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Declining standards May 31, 2015

Posted by Ezra Resnick in Education, Religion.
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As if being a Chasidic mom in London wasn’t hard enough already:

The British leaders of a major Chasidic sect have declared that women should not be allowed to drive. In a letter sent out last week, Belz rabbis said that having female drivers goes against “the traditional rules of modesty in our camp” and against the norms of Chasidic institutions.

It added that, from August, children would be barred from their schools if their mothers drove them there.

According to the letter — which was signed by leaders from Belz educational institutions and endorsed by the group’s rabbis — there has been an increased incidence of “mothers of pupils who have started to drive” which has led to “great resentment among parents of pupils of our institutions”.

They said that the Belzer Rebbe in Israel, Rabbi Yissachar Dov Rokeach, has advised them to introduce a policy of not allowing pupils to come to their schools if their mothers drive.

The UK Education Secretary launched an inquiry, and in response, the Chief Executive of the Belz Day School wrote her a letter of explanation. After complaining about “misrepresentation” and apologizing for a “negative impression” created by an “unfortunate” choice of words, the letter continues:

Our community is guided by religious principles and strong traditional values. We are concerned by the erosion of such values, especially amongst our youth, caused by the proliferation of technology and the declining standards of visual and printed media.

We are proud of what we stand for and we do not feel the need to excuse ourselves for our deeply held beliefs and staunchly maintained way of life. It has withstood the test of time and is not prone to the vagaries of passing fads.

We fully accept that despite being private schools we have responsibilities to our members and to the wider public. However, as private schools we have the freedom to set our own high standards by which we seek to live and bring up our children. Our community invest in our way of life and it is our duty to ensure that we provide an education in line with our time-hallowed traditions.

For this reason we have seen it necessary to issue guidelines which are restricted to our community and guided by the Torah and by the teachings of the Rebbes of Belz. We do not impose these guidelines on anyone who has not chosen to adhere to the mores of our community of his or her own free will.

That claim is disingenuous with regards to the community’s women — who know that their children will be expelled from school and their families ostracized if they choose to disobey any of the “guidelines” handed down from the rabbis — but it’s downright false with regards to those who are most vulnerable: the children.

We hope that this clarifies our true intentions. We will continue to remain vigilant and unbending in ensuring that our children are shielded from the onslaught with which we are all faced today. It is our belief that only in this way will they grow up proud of our traditions and lifestyle which is built around the Torah, the family and mutual kindness. This is our purpose in life and for which we will always stand up proudly and unflinchingly.

You might be proud of a tradition that subordinates women and obsesses over policing their “modesty”, but your children deserve a fair chance to make up their own minds — and that requires exposing them to the existence of other worldviews and allowing them to think for themselves, without penalty. Otherwise, the claim that they have freely chosen to belong to your community is a mockery. And if the only way you can get your children to grow up proud of your traditions and lifestyle is by “shielding” them from alternative viewpoints and demanding obedience and conformity, then perhaps your principles are nothing to be proud of, after all?


The prosecutor’s dilemma May 25, 2015

Posted by Ezra Resnick in Game theory.
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“Here’s the deal: We’ve got enough evidence to convict you and your partner of a misdemeanor right now, and you’d each get two years in prison. Now, if both of you come clean, and confess to the felony I know you committed, you’ll each get three years. Why would you do that, you ask? Well, my colleague is in the other room right now making the same offer to your partner. If he signs a confession and you don’t, we let him off with one year and give you four! Of course, if you sign a confession and he doesn’t, the reverse applies. Now, if you think about it rationally, you’ll see that —”

“Yeah, yeah — I’m better off confessing no matter what my partner does, and we both end up doing three years — I’m familiar with the Prisoner’s Dilemma. Do you think I’m stupid? Listen up, cause here’s the deal: I’ll confess, but I only serve one year — no matter what my partner does. If you refuse, then I confess nothing, and I go public with the story of how you tried to use Game Theory to bully me into signing a false confession. Oh, and did I mention that my partner is making the same offer to your colleague in the other room right now? Do you want your colleague to walk away with a felony conviction, while you’re left to defend misconduct charges on your own? Think about it rationally…”

John Nash 1928-2015

John Nash

Intersection May 10, 2015

Posted by Ezra Resnick in Logic.
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