Thoughts and Updates

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I have many ideas for blog posts but have not had much time at home, or even in Szolnok for that matter; I have gone to Budapest three times in the past week alone and will be going again on Friday (for a Hanukkah celebration and Kabbalat Shabbat service on Friday night, followed by a Shabbat service on Saturday.) We have also had three Saturday working days this fall and have one more to go. So any free time–for writing, friends, duties, biking, thinking, sleeping–has been sparse and precious.

Speaking of writing, two of my most recent essays have been published, one (“Reclaiming Liberty“) in the New England Journal of Higher Education, and the other (“Choosing a College: The Virtues of a Good Misfit“) in Inside Higher Ed. As for the book, here are a few more pictures (thanks to Fruzsi) from the reading at Massolit Books in Budapest on November 18:

People are asking me where they can get a copy in Szolnok; they can do so at the Szkítia-Avantgard könyvesbolt és antikvárium, Baross utca 24. You can’t miss it if you’re on Baross utca and looking out for this (on the northern side of the street):

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As for a Szolnok book event, there will probably be one in January; I will give details when I have them. (The planning is underway.)

Readers in the U.S. may be wondering what I have to say about Viktor Orbán’s takeover of Hungarian media–as discussed and rebuked in a recent New York Times editorial. At this point there is little I could say without directly repeating others’ points, and I don’t like doing that. First, I keep confidentiality, and second, I like to speak from knowledge and thought, not from a need to say something. The situation is worrisome, not only in itself but because it increases the divide between those who can read news in other languages–or can read between the lines–and those who take government propaganda (and other propaganda) as truth.

But in my daily life I see and hear courage, intelligence, imagination, reflection, sharpness, soul, and wit; slowly I start to understand some of the tensions and sadnesses in Hungary.

Take, for instance, the Saturday working day (which I have criticized before). Few people actually like them, from what I can tell, yet few will say so publicly. For one thing, many like the long weekends that they get in return. Also, if you object to the Saturday working day, you risk being dismissed as a complainer or troublemaker. There’s a widespread assumption that the best way to stop things from getting worse is to put up with them. (This doesn’t apply to everything; I have heard robust complaints about various matters.) People will say, “Well, we do get the long weekends, so it isn’t so bad,” or “Most people prefer to have the long weekends, so this is just the way it is going to be.” But here and there, some people do raise objections; a colleague recently shared an article about how unfair this is on schoolchildren.

My complaint about the Saturday working days (which my school has tried to make as light and bearable as possible) is that they intrude on personal time–and, for even minimally observant Jews, on a sacred day. It seems that the government takes some ownership of people’s private lives. Even though these days “pay back” for extra days on long weekends, the tradeoff is not equal. A shortened weekend–and especially four in a single autumn–means less time at your own disposal, less time for serious things outside of work. Here I am both willing and able to speak up without just repeating what others have said. But the point will be slightly moot (or muted) next year, since we will have two Saturday working days that affect teachers and students. (The third is on August 10, during our summer vacation.) This year, there were six, and they all fell during the school year.

In any case, within this crowded schedule, it has been a rich time. And now I must run.

 

I made some edits and corrections to this piece after posting it.

 

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