Democracy is an important principle for a binational primary school. Although even adults are sometimes hard-pressed to understand what democracy means and often fail in its practice, we try to explain it to our pupils through historical example, classroom discussions and student elections.
Israeli schools teach children about democracy by looking at historical events in which democracy has been tested. At our school this year we focused upon the Kafr Kassem Massacre (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kafr_Qasim_massacre) and the assassination of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Assassination_of_Yitzhak_Rabin).
The Kafr Kassem massacre gave us a framework for looking at the position of Arab citizens in Israel then and now. Shortly after the massacre, Arab citizens were released from military rule and the inquiry resulted in a landmark legal decision was made, according to which a soldier is obligated not to obey orders if they are manifestly illegal.
On the Rabin assassination we discussed the rules according to which democracy functions and democratic alternatives to violence. The school gathered for a commemoration that included a slide show presentation prepared by the children and teachers, narration by students, music and movement.
At the commemoration
The children continued their study of democracy by electing a student council. Each class elected Arab and a Jewish representatives and then elected two student leaders for the entire school. Before the election, the candidates mounted an election campaign based on goals and promises. On election day a ballot box was set up in the school lobby and all the students cast their vote. The winners were a Jewish 6th grader and an Arab 5th grader, both girls. We wish the new student leaders success in fulfilling their campaign promises, which were to organize more special activities for the students and more events for the school.
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