Why We’re Letting Down The Next Generation

by Gil Sery November 27, 2017


istock-638602036Every time I see a story on Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos’ latest policy change or on anti-Semitism on college campuses, I thank G-d that I came of age in a time before this insanity became prevalent.

Secretary DeVos recently rescinded dozens of guidance documents regarding the rights of disabled students. I graduated high school in Johannesburg, South Africa in the 1990s, and even there and then, the provincial Department of Education had programs for disabled students. Think about that for a minute. This administration’s education department is EVEN WORSE than that of a third world country in apartheid-era South Africa!

I know there were such programs because I made use of them. Looking at me you wouldn’t think I have a disability – I’m not in a wheelchair, and I have full control of my body – but I had what was termed a learning disability. The main accommodation I was afforded was extra time to complete my exams. There are probably some exams I likely wouldn’t have passed without it. If a “disabled” student like me needed help, I can’t imagine what the students who have physical disabilities are going through right now thanks to this real-life Dolores Umbridge!

And it’s not just disabled students who have it worse these days. Back in the mid-90s, it was still safe for a Jewish student to attend a public, California state-run university. Back then it was still safe to participate in activities organized by the Jewish student club on campus without fear of being protested or even worse, getting attacked by a mob of anti-Israel zealots.

I was able to join my college’s Hillel chapter. We met every Friday night on campus for Shabbat prayers and even occasionally had Shabbat dinners in the main social hub of the campus. Not once did I ever fear for my life. Not once did I ever think twice about my safety because I was Jewish. Heck, I even wore a silver ring with a Star of David on it – something I wouldn’t even think of doing these days, especially on campus!

That was just over 20 years ago. Each generation should strive to make things better for the generations that follow, and comparing my experience to what’s happening today, it’s easy to get despondent about the way Jewish and disabled students are currently being treated on campuses nationwide. That’s the easy choice. However, we literally have no time to despair.

If we’re going to make things better for our students – the next generation of Jews and our leaders of tomorrow – we have to start now. We have to start by fighting back against this administration’s educational policies. Write to your congressperson to tell them you won’t stand for this. Remember the wise words of cultural anthropologist Margaret Mead, “Never underestimate the power of a small group of committed people to change the world. In fact, it is the only thing that ever has.” Α


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