Volume 14 Number 97
                       Produced: Wed Aug 24  0:02:42 1994

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

AOJS and Conferences on Shabbat
         [Joe Abeles]
College campuses
         [Alan Davidson]
Dating & Da'as Torah: Clarification
         [Sam Juni]
Fair Testing (2)
         [Constance Stillinger, Jules Reichel]
Marital Happiness
         [Eli Turkel]
Test medians
         [Joshua W. Burton]


From: Joe Abeles <joe_abeles@...>
Date: Tue, 23 Aug 1994 10:17:45 -0400
Subject: AOJS and Conferences on Shabbat

Let us attempt to synthesize two subjects of recent interest in
mail.jewish, (1) Conference attendence on shabbos, and (2) Association
of Orthodox Jewish Scientists (AOJS) convention.  Assuming that
professional conference attendence on shabbos is at least a
controversial heter, doesn't it appear that any sessions held by the
AOJS convention on Shabbos should be examined as to whether they
completely exclude issues which are not pure divrei Torah.  Otherwise,
wouldn't the AOJS convention be like any other professional conference?
I believe some attempt is made to do this, but I question whether it is
completely respected.  Perhaps the organizers don't believe that AOJS is
a professional conference?  I don't know what the difference would be...

But, more generally, on the subject of conference attendence on shabbos:
What about the fact that professionals in the Jewish field (e.g.,
rabbaim) perform similar functions on shabbos (networking, learning in
their field) that professionals do at their conferences?  I presume
there is ample halachic basis for rabbaim to do these things on shabbos
(as distinct from actually leading davening and giving drashas, etc.,
which is also their direct job responsibility).

I also presume that there is ample halachic reason not to actually do
productive work on shabbos even if it does not include one of the 39
malachos (e.g., performing a mathematical calculation in your head on
shabbos for work purposes...).  But conference speaking, listening, and
informal "hallway" discussions are not as specifically work-directed.  I
can imagine that actual collaborative relationships should not be
entered into on shabbos, but that can be avoided.

So the basic question is: Where does the spirit of shabbos end, and
parnassah begin, for both rabbaim and other shabbos conferees?



From: Alan Davidson <DAVIDSON@...>
Date: Mon, 22 Aug 94 20:21:49 EDT
Subject: College campuses

Speaking as a B.T. on a college campus (a comparatively secular one at
that), maybe I can relate some information as to how "threatening" the
University climate is to Jewish observance.

     First, if, after 12+ years of schooling, someone isn't comfortable
enough with what they are doing Jewishly to withstand secular pressures,
their parents and environment was not probably comfortable with their
Judaism to begin with.  Sure, B.T.'s are less likely to be secure in
their Judaism, part of this discomfort arises from experimentation with
different minhagim, etc.  After about one and a half years of strict
Shabbos observance, 4 years of davening 3 times a day and not doing
worldly work on Shabbos, and 3 years of abstaining from any media on
Shabbos, a certain comfort in one's observance level emerges, which is
not easily swayed by, and may even be strengthened by the challenges
posed by the broader environment around someone.

     Second, not all campuses have extremely strong Hillels or Chabads,
if they have them at all.  In the day of largely inaccurate portrayals
of Orthodox Jews in the media (witness the Rebbe's levyah, the settler's
movement, etc.), it sometimes amazes young adults who were raised in one
of the less observant denominations, if in any denomination, that most
of us are regular people whose religious practice is as intellectually
understood as anybody else's, if not more so.

      Third, the sad part of (2) is the only way some of these students
would have been exposed even to things such as standards of Kashrus is
through the instruction of more observant students, b/c Hillel directors
and Chabad Rabbis don't always instruct students in issues such as food
preparation.  In my 4 years of undergrad. and too many of grad., you
would be amazed at how many people were raised in "traditional" homes
don't know why Entenmanns or Rich's are dairy if they don't have Milk
explicitly listed as an ingredient, even if they have an O-U D on the
package.  Sometimes, the Mitzvah of teaching people where they are is
very crucial.


