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The Silent Scripture

16 Jan

Those who care about such things like to point out there’s a lack of women in the Bible… or least, named women. After all, why does Zerubbabel get a mention, but not Z’s wife? The reasons given for this are… rather surprising.

I was inspired by reading another blogger going through a man and a woman from the bible every day and giving a little blurb on it. My first thought was, “Gee, he’s going to run out of women soon,” but that got me thinking, “Why are there fewer women mentioned in the Bible?” There are several theories.

Women are Busy with Real Jobs

Serach, wife of Zerubbabel, is too busy taking care of Z’s four sons and three daughters to bother going out into the desert to listen to angels. The founder of Chassidism, the Baal Shem Tov, was able to run around 18th Century Poland with his pack of disciple rabbis because his wife was running the inn and raising the kids. The Prophet Mohammad (Praise Be Upon Him) married a rich older woman, which gave him the time to devote to listening to the Angel Gabriel.

Or to give a better example, I read a fictionalization about the white mother of Naduah, the last principal chief of the Comanches. Two ladies were talking about a man giving himself a new name of power after going on a vision quest. The main character asks her friend, “Why haven’t you changed your name?” To which she bawks, “What would I need a new name? Oh, spirit, give me the power to sew better!” Then she breaks out laughing at the idea.

In this theory, we don’t read about Serach taking care of Z’s kids and household because it doesn’t make the headlines.

The Bible Doesn’t Waste Space

The reason given for why there are endless genealogies in the Bible is because they are important to letting us know where we come from. So even if Zerubbabel shows up for only one line, it’s important to indicate how his descendants relate to him and his ancestors. You’d think if they bothered to add “and he had many sons and daughters,” they could bother to add Serach’s name as well.

Those third/fourth wave feminists who feel the need to call it “hxstory” or “herstory” (even those “history” is a Greek word, dummy) would point out the marginalization of women, and they have some argument. After all, when the Hebrews walk through the Red Sea, the “Song at the Sea” (Exodus 15) is most of the chapter. Miriam is specifically mentioned for two verses (Ex 15:20-22) of this rather poetic retelling of what just happened, so I don’t buy this argument. However, if I wanted to defend the theory, I could say, “Miriam just said it better and shorter.” Which gets to the answer I prefer…

Later Editors Excised Women’s Stories

What people often forget is that like most pieces of ancient literature, such as Homer’s Iliad, the Bible was only passed down through oral tradition. It wasn’t written down. So when King Josiah comes to power, and his decides to cause a reformation of the religion, the new king’s eager priest supporters want a standardized text. The problem is that… doesn’t exist. So they start this stuff down, and if you believe the German critics, there are three different stories being told–the Priests (P), those who called God “Yahweh” (J–because Germans don’t have a Y in their alphabet), and those who call God “Elohim” (E). Then Deuteronomy is all one author (D) because it was “found” during Josiah’s reign and has a lot of stuff regarding kings. Fancy that.

This is just one example–even when you have a standardized text, the simple act of rewriting it again and again leads to a lot of mistakes. Any modern translation of the New Testament has many footnotes that say “some texts say X.” The Koran also was an oral history, and if you believe it was originally written down by the Prophet’s scribe Zayd ibn Thabit, it still had to be codified during the reign of the third caliph, Uthman ibn Affan, twenty years after the Prophet’s death.

So you’re a priest who is trying to avoid hand cramp, you’ve got this Song at the Sea you’re writing down, and now you’re trying to figure out how to cram in Miriam’s song. You can’t leave it out–too many people know it. So you just combine them, but because you’re a guy, you don’t think it’s THAT important. This theory implies that women’s stories were far more common before codification and they just got left out… or the ones we have radically shortened.

Okay, I’ve bloviated on as much as I should on this topic–some people have dedicated their whole lives to studying this. What do you think? Do you like one of my theories or do you have a better one? Let me know in the comments below!

Biography with Submission

12 Jan

Phrases you read over and over again sometimes strike me funny–like “Biography with Submission,” which sounded like an erotic novel where a librarian gives into her dark desires. So many things out of context!

I wasn’t surprised when I went on Amazon and found, not one, not two, but seven different erotica based around librarians. I imagine there are lots of sexually frustrated librarians in the world, and not all of them male. πŸ™‚ Often times this happens to me, where I’ll read some boring phrase and think, “Gee, that sounds funny,” and my mind will go off on a brilliant tangent.

