Graduation Speech 2016 Annotated. Yes, 2016.

I just posted my graduation speech that I gave a couple of weeks ago and I realized that I never posted the speech from the previous year. Annotations in red. It’s not very fresh in mind, so the annotations are few:

This past weekend I had the good fortune of joining the seniors on their trip to New York. It was great. I found myself along with the seniors laughing and smiling the whole time. My highlight  was our participation in the Salute to Israel parade down 5th Avenue.  From 56th street to 72nd Street our seniors sang more loudly than the music blaring from the speakers on the floats and danced more energetically than the professional marching bands,  as the spectators cheered for us approvingly. You guys were incredible. Your  happiness, your laughter, your smiling got me thinking and I’d like to share some thoughts with you tonight about happiness. Continue reading

Advertisements

Graduation Speech 2017 Annotated

Here are my remarks from this year’s graduation. The speech I delivered is in black. My comments on the speech are in red. 

When you were just in eighth grade, applying, it, like you had just begun. Now 4 years later, it like you is wildly successful, also surpassing high expectations. 4 years ago, it wasn’t sure what direction it would take, but now like you, it has matured and after some tweaks and a bit of reinventing, the addition of some new features and the fixing of certain bugs, it like you has found its place. Its market cap has recently been hovering around 30 billion dollars.

I refer to Continue reading

Background Music

We’re on our way back from an extraordinary shabbaton in Orlando. The theme was “OurLANDo- Exploring our Connection to Israel.”  I spoke in shul on shabbos morning. Below are my remarks:

Shabbat Shalom. I want to start this derasha by reading to you from a tattered old notebook that’s almost 30 years old. 29 years ago, when I graduated high school I went to study in Yeshivat Hakotel. I decided to keep a journal- and it was a great decision. Continue reading

Ranting and Ranking

It’s been a while since I last wrote anything here, but I’ve decided to jot down some thoughts about a question I received from parents of a prospective student a few days ago. Why, they asked, was our school not ranked high on a website that someone had showed them. I was actually glad that they asked me the question, because I had a lot to say on the matter.  In fact, 2 weeks ago when I stumbled across the website in question (niche.com) I was so taken aback by the misleading (that’s being generous) nature of their system for ranking schools, that I decided to send a letter to our parent body alerting them to the site’s problems. But then I resisted sending out the email, figuring that it might look defensive and that it would be probably be smarter to just ignore it. Well, when these parents came to my office and raised the question, I figured it would make sense to share my thoughts on this blog, rather than in an official communication from my school.  Here’s the substantive part of the letter I considered sending to the parents and students of the school. My purpose in sharing this is to encourage people to be discerning consumers of information and to resist the simplistic reduction of superficial systems of rankings:

Last week, a parent showed me a website (niche.com) that ranked high schools. I was surprised to see what seemed like a very odd assortment of schools ranked in a very odd order. A couple of days later I received an email from an account executive at this website asking if our school would be willing to pay a $4,000 annual fee for a premium profile on their site.

There are three basic reasons why I am avoiding this site and suggesting that you also avoid registering with them or sharing your personal information:

  • I don’t think that sites which rank schools should make money off of those schools. It just doesn’t smell right.
  • The method by which they rank schools is based almost exclusively on self reported, unverified data collected from anyone who registers on their website. When I asked the account executive from niche.com whether it is possible for suporters or critics of a particular school to  either inflate or lower  a school’s ranking by registering multiple times under multiple email addresses and skewing the data, she replied that while it is possible, the site uses algorthims that are meant to adjust for that possibility. I did not find this convincing.
  • The site’s system of ranking is based on extraordinarily small sample sizes which make all the results of the rankings suspect. When I pointed this out to the account executive at niche.com, she responded that, “Niche is very transparent in terms of displaying the number of responses that make up a particular score or value when it incorporates self-reported data.” I don’t think that they are as transparent as they should be, but indeed if you look carefully you can see on their website how many self-reported responses are used for each school to compile a certain ranking. As I write this email, the school that is ranked as the number 1 Jewish school in the country is listed as having had 7 responses contributing data about it! Don’t get me wrong, I am certain that the school is terrific, but assigning a ranking based on seven responses is silly at best and misleading at worst.

Inside Out

I saw Inside Out the other day. I’m with all of the critics- it’s great. A.O Scott’s review is terrific as usual. Joe Morgenstern too. I only wish they would have had more scenes inside the heads of more characters. The movie made a case for sadness finding its place alongside joy. Pixar often has serious themes animating its films: elitism versus egalitarianism in the Incredibles, family versus individual and the purpose of art in Ratatouille, but Inside Out makes us think about the religious experience. Continue reading