Letter to the Editor: Varying Perspectives -- Yes, Thank You
After reading Akiva Schick’s recent opinion piece “The Need for Varying Perspectives,” I felt both impressed by his argument and compelled by his logic. While the issue of coeducation in an Orthodox Jewish setting is justifiably and appropriately complex on a variety of fronts, I felt that Schick’s piece was a sensible and valuable contribution to this much broader discussion as he adeptly articulated one important and relevant consideration to the topic. I (and Schick) am not commenting on the halakhic or hashkafic issues involved in having men and women studying together in the same classroom at Yeshiva University. These are serious issues where the guidance of the gedolei ha-poskim of our community is needed.
But after reading Jordyn Kaufman’s response, I was left both confused and shocked. My confusion derived primarily from what can only have been a misreading and misrepresentation of Schick’s point on her behalf. My shock, however, was a result of her apparent denial of the necessity and benefits of having other perspectives in the classroom and how having multiple genders together would only help that cause. Admittedly, the shocked feeling I possessed also came in part from the frankly inappropriate ad hominem style of her response. What I thought could only have been logically interpreted as a sincere formulation of the benefits of having other perspectives in the classroom, Kaufman seemed to have interpreted as a selfish and derogatory attempt to use women in a way that would be disadvantageous for the women and solely benefit the male students.
Furthermore, Kaufman chalks up the issues Schick describes to flaws in the male students as opposed to objective, common, and expected intellectual challenges in many settings presented by a lack of diversity. Experiences, and the way literature informs our experiences, are valuable to any discussion, whether it’s in a class or a coffee shop. To claim that merely through a priori reflection one can somehow intuit opposing perspectives assumes that humans are like robots, and that our interpretation of texts and learning is something that only incorporates strict logic. While Kaufman accurately notes the importance of close readings, the extrapolations each individual makes are inevitably tied to their life experiences.
Finally, I applaud Schick for opening a discussion that is critical for us to be having in our community. As such, I think it is important we revisit Schick’s piece to re-evaluate the insightful point that he makes and to help clarify the benefits of varying perspectives.
Yeshiva College ‘18