“Client Acquisition” – A corporate headhunter is tired of getting rejected for job offers with his company, and in order to make the quota, decides to take things into his own hands. Kidnapping the prospective client, there’s only one way out of this nightmare… take the job!

Hybrid Publishing” – A struggling publisher decides they want to grow the perfect author. However, their experiment gets out of control–can they still keep the money while keeping his perfect author in check?

This is a fun story generating exercise–in fact, my next story project is based off my wife misreading one of the titles on our bookshelf. She saw Death in the Age of Steam and read “Death in the Age of Seitan.” After a big laugh, the more I got into the idea. What if there was a future in which eating meat not only became unacceptable, but outlawed? So I have the vision of a police detective in some rural area whose on the beat of the deer murderers. I’m still in the world building stage, and I’m also apprehensive about writing two sci-fi mystery novels in a row, but the idea intrigues me.

By the way, Death in the Age of Steam is a short story compilation including a story by Editor Ed, one of my frequent blog contributors, which is really good. There’s also another good story at the end, but it’s cyberpunk not steampunk, but the others… eh, I can take or leave it. But I’d recommend reading Underneath the Holy City. If you want more of Editor Ed, check out Predatory Practices!

What do you do to generate story ideas? What helps you build up your imagination? Let me know in the comments below!

Moral Equivalency of War

11 Jan

We use the term “hero” too much, along with “battle” and “war,” to talk about things that are none of those things. Are we really fighting the good fight?

William James have a speech a hundred years ago at Yale University called “the Moral Equivalency of War,” talking about the idea of using the language of war that gives people the sense that they are feeling as if they are soldiers, so that they see the moral rightness of their position.

After all, it’s one thing to say, “We’re fighting climate change,” it’s far more appealing to say, “We’re fighting to face the Earth!” It feels like a righteous crusade instead of just a cause.

The problem is that it’s been overused. Every election is the most important election of our time. Every issue is a fight against evil. When everything is so damn important, then you start to feel that nothing is important. The reason why every day is not Arbor Day is because if it is, then… Well, it’s just a day.

What I learned when I ran for office (10 years ago, third party, got 8% of the vote) is that everyone has an opinion and everyone has a cause. Just one. You might say you care about everything, but we only have one thing you’re passionate about. There’s only so much “give a damn” in our lives and you have to focus it. If you choose to raise the banner for one issue, there’s a thousand other issues you don’t have time for.

My cynicism is showing, I’ll admit it, because I’ve been burned before. I marched in parades, in political rallies, ran for office, and I can’t even say I believe the same things I protested for anymore. If you’re willing to fight for what you believe in, so you can change the world, go ahead… But accept that it’s going to take a long time and it might take your whole life to accomplish it.

Take the 27th Amendment to the US Constitution, passed in 1991, actually proposed in the Bill of Rights in 1790. A college student thought it was still a good idea (any pay raise that Congress votes itself doesn’t go into effect until the next election), wrote it in a class paper, and got a C. However, that became his cause, and spent the next ten years convincing state legislatures to ratify it. That was his life. He succeeded – but he got lucky.

How long are you willing to fight for your cause? How much time are you willing to spend to change the world? Are you willing to give up your career, a family, and friends just to accomplish it? I guess I’m in awe of those who do, at the same time, understanding what they had to do to achieve it. They fought the good fight, but like any veteran, they bear the scars of what they sacrificed.

Do you have an activist you admire? Would you really want to meet them in real life? Share your person in the comments below!

When you put “Knife” in the title…

8 Jan

When you put “knife” in the name of something, it grabs your attention. Sure, a knife is a common enough item, but it’s also dangerous, and when you use it out of context (kitchen), your mental eyebrows go up. So let’s see what happens when you add “knife” to the conversation.

Take–for example–the book I’ve chosen. Lois McMaster Bujold is a great author; love her Vorkosigan books. To my shame, I haven’t read her Sharing Knife series, but that’s mostly because I love sci-fi and not fantasy. It seems silly, because there’s a reason why the two genres are lumped together. Both involve going to different worlds, both involve some sort of advanced ability/technology, and both meet alien species. Although in one it’s an extraterrestrial, the other an elf. For me, fantasy has to have some quirk for me to be interested, such as magic using calligraphy, or low-magic politics-heavy (Game of Thrones), or urban fantasy (Dresden Files).

However, I remembered the name, didn’t I? Which is the point of this blog post–“knife” grabs your attention.

