Student Union opens ‘hasbara’ room in effort to fill public diplomacy vacuum.
The term “walking the dog backwards” was coined to explain a common technique employed by those who work in the complicated galaxy of counterintelligence and who are constantly playing a three-dimensional game of chess as they sift through a mishmash of information and disinformation in a world where a spy might be a double or triple agent. Therefore, when faced with a perplexing set of circumstances, they are trained to evaluate who stands to gain or lose from the final result of any particular chain of events and, working backwards, think about the real cause-and-effect of things.
We all know the world of politics is similarly filled with plots and sub-plots, so I decided to approach things from that end and examine the Markey Bill through the prism of the entire public school/private school debate.
It is a debate that consistently spills over into battles across the nation over school vouchers, tax credits for private school tuition, taxpayer support for private school services such as remedial and counseling services, and…the list goes on and on, with public school advocates vigorously opposing any funding for private schools – even for such things as the aforementioned remedial and counseling services that specifically help children rather than schools – claiming they undermine the public schools.
And it is a debate that will have enormous ramifications for members of our community moving forward – especially as we look to states and school districts for relief from staggering tuition payments in this tanking economy.
OK, let’s do some dog walking. Question: Who or what is the most vocal advocate for public school rights? Answer: The very powerful teachers unions that have opposed every initiative to offer even public school parents choices to educate their kids with school vouchers. That would certainly explain why the Markey Bill doesn’t include public school children who were victims of abuse in the legislation – as the teachers unions vigorously oppose such legislation. And who or what is the most powerful voice advocating for private schools? The Catholic Church, of course.
Here is another angle that might be playing a part in this. One of the main sponsors of the bill in its current form is State Senator Tom Duane, who was also a chief sponsor of the Gay Marriage Bill. Here, too, there is a great deal of tension between advocates for gay marriage and the Church. Thus any action taken to embarrass, undermine and de-legitimize the Church in the eyes of the public directly and profoundly pushes the gay marriage agenda forward as it weakens its supporters’ most powerful opponent. After all, what better way to undermine the moral authority of the Church than to encourage civil lawsuits against it that will drag on for years, drain its coffers and fill the headlines of the tabloids with tawdry details day after day?
I suggest that if you step back a bit and survey the Markey Bill in its entirety, you will come to the conclusion I have – that while it promotes the safety of children, it is also being used to undermine the private school movement and religious community overall far beyond the abuse issue. At a minimum, it should be recognized that this matter needs to be understood in a much broader context and is not the one-dimensional issue it is portrayed to be.
Does all this mean I am pleased with the status quo? Does it mean I am in favor of quashing efforts to protect our children? Does it mean we do not need to do everything in our power and leave no stone unturned in educating our parents and educators about the ravages of abuse? Do I think the amazing, dedicated frum activists for child safety, many of whom are close friends of mine (a few of them actually “met” on my website), have any part in the negative aspects of what I wrote about? No, No, No and No!
To sum things up, I most certainly feel change and improvement in our understanding and treatment of abuse and abusers is desperately needed – it is something I have loudly and passionately advocated for many years now. The Markey Bill, however, is a crude tool to accomplish that task, one that is, in my opinion, driven by a host of agendas diametrically opposed to ours and one that, to loosely quote from the carefully written and nuanced statement by our gedolim, shlita, has the ability to cause material damage to the mosdos haTorah our parents and grandparents built over the past hundred years with their sweat and tears. It is therefore my recommendation that members of our community oppose this particular bill as it is currently written.
About the Author: Rabbi Yakov Horowitz is founder and dean of Yeshiva Darchei Noam and founder and director of Agudath Israel's Project Y.E.S.
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Dear Rabbi Horowitz:
We were taken aback when our 18-year-old son just called us from Eretz Yisrael (we live in Europe) and told us that he was coming home and wants to immediately go to work. He said that he is wasting his time in yeshiva, and just can’t take it anymore. He said that he will “run away from home” if we don’t allow him to go to work.
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