Rattling the Cage: Child abuse

This country cannot guarantee the most basic, minimal schooling to its young.

October 24, 2007 22:05
4 minute read.
larry derfner 88

larry derfner 88. (photo credit: )


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I look at my 12-year-old son sitting on the couch in the morning watching TV, and I wonder. The school strike is in its third week, and there's no reason to doubt the warnings and predictions that it will go on for months. But in effect, my kid hasn't been to school since June. First there was the two-month summer vacation, then, as soon as everybody went back to class, there was the hellish, wasted month of holidays when the teachers didn't bother to give the kids any serious work, and then, as soon as they dragged themselves back from the holidays, the strike began. No one knows when it's going to end. The Education Ministry's promise of an "alternative framework" if the strike persisted turned out to be nothing but gas. My boy is 12 years old and he can't get an education. This country cannot guarantee the most basic, minimal schooling to its young. And nobody except the parents of junior high and high school students seems to care. Writing this column yesterday, I checked Yediot Aharonot, the "newspaper of the nation," to see what page the latest news of the school strike was on. It wasn't on any page. It's become a non-story. So when I see my boy watching TV in the morning, what I wonder is this: He gets so mistreated in this country, he doesn't receive the most basic thing the country owes him - a grade-school education - but the country expects him to go into the army for three years? I don't want to get ahead of myself. My boy's got six more years of school until the army comes calling; if this strike is a one-time thing, I'll forget about it, and while I won't be at all happy about seeing him become a soldier, I will accept it as his duty. But if open-ended school strikes become the norm in Israel, if my boy cannot get the most fundamental education out of this country, then forget it - I won't be able to bear the idea of letting him risk his life for this society. I won't be able to stand seeing him get cheated so badly. But what am I saying? If public school continues to be an off-and-on thing in Israel, I'm not going to be able to bear the idea of raising him and his younger brother here at all, let alone sending them to the army. If I'm any kind of father, I'll get them out of here. This country doesn't seem to understand the importance that parents place on educating their children. This country doesn't understand that as far as parents are concerned, a place that can't provide their children an education is a place where they shouldn't live. AM I going too far? What do you think junior high and high school parents are going to be thinking if this strike continues with no end on the horizon? How much longer before the whole school year is shot, if it hasn't been shot already? I look at my 12-year-old losing his education, but I can only imagine what's going through the minds of parents of 17-year-olds who may not graduate this year. They're supposed to just accept it that next year their poor, ripped-off kids are going to get drafted? As a father, I couldn't take that. No way. If this country tells me I can either be a good Israeli or a good parent, but not both, I will choose good parent without hesitation. But you say Israel isn't the only country with public school strikes? I don't think nationwide teacher's strikes like this one are known to many countries, and if they are, those countries, or certainly the middle-class democracies among them, do not demand of their 18-year-olds what Israel demands. This country owes its youth a lot more than other countries do. Or maybe you say that the teacher's union alone is to blame for the strike, not the government, not society as a whole? I don't know enough about this particular labor dispute to decide which side is right and which is wrong. But I do know, like I think everybody knows, that Israeli public schools have been deteriorating in recent years. The school days are getting shorter and the classes are getting more crowded. Three days a week, my 12-year-old comes home at 11:45 a.m., and the other three days aren't much better. There are 35 kids in his class. (My mistake - I meant to use the past tense.) But the worst part of this is that the schools have been deteriorating just as Israel has turned into a truly prosperous country. The economy keeps growing, while the public schools keep getting worse. Israelis live First World lives as consumers, but the education they give their children is second-rate, as seen in one standard international test after another. And now there's no school at all. I'd like to think this will be the last monster strike by teachers, but strikes, like wars, have a way of reoccurring in this country. This must be why the Jews needed a state of their own: To be free to produce Jewish ignoramuses.

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