Take this electronic dance party (EDM) band–Knife Party. If you’re even peripherally into EDM, such as myself, you’ve heard of these guys. They are really good and throw in fun quotes by some serious sounding woman saying, “You blocked me on Facebook, and now, you’re going to die.” Again, the word “knife” grabs your attention. After all, a knife party is not something you want to be invited to. It’s like playing stabscotch–sure, it looks cool when someone else is doing it, but when someone is trying to stab a knife between your fingers over and over again, it’s not so fun.

Do I want the sharing knife? But I am curious… what is it? It doesn’t have the same effect as saying, “Year of the Cat.” But maybe if we add “Black Cat,” would you be more likely to pick it up? It’s hard to come up with another word that grabs your attention like that. Okay–“sex” always grabs your attention. But unless you want to put in that book section, your list of grabbing words shrink.

Can you come up with some other words that grab your attention? Let me know in the comments below!

“Wind, Fire, all that kind of thing!”

6 Jan

The Placebo Principle teaches us that even if you know a treatment is a placebo, it can still work… and doesn’t that mess us up? So when you invoke the spirits and place the four elements in corners of the room, I ask myself, “Can it hurt? Can it help?”

My wife is the mystic in the family; I tend to look askance at that subject, but I’ve received benefit from meditation. I’ve had the spiritual retreat and the high that comes from it. She also encourages us to use alternative medicine, which in my experience, works just as much as allopathic medicine for minor aches and issues. However, last night, she wanted us to do an Indigo Healing for our kids.

Now if you have no idea what an Indigo Healing is, I’m not surprised–I’ve seen a lot of strange mystic stuff, and even this is pretty weird for me. Indigo Children are generally folks who have been blessed/cursed with some sort of supernatural abilities. They also tend to be ADD… like me and my kids. The idea (as I understand it) is that you are carrying some trauma from your past life and that is preventing you from reaching your ideal self.

O-kay… yeah, sure. So you can do a ceremony where you identify what issues you have, participate through a series of activities that help you heal from those issues, and then free yourself of that trauma. Does it work? Sure. I mean, there is an emotional release, you do feel a bit better from the experience, and it has a noticeable long term emotional improvement. However, I get the impression that it’s less about the “healing” than the ceremony.

You start off by creating a sacred space, placing the four elements in each corner, already priming yourself to take this seriously. You then chant phrases, you do actions, everything that you might expect from a religious ceremony. It also takes a frickin’ hour (?!), which really seals in the importance aspect. You are forced to be a participant to confront many of these issues… even if you pick them at random and are not exactly sure which things you’re healing at any given time (but you can guess).

As you can imagine, I’m not particularly sold on it. From my own religious practice, my weekly service lasts 2-3 hours, and it’s hard to keep focused throughout the whole thing. Thankfully, our tradition states you don’t have to be there for all of it. However, when you’re forced to stop and pause and sing and think about your relationship with God, you have those moments of clarity that make the experience worthwhile. Sure, you could pray by yourself anytime… but you don’t. You have to take a moment and force yourself to connect with the infinite.

Is it a placebo? Is it a healing? For me, it doesn’t matter–because it works on some level. What about you? Have you had those moments that you’re not sure are effective but somehow effect you anyway? Let me know in the comments below!

Tea Bag Wisdom

5 Jan

Maybe the words of the prophets ARE written on the subway walls… and tenement halls? After all, the quality of fortunes in fortune cookies have gone down, let’s look to tea bags for pithy sayings!

I will endeavor to keep my snark level at a minimum for this post. However, after looking at a particular New Year’s post, this reminded me of a particular brand of (really good) tea that puts these sayings on their tea bags, most of which are about the level of the fortune cookie. Not particularly useful, rather obvious, and mostly not helping your daily life. After all, “Let your energy be used to build, not destroy,” could mean anything, but means nothing. It’s not like I was going to create a spreadsheet today, but I decide, “Screw it, I’m going to defenestrate Prague!”

This particular saying reminds me of a tradition told about the Buddha — that after he was born, he said to his parents, “There has been no one like me before me, there will no like me after me.” Upon reflection, this is what every child tells their parent… because they don’t know any better. πŸ™‚

This tea bag conveys the Wheaton Principle: “Don’t be a dick.” Despite the triteness of this saying, it’s actually good advice. It’s so easy to be mean, it’s much harder to be good. However, one action follows another. If you’re good to one person, that person is actually more likely to be good to another, because you’ve put them in a positive mood. Moods are infectious and do create a sequence based on the initial moment.

