Friday, March 17, 2006

HAFTR & Rambam - Response To Comments II

As I was finishing up my reply to Halakhically Concerned's latest comments, I saw that Ben Matok had posted his as well. That sorta ruined most of my reply to HC, but I'm glad BM posted. I had wondered what it was that he said which caused MoC to take down his posts on the subject.

First, I freely admit that there was little difference between MoC's initial take on the subject and my first post. There were some slight differences, and there may have been some deeper
divisions, but for the most part, we were saying the same thing. Since I had corroborated what MoC said through other sources, I felt it worth of its own post. And since I'd have further thoughts on the matter, I figure I'd start off now. I'm approaching it from a point of view that is slightly more than theoretical (given the rumors and acknowledgements from the yeshivas involved) yet far from practical.

HC and BM make a comparison to marriage. Surely, one would not publicly discuss family issues of third parties on their blog, even if it were public knowledge, and they're right. Of course, this rule is not absolute. We routinely advertise, publicly discuss, embaress, and condemn those who don't give their wives a get. (Though one can disagree with this, and thus make the rule absolute).

I think a closer analogy would be the functioning of a beis din, of a Rav or community leader abusing their positions of power, or a shul's negotiations with a contractor to expand. In all of
those cases, the community has a vested interest, indeed a requirement, to get involved, and to discuss the issues.

BM and I have a disagreement, but not a fundamental one. "I...don't think that the topic - in of itself - is worthy of discussion at the present moment. (emphasis added)" Presumably, once the actual plan is on the table, the time for discussion would begin. Or, alternatively, if no discussions were being held, someone could come forth with a plan (as often happens in the corporate world) to merge the two, and discuss the consequences (as often happens int he academic world). What he appears to be saying is that since there are rumors floating around, rumors which have happend year after year, this discussion falls under loshon hara and idle gossip. I don't think that rumors take a discussion occuring in a separate vein and turn them
into idle gossip. Otherwise, a purely theoretical discussion, where we called the schools "X" and "Y" would be equally gossipy.

Nonetheless, BM has a very valid point, one which I continue to struggle with. Sensitive negotiations can often be derailed by ill timed stories, be they newspapers, bloggers, or word of mouth. So how do you decide what to post and what not to post?

First, it should be recognize that this is not out of the blue. Both HAFTR and Rambam have made ambiguous statements (and in at least one case, have changed their story from a denial to the ambiguous statement). Had it been totally secret I would not have written about it. I wouldn't be surprised if both schools have feelers out, listening to responses, to gauge support and gather new ideas.

Second, once this is not secret, I can, and do, reasonably assume that the trustees, board members, and administrators of both schools are ready for parental feedback. Indeed, neither school has taken any strong affirmative steps to maintain secrecy.

Parents know, teachers know, students know, and not because those involved in negotiations kept quiet. So now that the cat is out of the bag, or rather, a cat is out of some bag, what do we do? We can be quiet. In a world where gossip is king, that would be the prudent thing to do, as HC and BM suggest. Luckily, Haloscan allows me to moderate and edit comments. So no mudslinging here. Or, we can try and have a civil conversation, looking at the contours of different plans, different possibilities, assessing their strengths and weaknesses. That's what I'd like to do. It should be noted that, since our covnersations are largely theoretical, while this lays the groundwork, much of it can be deemed irrelevant if the plan turns out to be very different.

Of course, any conversation comes against the backdrop of MoC, whose posts were taken down. I'd ask my readers and commenters to look past that. We have the ability to help guide our Yeshivot through a process whose impact will be felt in 5T education for the next decade, or longer. We should not take that responsibility lightly, nor should we abdicate it.

(Interestingly, my posts are not nearly as popular as MoC's were. That's probably generally true of my posts, but I hope its also an indication that people know not to make idle gossip comments, or don't like reading such long posts. According to one of the letters sent out, either Rambam or HAFTR should be announcing something right before/after Pesach. This thread should die down soon, I only have one more post on my thoughts, which are for Jewish education generally, but can be applied in the present situation as well.)