Imagine that I call you “stupid”. The odds are you’ll reciprocate in kind (or worse). Imagine that I call you “stupid” and bring an OECD study to prove it. You have now several options: you can deny/prevaricate/give excuses or you can accept the central premise while allowing for particular circumstances and societal exigencies.
This is a slightly obscure way of introducing a meeting I sat in on between leaders of the Jewish Federations of North America and two Members of Knesset. All the guests were particularly interested in education and the societal value it had in overcoming economic obstacles, especially in the context of integration of Ethiopians as well as families that have been trapped in a cycle of poverty since the 1950s. The individual that raised the OECD study made the point that a longer school day might go a long way in preventing destructive and ultimately criminal behaviour.
The response from at least one of the MK’s was underwhelming to say the least. It was especially disheartening, given that the individual in question is a well known educator, who has had the benefit of sustained academic education and has been inculcated with intellectual ambition. I wanted shout out “Why shouldn’t these kids get the same chance you got??!!!”
Education has forever been the birthright and the apex of achievement for the Jewish People. Only today, two Jews won the Nobel Prize for Chemistry (http://www.jpost.com/Jewish-World/Jewish-Features/Israeli-scientists-awarded-Nobel-Prize-in-Chemistry-328246). Lehavdil, see the first blog 😉 for what is possible in terms of Torah.
The first step on the way to academic excellence is ‘to know what we don’t know’. This basic humility does more to open ourselves up to all possible avenues of learning than any other approach. These MK’s are still new, let’s hope they have a better answer next time.