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Albert: [00:00:00] Hello everyone again. This is Albert Chang from the University of Arkansas welcoming you to another episode of the Curve podcast. I’m real happy to be here with you guys and along with my co host this week, Alicia Searcy. Alicia, good to see you.

Alisha: Good to see you too. How are you?

Albert: not bad.

Albert: actually was on the road for a little bit and back in town here. How about you? How’s it going on your end?

Alisha: About the same. I think you probably recall I have a new job now as the President of the Southern Region for Democrats for Education Reform, so it’s kept me very busy. Uh, And traveling a little bit, but I’m loving the job.

Albert: Good. Well, continue to wish you well on that, that new endeavor. Thank you. Well, speaking about Ed let’s get into some news. You know, I, I got a story that’s pulled from education Next. Joan Jacobs has a feature piece on, the University of Austin become a new university that’s getting started.

Albert: And the title [00:01:00] is Can the New University of Austin Revive the Culture of Inquiry in Higher Education? And yeah, I just want to recommend it to our listeners. Look, I’m cheering on the endeavor here. I I mean, not even just in higher ed, but certainly in higher ed, you know, our, our civic discourse and the ability to have that culture of inquiry to truth seek.

Albert: To disagree with each other to wrestle with hard questions. That, yeah, we kind of seem to lack space to do that and higher education historically, and probably should be one of the places where, where we can do that. So, anyway, excited for this, new university. And so I want to encourage listeners to go and see what’s going on there.

Albert: But you know, this is not to ignore actually, I think a lot of other places that in higher ed that aren’t making the press about trying to pursue and cultivate this, this culture of inquiries. I can think of a lot of places here locally even, but anyway, I wish the university of Austin some success and what they’re doing.

Alisha: Love that. Absolutely. And don’t we need to ensure that we are investing in a culture, both in K 12 and [00:02:00] in higher ed about more critical thinking and curiosity, right?

Albert: Yeah. Yeah.

Alisha: So I love that. So my story this week comes from Ghana Web. As you may recall, I visited Ghana almost 10 days. I think it was in January and I never go to any place and not try to visit a school or see what the education system looks like So this particular article is entitled Ghana has the best education systems in Sub Saharan Africa and that’s according to the executive director of Transforming teaching education and learning, whose name is Robin Todd, and talks about how Ghana has the best education system.

Alisha: So it’s interesting, right? Because when you think about K 12 education, and been a superintendent before, done a lot of work with, Broad and Federal Department of Education, all of that. I think there are some very central themes to what we need in order to improve schools. And so, in this particular [00:03:00] program detail is what they say for short.

Alisha: So, there are nonprofit organization that provides technical and financial support to the Ministry of Education and its agencies. And so essentially what they’ve been doing for the last few years is leading the development of new curricula for basic and senior high schools in Ghana. And this organization has also funded the training of teachers across Ghana to equip them with the required skills.

Alisha: For the implementation of the new curricula. And so here’s the thing, right? When you talk about what does it mean to have the best schools, whether it’s in Ghana or in Africa, or even in the US, they’re doing the right things. They are consistently ensuring continuous improvement in its education system, It’s talking about and doing that through the implementation of pragmatic um, Management policies and structures, but also talking about empowering teachers with a structured program, providing them with lesson plans, learning materials and ongoing [00:04:00] skill based coaching. There is the key, right? That ongoing skill based coaching.

Alisha: And so. It’s funny, Albert. At first, I’m like, Oh, well, what are they doing? Because we’re always looking for who are those systems that are, you know, doing these innovative things that have figured out the way. So if an article says they have the best education system in Sub Saharan Africa, I’m wanting to know what they’re doing.

Alisha: But as you dig into the article, you realize they’re not doing anything novel. They’re doing what works. Focusing on improving schools, making sure that teachers are empowered, that they have the resources that they need, and that they have ongoing coaching. And so kudos to the education system in Ghana, something that I think we can learn in the U.

Alisha: S. I think there are many systems in our country that understand that these are the key components, but I’m not sure that when you look at budgets, when you look at hiring decisions, When you look at leadership decisions that we’re actually following that. So anyway, I [00:05:00] appreciated the article and it just kind of the reminder of knowing the things that work in public education.

Albert: Yeah, you’re absolutely right, Alicia. You know, I think it’s really important to Know what works know what’s effective and really that’s half the battle too. I mean you mentioned leadership and how we need folks to implement new programs implement new policies well to manage things and so there’s also that implementation side and and really speaking of implementation I mean, you know running any kind of education system any school.

