The Cañada College Core Curriculum: Bullying?

April 28th, 2017 Posted by Susan's Musings 23 comments

Most of you, like me, have read how conservative speakers are being harassed and shut down on numerous college campuses. Sometimes violence is involved, such as at Berkeley, while other times “only” intimidation and disruption take place.

Not surprisingly, when a society rewards bad behavior, we get more of it. Since the protesters have not been arrested and/or expelled following these events, suppression of conservative speech is increasing.

My husband and I got our personal taste of this at  Cañada College in San Mateo, CA, this past Tuesday night. He was invited by students to give a speech about the morality of business and we soon found that the following notice, revealing the facility of language and depth of discourse one expects from college students, was circulating on campus.

The students who had invited us assured us that security measures were being taken and that a large turnout was expected, though they were expecting some protestors.

We arrived and while my husband was taken to a back room, I circulated among arriving students and community members.  As people entered the auditorium a few girls stood quietly by the stairs leading to the venue, holding signs of protest. I thought that was a perfectly civilized way to express opposition, no matter how misguided.



One of the girls actually had a number of different sign with quotes from my husband and I was impressed with the effort she had made rather than using generic material. We got into an interesting conversation when I began to question what exactly she found offensive about the specific quotes she was parading. For example, one of the quotes spoke of women being born with a limited number of eggs while men’s sperm doesn’t share that limitation. I asked if she felt the biological fact was incorrect, which she didn’t, though she thought that suggesting that this might make women and men act differently was wrong. Let’s face it. This is a young student —seventeen? nineteen?—with limited life experience who has, sadly, fallen for the lies being fed to our youth. She hasn’t, as my husband and I have, sat with thirty-five year old women in tears asking why no one told them when they were younger that they might desperately yearn to have a baby one day. She was open to a discussion of her various signs and I actually felt sorry for her. How can you expect a student to defend her ideas when she has been taught what to think rather than how to think while being shielded from different views ?

Still, if this was the extent of the protests, there would be no problem. The speech began and while a few seated young girls (this was a different group than the ones who had been outside) held up signs, including vulgar ones, everything was going along fine. That changed when about half an hour into the speech these girls stood up and began repetitively chanting about eight or so words. I don’t remember the slogan, but it had something to do with Fascism. Their actions suggested that they favor that philosophy though I think their words suggested otherwise. With the rampant historical ignorance among college students, it’s likely they have no idea what Fascism is, since forcible suppression of opposition is one of its mainstays.

As these three girls continued to stand and shout, my husband asked one of them what she wanted. She ‘asked’ a question about health care and he said that he would be happy to answer it within his talk so could they please sit down and stop disrupting so he could continue. That clearly wasn’t part of their agenda so they continues standing and repetitively shrieking their mantra. At this point a few more girls came in the other side of the auditorium and joined in the screeching. Security stood to the side with folded arms. End of speech.

The rest of the audience was understandably annoyed at being held hostage. There was an attempt to outshout the protesters and a number of people approached the girls pleading with them to leave. Meanwhile, security stood to the side with folded arms. When the event organizers questioned why they didn’t do anything, the response was that they were there so that if things turned violent they could shut the event down. Eventually, after quite a few people had given up and left in frustration, some almost in tears, the organizers circulated word that participants should stealthily leave and take circuitous routes to get to a different room where my husband would give his speech. That is what happened.

Cañada College, like most institutions of learning, has a student code of conduct. Here are two excerpts:

“Students enrolled at Cañada College are expected to conduct themselves as responsible citizens and in a manner compatible with the functioning of an educational institution.”

“Any student [not behaving according to the code] may be subject to disciplinary action, including suspension and/or expulsion.”

