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Passion, courage, savageness and dejection are just drops in a sea of the countless emotions surrounding World War II. They comprise the most riveting and repulsive, enthralling and disgusting dramas conceivable. Yet, what a shame that most students in history classes will only be sprinkled with a few drops of this sea of emotions, while its powerful waves leave them barely touched.
Many pupils devote a great deal of effort to taking dictated notes and writing pages upon pages of summaries in history classes, memorizing figures and names and dates and places, and then ultimately, if there is any room left in their skulls, to trying to understand the historical forces behind the facts. Yet there is a palpable feeling of disinterest, even dullness, in the classroom. The subject is gripping, but there is no real drive.
At my school, at least, where kids came with assiduousness and talent to boot, this was translated into traditionally mediocre grades in history. If you ask me, the drive that's missing is emotion. It would do a great deal of good if teachers could spark feelings in the pupils, if they would stimulate their imaginations.
In history classes, for instance, a charismatic teacher who could read the students Churchill's speeches, or thrilling descriptions of battles from novels, could achieve the inconceivable goal of actually tying the kids to the material, not just stuffing their minds with more and more information. Almost all teachers just stick to the conventional path, and are very far from being charismatic and gripping.
History lessons are a good example of the potential interest a subject could spark compared to the dullness with which it is usually conveyed in practice, but with some subjects the battle seems like a lost one from the word go, like in mathematics.
Numbers and symbols and functions are simply too intangible to truly grip students; 99% just want to get it over with. But, as I can attest, this doesn't have to be the case. I've had many math teachers in my life, most dull as a rock, but there was one exception. He went beyond the usual humdrum material, and spoke to us about the people behind it. He told us of mad and ingenious scientists, of intrigues, of a passion for math that seems unfathomable to most of us. Through these tales, he also enriched our mathematical knowledge. He actually tied math to normal life, telling us, among many things, about the Enigma code in World War II. He managed to give me, and others, the emotional drive so badly needed.
But my next math teacher was the embodiment of my nightmares. He just drilled in the material, in a monotonous, totally uncharismatic manner. Needless to say, I quickly lost any speck of interest, like most other students.
There are people out there who have the power to ignite keenness in pupils, who have the power to deviate from the path of conventionalism in order to gain more emotional momentum. But what it all comes down to - as happens so often in this day and age - is money. As Education Minister Yuli Tamir recently said, "Every day that passes by, the education system is breaking down. A few more years of cutting and turning a blind eye, and there will be no public education in Israel".
Tamir was obviously talking about technicalities - budgets and hours and so forth. But the important thing to realize is that cutting teachers' salaries shoves away from the profession many sensible people with quality and drive. Furthermore, those cuts not only repel potential teachers - they discourage current ones.
Teachers will not be able to provide kids with the emotional power and drive needed without feeling it themselves. The convention that the education budget can be left minuscule leads to dull conventionalism in classrooms.
Both governments and teachers have to step out of the box and realize the great power they have in their hands - to make us soar to thrilling new realms, or to make us plunge into an abyss of dullness and gloom.