The Secular Forum

Secular Public Education

The Ministry of Education has cut down many critical subjects in recent years: democratic, humanistic and liberal values are hardly taught anymore. The exact sciences and the humanities are taught insufficiently. The culture and art subjects have been pushed aside. Philosophy, economics and foreign languages are only taught on rare occasions.

On the other hand, in recent years the Ministry of Education has been systematically increasing the volume of Jewish content by adding subjects that did not exist previously such as Israeli Heritage, Israeli Culture and Bar Mitzvah prep classes. These are cover names for religious studies.

Other than that, the traditional subjects such as Bible was preserved and enhanced, and emphasis on Jewish only subjects is given in History and Literature classes. Due to the lack of interest and ability of teachers to teach these subjects, they are often taught by representatives of private religious organizations. According to these "teachers" (national service volunteers, Yeshiva students and other religious figures), Judaism is a uniform orthodox religion, where some people are enlightened, and some need guidance.

Neglecting the secular subjects and enhancing the Jewish religious subjects will lead our children to find their way in the synagogue, but will lack the tools that will open them to the global world.

We demand to stop the radicalization of the secular education system and insist that it will reflect the broad body of knowledge offered by secularism. We demand the creation of a public secular education system that would be able to defend itself from the current radicalization tendencies.

Religious radicalization

The Ministry of Education, currently being controlled by religious nationalist elements, is doing everything in its power to promote religious radicalization by:

  • Imposing new curriculum
  • Giving incentives to principals who implement extra-curricular activities
  • Rewriting textbooks and adjusting them in the spirit of the radicalization
  • Encouraging private religious organizations to penetrate the public education system and teach the new curricula

Principles of the Secular Movement

In the last decade, we have been witnessing the rise of religious and nationalistic elements within the State of Israel. These elements operate vigorously in the public education system, which is currently undergoing an aggressive religious radicalization to the detriment of our democratic society.

The Ministry of Education is expanding the scope of religious-nationalist content being taught by private organizations, who advocate teaching Judaism in an excluding, aggressive and reclusive manner. At the same time, subjects and classes advocating an open secular ideology (democratic studies, critical thought, science, arts and philosophy) are being pushed aside or entirely removed from the curriculum. The atmosphere in the education system has become authoritarian and intolerant. Expressions of secularism and attempts to nurture universal values and critical thinking are oppressed in different ways, both openly as well as secretly. The declared agenda of this process is to change the character of the future generation of the country.

This change is being made in the education system that represents the secular public. This public seeks to educate its children in the spirit of a broad set of secular values. This leads to a built-in conflict between what is being taught at the schools and the values of the parents. The public religious education system and its values are protected by law. However, the ordinary public education system is not defined as secular and its values are not protected.

Under these circumstances, we believe that minor adjustments in the public education system will not be sufficient (not to mention that changes made by one minister are often overturned by the next one). Specific struggles against a novel disqualified from the curriculum or a tainted study book, etc. will not be enough. It has become necessary to create an autonomous education system based on secular culture, values and thought. We demand the creation of a secular public education system that would defend itself from the widespread religious radicalization of the Israeli society and education system. We believe that this is the only way to create an enlightened secular generation capable of critical thinking. This new generation will enjoy the highest levels of education, will know how to stand up for its rights and values and will promote the State of Israel in the spirit of the founders of secular Zionism.

These will be the principles of the secular public education system:

  • Education for democracy and humanism;
  • Promoting receptiveness and openness to the world;
  • Creating a secular educational atmosphere that is pluralistic, inquisitive and a proponent of culture and knowledge;
  • Encouraging self-expression, critical thought and creativity in the arts, humanities and science;
  • Nurturing a sense of secular community and social responsibility;
  • Arresting the religious radicalization of the public education system while nurturing the Hebrew culture and its Jewish humanistic roots.