For several years I too worked in the same college where Rivka Wadmany Shauman, the elected deputy head of the Council For Higher Education, spent much of her career. Most people probably never heard of the small Teachers College of Technology, in one of the quiet streets in the old north of Tel Aviv. At that time this school was affiliated with The College Of Management, and I taught in the two institutions.
Like Cheers, the Teachers College of Technology was a place “Where everybody knows your name.” It was an intimate place. But even though it was a college that taught technology, the technological aspect of the institution was ill funded and quiet unimpressive. The college did not resemble an academic institution, and it looked and operated like an old backward high school.
The students did not choose the college because of the love of technology and teaching but since there were almost no entrance requirements: everyone was welcome. The college also offered a generous stipend, (half of the tuition) which made the place even more attractive. Thus since the students in the Teachers College of Technology got a teaching certificate, their tuition was half of that of the students in the College Of management.
It is true that the College served an important mission since it enabled weaker students from less privileged backgrounds an opportunity to get a B.A, and it accepted those who could not be accepted to any other university or college.
However, there was nothing about the Teachers College of Technology which suggested that it was an institution of higher education. I taught English there and most of my students had neither completed 5 points in their matriculation examination (Bagrut), nor passed the customary psychometric exams. Besides, it was a well known secret that in that the college exams had to be revised to accommodate the students’ weaker level.
Since they had such difficulties in mastering English I have no reason to believe that many students excelled in other subjects.
Although inclusion and equal opportunity are worthy causes, choosing as the deputy head of the Council For Higher Education in Israel a woman who was associated with such an institution for so many years sends a message that higher education in Israel is another sad joke.
The professors who resigned the Council in protest of Wadmany Shauman’s election explained that choosing a senior lecturer to the post instead of a full professor means that she could be more susceptible to pressure. But I fear that this choice means a real threat to the future of research and academic studies. Wadmany Shauman completed her Ph.D in 2004 so she could advance in her administrative career. She is not a prominent thinker or a scholar, but a manager and a politician. Her working background comes from an inferior institution where nobody ever heard of academic excellence or critical thinking.
Sometime ago, in a debate between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and former Minister Silvan Shalom over the role of vocational schools in Israel, Shalom lashed out at Netanyahu with the words: ”you send your son to Welding school.”
I know that although young Naftali Benet, our Education Minister and the head of the Council for Higher Education loved technology, his father, Mr. Benet senior, would never have sent him to the Teacher College Of Technology.
If Israel wishes to continue being the land of future Nobel Prize winners, a center of High-Tech meteors, and a leader in the world of ideas, the choice of Rivka Wadmany Shauman is regrettable as it demonstrates contempt of erudition and excellence, poor judgment and petty political considerations.