Education, Empowerment, and Control: The Case of the Arabs in Israel

By Farah, Mounir | The Middle East Journal, Autumn 1999 | Go to article overview

Education, Empowerment, and Control: The Case of the Arabs in Israel


Farah, Mounir, The Middle East Journal


Education, Empowerment, and Control: The Case of the Arabs in Israel, by Majid AI-Haj. Albany, NY, SUNY Press 1995. 223 pages. Bib]. to p. 241. Index to p. 249. $18.95.

Reviewed by Mounir Farah

Education, Empowerment, and Control is a unique and a meticulous work that scholars of Israeli-Palestinian relations, sociologists, and specialists in curriculum development and educational administration will find appealing.

Maid AI-Haj begins the book with a useful theoretical framework for examining the role of education in society and how society views education. Al-Haj asks, "Does education shape society or is it shaped by society?" In addressing this question, the author utilizes the "conflict" and "positivist" approaches, applying them to the case of Arabs in Israel. The "conflict" approach represents the view that education is an instrument used by the dominant group to indoctrinate the masses and to mold their culture, and, thus, is a means to preserve the accepted values and standards. The "positivist" approach represents the view that educational curricula should emphasize objective knowledge, scientific consideration and planning in order to train students to function in the wider society, and consequently, use their knowledge to change society.

AI-Haj argues that, whereas Israeli authorities have favored the conflict approach, Israeli-Arabs have viewed education as "a source of empowerment for the minority" (p. 215). This is significant because the majority of upper and middle class Palestinian Arabs had left Palestine in 1948, while most of those who remained were village peasants. The latter believed that education was the only vehicle for upward social and economic mobility. In fact, education did improve the lives of some Palestinian Arabs; however, as AI-Haj points out, many others were unable to overcome the obstacles to advancement and the shortcomings of education itself. For instance, Al-Haj writes, "...42% of the Arabs who graduated from the University of Haifa during the period 19821987 are either unemployed or have taken up blue-collar jobs" (p. 24). Most ministries close their senior positions to Israeli-Arabs for "security reasons." In the staffing of the ministry of education, where security is hardly a major consideration, AI-Haj notes, Israeli-Arabs held only 32 out of 980 senior positions in 1983 despite the fact that they comprised nearly 20 percent of Israel's total student population.

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