Education Minister Shai Piron will appoint a committee in the coming days to examine the proper relationship between politics and education, according to a letter he penned to teachers and administrators on Sunday.
The committee will consist of professionals, social sciences scholars and senior officials from the ministry.
Piron wrote the letter in response to the recent affair involving Kiryat Tivon ORT high school’s civics teacher Adam Verta, who was threatened with dismissal following a student complaint that he expressed “extreme Left” views and “incitement against the IDF.”
The incident caused a media uproar and raised the question of the role of the teacher in the classroom – striking a balance between expressing inflammatory personal views on the one hand and freedom of speech on the other.
In the letter the education minister said unequivocally that “even if a teacher is wrong, there is no room for dismissal.”
“Not every forbidden expression should turn into an exciting stormy affair, but at the same time not every inquiry, alert or warning should immediately turn into a war of annihilation of freedom of expression and human rights,” wrote Piron.
According to the letter, there are fields of discussion where teachers must be “doubly careful” as they include “cultural explosives that we should not approach.” These fields include, insults to religion, faith or G-d; Holocaust denial as well as undermining the legitimacy of the IDF and its “existence as an army of the people that protects our existence and the right of Israel to exist.”
Piron said that teachers are allowed to criticize these fields and to comment on them, but as they belong to the “core existence” of the individual and the whole, teachers should therefore not challenge their “very centrality in our lives.”
With regards to the Kiryat Tivon teacher, Piron wrote “some of the statements made by Adam Verta were inappropriate; others were legitimate, even if they were not pleasant to my ears or to the ears of many in Israeli and other societies.”
The education minister continued to write that Verta’s comments “nevertheless deserve to be heard during citizenship or educator lessons, as part of a deep and appropriate educational framework that presents dilemmas and seeks to introduce the student to a range of opinions and stimulate a lively and open discussion.”
The ORT network decided it would not fire Verta for his comments, following a hearing last week in Tel Aviv.
Following discussions with ORT’s leadership, Piron wrote that the educational network had never intended to fire the civics teacher.
Piron concluded the letter by saying that “even this affair can and should be made into a lesson in education.”