Tal Bentolila teaches the Israel Studies class, a mandatory one-semester course for seniors at YULA Boys School. The purpose of this class is to give students a profound understanding of the history and politics of the Middle East and the Arab-Israeli conflict. Mrs. Bentolila – who holds a degree in Political Science and a Masters in Curriculum Development – has spent years reading and learning about Israel in order to enhance her class.
“Students should feel that they have a good primary source education about the history and geo-politics of the Middle East in the 20th century. It is important for students to know that when they encounter propaganda and untruths about Israel, they will be able to know, from a factual point of view, that what they are hearing is untrue,” says Mrs. Bentolila.
Mrs. Bentolila also extends her expertise and passion to teaching other teachers about media bias. On Sunday, March 6th, she – along with Liz Brough, the West Coast High School Co-coordinator for Stand With Us – presented a professional development seminar at the California Council for Social Studies Annual Conference in Orange County. The presentation – entitled, “Recognizing Media Bias, Differentiating Between Fact and Opinion” – was filled with high school teachers from public schools throughout California.
Mrs. Bentolila used her academic background and expertise in the field of international relations, film, and photography to guide teachers on how to help students look effectively at news and social media. With many concrete examples in today’s media, they taught teachers how they can point out media bias, imbalanced reporting, and misleading headlines to their students. Several examples used in this presentation looked closely at media coverage of Israel, helping teachers explore how journalists and news stations often opt for opinions, omit relevant facts, have double standards, and/or miss context when reporting on the conflict.
Mrs. Bentolila and Ms. Brough outlined the issues and the importance of teaching students to use critical analysis as a tool for sifting through information and news feeds. They also emphasized the importance of teachers using due diligence when sharing media in the classroom and how to help their teen-aged students navigate through “all things social media” with a critical eye.
Mrs. Bentolila says that she created this seminar because “after 15 years teaching political Science and Language Arts, I have found that this multi-faceted approach towards complexity is imperative to the students’ healthy intellectual growth.”
She also said, “I don’t want to teach a conclusion, rather I want to give my students the tools to be able to analyze for themselves and come to their own educated opinion.”
The teachers in attendance were engaged and expressed that they would utilize what they learned in their classrooms. This seminar highlighted the responsibilities that teachers have in our social media reality to help their students become educated consumers.