Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Speaking of Education...

Today Jacob da Jew posted a defense of Touro College, his alma mater. He calls out two bloggers for "besmirching the name" of Touro without giving it, its full due.

Now I'm generally all for the benefit of the doubt, but unfortunately in this case, it is quite hard to manage. 10 individuals affiliated with Touro have been implicated in a cash-for-grades scandal. Now it is clear that not every student or employee is involved, and that, in fact, it was limited to a small minority of the population. But here's the issue, as reported by Adam Lawson of Modern Tribalist: "With the scope of a dollars-for-degrees scandal at Touro College widening, students are wondering if their diplomas might become worthless ."

The problem is that a university grants degrees, and by doing so it is certifying that the degree holder has fulfilled the necessary requirements. That is all a university has, a guarantee, so when it becomes clear that, that guarantee is untrustworthy, then all students, even those not involved, are subject to suspicion. If the university cannot be trusted to accurately report grades, or attendance, about what else can it not be trusted?

Tzvee's response to the scandal is the one that I have the most trouble with. He says "Remember the Hebrew National ads, "We answer to a Higher Authority"? I guess Touro College does not..." While it is mild by comparison to that of Failed Messiah or DK, both of whom use the scandal as a jumping off point to critique Touro as a whole. Although, to be fair, Failed Messiah lets the critique be implied in this case, he does however mention that, according to the Manhattan district attorney "hundreds, maybe even thousands, of transcripts may have been fabricated or altered."

But don't worry, a commenter on Yeshiva World News' coverage of the story says that "My nephew the lawyer tells me that the alleged scandal involves the Kings Highway division which is not the one used by the frum oilam. Just passing it on." As if that makes a difference how the school is perceived. Although, to Jews, maybe it does.

Mostly I'm just sad about this scandal. It means that many hard-working people, who, for whatever reason, chose to attend Touro, now have degrees that are worth less than they expected.


Ezzie said...

I wrote about this as soon as I heard anything; it's a big deal to people like me (though not as much, because I was in Lander) and my wife (who went to and got a Master's from that School of Ed.). I don't understand how this has anything to do with Touro's classes, and don't see why they need defending, so I don't get why JDJ felt he had to do that (though I haven't read the posts he linked to yet). The whole thing really sucks for the people who do things right, as usual.

Annie said...

Ezzie- I think that a number of people have used this scandal as a jumping-off point to critique the school's academics as a whole, which is why JDJ felt the need to defend it.

Jacob Da Jew said...

Ezzie: I'll second Annie. Yes, this is a huge scandal but those people who jump to attack the whole college are very wrong.

Thanks for the link and comment, Annie.

DK said...

I agree that it would be a shame if we let this scandal divert attention from the fact that Touro College is a crappy THIRD TIER school which liberal and secular Jews should not be directed to, either directly, or secretively and deceptively and though two step processes like Machon Maaayan and other NCSY partnerships.

Fair enough, Ezzie?


Annie said...

Jacob- to be fair, I don't know enough about Touro to endorse or criticise it, I was just trying to give a theory of why the debate has developed in this way.

DK- I would never advise a kid to go to Touro over an Ivy, but I think that different colleges fit differently for individual kids, and that it isn't my place to judge what decision a kid (or their parents) make in terms of a college. Many factors go into the decision, of which religious observance is only one.

DK said...

"I think that different colleges fit differently for individual kids."

Annie, that isn't NCSY's policy, and you know that. They have a strong bias towards the dual curriculum schools, which their own study, the Lily Foundation's "Faithful Youth," revealed. And that was in 1998. Things have only gotten frummer.

Additionally, Touro is more appropriate for Jews from a haredi background who lack the secular skill set that all Jews from public school backgrounds have. It simply isn't appropriate for Jews from a public school background, unless they are a little slow or something like that.

Never the less, we know that NCSY pushes Touro to such Jews intensely, and shares and swaps staff.

We can debate the (supposed) merits of sending public school kids to Touro, but parents must know what NCSY is doing, and that have infiltrated our public school system to do it. And they must understand what Touro is, who it is really for, and what that means educationally.