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  • Economic Growth and the Spirit of Debate

    Posted by David Foster on March 22nd, 2017 (All posts by )

    Writing in the WSJ, Naftali Bennett takes on the question of what is the “secret educational ingredient” that accounts for Israel’s dramatic economic success.  While agreeing with others that good schools are a part of it, he also assigns credit to “a parallel education system that operates alongside the formal one.  This is where our children learn to become entrepreneurs.”

    And what are the components of this parallel education system?  He identifies three of them.  First, there is “our heritage of debate”…the study of the Talmud. “The meaning of complex texts is debated by students in hevruta–pairs–with a teacher offering occasional guidance..Since the Talmud is one of the most complex legal codes ever gathered, the idea of a verdict is almost irrelevant to those studying.  Students engage in debate for the sake of debate.  They analyze issues from all directions, finding different solutions.  Multiple answers to a single question are common.”

    Bennett identifies the second component of the parallel education system as the collection of youth organizations:  “Teenagers work closely with younger children; they lead groups on excursions  and hikes, develop informal curricula, and are responsible for those in their care.  As an 11th-grade student , I took fifth-graders on an overnight hike in the mountains.  Being given responsibilities at a young age helped shape me into who I am today.”

    The third component is the army:  “Consider a hypothetical 19-year-old soldier in the intelligence corps, analyzing aerial photographs or intercepted communications.  She must decide if the material in front of her indicates an impending attack or not.  This isn’t a rare occurrence. Thousands of Israeli soldiers experience it daily.”

    Just a couple of hours after reading the Bennett piece, I encountered this story about Wellesley College:

    In an email to fellow faculty yesterday afternoon, a committee of Wellesley College professors made several startling recommendations about how they think future campus speakers should be chosen. If implemented, the proposals by the faculty Commission for Ethnicity, Race, and Equity would have a profound impact on the quality and quantity of voices Wellesley students would be permitted to hear.

    FIRE has obtained the email, sent by one of the signatories to a faculty listserv, and republished it in full below.

    While paying lip service to free speech, the email is remarkable in its contempt for free and open dialogue on campus. Asserting that controversial speakers “impose on the liberty of students, staff, and faculty at Wellesley,” the committee members lament the fact that such speakers negatively impact students by forcing them to “invest time and energy in rebutting the speakers’ arguments.” 

    And here we thought learning to effectively challenge views with which one disagreed was an important part of the educational process!

    Meanwhile, at the University of Arizona, students who feel offended are being told to say “ouch”…and the student who made the supposedly-hurtful comment is supposed to respond with “oops.”  And these two universities are far from the only ones adopting such policies.

    So if a key part of Israel’s economic success is the training of kids in the skills and attitudes of debate…it would appear that many if not most American universities are doing the exact opposite.

     

    14 Responses to “Economic Growth and the Spirit of Debate”

    1. Mike K Says:

      The U of Arizona has been a cesspit of leftist orthodoxy for years.

      I have previously recounted the lies that were presented as history to my daughter when she was a student there.

      In 2008, there must have been 50 large screen TVs playing Obama campaign ads all over the campus.

      It was no coincidence that Obama made his speech after the Gabby Gifford shooting at the campus.

    2. Jonathan Says:

      adding that the committee would be “happy to serve as a sounding board when hosts are considering inviting controversial speakers, to help sponsors think through the various implications of extending an invitation.”

      Sounds like a shakedown.

      The letter is from the “faculty Commission for Ethnicity, Race, and Equity”. What kinds of faculty members are members of such a commission? You can find out by googling the names of the people who signed the letter. Astonishingly, they aren’t from STEM departments. It appears they might even benefit professionally from institutional resources diverted to left-wing activism. Who’da thunk it?

    3. Ken Hoop Says:

      Then why does Israel need to keep draining our pocketbooks?

    4. Mike K Says:

      Automatic Israel basher checks in.

    5. PenGun Says:

      I guess I can throw in my pet peeve. The Talmud is ridiculous. I am struck by the contrast between this:

      The Zen master Mu-nan had only one successor. His name was Shoju. After Shoju had completed his study of Zen, Mu-nan called him into his room. “I am getting old,” he said, “and as far as I know, Shoju, you are the only one who will carry on this teaching. Here is a book. It has been passed down from master to master for seven generations. I also have added many points according to my understanding. The book is very valuable, and I am giving it to you to represent your successorship.”

      “If the book is such an important thing, you had better keep it,” Shoju replied. “I received your Zen without writing and am satisfied with it as it is.”

      “I know that,” said Mu-nan. “Even so, this work has been carried from master to master for seven generations, so you may keep it as a symbol of having received the teaching. Here.”

      The two happened to be talking before a brazier. The instant Shoju felt the book in his hands he thrust it into the flaming coals. He had no lust for possessions.

      Mu-nan, who never had been angry before, yelled: “What are you doing!”