Albert: It’s got its challenges. it’s baked in its own politics and interests. And think that’s gonna be a nice segue to other side of the break. We’re going to interview Maya Shalony. She’s going to talk about her experience Harvard in the recent months. And I think our listeners are familiar with the challenges that have been on that campus.

Albert: And

Alisha: yeah.

Albert: That’s right, to lead in the world we live in today is no easy task. So anyway, I’m looking forward to this interview coming up after the break. So, stick around and we’re going to have Maya Shalony [00:06:00] join us in a bit.

Alisha: Maya Shalony is an Israeli American student at Harvard College. studying government and economics with a citation in Arabic. She’s an opinion editor with the Crimson, Harvard’s leading student newspaper. In 2023, Maya interned for Knesset member, Mirov Cohen. And this summer, she will be working for Congressman Josh Kothimer.

Alisha: She’s also a [00:07:00] three time gold medalist at the Dance World Cup, the largest international dance competition. Welcome to the show, Maya.

Maya: Great to be here. Thank you for inviting me.

Albert: Well, why don’t you tell listeners about yourself to start with? Yeah. Your family backgrounds, educational background, really. And you know, more generally, I guess what your experiences were like growing up in Israel.

Maya: I was actually born in the U S I was born in New York city. My parents worked here. And I moved to Israel as a baby. I think I had a pretty normal Israeli childhood grew up in the same. Suburb of Tel Aviv my entire life. Went to, public schools my entire life.

Maya: It’s very popular in Israel here in Israel. not many private schools. I enjoy dance and gymnastics as a kid. Didn’t think much about it until I grew up and kind of like thought about taking it more seriously. But ended up going for a more academic, academically inclined career.

Maya: then I got to Harvard and [00:08:00] about, I guess, what it was like growing up in Israel, specifically. we feel it’s really normal. I mean, everyone you know have the same exact childhood. You kind of get used to all the things I think Americans would find kind of crazy, like having, you know, bi yearly drills.

Maya: to get into shelters at school and actually having to, like, go into shelters from time to time, especially if you live, I don’t live in the South, but if you live in the South, just like, 50, days a year at the bare minimum. So we kind of found it normal, but I don’t think it’s anything, like normal.

Albert: Yeah, I certainly know what you’re talking about. I actually had the chance to visit Israel a couple times and actually led a, study abroad trip there to study education in Israel. So, know what you mean when you say it feels normal, but it’s not really normal. well, so you’re at Harvard now.

Albert: So why don’t you tell us a bit about how you, ended up there? Like, how did you decide to attend Harvard? And look, you’re studying [00:09:00] government economics. What’s it like taking classes there? What’s your general assessment evaluation of the intellectual climate?

Albert: You know, the ways professors and students engage with each other and exchange ideas.

Maya: actually the story of how I decided to go to Harvard is kind of funny. I was 12 or 13 and there was this TV show I really liked. It’s called The Suite Life. That Zack and Cody, The Suite Life on Deck It was really random, because just this one episode, there was a Harvard admission officer coming.

Maya: It was like, it was a guest star person. And that’s how I heard of Harvard for the first time. And he said it was the best university in the world. And I was like, wow, then that’s where I’m going. You know, and I had this like, cute binder where I like printed everything from the Harvard website. And and I kind of like forgot about it for many years.

Maya: It was always in like the back of my mind of this kind of dream. But I haven’t really like done anything to lead to that. Just, it wasn’t in the culture. No one around me [00:10:00] ever thought of going to an international university, but, you know, that was kind of my dream. And then when the time came, I applied and I got in and that was it.

Maya: very, very exciting. and about the second part of your question. I enjoy my classes. I call it a stamination because if you’re like smart, you usually, or like you want to, you know, you want to like do well in school, you take STEM classes, because we have such a big tech industry, like all the parents want their kids to go into the tech industry.

Maya: So I took computer science and I was like, in the chemistry Olympics, I did all these like STEM stuff in high school. But I really love politics. I found out that’s what I really, really like. So that’s what I started taking at Harvard. So I really enjoyed that change. And about the culture.

Maya: I think the culture. I think there’s like no actual free speech culture at Harvard. I know you see it a lot. Like there was a, I don’t remember which report, but it was like a report recently that just said that. I think a lot of people, and also just students say that, I think what people are missing is [00:11:00] where this lack of free speech comes from, who like, who doesn’t let you speak.

