Tag Archive | responsibility

Individual Choices Impact Society

Is it draconian and wrong to make receiving child stipends dependent on immunizing your children?  That depends on how you look at it.

Let’s start with the fact that the state is not obligated to give us money each month just because we have kids.  We can continue with the fact that health care here costs peanuts, and the vaccines are free.  A vaccine only makes it into the health care “basket” with no co-pays if it is determined that funding the vaccine for everyone in Israel costs less than it would to hospitalize, and treat, the number of people who would become seriously ill with the disease.

If the vaccines cost money, you could say that the state can’t require you to put out so much money.  But the state is paying for the vaccines, paying for the healthcare, AND paying you 140 shekels a month, per kid.  So, why can’t the state say, “Hey, guys, listen up.  We don’t want to pay for the added healthcare that your kid is about to cost because he’s not vaccinated AND pay your child stipend.  Choose what’s more important to you.”  Honestly, the child stipend isn’t what will make true anti-vaxxers vaccinate their kids, nor will it break anyone’s bank account (despite complaints otherwise), but maybe it will make some extraordinarily low SES families (and therefore, by definition less-educated and probably at higher risk of contracting illnesses) give their kids vaccinations.  However, the state has a right to say this, I think.

If this were all there was to it, it would be pretty simple.  Do what you want, and leave others alone.  I read an opinion article on Kristen’s blog that asked basically, “Why are we allowed to question every aspect of parenting except vaccines?”  And the answer is this: Because if you want to formula feed your baby three days after he’s born, you are risking damage to YOUR baby’s gut.  If you want to buy a second-hand car seat, you are risking YOUR baby’s life.  True, it is everyone’s taxpayer money; true, it hurts everyone to see your kid suffer.  But the ones who are going to pay the highest consequences are you, your child, and your family.

HOWEVER, if you choose not to vaccinate your child, it goes beyond that.  Yes, you are costing us taxpayer money, because you are exposing your child to an illness likely to require lengthy hospitalization and/or rehabilitation.  BUT, the difference is this: You are forcing your choice on the rest of us.  Those with weakened immune systems, those pregnant, the elderly, those who cannot receive vaccinations, those who received the vaccines but are only partially immune, those too young to be fully or even partially vaccinated.  You are putting ALL OF US at risk for dangerous diseases that can be avoided and even eradicated, against our wishes, and without asking or informing us.  Your unvaccinated child is likely to begin or spread an epidemic, and that puts the rest of us at risk as well.

That is why it is different.  Cloth diaper or use disposables.  Feed your kid formula, breastmilk, cow milk, goat milk, or chocolate milk.  Feed your kid junk food, only meat, vegan with no vitamins.  Put your kid in the front seat, the back seat, the car seat, with or without an airbag.  Smoke beside your kid, but not around mine.  And do not expose my family to dangerous diseases, just because you think you are more educated than everyone else.  I don’t care how educated you are.  If you don’t want to vaccinate your kids, keep them away from my kids’ environments.  Period.  If your kid gets hurt by your choices, my heart will hurt, but there is nothing I can do about it.  They are your kids.  I will feel bad, I will be shocked, I will wish it didn’t have to happen.  But they are your kids, and you are in charge.  If you want to risk their lives, that’s your business.  BUT, I don’t allow you to take risks with my kids.  My kids are my responsibility, and I take that responsibility seriously.  If you don’t vaccinate, the least you can do is make sure to only hang around with like-minded individuals, and alert everyone else that you are a potential carrier of dangerous diseases.

The C and G Bagrut, Or, The System is Messed Up

The first bagrut (matriculation) exam this season was the English exam.  The way Israeli exams, in most subjects, work is like this:

A few hours before the exam, each school is sent more than enough test booklets, for every test that they will be giving.

They bring in  proctors, unrelated to the school, but usually from a sector and gender that will be mutually comfortable.

The proctors make sure that the room is ready for the test, and then the students come in.

The students hand over everything that is not a pen, food, or drink, or whatever material is allowed to be brought in (for instance, a dictionary, or simple Bible).