However, most tea bag wisdom is pretty bad writing. “Your strength is your own belief” – seriously? “Your overconfidence is your weakness.” “Your faith in your friends is yours.” Sure, if I had the faith the size of a mustard seed, I could move mountains, but if I did have that power, I wouldn’t need to. It’s important to believe in something and draw strength from that belief… but this advice doesn’t help anyone.

Okay, let me REALLY tell you what I think about you! πŸ™‚ Saying what you mean is often the WORST advice you can give someone. As I said at the beginning, I’m going to keep the snark down, but if the snark is strong in me, imagine how strong it is in other people! We train ourselves at an early age NOT to say what we mean, despite the consequences to ourselves, because of the previous tea bag wisdom–“create the sequence of goodness.” Politeness is the sign of an advanced society; does it mean we hide our true feelings, sure, but we do it for the benefit of others.

Now I know what you’re thinking–you have a kid studying to be a dentist?! No, I was working at UConn Medicine and needed a coffee mug. That happened to be the one on sale. However, the tea was really good–I go with the Triple Ginger to get me through the Connecticut snowy winter.

I think in the end, the tea manufacturer has its heart in the right place. Sometimes the right saying at the right time can really change someone’s heart for the good. I was about to quit student teaching when I heard the words “Don’t Quit” twice in one morning; during a school announcement and a silly sign on the wall. But much like missionaries, you have to hit people at the right time.

Do you find wisdom in the tea bags, fortune cookies, and pithy signs of the world? Or is there a more sinister element to it? Or is it harmless fun to add to the spice of life? Let me know in the comments below!

“They Flee into Waste Places Long since Desolate…”

4 Jan

Yesterday, I talked about desolate places I’ve been–but since the point of the post was to talk about the desolate places I’ve wanted to go to, I figured I should actually give that list. I doubt I’ll ever get there, but does your bucket list match mine?

Angle Inlet, Minnesota

This is about as deep woods as you can get and still be in the Continental US. On the Lake of the Woods, on the border with Canada, there is a chunk of land called the “Northwest Angle.” This is one of those surveying errors that happened back in the 1800’s, where American surveyors said the border should be here, and the British said it should be there. They came up with the compromise of the 49th Parallel from the Pacific Ocean to the Rainy River to Lake Superior. The problem is that these two borders don’t quite match up, and there was some debate on where they connect, and where claims already existed and were established. Thus the Angle Inlet can only be accessed by land through Canada, and apart from the native community that owns most of that land, it’s a great place to go hunt, fish, and experience nature far from the ways of man.

In a similar vein, I’d also like to go to Point Roberts, Washington, which is a small town south of Vancouver, cut off into the US by the 49th Parallel. Again, it’s only accessible by land from Canada. Apart from a beach, its main attraction is a bunch of post office boxes where Canadians can go and pick up Amazon purchases without paying Canadian taxes or shipping costs.

Adamstown, Pitcairn Island

If you’ve ever heard of the Mutiny on the Bounty, this is where their descendants ended up, on a tiny lush island in the South Pacific, living on the side of a ex-volcanic cliff and growing breadfruit. Sure, I could pick any hard-to-reach island in the world, and there are plenty of them: Ascension, Tristan de Cunha, St. Helena, Reunion… but this is the only one that takes more than two days to get to. In fact, you can’t fly there–there’s not enough land for an airport. It takes travelling on a boat which only travels for days from the nearest island airport in the French Marquesas every couple months.

It’s part of New Zealand, due to some weird diplomatic deal a hundred years ago, and although the NZ government would love people to move there, they’re actually pretty picky about travel there, and if you do, you’re not allowed to become permanent residents. It also has GORGEOUS weather, and although you’re cut off from the rest of the world, it’s got plenty of food, a small community (<100 people), and all the amenities of home including Internet! Hence it’s on my bucket list.

Stanley, Falkland Islands

When I was seven, Argentina decided to seize this clump of islands that believed belonged to them. The British had some disagreement about that and fought over this mostly windswept, treeless, sheep-filled land. Ever since then, this place had gripped my attention. You can fly there, but Lord, is it really, really hard. Your options are to either fly to Chile and then take a 13-hour flight to the island OR fly to the UK and take a 24+ hour flight from London to Ascension Island THEN to the Falklands. (Not from Argentina for… well, obvious reasons.) Either way, you land at a British military base called Point Pleasant, because frankly, it’s the only modern airfield on the islands.

