Me Would if Mikud,

                                                 but MiCan’t! 

                                                                                    So MiWon’t!


( Bagrut Reduction Method Offers Cure for Economic Woes)


Every year, just after Purim, a wave of turbulence runs thru our otherwise placid classrooms.  Students pile up in front of  computer terminals, agitatedly print out sheaves of paper, and peruse them with squeals of triumph or despair. 

It’s the MIKUD: the list of the material – 47.63% of everything previously taught—that is to be tested on the upcoming Bagrut exam.  Even if you learned nothing at all, rest assured that only 47% of it will appear in June.

What is the Mikud?  Where did it come from?  How does it affect the teaching of English and how will it be affected by the coming Changes in the English teaching system??  This article attempts to grapple with these and other vital issues which plague the life of English teachers in Israel almost as much as the questions, “Do you say ‘If I was earning 40,000 shekels a month I’d strike too’ or ‘if I were earning 40,000 shekels a month I’d strike too,’   and is my  salary going to be cut so far back that I’ll have to pay the ministry every time I teach a lesson?” we’ll have to pay the ministry to per hour that we teach?”


According to The Alkaline Dictionary   ‘MIKUD’ is derived from the Hebrew root       î  ÷  ã or, for those of you who design Israeli road signs,  { M  Q  D,}  meaning:  to focus; to concentrate;  Thus the expression La –alot La Moqade:  to be publicly executed:   a gallows, presumably because it gives you something to focus on while you’re waiting to die.  I would translate MIKUD as ‘focustration.’


How does it work?  You may not have to be a rocket scientist to understand the New Curriculum, but you have to be  an Acrobat Reader to understand the Mikud.

Let’s say you have studied Jewish History from 1900 to the present day.  So somebody in the   Department of Mikuds in the  Education Ministry spins a wheel and Hopp! It lands on the Holocaust, so, as far as the this year’s Bagrut is concerned, Hitler never existed.  As long as that   British lawyer  doesn’t hear about it, no harm is done.  In Phys Ed, there will be no broad jump this year, and you don’t have to review pushups.  OK so far?


But  you are an English teacher, right?  So  who cares about these other subjects?  All you want to know is, how are they going to test 47% of the English Curriculum?   Indeed,   MIKUDing English  has always  been quite a challenge.  

Several approaches have been  tried  and yet each, not surprisingly, was rejected after a run of only one year.


             n 1997, fr xmpl, th mkd dltd ll vwls frm th wrttn txts f th Bgrt Xm.  Nc tr , bt vry frstrtng – nlss y r Plsh.


            1998 e ollowing ear, ey ried mitting nly e eginnings   f   ords.  _is  dea  idn’t ork ery ell ther.   he  eneral eaction as, “ uck is!!”


            2000 _____ a turning point.  The brilliant professors and inspectors who ___ these things to us ____ to ______ the omission of 47% of the alphabet, and  _____a new  system    , based __ parts __ speech.  For example, those   ___  ___     verbs and preposition.  

            2001  then.. . . tried. . . without  . . . but they found it was just as unsatisfactory. 

But with the onset of the New Curriculum, the Mikud becomes implementably viable!  The New Curriculum , for those of you who missed it, organizes the Teaching of English into Four Domains.  ( Social Interaction, Access to Information, Presentation and , take a deep breath, Appreciation of Language/, Literature and Culture)  And so. . . and so. . .and SO  . . ..this year’s bagrut exam will test, or assess, or whatever,.. . .  Three Domains only out of the  Four!


            Such an innovative approach was tried last spring in  Barcelona,  where it was soon quashed by public protest. Headlines ran:




Unfortunately what works abroad won’t necessarily work here.  Let’s face it:  With the country in economic shakshuka, we have to face up to The bitter truth:  We just can’t afford four Domains any longer.   It’s time to pose the blunt question:    Which Domain is to get the Axe?


                                    Axes to Information?