To give the bullying students credit, they did not wear masks as violent protesters at Berkeley have done. Masks both increases the intimidation factor and represents cowardice, just as they historically did for the Ku Klux Klan. The professors and other students at Tuesday’s event have identified the irresponsible citizens who acted in a manner incompatible with the functioning of an educational institution. Many of these fellow students were in shock that people whom they considered friends could behave so reprehensibly. I believe that complaints are being filed, though I admit that I would be shocked to hear that serious disciplinary action is taken. The protests here have been empowered by other, larger and better known, colleges that have chosen to side with suppression of free speech and thuggish behavior.

I know how my husband and I felt Tuesday night. I can only imagine how it feels to be a conservative student on campus, being intimidated, insulted and silenced daily. These brave students, many of whom affiliate with YAF (Young America’s Foundation), the organization that helped arrange for my husband’s speech, need and fully deserve our support.

If you have something you wish to politely say to the college’s administration, here is some contact information.

Barbara Bucton (Executive Assistant to President)
(650) 306-3239

Deborah Joy (Executive Assistant)Office of the Vice President, Student Services
(650) 306-3318


When is ‘connecting with others’ a mistake?

April 27th, 2017 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 14 comments

I accept your teachings of God’s desire for his children to interact with one another and am intellectually exploring those ideas.  As a gifted software engineer interacting with other humans is not one of my strengths and I am attempting to get better at it.

Over the past couple of years, however, I felt the need to disassociate myself with two former friends.  One was quite close; the other lives two doors away from me.  Without getting into gossipy details, I feel there are a certain set of circumstances that it is okay to disassociate from another human.  One example might be that the friend was asking your assistance in carrying on an extra-marital affair.  Another might be that the friend had anger issues and regularly yelled at you, your wife, and your children.  But what if their actions were less harmful?  What if a person regularly insulted you?  Regularly asked you to work on his for profit business for free?   Ran a business where both he and the employees knowingly broke the law?  

So what principles should be applied to harmful human associations?  Where is the line drawn?  What kind of venues should be left open for reconciliation?

Peter B.


Dear Peter,

Thank you for writing with such self-awareness.  Many very competent people in science, technology, engineering and mathematics feel less capable in human relationships.  We think there should be a special course helping these talented people expand their considerable abilities into relationships.  We know of what we speak. One of us (that would be Rabbi Daniel) actually became an electronics engineer. Worried that 10 hours a day in a lab with instruments would encourage a disconnect from people he switched into sales and became what they called then, a tech-rep.

While we certainly speak glowingly of the importance of human relationships, we hope that no one interprets our words to mean that we should have unthinking interaction with others. In fact, one of the episodes on Ancient Jewish Wisdom TV Show Volume 2 discusses the dangers of associating with the wrong people.

Ancient Jewish wisdom even presents certain rare circumstances where an entire community should shun individuals. The instances you give of people trying to lasso you into participating in their wrongdoing or supporting their wrongdoing suggest good reasons for pulling away from those relationships. We’d just like to add that the “less harmful” examples you ask about sound quite harmful to us.

Having said that, sometimes a bit more forcefulness and forthrightness can keep a relationship from ending unnecessarily. On occasion, avoiding confrontation results in prematurely ending a relationship. For example, someone who keeps asking you to work for free on their business might benefit more from an outright polite but firm statement that you can’t do that rather than an evasive, “I’m really busy right now,” which encourages them to repeat the request. Some people come from a culture where insults show friendship and closeness. Stating that you aren’t comfortable with that type of exchange might allow you to maintain a cordial relationship.

Like most things, relationships fall into different categories.  There is a large gulf between bosom buddies and ‘cross to the other side of the street’ people you need to avoid. Most people fall into the spectrum between those two extremes.

Enjoy the variety,

Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin

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Crime Doesn’t Say

April 25th, 2017 Posted by Thought Tools 28 comments

On news broadcasts and interviews I have noticed something scary.  Boys involved in violent crime are largely illiterate.  This chilling correlation has been confirmed to me by friends in criminal justice and law enforcement.  You’d think that just by the laws of probability, at least some assailants and murderers when caught would have more to say than just meaningless gesticulations and obscenities.  I have been looking for just one carjacker who, upon being apprehended, told the policeman, “It’s challenging to understand, officer, I know, but while taking my afternoon constitutional, I was seized by an irresistible desire to inflict physical harm on an innocent citizen and to transfer his motor vehicle to my possession.”