      Shoju shouted back: “What are you saying!”

      You need a book? Careful not to lose it. ;)

    6. Assistant Village Idiot Says:

      Ashkenazis having IQ’s a full standard deviation above average is the more likely and economical explanation. The things listed here are carts, not horses. Wonderful-sounding ideas about education. Of course, we have boxes full of wonderful-sounding ideas about education all over the world.

    7. David Foster Says:

      AVI…but IQ and entrepreneurship are not the same thing, though they are surely correlated to some extent. There are plenty of people in academia, ‘nonprofits’, and even in corporations who are high-IQ but not at all entrepreneurial.

    8. Grurray Says:

      “Then why does Israel need to keep draining our pocketbooks?”

      Not draining at anything. Much of the military aid goes back to purchasing American equipment like the F-35 debacle. I wouldn’t wish that platform on our enemies, let alone our allies. Israel is really bailing out the Air Force by figuring out how to deploy that ridiculous beast.

      Other non-military grants go to seed science and technology projects that directly benefit America. Because of their great innovation and intellectual capital, we have come to depend on Israel to keep our economy growing.

      Contrast that to the $3-$4 billion in federal largess that will go to the city of Chicago this year. Probably most of it wasted.

    9. Grurray Says:

      Pengun, think about what you just wrote. The opposite views eventually deconstruct into two seemingly insignificant outbursts. However, the paradox in those two opposites then resolves in an apparent truth, not logically following from the opposites but from an unexplainable (in the frame of the debate) synthesis. This is not much different from so-called Talmudic hairsplitting.

    10. PenGun Says:

      That’s lovely Grurray. My point, and my objection to using hair splitting as a tool, is that it’s a useful tool for scholars of religion but a useless tool for any one else. Really I find the minute and almost incomprehensible lengths the Bagavad Gita goes to, fascinating, but few do. The great Buddhist tomes are wonderful reads, but not much use to a layman.

      One can gain a deeper understanding of anything by worrying about it intelligently. One cannot make the leap to actual enlightenment from that point, so it’s useless to me.

      The reason he chucked that book in the fire.

    11. Xennady Says:

      Not draining at anything. Much of the military aid goes back to purchasing American equipment like the F-35 debacle.

      Giving a foreign country money to buy our products is not the same as them using their own money to buy our products. Thus, we are being drained, to use the colloquial phrase already in play.

      I wouldn’t wish that platform on our enemies, let alone our allies. Israel is really bailing out the Air Force by figuring out how to deploy that ridiculous beast.

      So we’re subsidizing their purchase of our awful aircraft, but they’re doing us the favor because Americans can’t figure out how to deploy them. Well, why don’t they just develop their own aircraft- oh wait, they wanted us to pay for that too.

      Other non-military grants go to seed science and technology projects that directly benefit America.

      Then why involve Israel in this process at all?

      Because of their great innovation and intellectual capital, we have come to depend on Israel to keep our economy growing.,

      Really? I take that as a terrible sign of American failure, not least because the American economy isn’t really growing that much. It certainly isn’t a reason to keep giving money to foreigners.

      Contrast that to the $3-$4 billion in federal largess that will go to the city of Chicago this year. Probably most of it wasted.

      It is certainly less wasted than that money simply gifted away to foreigners, as much of it is spent on such useful purposes as maintaining American infrastructure and the like. Forgive me for favoring Americans over foreigners- or don’t, because I make no apologies of any kind.

      Israel is quite able to pay its own way in the world- and should, too.

    12. Grurray Says:

      Really?, blah, blah, blah

      See Assistant Village Idiot’s comment and Mike K’s post. Yes really it is a reason.

      It is certainly less wasted

      Maybe you misundersood. We’re talking about Chicago. They don’t use road money to fix roads or school money to pay for schools. It all goes to the Aldermen’s and Ward Bosses’ Friends and Family plan.

    13. Xennady Says:

      Yes really it is a reason.

      No, it really isn’t.

      Maybe you misundersood. We’re talking about Chicago. They don’t use road money to fix roads or school money to pay for schools. It all goes to the Aldermen’s and Ward Bosses’ Friends and Family plan.

      I misunderstood not at all. While I am well aware of the vast waste embedded in the federal budget, I find it extremely dubious that all- all– of the American wealth bestowed upon Chicago is simply grifted away to benefit bureaucrats, as you assert.

      Regardless, I’d rather the money be wasted on Americans than foreigners.

    14. Grurray Says:

      It was an Israeli company that unlocked the cell phone of the San Bernardino terrorist, and it was a Silicon Valley company, Apple, that refused to help. Apple et al., consider themselves Citizens of the World more than American citizens.

      Many of the Israeli employees in Silicon Wadi get their training from IDF cyber-warfare units. Many of the employees of Silicon Valley are veterans of university safe spaces and de-masculation programs.