From my column on Ynet: “What Is Important For Our Children at School?”
If we don’t want to wake up one morning and discover that we have lost a whole generation, we have to change the education system that prepares our children for life as soon as possible. But while all the surveys indicate the need for urgent change the Ministry of Education is focused on conveying knowledge and on grades only. What is the solution?
If you were one of the decision makers in the country, which public service would you improve first? The medical care services, the National Security institute, the courts, or the education system? Hundreds of Israelis answered this question in a poll conducted by the Central Bureau of Statistics and the results were published this week.
If you are the excited parents of children who are starting a new school year this week, you probably know the answer to this question. More than 30% of the public believe that the Israeli education system needs improvement: 48% of the parents in Israel are disappointed with the way it operates; 60% look for alternatives, and 81% of the parents complain that the education system doesn’t prepare the children for adult life in the 21st century.
The customer is always right, and in this case it is the parents. What tools to manage in society will our children have after 12 years of school? What values will they learn in school? Racism is growing, the division in the nation is widening, and the discourse in social networks is becoming more violent. Who is preparing our children to cope with these real problems and many more?
Parents, do you care?
This week school will once again become the central institution that influences your child’s life and future. The public education system was established as the 19th century industrial revolution accelerated with the intention of training many workers for the assembly lines. It has not changed much since then… It thus turns out that the main focus is on teaching professional skills that will serve the economic system better and will help it develop. As long as schools continue to be a factory for producing good and competitive citizens and the achievement test is the only criterion for measuring success, there is no point sending our children to school.
The school system should first focus on teaching values and not information. Improving the core subjects and increasing the number of students who take five point English and math final exams (the highest level) and rewriting phrases in social studies is important, but this is the role of the Ministry of Information and not of the Ministry of Education.
In the meantime, there is a sharp decline in the number of youth that want to serve in the army. Many young people think about leaving the country and we are becoming increasingly more indifferent to one another every day. In a state that is coping with a national problem called unfounded hatred, the seeds of which were planted with the destruction of the Temple, we have to take action and teach the national idea of “love thy friend as thyself.”
“The one concerned with days, plants wheat; with years, plants trees; with generations, educates people” (Janusz Korczak). Every parent worries about the future of his children and does his best so that they will learn to keep the family relations between them. This is how we together should also worry about the future of the next generation. We should encourage the improvement of interpersonal relations so that we can discover the power of unity and the wellness and security it offers, not as a result of the false spirit of mutual guarantee which emerges at times of trouble. “Our only hope is to profoundly rearrange the education of our children, to discover and to reignite the natural love that is flickering in us and to revive the national muscles in us which have been inactive for two thousand years” (The Writings of Baal HaSulam).
A Lesson in Connection
If we don’t want to wake up one morning and discover that we have lost a whole generation, I suggest that we start the school day as Baal HaSulam says in his article, with at least one hour of consolidating unity activity. We mustn’t miss the moment; we have to sit on the school bench again. “We, the nation should lead to an interaction that will create a micro society among the students in which everyone cares about everyone else like a small family. This will prepare the children to establish a warm friendly connection on top of all the tension and the natural conflicts among them, and bring out all the creativity and potential in them. (“Education doesn’t create anything new but brings out what is already in a person” Rav Kook).
During the “connection hour,” the teachers will provide the basic tools for building a strong and healthy connection between the students, bring examples of positive mutual dependence and consideration, and will guide the students in how to better cope with the global world, which affects every aspect of our life. The children will sit in a circle in which everyone is equal and can see and hear each other, not behind desks arranged in a row. Everyone will learn to listen to each other without imposing their opinion until they reach a general understanding. Gradually they will learn to overcome their egoistic nature, and finally they will feel a partnership, connection, and love as it is written: “love will cover all our transgressions.”
A Teacher forLife
The teacher will also be part of the circle and will sit with the children and talk with them on the same level. He will replace his authority and superiority with the art of asking leading questions that help the children discover the information by themselves by communicating and speaking among them. This is how information is assimilated in a much more meaningful, qualitative manner.
A child who grows up in an environment that measures his success according to his consideration of others and according to his contribution to the whole society is guaranteed to flourish and to be educated. As an adult he will undoubtedly face life with a much wider perspective of the world and with a feeling of responsibility and care regarding the building of a considerate egalitarian society, just like the environment he grew up in.
“It is a shame to admit” says Baal HaSulam in the same article that “one of the most precious and important qualities which we have lost during our time in exile, is our national awareness, which means the natural feeling that connects and sustains every nation. It is because the strings of love that tie the Israeli nation together have deteriorated and have been cut from our hearts and are lost and gone.” Our nation has a great wisdom of connection, an ideology that has been established for generations. All we have to do is to implement the method of connection that is rooted in the love of mercy of Abraham among our dear children. It isn’t a dream, in is right here in the relations between us.
From Ynet article 8/31/16