Politics and Education in Israel

By Shlomo Swirski | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 9

The Rise of an Educational New Right

The elevation of the Israeli military-industrial corporate elite to the status of representatives of a bipartisan national interest, on the one hand, and the debilitation of Israeli workers, the constant flow of new, manipulable recruits to the work force, and the splits between and within the Mizrahi and Israeli Palestinian electorates, on the other, have been reflected in the changing agenda of the Israeli educational system. The emergence of what has been termed the “winner takes all” ideology (Robert H. Frank, quoted in Thurow, 1996:21) among what in Israel is euphemistically referred to as “the upper deciles” has been paralleled by the rise of a demand for excellence, selectivity, and distinctiveness in education. This demand set the tone for the most significant changes in Israeli education in the 1980s and 1990s.

At the same time, the failure of the labor market to extend the possibility of attaining a standard of living similar to that of the descendants of the members of the pre-1948 micro societies to those living on the peripheries of Israeli society has been paralleled by a failure of the state school system to extend the possibility of a high-quality education to the same groups. And the failure of the bulk of Israeli workers to move one notch up, from wage earners who are able to make ends meet only at the cost of welfarization, to workers whose earnings in their prime years allow them to maintain a reasonable standard of living in retirement as well, has been paralleled by the institutional entrenchment of ability groupings and educational tracking. As was mentioned at the beginning of Chapter 6, the reforma and integratsia of 1968 proved to be the last of the major systemwide state educational projects based on the commitment to im-

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