Education or “Reality”?

Last week, the following letter made headline news in Israel:

Michal ZolerThe letter was written by Michal Zoler, a senior high school student, who wrote it during a school exam in Hebrew Literature. The letter opens like this: “I’m not going to do this test, but I am going to write to you why, and I have an hour and a half to do this”. She then goes on to criticize the education system: why should she be tested the same identical tests to those of her friends if she is so different from them? Why are teachers concerned only with covering the materials, and not with inspiring students to love literature? Why do schools dictate and kids regurgitate, instead of dealing in proper learning?

Not only did the letter make the news, with overwhelmingly positive coverage for Michal’s courage and insights. Mr. Shai Piron, the Education Minister himself (no less!), called Michal personally to discuss the letter, promising to make changes in the education system and inviting her to take part in defining these changes. He also had the letter circulated to all Education Ministry employees by email.

I’m sorry to say I find it hard to join in this festival of praise for this seemingly bright young woman. It seems the Education Minister did not pause to read the letter properly and understand Michal’s real motivations, preferring instead to jump on the media hyperbole bandwagon and do the seemingly politically correct thing. I don’t have any expectations from the media, but I did have some expectations from Mr. Piron.

Michal herself writes: “Truth is, the main reason for me not sitting this exam is that I don’t remember the material. I forget most of the things I learn in school, unless they interest me… Unfortunately, literature does not interest me, does not excite me and it is not something I plan to deal with in my adult life”.

Perhaps Mr. Piron could have used his valuable time on the phone with Michal to explain to her the values of learning literature and why school is not a place where one learns only what is interesting and exciting. I agree that if Michal reached her senior year in high school thinking that school is a place to learn only what is individually interesting to her, that the school system has failed. But it is on this point that the Mr. Piron should have dwelt, instead of praising Michal for what is evidently just another case of a student that can’t be bothered.

The hug from the media, and more importantly the hug from Mr. Piron, have unfortunately taught Michal nothing positive. These hugs seem to be an extension of the “reality” world we live in (particularly the young generation), where superficial appearances take precedence over real content. It is regrettable Mr. Piron was not wise enough to seize this opportunity and use it for proper learning.

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