Thursday, October 24, 2013

Keeping up the system is not solving what you say is wrong with it

Before I began scoring SAT essays, I looked into working as an SAT tutor for Princeton Review, not at all related to Princeton University.( Let me go on record as saying I do not work for the test prep company. It is considered a conflict of interest with the work that I do for Pearson.) During the presentation about the company, I was struck by how it claimed a sort of rebel cause against the SAT, which, according to the founder is given far more weight than it should and is taken as a measure of intelligence, which it isn't.

 So how to take down the evil empire? Not by destroying the Death Star in this case.  Princeton Review claims to undermine the test by teaching a few tricks to help you improve your performance on  the test. Really, all it guarantees is a 100 point improvement, and that guarantee depends on the students doing all homework assignments. As you can gather, if you do all that prep and practice on your own, it's almost certain that you would improve your score by at least 100 points without having to shell out exorbitant fees. But that's not my main critique here. If you truly felt that the test is wrong then your rebel cause would call for a boycott, appealing to both heads of universities and students themselves not to buy into a corrupt system. You would not claim to offer ways to circumvent the system -- if you had any integrity -- when you are just milking it for your own gain.

The same applies to the shidduch system. There is someone who keeps posting the following: "I am offering a chessed to take shidduch pictures for those involved in shidduchim to use with their resume's,[sic] and ease the pressures of shidduch dating."

Unlike the case of Princeton Review, I do give her credit for not doing this for financial gain. However, what she is doing is not exactly easing the pressures of shidduch dating and resume but reinforcing them by offering the pictures to accompany the resumes.

For previous critiques of shidduch resumes, see

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Tznius = Torah?

This topic was addressed at great length in a post on the Divrei Chaim some years ago. Shortly thereafter, I received a surprise in the mail for winning the wager. You can follow the whole debate in the comments there, but the gist of the difference between misrepresentation in the Falk book and what sources actually say is this:
I only said, categorically, that it does not exist in the Gemara. I also said I had my doubts about the GRA making that wholesale equation of tznius keneged kulam, as well.
Anyway, as I believe in checking what sources say rather than speculating on them as possibilities, I did crack open the Wizard of Oz's tome (we got it from a neighbor who thought it was not for her) to the pages that Chaim told me was missing from the text available online.On p. 36, Falk begins a section C. entitled "What Torah Does for men, tznius does for women." 1.Tznius is an antidote to theyetzer horah. On p. 37, he says, "a woman, whose function is to establish and manage a home and family, does not have Torah learning to counteract her yetzer horah." He goes on to claim the power of tznius is such that "when kept properly is all encompassing. It gives so much kedusha and strength to the woman that she is capable of outwitting the yetzer horah and withstanding its relentless pressure. "
On p. 37 he refers to the GRA and quotes the same close to the letter to his mother that Chaim quoted above, "My dear mother, I know that you do not require my mussar, for I am aware that you ara a tzanua." It is Falk's own huge leap of logic that brings him to conclude from that phrase alone, " He was convinced, that just as being steeped in Torah enables a man to combat his 'lower self', so too, being steeped in tznius enables a woman to be victorious in the same way." 
It is proven, thus, that the GRA never said what people say he did, and that people confuse what Falk argues for with what the GRA actually said. 
He does have a bit more to hang his hat on when quoting the Chazon Ish, but that relies on a secondary source: Falk p.42: "It is appropriate in this context to quote from the life story of Rebbetzin Karelitz a.h. the mother of Hagaon Harav Nissim Karelitz shlita ('Silence is Thy Praise' p. 106)"'How much the Chazon Ish valued the modesty of a Jewish woman as perhaps best evident in the response he once gave when asked, 'What can a young lady do to match the merit of young man's learning?'
"'Let her work on her tznius!' he answered."
Even that, though, does not exactly equate the effectiveness of tznius with that of Torah but merely suggests it as something women could occupy themselves with. I wonder a bit at this, though, because Chazal clearly said that women earn Olam Haba through the Torah learning of their husbands and sons -- not through their tznius. Perhaps this was a suggestion for a woman who was unmarried and childless.