Once you get there, well, it’s the definition of desolate. Cold, wet, treeless, but plenty of grass and sheep… and a few minefields leftover from the war. Plus due to the flight schedule, you’re stuck there a week regardless. However, it’s about as close to Antarctica as I’m ever going to get, and there’s a lot of history that I would love to see.

How does my bucket list match with yours? Do you have some desolate place you’d like to visit? Why? Let me know in the comments below!

A Hunger for Desolate Places

3 Jan

I’ve always wanted to travel to hard-to-reach places, simply because they are desolate, hard to get to, and have very few people. It could just be an extension of my introverted nature, but what is so special about nothingness?

As Prince Faisal says in the movie Lawrence of Arabia, “The English have a great hunger for desolate places.” Here in Arizona, we have a lot of desolation–the Sonoran Desert is a wild, beautiful bunch of nothing. Plus we get mountains, which is pretty cool, but it tends to be uncomfortably hot for exploring for half the year. However, you are never more than a hour from civilization–further depending on how you define it. However, I grew up in a small town, so I have a much wider definition than city boys.

That being said, I have found a few places that I love to go to that are blessedly desolate.

Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge, Virginia Beach, Virginia

Virginia Beach is one of the most popular beach destinations on the East Coast. However, at the southern edge of this beach is Back Bay, a wildlife preserve that you’re not allowed drive past the front gate. In other words, you have to hike or bike into the area. So if you’re willing to walk for a couple miles, you will find you have the whole beach to yourself.

At a time in my life that I was at my lowest (and heaviest), this was a wonderful discovery. It’s amazing!

Cliff Island, Maine

This is the farthest you can go on the Casco Bay Ferries. When I (briefly) lived in Portland, Maine, I used to take the ferries on the weekend to go exploring on the coastal islands. This particular island takes about two hours to ride out to, and because it’s so remote, it has one of the few remaining one-room schoolhouses still in operation in the US. (The high schoolers still have to take the ferry both ways daily.)

As you might imagine, there’s very few people who live on the island, and there’s not much to do, but since all I wanted to do was go exploring between ferry stops, it was perfect. You can walk all around the island and not run into a single soul.

Kok Mak, Thailand

This is a tourist destination, but not a very popular one. This tiny island in the Bay of Thailand is again hard to get to. It takes two hours by ferry (or one by hovercraft) to get to, after travelling four hours by bus east of Bangkok. It was originally a rubber plantation. There are expensive resorts on the island, but there’s also nicely priced bungalows like the one me and my wife shared. We liked this place so much we went there twice–in the on season and the off–and loved it a lot. So many European tourists were there who were afraid to eat anything but spaghetti and noodles, but you can rent a moped, or just walk around, and find wonderful restaurants and shops… or just explore the beach or forest. It’s a great place.

What desolate or sparsely-populated places have you been to? Does the emptiness call to you as well? Let me know in the comments below!

Survivor of the Worship Wars

2 Jan

When I saw a post from a “Survivor of the Worship Wars,” I had ask myself–did I miss a war? Was there a terrible battle that left thousands of faithful dead? Better question–what the heck are they talking about?!

The “Worship Wars” are the fights between people who lead services and the congregations who participate. Generally, people don’t like new things in their service, and don’t want to try new things, and the guy or gal who’s responsible for leading the service gets bored with the same old songs and tunes. In the end, some will like them and some won’t, and in the 60’s, this led to the break-off of the “contemporary service” from the “traditional service.” Some churches do both, some only choose one.

In a way, the wars are over–as I said, you either choose one or the other style, or you allow a separate space to do both. However, the tension that led to that still exists today. For example, our previous synagogue used to do a Sephardic Orthodox service, but used Shlomo Carlbach tunes. That may sound like gibberish to you, but back in the 60’s, a young Chabad (ultra-orthodox missionary Jews) rabbi named Carlbach decided to abandon his tradition in order to meet young hippie Jews where they were. As a result, he started his own synagogue, went on tours all over the world, and generally brought love and joy to his services. (That’s one interpretation.)

We chose that shul because we loved the music, we loved the traditional service, but we hated the politics and expectations that usually come with the traditional service. Your worship style often defines your worship location.

