In this issue

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 March 12, 2007 / 22 Adar, 5767

Homework Help

By Rabbi Dr. Asher Meir

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The delicate line between helping a child with assignments and actually doing them.

http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | Q: I discovered I have a gift for helping others with math problems. Can I offer my service to online help sites?

A: Nobody knows exactly when the first homework was assigned, but it's a fair bet that whenever it was, the first attempt to get help was only a few hours later. Classmates, parents and siblings have always been considered fair game for help with perplexing assignments.

The newest horizon in this millennia-old struggle is homework help websites. Usually the sites don't directly offer help to students but rather serve as a clearinghouse to match students up with tutors who work independently. Tutors generally contact with students through a combination of email, instant messaging, and special white-board software. Different sites have varying degrees of supervision over the qualifications and ethics of their proffered tutors.

There is nothing inherently wrong with a homework help site. In some ways this is a welcome and democratizing development. In the past, students with educated parents have had a significant head start in school, since their parents could help them with their homework. Equally-qualified students from disadvantaged homes and neighborhoods had difficulty keeping up.

Equal educational opportunity is in fact a principle value in Jewish tradition. Judaism frowns on elitism in education. The Talmud recounts the praise of Yehoshua ben Gamla, who over a thousand years ago instituted universal primary education among Jewish boys:

"At first, someone who had a father, he would teach him Torah; one without a father could not learn Torah... Until Yehoshua ben Gamla came and instituted that there should be teachers in every province and in every town." (1)

Likewise, internet resources like such help sites create a situation where there are tutors in every neighborhood and virtually every home.

However, we cannot ignore the dangers of this phenomenon either. As any parent of schoolchildren knows, there is a delicate line between helping a child with assignments and actually doing them. Since the long-term interest of the child is more closely aligned with developing knowledge and study habits, most (but not all) parents are careful to avoid crossing the line. But it is understandable that a tutor being paid by the student might be more interested in customer satisfaction then with long-term educational performance.

It is up to the instructor to provide an explicit policy regarding exactly how much homework help is permitted, and responsibility for adhering to the policy resides primarily with the student. But the tutor cannot evade responsibility entirely. To the extent that a tutor aids a student in violating the educational policy of the school, he is a confederate in wrongdoing and transgresses the Biblical commandment, "Don't place an obstacle before the blind" (Leviticus 19:14). Our tradition interprets this as an obstacle to righteousness, that is, enabling a transgression by someone else.

On the other hand, it is clear that tutors cannot be expected to monitor every customer to make sure that no school regulations are violated. A tutor would be considered abetting cheaters in one of two cases:

1. If a significant fraction of customers are cheaters. If I am a merchant and once in a while my product is misused, I don't have to close my business. But if a main use of my product is for wrongdoing (example: selling narcotics paraphernalia or lock picks) then I bear responsibility. The Talmud forbids selling diluted wine to a store since the chances were very high that the store would use such wine to deceive its own customers. (2)

2. If the business actively solicits or encourages such business. For example, some term paper sites advertise that they can customize the paper to conform to special assignments of the teacher, or promise that their papers will earn a certain grade. In this case they are clearly soliciting customers who are trying to hoodwink the school and get unfair credit for work they did not do.

If you personally are always careful when tutoring to teach and enable, and never actually give out answers, then there is no reason you can't make your talent into a livelihood and use it to help others learn.

Just as tutors cannot evade their responsibility for unscrupulous customers, so site managers cannot evade responsibility for unscrupulous tutors. If a significant fraction of tutors are out of line, or if the site encourages such tutors (even if they are few), then the site management shares responsibility.

Anyone operating a homework help site should make sure that tutors are qualified; should institute clear guidelines for permissible conduct which forbids simply doing homework assignments for students; and should introduce a monitoring system which will enable them to root out any tutors who help customers cheat in school.

SOURCES: (1) Babylonian Talmud, tractate Bava Basra 21a. See also tractate Nedarim 81a. (2) Babylonian Talmud, Bava Metzia 60a.


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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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