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Jonathan Tobin: Defending the Right to a Jewish State

Heather Hale: Compliment your kids without giving them big heads

Megan Shauri: 10 ways you are ruining your own happiness

Carolyn Bigda: 8 Best Dividend Stocks for 2015

Kiplinger's Personal Finance editors: 7 Things You Didn't Know About Paying Off Student Loans

Samantha Olson: The Crucial Mistake 55% Of Parents Are Making At Their Baby's Bedtime

Densie Well, Ph.D., R.D. Open your eyes to yellow vegetables

The Kosher Gourmet by Megan Gordon With its colorful cache of purples and oranges and reds, COLLARD GREEN SLAW is a marvelous mood booster --- not to mention just downright delish
April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review June 3, 2009 / 11 Sivan 5769

Should terrible teacher be exposed?

By Rabbi Dr. Asher Meir


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http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | Q. My teacher was terrible. Can I give my honest opinion on the school's course evaluation?


A. Any time we render an unfavorable opinion of someone, we risk running foul of the Biblical prohibition on lashon hara, that is, slander. The prohibition is learned from the verse "Don't go about as a talebearer among your people" (Leviticus 19:16).


However, this prohibition is not absolute. While the Torah forbids gratuitous slander, it permits negative speech when it is essential for a constructive purpose. This is learned from the conjunction of the prohibition on slander in the same verse as another commandment: "Don't stand idly by the blood of your fellow." This commandment obligates us to be pro-active in saving others from loss or harm.


The classic book Chafetz Chaim by Rabbi Yisrael Meir HaCohen of Radin sets out the precise conditions which differentiate permissible from forbidden derogatory speech. The main conditions are as follows:


  • The report is known by the speaker to be truthful, and without exaggeration;

  • The report is the only way to achieve a constructive purpose;

  • The speaker's intention is to achieve this constructive purpose;

  • The disclosure does not cause undeserved harm to the subject of the report or anyone else.


So while your question asks about the role of the student, and not the overall design and use of the survey, application of the above conditions shows that the answer to your question depends on what kinds of questions the survey asks and to what use the answers are put.


While it is impossible here to enumerate all the conditions, it is possible to give a few pitfalls that should be avoided:


  • All questions should provide substantive information about the person's performance as an instructor. Otherwise any negative report is not contributing to a constructive purpose.

  • Great care must be used in deciding who has access to the results and how they will be used. In particular, making a poor score on such an evaluation an automatic criterion for censure is unwise. Results from these surveys always needed to be viewed in the context of other indicators of the instructor's effectiveness and contribution. Also, relying too heavily on one indicator increases the chances that a few students could use the survey in a vindictive way, thus simultaneously implicating them in forbidden slander and also unfairly penalizing the instructor.


Rabbi Aaron Levine discusses this issue at length in his book Case Studies in Jewish Business Ethics. One point made by Rabbi Levine is that great care must be used in releasing survey results to the press. For example, if a summary book of survey results is published, then most people who peruse it will in fact obtain no particular benefit from knowing which teachers receive a poor rating; it will then follow that those readers are exposed to lashon hara. Some results may be used only internally for faculty evaluation.


I don't believe a blanket ban on publication of the results is necessarily called for, but it is important to make sure that the public is given the whole picture and not a tendentious or vindictive use of the figures.


For the individual student, the most important thing is to fill out the questionnaire honestly and not have any vindictive intentions when giving a negative evaluation. If the use of the questionnaire is improper, I think that there is seldom any benefit to an individual student withdrawing their participation, but it is appropriate to complain to the administration if you think that the results are being used inappropriately.

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JWR contributor Rabbi Dr. Asher Meir, formerly of the Council of Economic Advisers in the Reagan administration, is Research Director of the Business Ethics Center of Jerusalem, Jerusalem College of Technology. To comment or pose a question, please click here.

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