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.
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