When I was growing up, I was in choir, and we used to groan when our director would bring out some piece of experimental whatsis. But we would go through it anyway. Sometimes it actually worked–most of the time, it landed with a dead thud. And any time you tried out a new hymn… or God forbid, a different tune to existing hymn, people would very grumbly.

So how do you avoid the worship wars? Well, our author points out the very important lesson that all service leaders need to learn: go slow. Just starting out and having to adjust to your personality is often as much as the congregation can take at first. Our rabbi used to teach us one new tune to an established song, and then she would repeat it the next week, and the week after, until we got it. Sometimes it would stick around, sometimes we’d return to the old “funeral dirge” style we were doing (Jewish music has a lot of minor keys), but it was always baby steps.

Change is good and acceptable and inevitable, but people come to your service because they like the style as it is now. That might not be enough people to sustain a congregation, so understand that change is also painful, and you may lose folks while you’re trying to draw in more. I guess it depends on what your end goal is–are you just trying something new because you’re bored? Or are you trying to move the congregation in a certain direction? Either way, change takes time, and the faster you move it, the more resistance you’ll get.

Are you one of those who likes that “old time religion?” Do you like it, but only go on major holidays? Do you think “contemporary worship” is too pop-heavy and terrible music? Do you have any idea what I’m talking about? Let me know in the comments below!

There’s a Sucker Born Every Minute

1 Jan

Yesterday, I pontificated on the legitimacy of some book awards and college accreditation–areas in which I have an abiding interest. However, this idea can be spread to any subject. But what if it’s something I only mildly care about?

I was convinced many years ago to buy fair trade coffee. I figured the exchange was worthwhile–if producers pay coffee farmers double the price per bushel (say $0.50 to $1 for a giant bag), it doesn’t make a great difference to the US customer, but it makes a huge difference in Costa Rica. They can afford to send their kids to school, they can build their houses up, and greatly improve their life. I lived on a mountain in India for three years making $300/month, and for the area, I lived as an upper middle class professional. So I’ve seen the difference a little extra change can mean in the developing world.

But as I said, I’m only mildly care about fair trade coffee. I watched a three-hour documentary on it. As you can see here, these are four different legitimate fair trade logos that producers can slap on their bags. I’ve seen a lot more. How much effort am I going to make as a coffee consumer to make sure that their fair trade certification is legitimate? Thirty seconds of a Google search? Two minutes? Most of the time, I’m simply going to take it as legitimate and feel virtuous about buying expensive coffee, and not double check the label.

Here in Arizona, building and service contractors have to register with the Arizona Registrar of Contractors and get a license number that they have to put on their advertising and trucks. This shows that they are accountable to the state if they screw up the job on your house. You can actually go to the AROC website and look them up by license number. However, is there any reason that I, as a disreputable contractor, couldn’t just do a search, find a contractor that sounds like me, and just paste their number on my truck? Or just put any number on there and bet that most customers won’t bother checking?

To give another example, I’ve sent both of my kids (and now just my daughter) to Tempe Montessori School. We love the education and their philosophy and it works really well with both of their ADHD types. However, do I really know the difference between AMI (Association Montessori Internationale) and the AMS (American Montessori Society) certification? I had to ask my wife (because she cares greatly about most things more than I) and she preferred AMI, because AMS makes “too many concessions” to American public school practice. So my wife did the research and I took her word on it. Many parents will take word of mouth over certification any day. It’s more consistent.

When we first came to Arizona, we sent our kids to Sholom Montessori, because we really loved the idea of a Jewish Montessori school–we had sent Asher to one when he was four years old and he did great. Turned out the school was a scam by the founders, and they used the money from that (and a synagogue they ran) to pay their bills and fix up their house. The head of the school was also the elementary school teacher, but after six months, she decided to stop teaching, leaving the class in the hands of her 12-year-old daughter. She got work visas for young women from Israel so she could pay them #*$& and give them the awful choice of “work for me or go home to Israel.” Six months after we pulled out of that school, and a message to the AZ Department of Education and the Jewish Tuition Organization, they were finally shut down.

I guess the point of all of this is caveat emptor–let the buyer beware. Because even with certification, anyone can put a sticker on their website and say they’re certified (as was the case with Sholom Montessori; the agency had never heard of them!) So I’m less impressed with accreditation that some people–but I could be wrong. Have you had more positive experiences with certification and those kinds of agencies? Or are you as cynical as I am? Let me know in the comments below!

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