The Kibbutzim College for education and Technology will hold an emergency conference on Thursday for 100 teachers who claim that the expected curriculum changes could endanger Israeli democracy.
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The planned conference has led a different group of teachers who claim that their "concerned" colleagues don't have a monopoly on civics classes, to plan a counter-protest. They believe the Education Ministry should be congratulated for acting to strengthen the national and Zionist foundations, foundations that until recently, received less than their deserved value in civics classes.
The storm and rift between the teachers are due to recent statements made by the Chairman of the Education Ministry's Pedagogical Secretariat Dr. Zvi Zameret who claimed that patriotism and Zionism studies should be a more significant component in civics classes – at the expense of democracy studies.
A petition signed by 70 high school civics teachers from around the country stated: "We the civics teachers believe that civics education in Israel should include national and patriotic studies together with democracy studies and education to civic involvement.
'Youngsters alienated'"We feel that many youngsters feel alienated from democratic values which we believe came into being as a reaction to the view that sanctifies the individual; and his rights at any cost, without any connection to the level of contribution and loyalty to State, and national and religious heritage."
Yossi Londin the civics teacher behind the petition explains: "We represent a very large segment of teachers who believe that the existing curriculum affords a significant emphasis on liberal and democratic values at the expense of national and Jewish issues.
"It is our opinion that it is time to make a change in the 'dosage' – increasing the place patriotism and national identity have in the curriculum out of the understanding that democratic in regimes state interest often overpowers individual rights."
Ronit Bloom a civics teacher and one of the organizers of Thursday's emergency conference claims that she and her friends see the Education Ministry's intentions as a great danger to democracy. "We are not against Judaism and Zionism rather we are for democracy," she stresses.
No change"Zionism is a subject studied within the framework of history and heritage classes and our concern is that if the volume of Zionism studies is increased in civics classes then we may be raising a generation of students who might be great Zionists – but do not know what democracy is and so on no account must the curriculum be changed."
In spite of the civics teachers' battle, Professor Asher Cohen, the Chairman of the Education Ministry's civics panel which is responsible for the curriculum, noted last week that the panel recently approved the curriculum and that "there is no change in the hours or the curriculum and no that not only have democracy studies not been decreased, the issue will be expanded in the next year."
Moreover, a letter recently written by Dr. Shimshon Shoshani Director General of the Education Ministry on the matter states: "I ask to emphasize the education minister's commitment and the ministry's commitment to civics studies.
"The Ministry of Education's position, which includes the Chairman of the Pedagogical Secretariat is not to marginalize civics. Dr. Zameret has a certain position on the issue of civics studies.
"It isn't necessarily identical with the minister's position and my own. Civics is a core subject studied in every sector of the population and taken as a required Bagrut exam. That is how it was in the past and how it will be in the future."
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