Falling Grades

Written by הרב דניאל קירש, 10/3/2019

 

משכן העדות (ל"ח, כ"א) – קראו פה בשם 'משכן העדות', כי גם המשכן היה מעיד שהכל נעשה באמונה, ממה ששרתה בו שכינה, שזה לא יצוייר אם היה במלאכתם איזה עוון וגניבה" (מלבי"ם) 

Falling Grades

An air of seriousness hung over the classroom. The only sound to be heard was the scratching of pencils against paper, as the ninth graders diligently filled in the answers of the Gemara test.

The stack of papers on Rabbi Sharabi’s desk grew, as, one by one, the students completed their tests, and handed them in. The students who hadn’t yet finished sat scribbling furiously.

Rabbi Sharabi picked up the stack of papers, in order to straighten the pile of tests. Just then, his gaze was drawn to a disturbing sight. Two students, both still with tests on their desks, had put their heads together. The fact that the two boys were whispering to each other, and furtively pointing to the papers in front of them, was not lost on Rabbi Sharabi. He felt a sick feeling in the pit of his stomach. Cheating! The boys in his class?!

“Boys!” yelled Rabbi Sharabi. “How could you possibly cheat on a Gemara test? I thought I could rely on ninth grade boys to take a test without cheating! What’s the point of this whole test, if you’re just going to copy each other’s answers?” The boys watched in shock, as Rabbi Sharabi took the stack of tests in his hands, and threw it on the floor.

Was it permitted for Rabbi Sharabi to throw Gemara tests on the floor?

Answer of Rabbi Yaakov Ariel, shlita:

There is room to permit certain things for teachers, for the purpose of education, even if they might seem to be forbidden. For example, we see that the Rambam states (Laws of Torah Education, chapter 2, law 2) that it is permitted for a teacher to hit his student for educational purposes, even though this would appear to be forbidden. Similarly, if a student were to come to school with an unfiltered phone, it would be permitted for the teacher to confiscate the phone for a week or two, even though this would generally be considered stealing. So we see that, for the purposes of education, certain things are permitted.

So too in our case. If the teacher thinks that there is great educational value in throwing the tests, and that his students will learn the severity of cheating, there is reason to permit it. There is a concept in the Gemara (Menachot 99b) that, at times, putting Torah aside is upholding it. Similarly, the Gemara says that there are times when it is permitted to violate the Torah in order to protect it. (See Rashi there) Thus, we see that Moshe Rabeinu broke the luchot, because he saw that there was a particular need for that.

However, if a teacher were to throw tests as a result of uncontrolled anger, we cannot say that this action was proper. Nonetheless, we would not condemn a teacher for acting this way. It is understandable that a teacher in such a situation would feel great frustration, that all of his efforts in teaching his students are for nothing. All teachers get angry, at one time or another. No one is on the level of Moshe Rabeinu, who was held accountable for a minor angry reaction.

In summary: There is room to say that the throwing of the tests was permitted, if it was done for educational purposes, and not out of uncontrolled anger.

 

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