From: Sam Juni <JUNI@...>
Date: Tue, 23 Aug 1994 13:21:35 -0400
Subject: Dating & Da'as Torah: Clarification

    A flip parenthetical comment in my recent posting about dating
quotas has elicited justifiable reproaches.  While I don't mind a good
argument, This was a case of poor wording whose intent was misunderstood
by some.  (I am still having a hard time getting used to the idea that
some readers treat postings as published position papres, rather than as

   In lamenting the abbreviated dating customs among some circles, the
parenthetical comment referred to a possible litany of Da'as Torah
prescriptions encouraging such customs.  In a pointed attempt to limit
the discussion to "alleged" Da'as Torahs, I included the clause "defined
as ruminations of Roshei Yeshiva who are experts in learning."  Based
on the reactions of some posters, I can well see that this could be
taken as an overall derision of Da'as Torah as a concept. I have no pro-
blem arguing positions, but this is NOT what I meant to get across. What
I commented on was the phenomenon that Yeshiva students look to their
Roshei Yeshivos for guidance (justifiably), but then take the advice as
more than that. While I can see going to Gedolim (in Torah or Hashkafa/
Mussar/ Ethics) to elicit advice which has an added dimension or autho-
rity (i.e., Da'as Torah), I do not see this construct as automatically
applicable to any particular Rebbe or Rosh Yeshiva who happens to be
teaching students of marriageable age.

  The troublesome locales for the above problem are not the major boys
Yeshivos which are headed by Torah Sages whose expertise as Torah leaders
would seem to give their word prestige and accountability outside of
their Lomdos ability.  The problems arise, instead, when Roshei Yeshiva
who know how to learn well (period) become the advisors whose advice is
seen as more than that.

   Personal Experience:  I have had classmates who excelled in learning
but never in common sense.  Some of these have succeded (rightfully) in
attaining top shiurim in Yeshivos; I would have no hesitation having my
sons learn Torah from them.  I am frightened, however, by the prospect
of these fellows becoming the (infalliable) advisors in interpersonal
relations to young maturing adults.  I might be less troubled if the
advice given was curtailed to direct references to Hallacha or mussar.
What happens, instead, is that these people imbue their judgement with
an unjustified mantle of their Torah knowledge.

In reference to the dating discussion specifically, some of the advice
I have come across ranges from simple soothsaying to the irresponsible.
No, I do not imply malice to these advisors.  I believe they merely
generalize naively from their own (limited) experience, often to the
detriment of those who accept their prescriptions unquestioningly.

I realize that the position I am taking may not sit well with some, but
I would rather argue from that perspective than deal with
interpretations of an abbreviated parenthetical clause which I did not
intend to infer.

     Dr. Sam Juni                  Fax (212) 995-3474
     New York University           Tel (212) 998-5548
     400 East
     New York, N.Y.  10003


From: Constance Stillinger <cas@...>
Date: Tue, 23 Aug 1994 16:48:52 -0400
Subject: Fair Testing

Sam Juni <JUNI@...> wrote:

> The discussion of cheating on curved tests has listed into the area of
> fair testing practices. Examples: [deleted for brevity]
>    Assuming that we are sampling, rather than testing all the facts in
> an exam, it is up to the judgement of the examiner which materials to
> include and how difficult to make the material.  One can engineer a test
> so that any particular student get a 100, 50, or 20, using these
> parameters.  Merely looking at raw numbers and concluding teacher
> competence, fairness to students, or test-writing ability of the
> examiner does not seem warranted.

As a professional who works with test scores, as a former professor,
and most particularly as a Jew, I would prefer people here to put more
thought like Dr.  Juni's into an issue before crying "unfairness."

I will add to his excellent post one of the most basic results from
classical test theory: in order to maximize the variance (ie, to
spread out the students' scores as much as possible) the test should
have a fairly low mean score (fairly low compared to the high averages
that today's college students expect).  Eg, if the test consists of a
bunch of questions scored right/wrong, then the BEST mean score for
the purpose of discriminating among students is 50%.

In fact, bringing this discussion back around to the issue of
cheating, maximizing the variance makes scores more robust against
cheating (which you *have* to expect), to the extent that cheating
adds to the statistical error in student scores.  This is one way that
teachers who care about fairness in testing can help minimize the
effects of cheating.

