In the second story, Yeshiva University, locked in a long-running battle over whether it must recognize LGBTQ student groups on campus, appealed to the Supreme Court and was rebuffed, albeit temporarily, by a 5-4 vote directing them to return to the lower court.
Both stories are occasions for some deep thinking about education and about community and its limitations. Who gets to say what education is for? Should it serve merely its community, or the broader society? And if education belongs exclusively to a community, as players in both these cases contend—if its job is to preserve the community’s values and prepare its next generation—then who gets to say who counts as part of that community?
You won’t find those premises questioned, or mostly even mentioned, in the fierce back-and-forth and round-and-round debates that have dominated online conversation about both these stories, especially the Hasidic education report. Indeed, the week before the article’s appearance was filled with preemptive cries of outrage from those alerted by a Times request for comments. At Moment, as it happens, we’ve been excavating those broader questions for some time—it’s one of the main reasons for our Big Questions format, which is ideally suited to get behind the headlines. Not long ago, we asked a broad range of thoughtful citizens: What is the one thing students should leave college knowing? We asked university presidents, rabbis, scientists, activists—Jewish and non-Jewish. The answers varied from former St. John’s College president Pano Kanelos (they should know how little they really know) to Bard president Leon Botstein (they should know how to frame a question) to “1619 Project” journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones (they should know to be skeptical of authority) to high school English teacher Julia Fisher (they should know the canonical texts).
If one theme emerged clearly, it was that education—encompassing who students are, what they need to know, and what kind of life they want to live—is tied up in who counts as part of the community. In another recent Big Questions feature, Moment asked about this concept, too, gathering reflections on this question: What is the meaning of community in the 21st century? The question of who belongs in your community, and who gets a say in it, turns up in other debates too, such as the looming one over affirmative action in college admissions, a question we subjected to a recent “Moment Debate.”