In Haaretz, Israel’s oldest daily newspaper, there’s an editorial titled Sa’ar and the monkey trial. Here are some excerpts, with bold added by us:
Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar says that fostering scientific excellence among Israeli students is at the top of his priorities. When he took office, he undertook to improve the performance of Israeli schools in international comparative examinations in math and science, after years of declining achievements. He appointed professionals to key posts in his ministry, for which he won high praise.
That’s what Gideon promised. Now what has he done? Let’s read on:
But despite his solemn commitment to excellence and professionalism, Sa’ar made the mistake of naming Dr. Gavriel Avital the ministry’s chief scientist. Instead of appointing, as his predecessor did, a prominent scholar in the field of education, he chose a Likud activist who ran on the party’s slate in the last Knesset election.
Avital is not an expert in education or in teaching the main subjects in the school curriculum, but an engineer who taught aeronautics at the Technion. But the main reason he is unsuitable for the post is not his lack of experience, but his opinions.
We’ve discussed Avital’s opinions before, but the editorial reminds us:
… Avital was exposed as an obscurantist Orthodox zealot who casts doubt on the validity of scientific research and rejects both evolution and global warming. He dismisses Darwin’s theory because it leaves God out, and he has called environmental organizations “a fanatical religion with a great deal of evil.” Avital promised to “scrutinize textbooks” to make sure that students are not exposed exclusively to “the opinion that man evolved from the ape.”
Avital would be right at home on the Texas Board of Education. The editorial continues:
Avital wants to push the education system hundreds of years into the past and undermine science’s achievements in order to impart religious ideologies to Israeli students. His opinions flagrantly contradict the requirements of the chief scientist post and the state school system’s striving for scientific excellence.
This next excerpt is where the editorial’s title comes from:
His proposals that curricula undergo religious censorship to cast doubt on evolution are reminiscent of the notorious “monkey trial” that saw a teacher in Tennessee put on trial in the 1920s for teaching evolution.
We don’t read the Israeli press, so maybe this isn’t a particularly harsh editorial. But we suspect that it is. According to the Wikipedia article on Haaretz, it’s “considered Israel’s most influential daily newspaper. Its readership includes Israel’s intelligentsia and its political and economic elites.” This newspaper isn’t a supermarket throwaway. Here’s the editorial’s final paragraph:
The position of the Education Ministry’s chief scientist should be filled by a top-notch scholar in the field, and not serve the minister as a way to pay off cronies and party hacks. Sa’ar should immediately get rid of Avital, whose appointment has made a mockery of the minister’s lofty promises, and replace him with a true scientist.
Jeepers — they’re calling for Avital to be Expelled! Where’s Ben Stein when he’s so desperately needed?
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