Then the proctor hands out the exams, the students do what they can, and hand it in.

This is the process in short.

But what happens when someone finds a copy of the test and uploads it to the internet, so that he and his friends can prepare?  It’s no longer an “unseen” text, and the questions are known, and the students have the opportunity to prepare answers . . . but not across the board, and therefore, the test isn’t really fair anymore.

The ideal would be to isolate that student, or possibly school, and punish them appropriately.  But half an hour before the entire country is going to take the test, there is no time for that.  So, what do they do?  The following is what they did while I sat in the teacher’s room and waited, and while my co-teacher kept calling the Bagrut hotline to find out, as soon as possible, what we were supposed to do.

First, the people in charge of the bagrut exams talk.  Then, they decide to change questions, and the new questions will be sent by email to the secretaries, to be printed and attached to the existing test booklets.

But what about the students who are LD, and therefore only do half the exam, orally?  Which questions do they do?  Previously, we had a list of which questions were necessary.  Now, what do we do?  What about those LD kids who have a disk?  The disk doesn’t have a recording of the new questions, and it’s not fair to make them do the test without having those questions read aloud to them.  And what about students who already started the test?

We got the list of questions for the first LD set, and the second LD set was told to do the original questions.  Then we saw the replacement questions – they were practically identical to the originals, except maybe in a different order.  The students who had already started had to start over, and had two options: 1. extra time, 2. moed bet (another chance to do the test, in a few weeks).  Even for those who chose to take the extra time, the test isn’t really fair.  It was late in the afternoon, and doing a matriculation exam is taxing.  I think it’s fair to say that the answers they gave the second time around were probably of a lesser quality than those they gave the first time around.

Because all anyone knew was that the exam that was supposed to be at 4:15 had been leaked, this whole process happened to 2 separate exams – C and G, which were both scheduled to take place at 4:15 that afternoon.

Two days later, we hear unwelcome news: Now, 45 minutes before the start of the exams, all students testing must be phone-less in the examination room.  Then the tests will be sent by email to the secretary, who will print them out for the students.  This is a bad plan, and if this is what we have come to, then we are in big trouble.  First, let’s see why it’s a bad plan:

1. 45 extra minutes in the exam room.  Expect grades to drop immediately, because that adds 45 extra minutes of stress, and certainly won’t help anyone do better on the test.

2. What happens if the school’s internet happens to not be working exactly when it needs to be?  What happens if a specific city has a power outage exactly when the bagrut needs to start?

3. Previously, the test booklets were sent to the schools.  Who is going to pay for the photocopying?  And for bigger schools, is 45 minutes going to be enough?

4. Who says the test won’t leak, anyways?

In my opinion, there are major underlying issues in the system, if this is what we have come to.  But on the other hand, I thought that anyways.  I’m not sure how standardized, stupidized, matriculation exams help our academic ranking, use, or level at all.  In fact, I’m pretty sure it does the opposite.  But I’m no minister of education, so my opinion doesn’t really matter, does it?

In addition, the new system punishes everyone.  Why not just punish the sector that started the leak?  I understand that in today’s age of Facebook and Instagram, the leaked test will make it to everyone.  But not fast enough to be a real threat to the test’s integrity, for the rest of the country.

Update: The Education ministry has responded to the anger of teachers and parents, by finding a middle ground.  Some schools will get direct delivery, and some schools will have to send two representatives who will be held responsible for the integrity of the exam in that school.  Students will have to hand in their phones 30 minutes early.  This is much, much better.  Will it work?  I don’t know.  Honestly, I am of the opinion that a student who wants to cheat will find a way to do it, no matter what guidelines are set.  This is a global problem (as in, affecting the entire Western world) and will not be solved until we stop making academics into a golden calf that everyone is required to serve.  

We, as a whole, need to put more emphasis on who people are, and a solid value system, and less on grades, academics, and what people have.  “Keeping up with the Joneses,” should not exist, and is a symptom of this same problem; when you have to prove that you are a worthwhile person by grades, money, or lifestyle, you cannot put the same energy into living according to proper values.  But that’s a subject for a different post.