John Dewey of Columbia University and Arthur Lovejoy of Johns Hopkins University came together with other educators in 1915 to found the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), an organization designed to preserve the integrity of the academy from a donor-driven agenda.
Their 1915 Declaration of Principles set standards that we should all abide by:
[T]he freedom of the academic teacher entail[s] certain correlative obligations…The university teacher…should, if he is fit for his position, be a person of a fair and judicial mind; he should, in dealing with such subjects, set forth justly, without suppression or innuendo, the divergent opinions of other investigators… and he should, above all, remember that his business is not to provide his students with ready-made conclusions, but to train them to think for themselves.
Unfortunately, Dewey and Lovejoy’s message has fallen on deaf ears when it comes to most teachers who attempt to teach the Arab-Israeli conflict and commonly adopt the Palestinian narrative as the embodiment of the underdog who have suffered a great wrong under the hand of Israel and the US. The notion of allowing our students to be free thinkers, and of exposing them to a variety of opinions is many times censored by the “sensitivities” of the teacher.
A case in point: I was recently invited by one Mr. Jules Mermelstein, a Social Studies Teacher at Upper Dublin High School, to take part in a panel on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. This is something I welcomed and do regularly as a lecturer around the world as well as locally in the greater Philadelphia area. But after accepting the invitation, I received an email from Mr. Mermelstein that he had come across one of my articles that dealt with Arab-Palestinian refugees and came to the conclusion that he does not believe I am “ the right speaker to be addressing high school students on this issue… I will be inviting other speakers to take your place, beginning with my rabbi.”
Substituting a rabbi for a Ph.D. in Middle Eastern history is an effort to control the message being delivered to high school students. Putting himself in the position of judging the message before it is delivered, and ignoring both civility and qualifications, is a fairly shameless tactic. It seems designed to produce an obvious result, a message delivered to students that Israel was and is responsible for the Arab-Israeli conflict. The hostile environment seen on college campuses flows directly out of the manipulations of teachers like Mr. Mermelstein who are uncomfortable with diversity of opinion.
The obvious lack of balance in academia and now in many public high schools like Upper Dublin, produces pseudo-scholarship that consistently fails to examine, much less condemn, terrorism or jihadism, and creates an atmosphere where these intolerable ideas are accepted as normative. Willful blindness under the guise of thoughtful education seems to be the preferred course of action when teachers like Mr. Mermelstein don’t think his students deserve or can handle another view of the Arab-Israeli conflict.
The fact that more and more Jews feel uncomfortable with the State of Israel and modern day Zionism to a point where they feel the need to apologize for Israel’s actions and at times existence and adopt the Palestinian narrative is very concerning.
This state of affairs needs to be confronted by all those concerned about the health of academia, as well as the continued well-being of Israel and the Jewish people.
Like Israelis, Americans have varied political preferences. While they may not all unconditionally support everything Israel does, the land of Israel is the Jewish state and has the right to exist in security. We must help our students (the future voters) expand their knowledge about the Arab-Israeli conflict and ensure that our tax payer dollars are actually providing a balanced education when it comes to a topic that has many long reaching foreign policy implications.