Maya: And in my experience, it’s definitely the students. I mean, it’s not like the, you know, I’m sure other people have very different experiences with. The administration and faculty. And I can speak in their names, but my experience. I think that experience of the majority of the student body is that a certain group of students.

Maya: It’s kind of the, I guess speech police and there are things that the consequences of speaking outside the boundaries that are like, you know, no one say what the boundaries are, but they’re very clear speaking outside these boundaries means you’re going to get canceled.

Maya: You’re like going to be considered this or that. And it’s really damaging both your social life and also your community. professional life, because at the end of it, you know, the connections you make at Harvard are very important. A lot of people go to Harvard, not just for the, you know, the academia, they go there for the, the professional connections, and that’s really, really damaging to [00:12:00] your career, I guess.

Maya: So, it’s, yeah, it’s all, a lot about is, like, You know, you can’t really be saying anything nice about israel where you’re going to be very quickly. Canceled if you’re israeli, you’re already canceled to begin with so i’m just already canceled. You can be conservative or anything that doesn’t fit with the mainstream, progressive ideas and i’m I would say Progressive with air quotes, because I think a lot of these are like, I consider myself, you know, I think, I don’t know if I’m a progressive, but I’m a liberal.

Maya: And I think specific group kind of hijacked this, idea of what it means to be progressive, or what it means to be liberal. And they don’t speak in the name of the entire group that considers themselves such. Yeah, but yeah, very limited freedom of speech.

Albert: Yeah, yeah, yeah. And I think you might probably are referencing the report that FIRE put out which I think provide a lot of data about exactly what you’re, you’re talking about. let me [00:13:00] slide in this other question here before we get into campus climate and, higher ed. So we read in your bio that you’re an accomplished world class dancer. Tell us a bit more about that. Talk about your experience as a, you’re a three time gold medalist at the Dance World Cup.

Albert: Yeah. What is that and what is it like on that level?

Maya: so I started dancing when I was three 14. There wasn’t just like, It wasn’t a dance environment that really pushed you here It’s not like in the u. s where you have like these amazing dance conventions but it kind of started, Happening when I was 14 and I just moved to a different studio.

Maya: They wanted to sign me up with a solo I was really excited and I started winning all these competitions and you know I’m such a type a person like I like winning. I like, working hard. I like being the best So It was really personality, I think.

Maya: And when I was 17, the national competition, the national, I guess, qualifiers for the, International Dance World Cup competition were happening for the first time in [00:14:00] Israel. And you know, it was one of the only dance competitions that were here at the time. So, you know, I obviously signed up with two solos.

Maya: And I ranked first and second in two different Sections of the competition. And I was one of two people from my studio who decided to go to the international competition. The other one was I think she was 10 at the time. One of my students. Yeah, I actually, choreographed her solos.

Maya: It was really fun. But really the only two of us and she flew in different days because she was Way younger. So I flew with like this other dance studio agreed to take me with them. I was very grateful and I wasn’t expecting anything. I was very stressed because my parents, you know, they paid in Israeli standards.

Maya: They paid a lot of money to send me to this random competition, which they had, they didn’t think no one thought I’m going to win. Like I was just, I was just random girl from this random dance studio in Israel. Like who would have thought that I would win? And then I went, I was so stressed. I think before my first solo, I almost like fainted.

Maya: This was the closest I ever got to fainting, I [00:15:00] think, but I did it. And it worked out great. I won second. everyone, I think I was shocked. I think everyone was shocked just because it was so surprising. And then my other solo was the, I think two days after that. And I, that was even more surprising because the competition was so hard.

Maya: And from there, I think it kind of shifted how I see myself answer, you know, from like. I was like good in my own studio. I was like good in the national level, but that kind of like shifted How I viewed my potential to actually like make a career out of it and I think it also shifted what my parents thought about this They were like, oh, this is a cute hobby and she just wanted to you know, like go on a vacation abroad from that They were Finally taking this seriously.

Maya: So it was very exciting. And I was almost, I almost chose a dance career after that. I got a contract to be an intern with a company, which is usually what happens when you’re 18, if you want to go into the professional field. And I decided not to, I decided I want to do something else with my life, but I was very close to making, to not making that decision.[00:16:00]

Albert: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Well, studying government and economics so I mean, speaking of that, let’s back to talking about higher ed Harvard. you know, within the last year former president of Harvard and other Ivy League institutions have resigned. After their congressional testimony about the unhealthy academic climate on, some college campuses, on their campuses.