Ancient Jewish wisdom suggests that the desire to communicate is present from birth and that parents who neglect this most crucial of their responsibilities may be complicit in their children’s later lack of socialization skills.

A really interesting phase in raising a child occurs just before he begins to speak.  Many observant parents notice a period of apparent anger and frustration.  The child is ready to communicate with speech, desperately desires to communicate and cannot quite put the words together yet.  Some parents try to avoid this difficult time by teaching their infants baby sign language.  It fascinates me to watch pre-verbal toddlers moving their little fingers in purposeful and meaningful ways.

Clearly, we are created to communicate.  That toddler, not yet possessing even crude motor skills like catching a ball, can already recognize the complex distinctions between nouns and verbs.  Teaching the child the names of things, chatting with and reading to a child are indispensable steps in educating for communication.  There is a vast difference in the number of words to which small children are exposed in diligent homes and indifferent ones.  Studies at the University of Kansas and other institutions show that there is a direct correlation between the number of words a toddler hears and learns and her subsequent academic achievement.  By the age of three, children of diligent  parents hear  millions of words more than children of indifferent parents.   In America there is a disturbing correlation between rise in juvenile crime and the deterioration in English language education in the nation’s public schools.

Fluency in speech is closely connected to an ability to write. Employers, military induction officers and social workers confirm that increasing numbers of young adults are incapable of writing down their thoughts coherently.  Most of these also fail to comprehend simple written instructions.  This is obviously a huge social problem.  Whether creating a business plan, solving a family crisis or constructing an international treaty to avoid war, the first thing always is to express in words the problem you’re trying to solve.  It is almost impossible to find the solution if you haven’t transformed the problem from feelings to words.

Furthermore, communication and conversation lead to collaboration and cooperation which lead to creativity.  In other words, almost no major challenges are successfully overcome by any one person acting entirely alone.  Talk and conversation are the tools of this cooperation.  Depriving our children of the tools of communication is to sentence them to needlessly underachieving lives at best and perhaps to criminality and worse.

This is why ancient Jewish wisdom regularly refers to God having achieved all of Creation by means of statements, the first of which was, “Let there be light.”

King David elaborates on this when he says:

By the word of the Lord, the heavens were made, and with the breath of His mouth, all their host. 
(Psalms 33:6)

The Bible does not record, “And God made light”.  It reports that God used words to create.  In the same way today, a budding entrepreneur doesn’t tell people, “I feel like creating a business.”  Instead he shows a written business plan in which words specify the story.

When a goal or ambition gets written down it starts coming to life.  Attaching times and deadlines then transforms a mere dream into a plan.  Ancient Jewish wisdom teaches that God gave man the power of words and speech in the seventh verse of chapter two in Genesis because He wants us to connect, communicate, collaborate, and create.  A few verses later, God creates another human with whom Adam could communicate and ultimately create.

People who have been handicapped by inadequate instruction in words very understandably feel frustration.  Maybe even you are not fulfilling your ultimate potential of communication and collaboration.  Once we are adults, it is our own responsibility to correct any deficiencies from our upbringing. Each of us can improve our ability to use words to connect and communicate by making a deliberate effort to improve fluency and vocabulary.

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Funny if it wasn’t so tragic

April 25th, 2017 Posted by On Our Mind 14 comments

One picture is worth a thousand words. My husband was invited to give an economic speech at a northern California college. Naturally, in an educational environment, students must be shielded from hearing opinions that aren’t part of liberal orthodoxy. And people wonder why we don’t support making college more available and affordable. It seems to us that fewer people going to college today would be an excellent idea.  (more…)

April 21st, 2017 Posted by On Our Mind 3 comments

I admit to not following the Bill O’Reilly/Fox News story carefully. One of the lovely plusses of a holiday like Passover is five days with no communication from the outside world (the first two and last two days of Passover and the Sabbath in the middle.) However, if a comment about there being a lot of blondes at Fox is seen as proof of sexual harassment, then perhaps it’s time to ban women from the workplace. People make bad jokes all the time; people make stupid jokes all the time. Having everybody walk on eggshells or refrain from talking because, “everything you say can and will be used against you,” does not make for a healthy workplace. There is plenty of real harassment of all kinds that goes on. In my opinion, that comment doesn’t make the cut.

