Banning views won’t help development of students - opinion

Ethical understanding is critical so that young men and women can become ethical citizens within the modern world.

EDUCATION MINISTER Yoav Gallant speaks during a press conference in Tel Aviv in November. (photo credit: AVSHALOM SHOSHONI/FLASH90)
EDUCATION MINISTER Yoav Gallant speaks during a press conference in Tel Aviv in November.
Education Minister Yoav Gallant has declared that schools are not permitted to invite speakers of organizations THAT call Israel an “apartheid state.” The directive shows a detachment from the world, and more specifically, ignores some of the most important principles of education in the 21st century such as critical thinking, ethical understanding as well as information technology and communication.
One would be hard-pressed to find a national curriculum in the democratic, English speaking-world that does not include critical thinking as one of the foundation capabilities toward which it educates. According to the Australian Curriculum, “Critical thinking is at the core of most intellectual activity that involves students learning to recognize or develop an argument, use evidence in support of that argument, draw reasoned conclusions, and use information to solve problems.”
Our world is full of complex environmental, social and economic challenges, many of which have not been previously encountered. To develop critical thinking, schools first enable students to access information that is relevant and then help them develop the ability to use “skills, behaviors and dispositions such as reason, logic, resourcefulness, imagination and innovation in all learning areas at school and in their lives beyond school.”
Ethical understanding is critical so that young men and women can become ethical citizens within the modern world. The complexities of the world “require responses that take account of ethical considerations such as human rights and responsibilities, animal rights, environmental issues and global justice.”
Today’s world forces all of us to consider our values and choices. We are obliged to take a stand and often, take action. This cannot occur without an understanding of competing values, rights, interests and norms. We wish for our children to be informed, educated members of society capable of making ethical decisions based on all relevant and available information. Laying the foundations for ethical understanding is a crucial part of adolescence.
In our fast-moving, ever-changing world, we cannot know what future challenges our children will face and decisions they will need to make. The foundations for responsible choice-making need to be laid now so that future considerations and decisions will be based on sound ethical understanding.
Finally, and perhaps the most obvious reality of 21st-century education, is that our children must know how to access accurate information.
WE ALL KNOW that children today have access to almost everything at their fingertips. Furthermore, schools around the world teach children about the Internet and how to use it. In stages 1 and 2 (primary school) of the UK national curriculum, students are taught to “recognize common uses of information technology” as well as all manner of skills and competencies.
With these educational basics in mind, it is difficult to understand the minister’s directive. Schools in Israel are directed to prepare year 11 and 12 students for service in the IDF, something that is far more complex than simply choosing a unit in which to serve or increasing athletic ability. It is about analyzing the history of the IDF, the changing realities in which it serves as well, as the decisions – both ethical and practical – that soldiers might have to make.
It is about evaluating personal and social values and then making decisions with which both the individual and society will be able live. To do this, all sides of the equation need to be evaluated. The Education Ministry is the governing body of all children whose parents are citizens of this country. It goes without saying that within this group, there exists a myriad of opinions and values. It is not possible to hide those opinions with which we do not agree; on the contrary, it is counter-productive at best, and damaging at worse.
In fact, by banning certain groups from visiting schools, the directive shows a lack of understanding of teenagers and their ability to think critically. Questions raised by organizations such as B’tselem are constantly raised by students; it is far better to tackle the issues in an honest, open manner than hide a view which may frighten you.
Not doing so would be akin to asking schools to educate about relationships but banning discourse on sex.
On a personal note, having been raised in the UK, I chose to volunteer in the IDF, and I do not regret that choice. Moreover, I am proud to have served. I am the father of four wonderful children. My eldest is in his second of seven-and-a-half years of army service (his choice).
My second will enlist in September. I believe that all those who can serve, should serve. Without a strong army, Israel’s very existence would be at risk. However, I want our serving soldiers to be intellectually prepared in the best way possible. Banning views of the IDF which elicit rigorous and contentious discussion does not strengthen us; it weakens us, not only as an army but more importantly, as a society.
The author is a principal at Ankori High School, Tel Aviv.