By Rabbi Yonason Goldson
How I tricked a classroom of apathetic students into grasping the fallacy of moral relativism
| First year teachers can't be picky. That's how my wife and I ended up in Budapest, Hungary.
Predictably, we came away with countless vignettes and anecdotes, of which many are amusing, astonishing, or literally unbelievable in the retelling. Nevertheless, in a year filled with culture shock, frustration, elation, inspiring successes, and soul-wrenching failures, one forty-minute class still stands out in sharp relief against all the rest.
It wasn't even my own class. I was substituting for my wife, covering a class she had been lamenting since the first day of school: a dozen tenth-grade girls, every last one of them not merely indifferent but openly hostile to Judaism, to education, and to life in general. Moreover, they spoke almost no English, and had little interest in learning.
I entered the classroom to a chorus of scowls. On the far left side of the room was Dora, the only one of the bunch who spoke passable English. Her boyfriend, she said, was studying to be a rabbi. Dora knew everything.
In the center of the room was Andrea: sassy, arrogant, flirtatious, exuding attitude in buckets. Her look dared me to try to teach her anything.
I took one look at the semi-circle of lost souls and wondered what my chances were of getting anything across to them. But I had already planned my attack. I turned without a word and wrote across the chalkboard: It's okay to steal as long as you don't hurt anyone.
It took about five minutes until everyone in the room understood what I had written. Having finally broken the language barrier, I asked the class: Do you agree or disagree with this statement?