Faith in America: A CBS Propaganda Documentary

April 20th, 2017 Posted by Susan's Musings 30 comments

I just finished watching a well done piece of propaganda, produced by CBS News. As I write these words it is Easter Sunday which, this year, falls in the middle of the Passover holiday.  It seemed appropriate to click on a video entitled “Faith in America: a History,” which I was sure would be a celebration of America’s tolerance and religious diversity. Traditionally, this is a time of year when secular networks tap into the holiday season by showing movies like The Ten Commandments or Ben Hur. A documentary on America’s various religious communities seemed to fit that tradition.

Of course, in a historical narrative it would be only honest and fair to mention the sad times when discrimination peppered our history. These would legitimately include, among other examples, early anti-Quakerism, the antagonism the Mormon Church faced, anti-Catholicism and anti-Semitism. However, I assumed that the thrust of the show would express pride and gratitude for our amazing country.

In all fairness, the site that linked me to the video didn’t include the subtitle, A history of Catholic, Jewish and Muslim intolerance in America, which, despite some grammatical awkwardness, might have warned me of the show’s slant.  But I never saw the subtitle.

By the end of the documentary I was shocked breathless. Here is my summary of what I saw: Evil Republicans, especially Donald Trump and anyone who supports him, are channeling anti Catholic biases of earlier years in America along with Nazi sentiments in Europe to promote baseless, superstitious fear of and harm to Muslims.  End of story.

I must sadly acknowledge that the show was extremely well done. As a homeschooling mother I wanted to watch it with my children, get their feedback and then watch a second time, pausing every few minutes to point out or send them searching for rebuttals to the half-truths, false associations, misleading language and blatant disregard for history that made up the bulk of this shameful anti-American propaganda. While not on the level of a Leni Riefenstahl documentary, it was most impressive. (Did you see how I manipulated you there? Leni Riefenstahl was Hitler’s favorite director. Her 1930s movie Triumph of the Will was an effective, ground-changing work that helped Hitler solidify power. By making an analogy to Ms. Riefenstahl, I encouraged you to compare the CBS documentary to her work, leading you to associate the CBS film I’m discussing with a Nazi production, ergo CBS is like Hitler. That is one of the types of manipulative propaganda for which you should be alert should you choose to watch the CBS film.)

I would strongly encourage anyone who saw this piece to take the time to factually refute it and consciously address the tools of disinformation it employs. Too often, we have an underlying gut feeling that something is wrong but don’t bother to intellectually enumerate the problems. CBS is relying on Americans’ notorious lack of historical knowledge coupled with ignorance of current world affairs to encourage viewers to adopt a highly subjective and partisan attitude.

My homeschooling students are grown and I trust that I taught them well enough that they can dissect this program themselves should they choose to see it. My days of running history seminars for children are over for now. However, in closing, I’d like to offer one story from my childhood that in a very personal way exemplifies religion in America to me.

As Easter always falls on or near Passover, this time of the year in Catholic parts of Europe was often a period of fear and bloodshed in the Jewish community. Catholic services too frequently ended with mob violence against the Jewish community, resulting in horrendous pogroms.

In contrast, I grew up in a mixed Italian-Catholic and Jewish community in New York. In days when mothers didn’t view themselves as their children’s social directors, neighborhood children grouped into de facto play groups. My two best friends growing up each lived down the block. I attended a religious Jewish school; Beth, whose family belonged to the Conservative movement of Judaism went to public school; and JoAnn and her siblings were stalwarts of the local Catholic school.

