Tuesday, June 13, 2017

The 'Jewish Home' Attacks Israeli Academics

Jewish Home Leader, and Minister of Education, Naftali Bennett
Education Minister Naftali Bennett, who is not coincidentally head of a party called “Jewish Home,” is pushing a “code of ethics” for Israeli academics to prohibit political opinions being voiced in class, including “specific positions in a known public dispute.” The code would also forbid universities from partnering with political organizations that advocate any form of boycott (including, according to government precedent, the boycott of settlements and of Ariel University, situated in the West Bank), and authorizing universities "to establish a unit that would monitor political activity" on campus.

The ostensible targets of this code would be professors who foist specific party affiliations on students, though I have never met a professor who’s done this. But the real target of Israel’s government is the justifiable, inevitable affinity of academic communities for liberal principles in general.

In part, academics’ affinity for liberal ideas derives from their being intellectual nonconformists: we emphasize personal freedom, we’re skeptical of appeals to the pack, we believe that minds grow, and we support secular principles over the coercive faith traditions.

But the greater reason for this affinity is that the modern university is inherently a liberal institution. To keep a democratic republic going, you're always going to have to move against the current. The university is the place you learn to swim, not so much in what you learn, but how you learn. Personal freedom, skepticism, erudition, rules of evidence, equality, secularism—you might as well be describing the very foundations of the classroom experience. It is meant to incubate doubt and mentoring and merit.

It is a radically liberal society in microcosm.

Continue reading at Haaretz: