You can’t have democracy if you don’t teach it

YOU CAN'T HAVE DEMOCRACY IF YOU DON'T TEACH IT Social crises fuel increased division, Jewish-Arab tension, violence, and personal/economic insecurity. What’s needed is an educational response--and we know how to do it. The Adam Institute for Democracy and Peace was founded in 1987 to teach democracy and peace and promote understanding of human/civil rights. Our programs foster democratic, respectful dialogue that allows polarized groups to connect—crucial for these tenuous times. Help us promote shared living based on democratic principles: equality, rights, tolerance, partnership, respect for other. Your donation will 100% support our shared future. SHARE THIS POSTSUPPORT THE ADAM INSTITUTE CROWFUNDING CAMPAIGN -

Posted by ‎Adam Institute מדרשת אדם‎ on Thursday, February 10, 2022

Everybody believes in teaching democracy.

Yet nobody wants to pay for it.

There are many more important pressing social and societal issues, folks tell me.  Solidarity, health, housing, education, personal and economic security. Why should I donate to teaching peace and democracy now, amidst the clamor of all of these urgent matters?

Okay, I hear you. Indeed, our respective plates are overflowing with critical demands, magnified by two years of pandemic. What perhaps many people don’t realize is that we cannot ensure the existence of those particular rights and needs if we don’t understand their relationship to the political structure. That understanding is based on teaching democracy. Perhaps in some ideal scenario, our children, our future citizens, would diligently learn democracy skills elsewhere: at school, from their teachers, in their youth movements, through government education. Forgive me if I go ahead and burst that bubble: many students in Israel don’t even know basic facts, let alone the principles and processes of democracy. If they don’t really have a clue as to the location of Israel’s borders, how can they take a stance on what those borders ought to be? How will they decide if they ought to demonstrate for or against related decisions? If they don’t understand the meaning of human rights, how can they rally for them? If young people cannot grasp the difference between incitement and freedom of expression, how will they know how to defend themselves from the former and protect from the latter?

The government also lacks understanding. New research shows that while the budget for civic education shrank from 45 million ILS to 5 million ILS over the past decade, the budget for Jewish identity increased from 45 million ILS to 1.42 billion ILS. The Adam Institute is trying to remedy the damage caused by this steep budget cut, working furiously to grant teachers and educators the skills to engage in nuanced, thoughtful dialogue.

Education is a long-range game of many small steps. But it doesn’t happen by itself. It cannot occur without civic participation, either on the part of the state or civil society—which requires the support of folks like you. Especially in a tempestuous, conflict-ridden country such as ours. Sadly, social polarization and division are the norm in many parts of the globe. Democracy education is needed all over.

I’ve devoted my life to teaching peace and democracy. Since 1987, I’ve worked at the Adam Institute for Democracy and Peace with a team of skilled and dedicated facilitators. We’ve taught some 350,000 people, ages 5-90, Jews and Arabs, religious and secular, across the Bedouin sector, geographic/socioeconomic periphery. The Adam Institute has developed 65 educational programs in Hebrew, Arabic, English, with some in German and Polish. We’ve run 890 Jewish-Arab encounter groups. I created a unique, experiential method called “Betzavta- Adam Institute’s facilitation method”, which turns conflicts into dilemmas. (“Betzavta” is Hebrew for together.) It encourages participants to reframe external conflicts as internal dilemmas, incentivizing participants to look beyond all-or-nothing options to generate solutions that benefit everyone. Based on democratic principles, the method combines engaging, experiential learning that’s rooted in philosophy, sociology, social psychology—and fun. It’s even exported abroad. Currently, there are 3800 “Betzavta”-trained facilitators around the globe.

The Adam Institute was established in 1987 in response to the murder of Emil Grunzweig, a peace activist and educator who was killed at a demonstration against the Lebanon War on February 10, 1983.

Emil Grunzweig, a teacher and peace activist, was killed at a demonstration against the Lebanon War on February 10, 1983. Photo courtesy of the Adam Institute for Democracy and Peace

Someone disagreed with the views of the demonstrators and rejected their right with violence, with the most tragic of consequences. I was among the founders of the Adam Institute; we represented a cross-section of Israeli society, Jews and Arab, secular and religious. Our staff today continues to represent that diversity. We must never get to the place where we cannot use democratic means to express our point of view. Sadly, the need to teach democratic principles is as acute today as it was decades ago.

Democracy education provides a counterpoint to ongoing events that stir emotion and fear. It grants foundational blocks that make you pause and think, help you listen. That’s especially important in our complex region.

Is it natural to be “democratic”? I don’t think so. But it’s also not natural to hate.

Some years back, I ran a seminar for the Israeli police force. An officer said to me, thank heavens you’re here to whisper some sense in my ear before I get swept away by the stream of messaging.

The human experience is rich with diverse cultures, groups, societies. We know from our work that multiculturalism can be the greatest blessing for creating a textured social fabric comprising different faiths and nationalities, respecting difference, even celebrating it. However, without a proper democratic educational foundation, it can be the source of toxicity. Violence. Hatred. Difference becomes the reason for a conflictual environment. Emil paid the highest price possible. Democratic education is the secret to success.  We know from experience that educational work can, and does, shift the equation.

There is room for everyone. It doesn’t happen naturally. We have to teach it.

Help us reach every corner to teach democracy. Support the Adam Institute. Partner with us. It truly is the only way forward to ensure our shared future.

About the Author
Dr. Uki Maroshe is CEO and Academic Director of The Adam Institute for democracy and peace. Developed numerous programs on democracy, civic education, which have been published in books and manuals, and articles. The publications are part theoretical, part practical based on her unique Method "The Bezavta Method." This method was internationally adopted in 1996, in Germany, Denmark, Switzerland, England, Ireland, Poland and other countries. She was born in Israel and completed her PhD at Tel Aviv University. She is a mother of two sons.
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