More gender segregation at universities and colleges, this time in Israel. (Sorry about that site – it sticks a share button on the margin where it blocks some of the text and you can’t move either the button or the text. Top notch design, there, Al-Monitor.)
Israel is trying to get more ultra-Orthodox to do some work besides poring over the Talmud, but there are complications.
The Council for Higher Education (CHE) reported to the Knesset in February 2014 that many ultra-Orthodox men would like to study in the coming academic year. However, it seems that most will not do so, because they refuse to study in institutions where men and women sit together in classrooms.
Girl cooties. Can’t go to university, can’t get higher education, because girl cooties. There is nothing worse than girl cooties. Starvation and being eaten by bears is preferable to girl cooties.
For more than a decade now, universities and colleges in Israel have offered various programs aimed at solving this problem. Tel Aviv University, Bar-Ilan University and the University of Haifa sponsor such projects and offer academic degrees to students of ultra-Orthodox colleges, which practice gender segregation. The students work from the campuses of those colleges, removed from the regular university faculty and students. In recent years, however, these universities have also offered such programs on their own campuses. The Israel Technology Institute and several universities opened college-preparatory study programs for men only, to which only male lecturers are assigned.
“Some of the ultra-Orthodox students will agree to continue on for their degrees in the regular mixed classrooms after a year of preparation in the college-preparatory program,” explains Orna Kupferman, the vice rector of the Hebrew University, charged with integrating ultra-Orthodox students. “Others can study in mixed settings on the condition that they have a spiritual support framework that helps them maintain their lifestyle, something that the Hebrew University offers them. True, the programs are not necessarily compatible with liberal values such as gender equality, but that is a price we are willing to pay to live in a multicultural society and enable the ultra-Orthodox to integrate into the labor market and society,” she said.
Who is “we”? What does it mean to “live in a multicultural society” where some people are systematically shunned and treated as contaminants? In what sense are the ultra-Orthodox [men] integrating into the labor market and society if they are shunning women in the process?
Some things are non-negotiable. Equality should be one of them. Treating people as contaminants should not be countenanced. Women’s right to participate should not be a bargaining chip.
…it seems that one of the key demands of ultra-Orthodox candidates for higher study is the enforcement of gender segregation in the classrooms. Among other things, this demand dictates that female lecturers will not teach male students, while male lecturers will be allowed to teach women.
See? That gives it away, doesn’t it. Male lecturers will be allowed to teach woman, because that still maintains the hierarchy, but female lecturers will not teach male students, because that would put a woman above some men, and that will not do.
People should stop paltering and bargaining with this shit. It is not ok.
According to Adina Bar-Shalom, an ultra-Orthodox activist who founded an ultra-Orthodox college and for which she will be awarded the Israel Prize this year, the non-ultra-Orthodox public puts the ultra-Orthodox in an impossible situation. She said, “On the one hand, society demands of the ultra-Orthodox population that any [male] who cannot study Torah all his life should go to work. This is a justified demand, and the ultra-Orthodox society accepts it. But … if [society at large] is not willing to allow the ultra-Orthodox public to study on its own terms, then the ultra-Orthodox will be consigned to the lowest-level jobs and to lives of poverty and squalor.”
That’s the nature of social life. To get its benefits, you may have to give up doing things on your “own terms” in every respect. Sometimes your “own terms” are the wrong terms and you just have to give them up. Other times your terms are better than the social norm, and then you should try to campaign for your terms to become the social norm. This is not one of those times.
Of course, this clash of values does not take place only in Israel. But, according to Noah Efron of Bar-Ilan University’s Science, Technology and Society Department, this dilemma does not usually play out on the background of long-standing culture wars. “The debate with the ultra-Orthodox is a continuation of the modernity and education discourse from the beginning of the 20th century,” Efron explained. “If the ultra-Orthodox want modernity, it is only for pragmatic reasons and without accepting the liberal values that go hand in hand with modernity. The truth is … that most of the secular public does not accept the ultra-Orthodox, and wants to turn them to be more like us.”
As it was in Little Rock and Birmingham, so it should be at Bar-Ilan and the University of Haifa.