In the Age of Extremes

Ian Mitroff
3 min readSep 15, 2022

I’m publishing this series of articles to share and discuss my ruminations on coping with a troubled and messy world. You can “follow” me to never miss an article.

The front page of the Sunday, September 11, 2022 edition of The New York Times carried a feature article about the serious failure of Hasidic Schools in New York State to educate their students properly[i]. Every single one of the students who took standardized tests failed. Their performances in Math and Speaking and Writing English were seriously below par. Because of their Strict Orthodoxy, instruction was given completely in Yiddish thus affecting their ability to speak and write in English. As a result, the students were completely unprepared to engage with the Modern World. In addition, those who later left the overbearing confines of the community reported being brutally beaten for failing to adhere to the strict standards that were imposed. Many ended up being addicted to drugs and alcohol and chronically unemployed.

The predominate view of the communities was that the Secular World was dangerous and impious and therefore strictly to be avoided at all costs. Given the terrible persecution to which Jews have been subject over the centuries, one can easily understand why their distrust of the Secular World is so high. And, because of their Political Power, they commanded taxpayer monies to fund their schools, thus reinforcing further their ardent desire to remain separate and apart.

Unfortunately, feelings of not wanting to engage with the World are more common and widespread for comfort. Thus, the September 11, 2022 edition of The Sunday New York Times Magazine that was devoted entirely to Education reported on the efforts of many communities to ban books for children that they found offensive and discussions as well on sensitive topics such as Systemic Racism in America and LGBTQ’s[ii]. Accordingly, many communities have compiled Lists of Book that are deemed too obscene, provocative, or upsetting to which children should be exposed. In the direct words of Eva Carter of Llano, Texas, “I think God is using this [Lists of Objectional Books] to bring awareness to people who had no clue what was going on…It’s a battle between good and evil[iii].” What’s sad is that books that are children classics are on such Lists.

Given this, while well intended, an op-ed entitled, “Is There Room for Debate in Real Life?”[iv] is not only naïve, but laughable. The notion that one can conduct arguments, let alone debates, in a civilized and reasonable manner is not possible when one casts the basic issues in terms of God and a Battle Between Good and Evil.

What we’re left with is indeed a Battle between deeply incompatible World Views. I’m reminded daily that we are truly living in the Age of Extremes.

On a deeply personal note, I cannot say that I’m necessarily any better when it comes to dealing with Extreme Views. Along with so many, I retreat into the safe confines of those with whom I share the same feelings.

[i] Eliza Shapiro and Brian M. Rosenthal, “Failing Schools, Public Funds: Hasidic Students in New York State Are Deprived of Basic Skills,” The New York Times, Sunday, September 11, 2022. PP. A1 and A12-A15.

[ii] The Education Issue, The Sunday New York Times Magazine, September 11, 2022.

[iii] IBID, P 38.

[iv] Pamela Paul, “Is There Room for Debate in Real Life?,” The New York Times, Monday, September 12, 2022, P. A21.

Ian I. Mitroff is credited as being one of the principal founders of the modern field of Crisis Management. He has a BS, MS, and a PhD in Engineering and the Philosophy of Social Systems Science from UC Berkeley. He Is Professor Emeritus from the Marshall School of Business and the Annenberg School of Communication at USC. Currently, he is a Senior Research Affiliate in the Center for Catastrophic Risk Management, UC Berkeley. He is a Fellow of the American Psychological Association, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the American Academy of Management. He has published 41 books. His latest is: The Socially Responsible Organization: Lessons from Covid, Springer, New York, 2022.

Photo credit: ~jar{}/Flickr.com

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