May 24, 2013

A Game of Dwarf and Giant

My daughter is done school for the year.

“It’s only mid-May,” a rational, observant person may remark.

 “She must be a university student? Or graduating from grade 12 with just exams to write? ” a Western-educated person would assume.

No. She is twelve years old and is only in grade six. Welcome to the Israeli school system.

She has now been at home for one week and the school administration hasn’t noticed. Or maybe they don’t care. The homeroom teacher is so obsessed with choreographing the end-of-the-year play, she too is unaware.

The math teacher? She hasn’t done the calculations to realize that the school year does not officially end until June 30, which, mathematically-speaking, leaves a solid six more weeks to teach. 

The history teacher? The state of Israel is only 65 years old so there is not so much on the curriculum anyway. 

The Hebrew teacher? Well, she never really got studies back in motion after the three-week Pesach vacation. And since there were a few other holidays sprinkled in (Yom HaZikaron, Ha’Atzma’ut and Shavuot), the school routine fell apart, along with our diets after bingeing on cheesecake.

Our Israeli children have not really learned anything in school since Purim (and if you want to stick that date on a calendar, hamentaschens flew off the shelves early March.)

So how does anyone get a real education around here? It seems as if school kids spend time on parades, preparing gifts for gamad v’anak (dwarf and giant, don’t ask) and dancing, not on physics, trigonometry and essay writing. World geography? It falls apart after they introduce the major continents. Given the political turmoil in this part of the world, the educators must rationalize that the global map could shift at any moment.

We shake our heads. At first it was despair, then aggravation. Now, we are accepting; my daughter sleeps in, bakes, rides her bike and reads. She may even start Spanish lessons. And all of these activities are more useful than sitting around watching a bunch of girls jump and twirl and spin over and over again.

Yet, look at how many Israelis win the Nobel Prize, make scientific discoveries and medical breakthroughs. There must be a sort of  higher education around here, somewhere, sometime, somehow.  This is yet another open miracle about living in Israel. 

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