and what eroded our existence. These are fundamental missions for the education system. Yet we should not be blaming the education system alone.
'We' also exists
All of us know that the value of classes is marginal compared to the contribution made by the home, the social environment, and friends. We must examine ourselves and aspire to an overall change where we would need to invest efforts not only in seeing things differently, but rather, in constantly addressing a revolution in the way we think, according to which not only the "I" governs our lives, but the "We" also exists.
The absolute satisfaction of individual needs is not the only "banner, but rather, also the individuals themselves, who function in a whole social system. This does not contradict, by the way, one's self-fulfillment.
This was always the worldview espoused by Judaism, which gave the world the values of individual freedom alongside overall responsibility to society, yet today this is being taught in other societies. In the United States, for example, children are educated to salute the flag and to patriotism while emphasizing self-fulfillment. It is proper that we bring those values back in their country of origin, the Land of Israel.
I know this is not a simple matter, but I also know we have done quite a few things that were "not simple" in our lives in the past, and we have the ability and strength to introduce renewed, genuine moral substance in our lives today too.
Knesset Member Benjamin Netanyahu is Likud and opposition chairman