Who's to blame?
Sir, - Why are we trying to find a scapegoat for the long-term neglect of the education system ("Tamir under pressure as pupils' test scores discouraging," November 29)? We are all to blame.
We sat back as severe cuts were made to the education budget year by year, reducing salaries to the extent that now very few people would choose a teaching career. We allowed classes to grow to unareasonable sizes and we saved on development, renewals and long-term projects. Now are trying to solve a strike without genuinely investing to set things straight.
Our behavior is like the parable of the horse owner who fed his animal less and less each day, eventually causing the horse to die - to the bewilderment of the owner. Let's not try to find a scapegoat. There is no cheap way to solve the problem.
Not every budgetary decision can be based solely on the country's economic rating.
Sir, - As someone who taught for one year in an Israeli school, I understand the strike and support it fully. The reality of a proposed salary increase of 26% is almost laughable for a new teacher (as it would still keep him/her well below the national average wage), and the new proposal, an 8.5% increase in exchange for a 12.5% increase in work, is insulting to our already severely underpaid teachers ("Teachers scuffle with police during demonstration at Nat'l Labor Court," November 30). Yet most readers are not so intimately acquainted with the realities of teacher salaries, and it would be helpful if the article provided two real figures, in addition to percentages: 1) The increase in salary for a first-year teacher with a BA and a teaching certificate and 2) The increase in salary for a 15-year veteran teacher with an MA and a teaching certificate. This would help readers understand why the SSTO should not budge until an offer is made that can put bread on the table.
And what's to be done?
Sir, - Much can be done to improve Israel's educational system, but I am quite surprised at The Jerusalem Post's repeated support for greater school principal authority and the call for implementation of the "praiseworthy" Dovrat plan and its "business-like managerial logic and accountability" ("Failing schools," December 2).
Cannot The Jerusalem Post find experts who can explain what is wrong with the amateurish Dovrat Reform? Schools should not be redesigned into factories, but strengthened as professional institutions where teachers are measured by their motivated success and not by the hours they put in - as the proposed time clocks would do.
Indeed, good principals are essential to improved education. But a bad principal is a disaster to a school. Under the Dovrat proposal, school principals would become political hacks, as they would be appointed by local authorities with no need for serious pedagogical qualifications.
The Finance Ministry's various reforms aim at maintaining the existing starvation budget for education. They are ready to pay teachers more, but this would be matched by a reduced number of teachers so as to maintain the same budget allocations.
Isn't it time for the Post to provide its readers with an informed discussion of educational improvement instead of a simplified version of the operation of educational systems?
PROF. ALBERT I. GOLDBERG
Technion - Israel Institute of Technology
Accountability and results
Sir, - The US Congress can play a role in encouraging the success of Annapolis and its aftermath. The pro-peace letter led by Congressmen Gary Ackerman and Charles Boustany is one example. On the other hand, the Ros-Lehtinen - Berkley approach ("Breaking from the past, November 15) to isolate the Palestinians threatens to undermine a historic opportunity before giving it a chance to arise. The openings provided by the Arab Peace Initiative and actions by the PA show that improvements on the ground can take place.
Palestinians are meeting their road map requirements. It is true that we need a process that emphasizes accountability and results.
However, this monitoring needs to be happening on both sides. The PA cannot overcome all its challenges alone. Israel, the United States and the international community must help facilitate a flexible environment that allows the PA to extend its rule. If this last-minute diplomatic surge in Middle East peace fails, the cost to Palestinian, Israeli and American interests will be far greater than anything we could ever imagine now.
Head of the PLO Mission to the United States
Sir, - "Apartheid, not peace" (November 30) was another brilliant, if terribly disheartening, analysis by Caroline Glick. Despite the very strong mutual ties between the Diaspora and Israel, until now, ultimate decisions on security matters could only be made by Israel. Now, however, the Olmert government has essentially given that veto power to the US administration. In so doing, Olmert has also passed the baton to American Jewry, which must now exert itself to ensure that pressure for unwise concessions is not placed on Israel pursuant to US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's bizarre obsession with establishing what would inevitably be a dystopian Palestinian state.
RICHARD D. WILKINS
Syracuse, New York
Know the risks
Sir, - "Walk away from cancer" (December 2) was an excellent example of how one can maintain a high quality of life while battling cancer. Diet and exercise are always valuable. Also important is knowing your genetic risks. A woman with early breast cancer in her family or many relatives with breast or ovarian cancer may want to consider getting a genetic test for BRCA1 and BRCA2. The incidence of having this mutation is 10 times higher for Ashkenazi Jews. There are high-risk clinics at Tel Hashomer and Shaare Zedek hospitals that can help prevent cancer in the first place.
DEBRA NUSSBAUM STEPEN
Drive death down
Sir, - Gravely distressing is the news that a newly licensed motorist killed himself and a 17-year-old passenger in a reckless driving spree just outside Haifa ("6 killed over weekend in collisions," December 2). Wild young animals should never be given control of a lethal contraption like an automobile. That the government, egged on by the heads of the automobile industry, permits this situation to occur is an unforgivable indictment of our society. If our leaders have any sense of national responsibility, they will immediately raise the minimum driving age to 25 years.
Sir, - The conference in Annapolis has already impacted life here. A daily visitor to Jerusalem's Central Bus Station used November 28 as an opportunity to share his birthday with scores of individuals, both young and old. He was decked out in new white sneakers, which he purchased to mark his 87th birthday. Giving candy to all who would take it, he announced proudly: "This is my paz birthday - 75 years of which were spent here in Jerusalem. With all my accumulated wisdom - Olmert and Abbas, you should know - let the two peoples make peace and then the leaders will follow. Big boys, hope you are listening."
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