  Access to Information is the most financially unstable domain of all, say the rumors on Wall Street (The Language School, that is)   Last week its  phone and electricity were cut off  and the local library is about to suspend its membership.  Northern Explosure (that’s the name of this column) spoke with  Ronit T Roshbaholl, Domain Manager of its chief rival, Presentation:

N. Ex:  Ronit T, In your opinion,  if Access to Information is eliminated, won’t it have a devastating effect on the amount and quality of  English which is  actually learned?

Ronit T Roshbaholl:  Not really.  It’s not that there won’t be any information on the        Bagrut exam.    It’s just that . . .

N.Ex:  . . . the examinees won’t be able to access it?

Ronit T :  Exactly.  They can scan it, if they choose.   Summarize it,  winterize it,             compress, express and plagiarize  it.

N.Ex:  What about  they read it?

Ronit t:  Most of our Bagrut examinees can’t really read a text.  We took the word             ‘read’ out of the curriculum.  It’s too discriminatory against those who were             once labeled ‘non readers.


But when we spoke to  anyone in the domain of Acc to Inf , we got a very different opinion.  Says Portia Nadata,  Data Retrieval Officer :  If they’re going to snuff a domain, the obvious candidate is Appreciation of Culture!  Who will even notice?  The last time anyone around here appreciated a culture was in 1978 when the Hodja was tested for  ringworm.


Sima Lee,   Acting CO of AppCult Domain, announced last week that she would be willing to take part in a merger with Appreciation  of Language.  One name bandied about for the new Domain was:  The  Really APpreciative Domain  (RapeD).  Unfortunately,  Finance Minister Nitanyahoo is having none of it.   “You can’t fool me.” He said, testily.  “There are 4 domains, not 5!  Do you think I’m the old finance minister?” he gibed,  pulling off his socks and checking his calculations,  “ I can tell 4 from 5!  Appreciation of Language and Culture is no longer English.  It’s History!”


Dee Bates,  spokesperson for the Domain of Social Interaction, isn’t really worried. Questioned about the upcoming cuts, she responded,  “Will this really pamper   the Tigress of Hassol?” 

N. Ex reporter:  I beg your pardon?!!!!”

Dee:  I mean,  “Will this really hamper the progress of TESOL?”  Not at all!  Who teaches Lit anyway anymore except for reactionary places like Har Vegai. As for Presentation and Soc Inter , they will be merged into Social Intertation -- thus saving the country a fortune in standards and putting hundreds of wenchlarks into the belfare  mines.

N.Ex:  Hundreds of who?

Dee:  I meant, ‘. . .hundreds of  benchmarks into the welfare lines.’  You’ve got to realize, it’s not the number of Domains that makes the difference.  Look at America!  They have 50 –but they’re not doing so hot lately.      And Canada;  Only one domain--

N. Ex:  How so?

Dee:  Like the song they are forced to learn in school:   “In days of yore / from Britain’s shore, /          Wolfe the something something hero came /  And planted heer (near?  Beer?) Britannia’s flag/

On Canada’s fair domain

N. Ex:  One domain, eh?

Dee:  Yeah and it’s only fair!


Still, there are some well-paid higher ups in the ministry  who maintain that all this talk is so much Beating the Bush Around.  Implementing the New Curriculum and the New Bagrut is costing the government a Shasload .  It’s going to have to go.  Whispers have it that negotiations are underway to recall the greats of the previous generation from retirement:  Scooterman, for example.  Mr Kashtan too.  It’s mostly a matter of tracking them down.  Where are they, anyway? 

             Some diligent investigative activity by our staff has ferreted out these curious facts:   It seems that Debby is now Minister of Health and  Welfare for Australia. Her uncle  Max, once a famous archaeologist and English inspector,  runs a Gestalt Clinic and does Stand-up.  Her brother Gabby, after winning and losing  a fortune in coal --  and several unsuccessful marriages – manages  a fashionable hair salon in Miami.  He   still dreams of someday, getting the stick back. 


            [  Editor’s note:  The writer was unable to complete this piece as he recently underwent surgery administered by a brain surgeon who only reviewed 47% of the material, and consequently, removed only 47% of the problem ].


                                    Barry Silverberg, April 1, 2003