Israel’s Education Minister Naftali Bennett, above, last week stressed the importance of Jewish studies over secular subjects.
He was quoted here as saying:
Learning about Judaism and excellence in the subject is more important in my eyes than mathematics and the sciences – and it is hard for me to say that.
His comments came months after controversy erupted over a government decision to drop its demand that ultra-Orthodox schools teach science, math and other core subjects in order to receive increased state funding.
Bennett had originally pushed against dropping the core subjects, but later bowed to coalition pressures.
Even though [Israel] is a high-tech superpower, an exporter of knowledge and innovation to the world, we must [also] be a spiritual superpower and export spiritual knowledge to the world. This is the next chapter of our Zionist vision.
In this way we will return to be a light to the nations. ‘For out of Zion shall go forth Torah and the word of God from Jerusalem’.
We are Jews … We must also be the people of the Bible.
But on Facebook, MK Elazar Stern (Zionist Union) chided Bennett for putting one before the other. Both are vital, he maintained.
There’s no preferential order – Jewish studies without math won’t be able to strengthen the Jewish state. And mathematics without Judaism (in its many forms) will send our mathematicians and scientists to Silicon Valley or Berlin.
Last month the Knesset rolled back a law that aimed to promote broader education by reducing funding to schools that did not teach core subjects. Bennett had initially supported the law, which was submitted by the Yesh Atid party and would have cut funding for ultra-Orthodox schools that do not devote a minimum number of weekly hours to core secular subjects such as math, English, and science.
Meanwhile, it is reported here that a school in High Wycombe has apologised for handing out a question in a maths test which stated God intended all people to be straight.
Headmaster Philip Wayne said:
I’m sorry on behalf of the whole school community of governors, staff and boys for any offence this has caused.
He revealed that the question was set as part of an additional test to higher-level maths students by a former full-time teacher who retired “a long time ago”.
He continued to volunteer at the school and recently handed out the test before the question was spotted by some students.
First few boys to pick up the test, noticed the question concerned and referred it to staff. As soon as it was picked up it was quickly withdrawn from the department.
He [the school volunteer] will not be returning to RGS. Staff are expected to abide by the teachers standards if they’re on the payroll or not.
Wayne also pointed out:
Social media has done its work very quickly as you can imagine, and when it was brought to my attention and I dealt with it.
The school, which was founded in the 16th century, regularly features as one of the top boys’ grammar school across the country.
Last month it celebrated another strong set of GCSE and A-Level results, with teachers being praised for their hard work in helping students achieve top marks.
LGBT rights charity Stonewall has highlighted the importance of tackling discrimination within school, while praising RGS for dealing with concerns quickly.
Senior communications officer at Stonewall, Matt Horwood, said:
It’s encouraging to see that this incident was dealt with as soon as it was raised, but demonstrates how important it is for staff to be equipped to prevent and tackle LGBT discrimination in all of its forms.
All children should be able to experience school as an inclusive learning space, and should absolutely never feel ostracised or mistreated by either the language or materials used by teaching staff or volunteers.
Hat tip: BarrieJohn (Israel report)