Dr. Constance A. (Chana) Stillinger    <cas@...>
Research Coordinator, Education Program for Gifted Youth
Stanford University

From: <JPREICHEL@...> (Jules Reichel)
Date: Tue, 23 Aug 1994 19:21:11 -0400
Subject: Re: Fair Testing

Sam Juni's recent posting concerns whether it's fair to draw conclusions
based on raw test scores. Of course it's fair, provided, of course that you
accept the underlying model. There are three variables: Teacher input, 
student behaviors including self instruction, and the test. How, Sam then
asks, can anyone find the cause when given only the result of low scores?
In general, one can't. But the common assumptions which solve the problem
are:1.The teacher's instruction and the test are highly correlated. That is
a teacher who is not riddled with pathology would not teach A and test on B.
And 2.Student learning distributions are normal. Thus we can usually trust
that their body temperatures are 98.6 and their learning abilities are stable
for a group of this kind. Thus low test scores reliably mean that the teacher's
self-definition of what he had to thoroughly teach were not met. For the 
teacher to later argue that the low test scores were justified since mastery
was not required, is both a self-serving excuse and silly, IMHO. Since, it was
for the purpose of giving all parties a reliable measure of appropriate 
mastery that the test was given in the first place. 



From: <turkel@...> (Eli Turkel)
Date: Tue, 23 Aug 1994 15:27:05 -0400
Subject: Marital Happiness

     Dr. Juni describes some of the experiences he has had as a  mental
health professional.  I wish to back this up by stories that I have 
heard from other professionals that deal with the Charedi community 
(especially in Israel).  The picture they paint is not as rosy as is 
seen by the outsider. There exist many severe difficulties within many
marriages (I don't have any statistics and I doubt if they exist)
both with respect to the spouses and their children.  Furthermore, 
the professionals are severely restricted by the rabbis as to
which solutions they may offer (even those that don't conflict with
halacha). In particular divorce is strongly discouraged except in the
most unusual cases. Hence, divorce statistics are meaningless in terms
of measuring marital happiness. I do know of several cases where couples
were divorced after a month of being together.

     As I stated above there is no way of knowing whether these problems
are more or less prevalant in the Charedi community compared with the
modern orthodox community as there is no way to obtain meaningful data.
Similarly, it would be difficult to explain the reasons for problems
in any way that can be substantiated.



From: <burton@...> (Joshua W. Burton)
Date: Mon, 22 Aug 94 23:59:45 -0400
Subject: Test medians

It's coming round to that time of year again, and I have to think about
my own grading practices, in order to give my students a reasonable idea
what to expect from the start.  Recently there have been a lot of
comments in this forum suggesting that tests with a median around 50%
and a passing grade around 25% or 30% are a symptom of rampant
incompetence on the part of the teacher.

Am I the only university-level teacher here who thinks this is crazy?
In fifth grade, a passing mark of 70% makes some sense, because it never
does any harm to have the students drill the material one more time, by
taking the test itself.  But when it's adults teaching adults (no matter
which side of the lectern I'm on), I find this attitude most demeaning.
If there is a problem on my test that _everybody_ can do, then I am
responsible for the bitul zman (waste of valuable time) of ninety
students, who thought they were taking a test and were really doing a
drill.  Worse, when everyone can do the problem, it's the trivial errors
that show up in the grade spread.

If even one student out of the ninety gets 0% or 100%, then my test has
failed to fairly evaluate that student---I'll never know how much worse
or better than my test she really is.  To be safe, I always aim to have
fewer than five students get over 75%, and fewer than five get under
25%: this requires a close sense of their progress, but an attentive
instructor can manage it.  EVERY student in the class should find that
she could do something, that she could have done more if she'd prepared
better, and that the time she invested went into proving just what level
she is at, and not into doing problems below her or agonizing over
problems above her.  If this approach is a sign of incompetence, then I
am fortunate indeed that my students seem to mistake it for
conscientiousness and a basic respect for the value of their time and

But Rabbi Schlomo Yitzhak (the Schlitz) ------------------------------------+
rules that if the seatbelt is buckled,   Joshua W. Burton    (401)435-6370  |
one is WEARING the car, which on Shabat         <burton@...>        |
is permissible. [Mesehta Bubba Ma'aseh] ------------------------------------+


End of Volume 14 Issue 97