Diana Keller: Ideology in Israeli Education

In January 1992 Diana Keller submitted to the Senate of the Hebrew University of Education a Ph.D. thesis entitled: State Education and State Religious Education: Two Ideological Frameworks.  It used some of the concepts and approaches of systematic ideology. The submission was successful and with Dr. Keller’s permission we present a shortened version of the thesis. Being no more than an abridgement of a summary (the original dissertation occupies 250 pages) and omitting nearly all references, this stands at a distance from the original. It was prepared by IC; we carry responsibility for any inadequacies. As a scholarly work the dissertation uses the protostatic-metadynamic set of terms for the major ideologies rather than the more colloquial set starting with expediency. – GW

Ideology in Israeli Education
The conditions under which the State of Israel was founded have had the result that state education now comes in two forms: State Education and State Religious Education; the present study investigates this duality as motivating the Israeli educational system, (approaching its two sides as ideological features and assuming that policy has influenced practice).

The term ‘ideology’ has been used in other senses, some of them still persisting, but here it indicates an influence affecting all cultural and social life, ideologies providing the cognitive systems through which reality is perceived and reflected and, when accepted as legitimate by certain social groups, also functioning as control systems which secure continuing social existence (Lamm 1986). The particular theory of ideology taken as a basis here is that known as systematic ideology, positing seven ideological archetypes. The protostatic provides the assumptions needed for survival, the epi- and parastatic those applying in the establishment of social organisation and efforts to perfect it. At this point in the series dynamism takes over, the protodynamic ideology undertaking change by evolutionary, and the epidynamic by revolutionary means, while the paradynamic carries its efforts to achieve change beyond even revolution. The metadynamic embraces all of these, and it is that which guides this dissertation.

Ideology and Education
Israeli State Education tends to obscure the determining role of ideology in its activities, presenting them as objective, while Israeli state-religious education acknowledges it more openly. Both the decision to educate and the choice of educators are ideologically motivated and justified. As they function in education ideologies display four major generic characteristics: dominant function (emotive, referential or connotative), intertextual connections, metaphor and reality connotators. The importance of these in educational ideologies lies in the part they play as masking mechanisms of ideological productivity.

Although the Israeli system for deciding educational policy remains open to many influences, decisions are made de facto by the administrative authorities. We focus mainly on the Directives of the General Directorate of the Ministry of Education and Culture, and the Pedagogical Directives of the Director of Religious Education, analyzing them thematically and ideologically. The thematic analysis takes up the objectives of instruction, the status of pupil, teacher and contents, the social significance of the activity, the preferred motivation, activity and implementation, defined by Professor Lamm as the contradictory logics of instruction. The ideological analysis centres on the identification, using systematic ideology, of the ideological archetypes guiding educational activity. Both synchronic and diachronic, it regards the ideological text less as a metaphor than as a dynamically interacting web of meanings.

State Education
The main course followed by Israeli state education 1953-1990 has been set by the eidostatic ideologies establishing the basics (the parastatic producing efforts to ensure equality of educational opportunities) with the protodynamic to advance the underprivileged, the practices of western nations offering role models. Distinct organizations such as the institutes for Jewish-Zionist education, the Allon College for Young People and the National Colleges handle many of the problems specific to Israel, and some of these have developed pedagogical methods which advance beyond standard practices, especially in connection with education towards values.

During the 1980s a minister of religion became leader of the educational system, producing a greater stress upon culture and a reduction in the importance of sociology. Religion came to provide what were still referred to as Israeli values, and the new approach persisted after management of the educational system returned to the Labour movement in the second half of the decade.

State Religious Education
So far we have been speaking of state education; although influenced by religion this differs, both in its content and its methods, from the state religious education to which we now turn.

Israeli state religious education had its objectives set by the curriculum, published in 1954, which named two basic principles: that of the Jewish faith and that of the fatherland assured to the Jews by divine promise. The ideological system involved here has not changed over the years, although the inherent dynamic has rendered some latent components manifest.

The state system of religious education incorporates a selective ideological core which largely reconciles Judaism, with its theme of miraculous redemption, with the requirements of the state. This constructs pedagogical texts on the basis of the original religious documents by means of reinterpretation, producing a religious-nationalist approach which rejects western culture in favour of the concept of ‘Halachic man,’ motivated by religious duty. Substantially eidostatic, with the proto-, epi- and parastatic ideologies all taking part, this approach tends to marginalise change, both supporting and relying upon the established religious texts.

The presence of these two kinds of education, each of them enjoying a high degree of autonomy while interacting with the other, began with administrative legal definitions; their subsequent development has emphasised the autonomy rather than the interaction. They now constitute an oppositional axis with other kinds of education relegated to the margins, but state religious education is not so purely religious, nor state education so purely secular, as to permit a direct contradiction to emerge.

from Ideological Commentary 58, November 1992.