Monday, August 16, 2010

I Spy: A Brooklyn Yeshiva demands parents install monitoring software

A school in Brooklyn is demanding a closer look at what yeshiva parents do on their home computers. They're requiring parents to choose a "Web chaver" and allow him/her access to all surfing logs. (The required software makes it easy-ish.)

I think this demand is heavy handed, and an abuse of power - and also shrewd marketing. Many Orthodox Jews value superficial signs of frumkeit and a school that makes it seem like they're being mindlessly extra strict about the Internet is a much more attractive school then one that tries to, you know, do the right thing by its parents and students.

Anyway, the thing has no chance of working. First, checking the monitoring logs is a pain in the rear. No one will bother to do it consistently. Second, only an idiot would choose as his chaver someone who is likely to turn him in to the school. So great work Brooklyn Yeshiva You've done nothing but give yourself bragging right for being super frum.

 See the school's letters and more of my arguments against the policy  after the jump

Though I agree parents must filter their computers and block R and X rated sites, I don't agree that the schools have the right to demand this of us. Schools certainly have the power to make this demand --if we say no, our kids are expelled, their futures put into question, and their social lives upended-- but power and rights aren't one and the same. Demanding that all parents select one particularly invasive web monitoring program on pain of a severe penalty like expulsion is high handed, and an abuse of power. This is yet another example of the imbalance in the so-called "parent-yeshiva partnership." 

The counterargument is that one rotten apple spoils that barrel. According to the schools, if one child who has seen a naked boobie comes to class, all the other children will be corrupted. This is flawed reasoning, of course. A child who sees things he shouldn't on the Internet isn't necessarily corrupted, and corruption isn't necessarily contagious. However, in the cut throat yeshiva business, each school has an interest in proving its holier than the competition. Parents may not want to be told what web-filtering software to purchase, but they do like the idea that their child's school is the "frumest." If a school is soft on the Internet- or sets aside too few hours for Talmud, or allows girl students to show too much leg skin, or permits of-age boys to pray without hats - the school will be judged inferior, and enrollments will decline.  This is absurd, of course, and ultimately bad for children and bad for their education, and also another example of how dumb short-cut seeking Orthodox Jews put far too much emphasis on how things look, and how things sound.

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