The courage of controversy

By the BP Editorial Board 

In the recent months, our school has welcomed open discussion of some controversial topics — namely, girls wearing tefillin, and more recently, whether eighth graders should be offered merit scholarships if they don’t need financial aid, as a Jewish high school in the area (not Shalhevet) has been doing.

We’d like to give a shoutout to the Agenda Committee for gracefully facilitating these Town Halls!  Though these have been sensitive issues for some, being able to discuss them within our own school, without much judgment, is pretty awesome. The Agenda Committee has set a tone that’s serious, challenging and fun at the same time.

And while the discussions themselves never seem that big a deal to us when they’re happening – Town Hall is almost always about a controversy – the fact is that most schools have debates like this behind closed doors, usually in administrators’ offices.  Even at SAR, which started the girls-wearing-tefillin revolution after Rabbi Segal opened the conversation here, the school-wide meeting to discuss it was held after the decision was made.

Beyond our little bubble at 910 South Fairfax, the girls and tefillin debate was more than just a little sensitive.  There were families who disapproved of even putting the question on the table.  So it didn’t just take some chutzpah for Rabbi Segal to bring those questions onto the public radar — it took courage.

It also takes courage for our administration to allow us to run the completely uncensored publication which you are holding in your hand.  Most high school principals insist on reviewing their school paper before it comes out.  Rabbi Segal does not — he has no influence on what we’re allowed to print.  The fact that he makes a point of letting The Boiling Point write about what its own staff thinks is relevant to the community, even if it does not shine the best light on the school, is very rare. And it allows us to report on what we think you need to hear.

This trust enabled us to write a comprehensive story about student drinking and party culture, which though not rampant, does exist at our school.  Though they knew it was coming – and even agreed to be interviewed about it – Rabbi Segal and Reb Noam never asked to see the story, which begins on Page 12, before it was published.  Taking our lead from them, we are exploring something we think it will help our fellow students to consider, and perhaps influence the way they make their decisions during their high school years.

Because of Rabbi Segal’s courage, Shalhevet has made a difference — not just in the international dialogue about girls and tefillin, or about what our community knows about teens and drinking, but also in our minds and the minds of our readers.  We hope our coverage is worthy of that trust, even as it challenges our administration, faculty and students to consider tough issues with an open mind.