Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Fighting The Education Ministry

Like burnt toast, I'm a burnt out EFL English teacher. I only taught English for eleven years here in Israel, but even before working in the field, I never liked the methods, more madness, of The Ministry of Education.

Recently, the Israeli Ministry of Education decided to reintroduce literature in its bagrut high school testing. It invited teachers to recommend books and many recommended Grains of Sand, written by the impressively precocious Shifra Shomron. This book is historical fiction about a typical family from Gush Katif.

It's a well-accepted fact that it's always easier to understand a foreign language if you are familiar with the material, especially if you can relate to it personally. Considering that thousands of Israeli high school youth either experienced Disengagement or relate to it personally, Grains of Sand: The Fall of Neve Dekalim is certainly a book they would enjoy, even in a foreign language.

But the Israeli Government employees are notoriously Left wing and the book was rejected without even reading it. After the Jerusalem Post queried that rejection, the book was reinstated as a "possibility."

It certainly pays to publicize unfair government practices.


Keli Ata said...

Book banning:( Not a good sign. Personally, I view crack downs on freedom of expression and thought (as in reading books of one's choice) as a bad sign that other freedoms will be taken away.

I hope people are writing letters to the editor and calling this book banning. Such censorship is just wrong.

Keli Ata said...

I don't know, I could be wrong but it definitely seems like an attempt by the Education Ministry to revise/redact history.

That's what the Palestinians are doing, too. I hope someone points that out.

Sara Layah said...

I agree with you Keli Ata - this does seem to be a form of censorship violating Israel's basic law; Freedom of Expression.

Is this the manner by which educational decisions for the children of the State of Israel is being decided? I wonder what other materials this ministry employee (or others) felt empowered to discard - without first taking it to a committee?

rickismom said...

The education ministry is like a monster that does only what IT wants! TRY and get them to change their minds! It took us TWO supreme court cases to get them to implement inclusion, even though it was the "law"......

Batya said...

Write your letters to the editor, talkback etc and spread the word.

Keli Ata said...

Oh, I definitely will:)

Many people confuse editorial policies with frank censorship.

What the Education Ministry is doing is the textbook definition of government censorship. The Committee to Protect Journalists defines censorship, in part, as being officially banned by the government.

As long as the book in question is age appropriate it should permitted.

Batya said...

so true, and it's perfectly age appropriate

avi tsur said...

Teacher's were requested to recommend short stories etc. and choices were made according to what was submitted. NO BOOK or short story was rejected because it was based on GUSH KATIF etc. I personally visited the Gush many times and know (first hand - unlike many or all of those commenting here) that the Ministry and especially the English sector plays fair in its decisions. This for me is a gossip corner, based on your feelings of mistrust, hurt, and personal bitterness. Worst of all - you are misleading the public on matters you are certainly unfamiliar about. PLEASE get your facts right before you write or respond!!!

Batya said...

Avi, you are probably a better English teacher than I ever was, but on this issue, you don't know the facts.

Ms. Sara Shomron was informed in writing by the Ministry of Education that the book was banned from the possiblity list. Abe Selig of the Jerusalem Post checked it out, and not only was it confirmed, the ministry then declared its ban a mistake.

And by the way, Avi, you have a punctuation error in your comment.

Check your facts before attacking me, please.

Anonymous said...

Of all the books available, one must believe that a more suitable choice can be found to address the same needs, especially taking into account that we live in a diverse society of which at least some third would find the book inappropriate carrying a clear political say. I strongly believe this specific book should not be authorized.

Batya said...

a, did you read the book?

It'a more a "coming of age" book about how a teenage girl deals with stress as she and her family are about to have their home taken away.

Hadassa said...

Anonymous, are you aware that there is an official Gush Katif Day in the Israeli school system? The Ministry of Education established it on the day that Netzer Hazani, the first civilian community in Gush Katif was founded. If the history of Gush Katif is being taught, why not include material from someone who lived there? No-one is suggesting that this be the only viewpoint taught.

Batya said...

Hadassa, No doubt those who oppose the book haven't read it.

Sara Layah said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sara Layah said...

Hi All,
I am pleased to announce that the Literature Study Guide for Grains Of Sand:The Fall Of Neve Dekalim is now available in PDF and reproducible for educational purposes. The study guide is appropriate for native English-speakers as well as EFL, grades 7-12.

You are invited to downloaded the study guide on the Publisher's website: http://mazopublishers.com/study-guide-grains-of-sand.pdf
or the website of the book's author: http://grainsofsand.insightonthenews.net/studyguide.html

The literature study guide includes challenging and exciting lessons, discussion topics, chapter questions, comprehension exercises, research project ideas, and classroom activities.

Hadassa said...

Mazal tov on the literature study guide! I hope many readers take a look at it and select the items that fit their study plans. There's definitely something to suit everyone.