Did you contradict yourselves, Rabbi and Susan?

November 27th, 2019 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 9 comments

I would like to say thank you very much Rabbi Lapin, your book Business Secrets From The Bible is a game changer. Changed my life. I do have one question though in regard to something you wrote in Secret #18. 

You make mention that students evaluating teachers is a backwards practice. I think I see your angle with this line of thought, but I also see that the students are the customers of the teacher, or at least one of the customers. If teachers don’t receive reviews from them sometimes, how will they know how to better improve the product that they are giving the students? 

I understand that under a certain age, students’ cognitive abilities are not developed enough to perform such reviews. However, for older students, especially those in university who are paying for the product the teacher is delivering, why is it a bad thing for the product the teacher delivers to get reviewed? Looking forward to your answer.

Kind Regards,

Emanuel E.

Dear Emanuel,

You are asking a wonderful question. We always appreciate being forced to question our own assertions. One of the problems with today’s society is how often people only read things that align with their beliefs. We rarely hear true debates of the old-fashioned variety where ideas, not people, are dissected and where honest questions rather than vicious attack is practiced.

You are pointing out that we often extol the idea of a free and ethical market where the usefulness of a business is recognized by the fact that it has customers. We seem to be suggesting that the same is not true for colleges. You are saying that surely, a teacher who receives good reviews and whose classes are oversubscribed is delivering proof that he or she is successful.

In a classical and honest college experience where education was paid for and delivered as a resource, this would be true. You yourself recognize that if students are not paying for their own education, their views lack credibility. They are, in fact, not the customer. The government and their fellow citizens are. 

Whenever a third party pays, quality falls and costs rise.  Imagine each time you visit the grocery market, the checkout cashier submits  your bill to be paid for by your fellow citizens. You would load up your cart with many more items than you really need and the supermarket would price them far higher than you would normally accept.  This is a little how our university system is working.

We aren’t familiar with colleges around the world. However, the United States has a broken system. Among other problems, higher education receives too much government money (which of course means money confiscated from fellow citizens) to be equated to a business. Too many universities offer meaningless degrees that allow students to spend wasted years and emerge uneducated, ignorant and often invested in destroying society. Students and their families often  sink heavily into debt to earn a degree that offers nothing real in terms of earning money or expanding their knowledge. Whereas eighteen-year-olds at times in history have often been mature adults, too many college students today expect the privileges of adulthood without any of the responsibilities. Colleges provide them with an opportunity to delay growing up. 

If you don’t like how the supermarket treats you, your best recourse is to shop elsewhere.   The university student has virtually no recourse since almost all higher education institutions conduct business in the same way.

Clearly, there are serious and dedicated students and fine educational institutions with worthy professors. These students are truly seeking knowledge and expect to emerge from their studies with skills that can benefit themselves and their fellow citizens. Under those circumstances, we agree that student reviews can be valuable. When we criticized the practice of students grading teachers, we should have noted that we were referring to educational venues where reviewing teachers means noting who gives an ‘easy A,’ and, even more so, rewarding those teachers whose politics align with the most extreme Leftist ideas while trashing those teachers who are independent thinkers. Reviews in this case are often used to encourage grade inflation and to censor speech.  We consider them an insidious aspect of modern so-called education.

In summary, our language was too broad. Were we to sit down with you in conversation, we feel sure that we would agree on when student reviews are valuable and when they are destructive. 

Thanks for keeping us on our toes,

Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin

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9 comments

Neweverymoment, Deb:
Hurrah, Rabbi and Susan, who generally leaves a few fingerprints (been there; done that!).
You give a beautifully balanced argument. Adolescence has been called a luxury that only the last few generations could enjoy; earlier generations were sent to apprenticeship at a tender age. Colleges are “hotbeds of [socialism/statism]”= said years ago, and it has only gotten worse. At the same time, the questioner raises valid points. Most of today’s students end up with “skulls full of mush”, from which they are hardly qualified to judge their professors. With the mainstream media as part of the problem, it is difficult to get the truth out. Recent articles elsewhere have pointed out that even supposed truthful reviews by customers have been faked. “Let God arise, and let his enemies be scattered.” Happy Thanksgiving; and your operation is one of the things for which we can be truly grateful.

Charles says:

Very well put. My school has gone from $250/semester to $13,000/semester in the 60 years since I graduated. The other big issue in mind…if you wanted to meet your professors on Sunday when I was there, go to church.

Bethany Haynes says:

I have a daughter who graduated with her master’s degree and started teaching at 23. Needless to really say, she is driven. While in college, she read reviews on a college professor rating website. It was very valuable. She took one class with a very difficult professor. He was rated as “not an easy A” by several students. She chose to take his class anyways, but she was prepared. She informed us that was the professor who taught her the most and she did well. On the other hand, she had a brand new professor who did not know anything about the class subject of Northwest history. He taught more on European history than Northwest history. To be a teacher she was required to know the subject. A poor review would have been helpful.

I know my daughter was not like all students, but all of her cohorts were serious about education. The rating site was a great tool. Plus, millennials live by reviews. I’ve rather enjoyed them myself.😉

Jean says:

In re: the idea that the student is the “customer”, I actually question that premise. The parents of the student and the taxpayer are paying for the education, so I would consider THEM to be the actual customers. And most government-funded colleges and universities are far from transparent in revealing to those footing the bill what it is they are actually teaching. So having a class participant grade a teacher isn’t all that effective, because the participant isn’t evaluating the teacher on the value he or she provides. Having mom, dad and the taxpaying community whose dollars go toward funding Pell Grants and student loans would be far more effective and just. They know exactly what a class like Physics for Poets (this was actually offered in the college I attended, and consisted of repeating what I had learned in 5th grade) is worth.

Mark says:

Once again, an interesting question and an informative answer. Thank you.

Rabbi Daniel Lapin says:

Thank you Mark
Cordially
RDL

Mark Z says:

I’ve taken 22 on line classes from Hillsdale College which does not take any government funds. One of the classes that I took involved the president of the college teaching 8 of the students. I was very impressed by the students and the way they answered their teachers questions.

Emanuel Enime says:

Greetings Rabbi Lapin,

Thank you very much for answering my question! I also appreciate the other users who responded to this topic. I look forward to one day sitting down with you and Mrs. Lapin to discuss your work.

Kind Regards,
Emanuel

Tania Milliken says:

Thank you, I appreciate question and answer both. Food for thought for all of us.

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