The Government Should Keep Its Involvement in Religious Schools to a Minimum

In February, the New York City mayoral candidate Andrew Yang said in an interview that the municipal government “shouldn’t interfere with [ḥasidic] religious and parental choice” regarding schooling, “as long as the outcomes are good.” After the increased governmental scrutiny of ḥaredi schools in recent years over concerns that they provide inadequate secular educations, such statements have won Yang the support of some prominent Orthodox rabbis and communal leaders. Michael Broyde and Moshe Krakowski argue that his position is fundamentally correct:

While data about ḥasidic economic and educational outcomes are limited, the information available does not suggest that Ḥasidim are particularly disadvantaged economically. . . . So too, it’s not clear that ḥasidic students—who are largely English-language learners since their first language is usually Yiddish—would fare any better in public schools. For example, eighth-grade English-language learners in public schools in Williamsburg, [a Brooklyn neighborhood where many Ḥasidim live], had a zero-percent proficiency rate in math and English in 2016, according to the city’s own data.

Use of education law to mandate schooling that conflicts with religious faith is exactly what our constitutional system opposes. And for good reason: forcing parents into an educational model that they religiously oppose is unlikely to succeed.

In a multicultural society, we must all make room for each other and for our diverse values. While most Americans will attend public schools, private schools (particularly parochial schools), exist to provide other kinds of education—in Mandarin or Yiddish, focusing on Native American culture or talmudic law, providing an Amish or Catholic view of the world. Rather than mandating conformity, New York should support reasonable educational rubrics—ones that are consistent with each religious community’s values, and that, as Yang suggests, produce good outcomes. Carrots from government, rather than sticks, need to be used to achieve those goals.

Read more at Education Next

More about: Andrew Yang, Education, Freedom of Religion, Hasidism, Jewish education, New York City

How to Save the Universities

To Peter Berkowitz, the rot in American institutions of higher learning exposed by Tuesday’s hearings resembles a disease that in its early stages was easy to cure but difficult to diagnose, and now is so advanced that it is easy to diagnose but difficult to cure. Recent analyses of these problems have now at last made it to the pages of the New York Times but are, he writes, “tardy by several decades,” and their suggested remedies woefully inadequate:

They fail to identify the chief problem. They ignore the principal obstacles to reform. They propose reforms that provide the equivalent of band-aids for gaping wounds and shattered limbs. And they overlook the mainstream media’s complicity in largely ignoring, downplaying, or dismissing repeated warnings extending back a quarter century and more—largely, but not exclusively, from conservatives—that our universities undermine the public interest by attacking free speech, eviscerating due process, and hollowing out and politicizing the curriculum.

The remedy, Berkowitz argues, would be turning universities into places that cultivate, encourage, and teach freedom of thought and speech. But doing so seems unlikely:

Having undermined respect for others and the art of listening by presiding over—or silently acquiescing in—the curtailment of dissenting speech for more than a generation, the current crop of administrators and professors seems ill-suited to fashion and implement free-speech training. Moreover, free speech is best learned not by didactic lectures and seminars but by practicing it in the reasoned consideration of competing ideas with those capable of challenging one’s assumptions and arguments. But where are the professors who can lead such conversations? Which faculty members remain capable of understanding their side of the argument because they understand the other side?

Read more at RealClearPolitics

More about: Academia, Anti-Semitism, Freedom of Speech, Israel on campus