Monday, June 20, 2011

The best for the children

In one of the Shabbat leaflets of last week, I stumbled across a highly intriguing article that told me something I had no clue about. Apparently, a new Israeli incentive lengthened the school day in kindergartens in “socially weak” regions until half past 3 in the afternoon, vs. half past 1 as it used to be. This was done in order to encourage mothers of poorer families to work longer hours, something they wouldn’t always be able to do if they had to pay for optional hours in the kindergarten.

The problem? Mothers who live in the areas where the new law has come into effect, and who deliberately chose to stay home or work mornings only in order to be able to pick up their children from kindergarten at midday, now aren’t allowed to do so. Apparently, our Big Wise Ministry of Education made a collective decision stating there are regions where children are better off spending as many hours as possible in kindergarten and away from their parents.

It may not seem like such a big deal to some, but it is. Two hours of a productive portion of a day are a lot for a little child, and it may make quite a difference as in how a child spends them, especially if those two hours include a gathering for a family lunch at home, vs. institutional food of doubtful quality served in kindergarten.

Here’s the catch: there are socially problematic regions in Israel, indeed (one would have to be blind not to be aware of that), and there are, unfortunately, homes where children are treated poorly. In such instances, this government program insures some minimal level of proper care given to every child. But I cannot understand how it happens that normally functioning mothers are prevented from taking their little child home at a time they deem appropriate, just because they happen to live in an area where many families are struggling. In particular when we talk of religious families who come to live in such areas following a calling for community service.

The most interesting part in all this, for me, is that in Israel, institutionalized education (unless parents specifically apply for permission to homeschool, which happens very rarely) is obligatory only from age 5, while here we are talking about children aged 3 and 4. Which means they don’t even have to be in kindergarten, by conventional law – but apparently, once their mothers choose to enroll them in a certain school, they no longer have a choice regarding the number of hours their child spends there.

I suppose the reason I haven’t heard of this before is because mutiny has been mostly silent – mothers simply show up to take their children home early, rather than try and combat the system, and in many cases the kindergarten teachers understand, sympathize and try to cover things up in case of an inspection. However, to me it feels, as one of the mothers put it, that “our children are made into government property” (translation from Hebrew mine).

Here I feel the traces of what I call the Communist Influence. The modern state of Israel and its system of laws was built by non-religious Jews, many of them from Russian origin and highly influenced by communism. This explains the unheard-of phenomenon of sending most 18-year-old girls to the army, and also the doctrine which states learning must only happen in properly authorized institutions. According to Wikipedia, only about a few dozen Israeli families homeschool, at least legally, although some may also do it unauthorized. According to Israel Home Education site, it's "probably hundreds of families". I hope that in future years, the dubious status of homeschooling in Israel is resolved, and parents, and not the government, will be in charge of their children's upbringing. I'm not saying many more will choose to homeschool full-time - that is unlikely. But it's worth to make an effort for every hour a child spends with his family.


Laura Angelika said...

It's a shame - we are seeing the same sort of motions here in the US. I was quite disheartened to hear our current Secretary of Education promote the idea of an extended school day, week, and year. While I am a big fan of organized learning, I think we all know that much of a child's education happens outside the classroom. If the goal is true education, the children must be given time to develop at home with their families. Perhaps reach out to the "at-risk" homes, but if a family is doing fine there is no reason for government interference.

May our politicians be given wisdom!

Mary R. said...

This was very interesting, especially about the Jewish people who came from communistic Russia and the influence that that country had on them.

Anya said...

I am not going to debate this issue, as I think mothers should be allowed to pick up their young kids at any time - I completely agree with you.

However, I would just like to point out that in USSR, mothers WERE allowed to pick up their children early from kindergarten and from school in the case of older children. I should know, as my parents and grandparents did it all the time when I was growing up. Also, not sure why you say that sending 18 yr old girls to the army is Russian communism influence? When were 18 yr old girls EVER required to go to the army in the former USSR? There is a lot of misconceptions and erroneous information in the last paragraph of your post.

Leah Brand-Burks said...

Normally functioning mothers are prevented from taking their little child home at a time they deem appropriate, just because they happen to live in an area where many families are struggling."

This is just outrageous! I am infuriated with you, Anna, and I hope and pray you get the chance and permission to teach your sweet daughters yourself, in a homeschool environment. It is shameful these teachers ever have to hide the fact that mothers simply want to pick up their children at their own time.

MDiskin said...

This made my heart ache. Because I have a three-year-old (and 5, and almost 2)... they're just so LITTLE, and so much fun, and the time I get to spend with them because they are home is amazingly precious and fleeting. I think that frustrates me most of all when I read about things like this -- it's as if people don't want to think personhood starts until you're working, so all those years up to 18 could be spent just about anywhere, with anyone, to little effect on the child's soul.

What blessings people are willing to throw away with both hands!

ccnichols said...

I agree with you. Our family will be praying for those moms and the government. We homeshool in the US and the laws are getting more strict here also.

Katie V. said...