One year, on Passover, Beth’s grandfather, who also lived on our block, died. The funeral took place on the holiday and JoAnn’s mother offered to watch one toddler grandson at her house during the ceremony. My parents thought I was too young to go to the funeral but old enough to stay home alone while they attended. About an hour after they left, JoAnn came running over to say that her mother needed me to come and bring food with me. Her mother’s young charge was crying and she wanted to give him something to eat. In grief and shock at the sudden loss of her father (the burial was less than 24 hours after the death) Beth’s aunt had not sent any food with her son.Yet JoAnn’s mother knew how careful we were with kosher food on Passover and didn’t want to offer the very young child anything, not even a fruit, that might show any disrespect for our religion. To me, that, rather than the agenda-driven, political cudgel CBS produced, represents faith in America.

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Separate vacations for married couples?

April 19th, 2017 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 23 comments

I am thinking about taking a 7 day bicycle/camping trip. However my wife cannot go for many reasons ( mostly because she dislikes biking). We have never been apart this length of time.

What does ancient Jewish wisdom have to say about being apart, by choice? 

I have read all of your books ( except the Thought Tools I am currently reading) and listened to all your CDs -some many times and watched your DVD’s. I must say this has help me very much in business and relationships. Thank you! I look forward to more.

Thank you, 

Jerry R.


Dear Jerry,

First of all, we appreciate hearing that our resources are helping you. It truly encourages us.

Your question is a great one and we compliment you and your wife for thinking this through. While husbands and wives can certainly have different interests, using the limited vacation time most of us have to follow those interests separately has the potential of becoming problematic.

Ancient Jewish wisdom specifically speaks about reserving the first year of marriage for building the marital relationship and we would suggest hesitating if you are newly married. It also insists that at any time in the marriage a husband cannot change his field of work to one that requires more time away from home without his wife’s agreement. So, separation is treated seriously.


Where Did I Hear That?

April 18th, 2017 Posted by Thought Tools 12 comments

“When we were young, we were taught again and again that we shouldn’t get pregnant. Now we can’t!”

That plaintive wail from a childless 43 year-old woman caught my attention. Holly Finn describes the mortification and expense of countless in-vitro-fertilization procedures she endured. A little cashmere baby sweater goes everywhere with her; she bought it years earlier for the baby she hoped she’d one day have. Now Holly weeps about having the sweater but not the child. Her most excruciating experiences are being in the company of other women chattering happily about their children, or with men, most of whom simply don’t get how she feels.

Holly’s sad situation echoes the Biblical account of Rachel. When Leah repeatedly gives birth, the childless Rachel cries out in agony to her husband:

…give me children otherwise I’m as good as dead.
(Genesis 30:1)


Have a wonderful day

April 16th, 2017 Posted by On Our Mind No Comment yet

Wishing all our Christian friends a wonderful Easter.

Recite, Repeat, Rejuvenate

April 14th, 2017 Posted by On Our Mind No Comment yet

Very early in the Passover Seder we ask a question, “Why is this night different from all other nights?” followed by four examples of unusual behavior. This section is often inaccurately called “The Four Questions.” From there, we annually follow the same program, reading, singing and/or chanting the same words, eating the same foods and doing the same actions as our ancestors. Yet, if that is all that you do, there is every chance that your Seder can become an uninspiring chore. It may foster warm family feeling, but do little for one’s relationship with God.

The test of a truly successful Seder, is one that indeed is exactly like every previous one in its details, but that is breathtakingly groundbreaking in terms of the discussion, questions, debate and insights. What a wonderful model for any family, group or country that wants to survive and thrive over the long term. If you break away from the core requirements, you lose your connection to the past,  becoming something new rather than a continuation of your past. If you cling so narrowly to the past that you can’t explore new avenues and see things with fresh eyes, you become a fossil.

May we all have the wisdom to know when to cling tenaciously to the past and when to fearlessly forge the future.