Source: HaYidion Spring, 2017
I felt it was imperative to examine how students and teachers, representing the full spectrum of American Jewish life, confront controversial issues related to Israel. In my doctoral research, I had the privilege of observing the teaching and learning of controversial issues related to the Arab/Palestinian-Israeli conflict in three different American Jewish day high schools (Modern Orthodox, Conservative and Community).
My findings offer an understanding of the teaching and learning dynamic of the Israel classroom. I believe that in order for schools to see the benefit of teaching the conflict, it is important for them to understand the various permutations of Israel classrooms that already exist, and the consequences of each approach. Through multiple interviews with teachers and students throughout a semester, I uncovered areas for improvement, which may inspire further review to determine what is necessary to develop a robust and comprehensive Israel education system within a school.
My research indicates that passing through the difficulties inherent in the discussion of controversial issues promotes active learning, principled thinking, and achievement for students. When teachers become aware of conflict education criteria and frameworks, the teaching and learning of Israel’s and other controversial issues becomes unmasked and less intimidating. Teaching and learning about conflict implements several learning dimensions. Students not only acquire and integrate knowledge, but they learn to extend and refine knowledge (eg, by making new distinctions, clearing up misconceptions, and reaching conclusions). It can help motivate students past a sense of hopelessness that comes with intractable situations and into an empowerment dimension in which they can become participants rather than merely observers. Through the study of this conflict, students can appreciate the role that power relations have in creating and perpetuating controversial issues.
Having students tap into their own ideologies and compare them to those of their families and schools can help them better appreciate where knowledge is gained, how perspectives are formed and what makes them obstinate. And along the way, they can discover what truly motivates them. Students who learn to view conflict narratives from a metacognitive plane, a more objective level, will be served well in the coming years, as they continue to “hug and wrestle” with the State of Israel and her Arab neighbors.
Finally, controversial issues and intractable conflicts present opportunities for conflict resolution and peace education. Students exposed to the notions of cultures of conflict and cultures of peace will understand that there are different ways of choosing to view and act within a conflict situation. Preparing for the complex social realities and difficulties of adult life is an inspiring reason to engage with conflict early and often.
Read the entire article in Hayidion.