FURTHER UPDATE: (10:15am November 16, 2017)
I have posted a follow up to the original post that can be seen here.
UPDATE: (8:00am,November 16, 2017) Before posting this blogpost, attempts were made to contact the author/editor. After no replies were received, I the wrote this piece. I have since heard from the author and there is certainly reason to believe that what I was given, and the pictures I posted, were out of context and indeed they led to a story containing a proper message for children. While I may take issue with certain wording, it seems that this has been taken out of context.
As soon as I clarify this, I will make a new post.
What would you do if you heard that Israel’s Ministry of Education was promoting racism against Jews and downgrading the value of the lives of Arabs? I assume the answer would be to fight and demand that people be treated fairly; that racism be rejected rather than promoted, and that terrorism of any sort be identified and condemned, rather than justified. Our most vulnerable population is our youth. They have open minds, that we are tasked with filling. And what we don’t want to fill them with – is racism, hatred, and/or the promotion or justification of terrorism.
So, when I saw a copy of a few pages out of a school book being used to teach English to Hebrew speakers that indeed promoted racism against Arabs, was filled with fear-mongering and also gave voice to justifying terror, well, to say I was shocked is a gross understatement.
Look at the first picture and read the text:
Everyone is happy. Everyone is happy, but not Kokum.
Kokum is angry. Kokum is a terrorist.
Kokum is bad.
Kokum wants to kill the Jews. (Reprinted from Fun with Four)
Notice a few things in the setup for this English lesson: The Jews are busy getting ready for the holiday and they are all HAPPY. But, a guy named Kokum (no such name in Arabic, I checked, but who in their right mind does not understand that this is supposed to be an Arab??) is ANGRY, he is a TERRORIST and he is BAD.
While of course any terrorist is bad, let’s understand what the children are being taught with just these few words. Terror has a reason–it is ANGER. If my next door neighbor is angry, does that mean he is a terrorist? If my teacher yells and gets angry, is he a terrorist? In addition, not all bad people are Arab terrorists. There are many angry people who do bad things that are not terrorists.
And in this story, what is the result of Kokum’s anger? He goes to a synagogue. Why? Because, the book tells you, he wants to KILL JEWS.
At this point in the book, there seems to be very little difference between the racism in this story line than to the racism in the story line in Arab school books, where Jews are sometimes portrayed as baby killers.
But wait, there’s more! Take a look at the next part of the lesson:
Kokum the terrorist is near the Beit Knesset.
He is standing behind the window.
He wants to kill the Jews.
The mothers and the girls are in the Beit Knesset.
The fathers and the boys are in the Beit Knesset.
(Reprinted from Fun with Four)
Kokum wants to kill Jews. He is angry. So, now a child is going to go to a Beit Knesset for Megilla reading and peer over his shoulder all during the reading because mean and ANGRY Kokum may come and kill him!
Israel, as a society, has made our voices loud and clear that the incitement found in the Arab school books is unacceptable and that Misrad Hachinuch ought to step in and do something about it.
That would be the perfect step to be taken here as well, but that presents one little problem. Take a look at who indeed approved the publication of the book:
Approved by the Ministry of Education and Culture
Yes, you read right! The Misrad Hachinuch, the Ministry of Education APPROVED this book!
There are five action items that must come out of this post.
- The Ministry of Education must demand the removal of the book from all schools, effective immediately.
- All schools using this book must have a talk with the students about this particular story and right the many wrongs that are perpetuated by it.
- The author and publishers should remove any copies from circulation and to agree not to print or distribute any more copies.
- Parents should check their child’s school books and see if the book “Fun with Four” is being used by their teacher. If it is, demand it be removed from the school.
And finally, the publishers themselves have, what appear to be, a legal problem. As you can see in the third picture above, the publishers made a statement in the cover page of the book:
I want to make one last clarification. In writing this, I am writing against the ideas and subtext in the book/story. I am in no way impugning the author’s ability to write. One should “attack” an idea without attacking a person.
(I have been teaching in the Israel school system for a number of years, mostly teaching English. While the issue with this book is certainly a serious problem, it in no way reflects the rest of the textbooks being used in other classes and schools. I have found the English textbooks in use to be quite well done and user-friendly.)