Likelihood of Success

Ron Coleman’s pretty good blog

Not all chairs are green

Posted by Ron Coleman on February 29, 2008


DISCRIMINATION IS TERRIBLE, unless there’s money in it: “Cal Poly wants to open a male-only engineering program at a university in Saudi Arabia.” Would they have opened a whites-only engineering school in the old South Africa?

Are non-coed schools really the same thing as racially segregated schools?  Of course not.  They aren’t even against the law in this country; and Saudi Arabia is a different country with a different culture.

I attended male-only rabbinical schools, and my children are all in male-only schools.  Our religious beliefs dictate this.  And we’re Americans. It’s not a civil rights issue.  Why would a libertarian like Glenn Reynolds object to people making the choice of attending single-sex schools?  Is the fact that a school is a “state school” — whatever that might mean in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia — really what makes a difference?

Many non-religious people, notably females, choose to go to schools were interaction between the sexes is not a feature and they can focus on getting educated, not getting something else.

It’s an example of cultural arrogance to assume that Saudi Arabia should be America.  It’s something beyond that to apply a standard of “non-discrimination” that isn’t even applicable in this country.


13 Responses to “Not all chairs are green”

  1. DK said

    For those who would like an alternative to Ron’s Saudi Arabian/haredi opinion, I would refer them to Rabbi Marc Angel, who has some interesting ideas as to why the haredi obsession with ever-increased separation of the sexes may not be really in-line with traditional Jewish values:

  2. By all means read the article by Rabbi Angel, a distinguished former congregational leader who today speaks for a thin sliver of left-wing orthodox Jews. But do not be misled by the use by DK (a friend of mine, but a person who, readers here may not know, is a disgruntled and occassionally bitter ex-“haredi,” as he uses the term) of the term “haredi.” DK uses this terms in his writings to mean “orthodox Jews whose views I do not agree with on a given issue.” In this particular case that would mean all orthodox Jews, and not only ones described as “haredi” (“ultra-orthodox”) in common parlance. All orthodox Jewish educational institutions, from high school up, are single-sex, and this is not a recent development by any stretch of the imagination. Indeed only coeducation is, in any society.

  3. DK said

    Readers should be aware that for Ron and others, “Orthodox” is restricted to post-WWII Orthodoxy, as defined by the heirs to the “treifa medinah” mentality of the Agudath Israel, who did not even set up a branch over here until 1939 because it was ASSUR to live here, and we can’t set a bad example, now can we? People might think they can escape Europe, and that will simply not do.

    Anyway, Rabbi Angel’s ORTHODOX congregation was established here in…oh, that would be 1654, wouldn’t it?

    Minhag Ha’Makom, Ron.

  4. Yes, Rabbi Angel’s orthodox congregation is the oldest one in America. It is regrettable that virtually none of the descendants of those who founded it are still members… or orthodox… or Jewish. But it is a very old synagogue indeed!

    Orthodox Judaism is in fact pretty well understood to mean adherents to Jewish traditional law more or less defined by the Talmud and the Shulchan Aruch. The rest of DK’s formulation is the stuff university religion departments are made of!

  5. David said

    DK, you’re slinging the “inside baseball” terms like you’re on a Jewish Blog, you’re losing many people here.

    More on topic, IIRC, the No Child Left Behind legislation actually allows for public single-sex education which, I think, needs to have a stated purpose. Nonetheless, it eats away a bit at Glenn Reynolds’ “unless there’s money in it” point.

  6. Frank Wood said

    Maybe the gripe is that what is supposedly a liberal western institution is cooperating in a minor way with a country in which women generally have the status of camels.

  7. Ara Rubyan said

    Interesting discussion.

    P.S. Why would a libertarian like Glenn Reynolds object to people making the choice of attending single-sex schools?

    There’s a lot about Glenn Reynolds way of thinking that doesn’t make any sense. But…whatever.

  8. Frank, I understand the juxtaposition, but I am suggesting it is a poor one. By your logic opening up a pharmacy or a 7-11 would also be objectionable by virtue of “cooperating in a minor way with a country in which women generally have the status of camels.” But Glenn’s point was about discrimination.

  9. mary said

    Saudi Arabia hates and discriminates against Shi’ites, Sufis, Indonesian maids, guest workers, cigarette smokers, Jews, Christians, Buddhists, communists, capitalists, people who drink alcohol, people who like the color red, people who celebrate holidays.. It does seem kind of silly for Glenn to focus on only one form of discrimination.

    It’s also silly to expect Saudis to be like Americans. But it is downright dangerous to empower a society that is founded on hate and exports that hate as prolifically as they export oil.

    The more interesting bit of the article was this:

    “The story quotes a Saudi-based blogger who says other universities have had trouble with Saudi insistence on an Islamic curriculum, even in technology classes.”

    Discover Magazine had an interesting article on why Islamic culture hasn’t progressed much in the past few hundred years. A large part of it is based on this mixing of faith and science.

  10. I couldn’t get into the Los Angeles Times website through the link to read the entire piece, but did it mention what percentage of the student body is female?

  11. Jack said

    “I couldn’t get into the Los Angeles Times website”

    You’re not missing much.

  12. Mary, your points are all fine, and you’ve addressed them many times before, and well. But Glenn’s juxtaposition of a particular institution and a particular issue — same-sex schools — is simply not well taken.

  13. mary said

    well, if we’re discussing same-sex schools, and if Glenn is saying that they’re a bad idea, I’d have to agree. My folks gave me the option of studying at an all-girls prep school when I was about 11, and I decided not to go. My friends who had gone to all-girls schools talked me out of it.

    It wasn’t just that we were boy-crazy (which we were). It was that boys made the class more interesting. Yes, they were more aggressive, but they were also more willing to speak up, to question things and to come up with creative solutions to problems. Girls tend to like to smooth problems over, to avoid conflict. In my all-girl classes (chorus, health) no one directly challenged the teacher. There wasn’t any competition. School was boring enough – an all girls school would be intolerable. I don’t know if it’s discrimination, but it’s a bad idea.

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