Oh Anna, I'm so sorry to hear about this. It's awful that the government can have so much control over your own child. And what a struggle to even try to homeschool! I will keep that in my prayers for you. By the way, I know you mentioned in a preveious post that you had read Charlotte Mason's writings. At the recommendation of my sister-in-law (homeschool mother of eight children), she suggested I get Charlotte Mason Companion by Karen Andreola. I've only read tid bits but it is quite delightful. With prayers.

Mrs. Anna T said...

Anya, as someone who was also born in the USSR I of course know women never had to go to the army in Russia - nor in any country but Israel. However, the source of our "equality of sexes" and sending women to the army is in Marxism, socialism and communism. This is the same system that separated parents and children in kibbutzim, and sent children to "children's homes". I agree communism in Russia never reached quite such extremes, but the roots are the same.

Harper said...

I am so sorry to hear about this, but not surprised. My husband and I, who are Americans, lived in Ramat Gan for a year while he earned his MBA. At the time, we had a one-year-old son (he is now two and has a little brother). Because of the kinds of visas we had, it was not legal for either of us to seek employment in Israel, and I'm a stay-at-home mom anyway.

While we were there, one of our neighbors called social services on us because my son was crying too much (combination of a cold and a series of tantrum from not getting his way). The police showed up, assuming he had been left completely alone! Afterward, when social services investigated, they decided I was at home due to post-partum depression, that my son was dysfunctional because he was not in daycare, and that we all had a problem because my husband and I do not go out drinking on a regular basis.

They actually told us it was bad for our boy to spend so much time with his parents.

I know, as you said, there are trouble areas in Israel. Many in the Ethiopian community, for example, struggle with home-life problems. But it was truly shocking and terrifying (especially coming from an American perspective) to encounter such an anti-family and anti-parent attitude.

I hope parents such as yourself become more numerous and more vocal!

Joy at Adventurous Beginnings said...

Thank you Anna for your amazing blog, I truly enjoy reading it, and find your courage and strength amazing.
I am saddened by this recent post, and it continually surprises and concerns me that the government in both of our countries, as I am from the US, continues to take away the freedom of parents to raise their own children. Children are NOT property of anybody not less the property of the state, further more children are human beings made in the dignity and likeness of God and should be treated thus.

emily said...

I read this post after your later one about rules and scheduling for little children. I agree with you wholeheartedly that little ones need structure and schedule and that is why I see that it would be chaotic for parents to be able to turn up at kindergarten and remove their children at various times during the day - it would cause confusion and instability for parents and teachers alike.

In the UK, we also have state-funded preschool from age 3, in economically deprived areas, but there is often a 'staging' of entry to school, so that children start attending half days and then build up to 'full time attendance' which means from about 9am to 3pm.

Pre-school is not compulsory here and parents may of course choose to pay privately for shorter periods of day care, or choose to have none at all.

Analytical Adam said...

Dear Mrs. Anna;

Actually, Russia got this idea from Germay that in the 1600’s was one of the first to adopt mandatory education and In their case the purpose was religious indoctrination and to prevent any people to decent from religious authority as Germany. This from the Politically Incorrect Guide to Socialism which this chapter is discussing the idea here in the United States of Public Schools which has not served the best interests of the students.

"The first mandatory education laws appeared in Germany in the 16th century and the schools were used to impose Lutheran Orthodoxy on heterogeneous populations. Martin Luther himself was an energetic advocate of mandatory education as a means of enforcing religious Orthodoxy and the teacup totalitarian John Calvin had similar ideas in Geneva. The Empress Maria Theresa in Austria, another monarch struggling with religious dissent was quick to adopt the Prussian model and use it to impose Orthodoxy. The Soviet Union would later adopt compulsory education for much of the same reason. Though it was imposing a far different type of Orthodoxy.

The Austrian economist Murray Rothbard quotes Luther’s argument for the establishment of compulsory schools:

I maintain the civil authorities are under obligation to compel the people to send their children to school. If the government can compel such citizens are fit for military service to bear spear and rifle, to mount ramparts and perform other martial duties in time of war, how much more has it a right to people to send their children to school because in this case we are warring with the devil whose object it is secretly to exhaust our cities and principalities.-1

1- The Politically Incorrect Guide to Socialism by Kevin D. Williamson

Analytical Adam said...

Interestingly I just looked up Karl Marx on Wikipedia as someone was suggesting his mother was Jewish and his father wasn’t. Actually his father was Jewish but converted to Lutheranism branch of Christianity (which as posted on my last post was a very totaliatrian mentality). His mother was Jewish as well. On both sides of his family came had many Rabbis especially his fathers side. This is what the article says about Karl Marx’s mother who seemed to be a stay at home mom and not a femist.

] Karl's mother, born Henrietta Pressburg, was a Dutch Jew who, unlike her husband, was only semi-literate. She claimed to suffer from "excessive mother love", devoting much time to her family, and insisting on cleanliness within her home.[16] She was from a prosperous business family. Her family later founded the company Philips Electronics: she was great-aunt to Anton and Gerard Philips, and great-great-aunt to Frits Philips