Albert: give us your, perspective as a student you know, what was it like being a student on, on that campus Harvard during such a widely publicized really kind of national crisis of leadership in higher ed?

Maya: it’s just been crazy.

Maya: I think none of us is really used to having so many people watching us. Watching your every move, your every tweet, your every Instagram story. And, you know, it’s also kind of unprecedented because our generation is just, the internet and, you know, every move that you do is just, Everyone can see it all the time.

Maya: And now that everyone is actually looking at you, that’s just, just a different caliber. So I think all of us were kind of [00:17:00] surprised. I think a lot of people, I think I was surprised less than other people. I think people kind of forget that the fact that they are at Harvard doesn’t only like, you know, it’s cool.

Maya: And like people think it’s kind of, Oh, you’re like, you go to Harvard, you’re smart, or you’re at least people like you’re. You know, you’re going to have a great life. There are other things, other implications to that. Like people care about what’s happening at Harvard. It’s like bigger, like this, organization that everyone around the world know about and have certain perspectives on.

Maya: So I think students kind of forgot that. And it’s also kind of made everyone involved. Like everyone knows someone who was impacted by the situation. at the beginning of everything, this entire thing started because on October 8th a student group released a statement, which other I think 33 or 32 other student groups signed on.

Maya: That said, basically put the blame on, on Hamas’s terror attack on Israel. And it created international outrage. It was, it was crazy. And because there were so many [00:18:00] student groups signed on that everyone knew someone who was affected by it, Because a lot of these people were then doxxed and blacklisted.

Maya: So it’s affected really everyone in our community to some extent, and it kind of made everyone have an opinion about that. So it became just this prominent part of our, life really ever since. And it just, I think, intensified since then.

Alisha: So, Maya, I’m going to jump in let me begin by saying you are quite an incredible young woman to hear your story.

Alisha: And your humility is also quite refreshing. I love the part that, you know, you just heard about this school and, you know, so you just decided to apply and got into, you know, little old Harvard. And I don’t, if we, if we hadn’t talked about your medals, you probably would not have mentioned that.

Alisha: So, you are quite the talented and inspiring young woman. So I want to begin by saying that. Thank you. You’re [00:19:00] welcome. So I want to talk about religious liberty and toleration for a second. As you know, they are foundational American constitutional and civic ideals. So, can you talk about with us, and you’ve kind of alluded to this a little bit, the climate of religious toleration that you’ve experienced at Harvard and in the United States?

Maya: I live in such a bubble at Harvard. I, so I really don’t think I can talk much about what’s the general outside Harvard is, but I think from my understanding and, you know, the little exposure I did have outside of the Harvard bubble, I think Harvard is more tolerant religiously, but it has very specific exceptions that I think are very important.

Maya: Unique is kind of a good word, so I didn’t want to say unique, but like, specific to Harvard. The one thing is, I know a lot of Christians feel left out. So there were like a couple of cases that Christians felt left out because [00:20:00] of them, and I, I can’t really talk to their feelings, but from what I know there was one case where, you celebrate, Harvard, like, celebrates a lot of the holidays, so.

Maya: They special dinners or like special events to, you know, different things. They had, things for Ramadan and the Chinese New Year and some other holidays. And I have a friend who was wondering like, why isn’t something for Christian students? he’s a Christian. And he said they wanted to be, I don’t know, tolerant or accepting of everyone.

Maya: And he felt it was unfair because you celebrate all these other holidays of these other cultures, but When it comes to my culture and my religion, you won’t. So, I know he find it expensive. I saw also we have this anonymous app called Psych Chat, where Harvard students, only if you’re, you know, you have a Harvard email, you can join the chat of Harvard.

Maya: And I remember I saw a post about people, like, being upset. That, Christians don’t get also representing these kind of things. And the other things I [00:21:00] think another thing that happened was just a couple of days ago, there was commencement and as part of the protest we’ve seen happening, you know, at Harvard College and in many other colleges there was a walkout and our commencement because I think 13 seniors were suspended and weren’t able to They weren’t able to graduate because of their involvement in the encampment.

Maya: So I think hundreds of people walked out the commencement and they threw this kind of alternative commencement and they rented a church for that. And the church and many other people, I think, I think the church and many other people were really upset about this because It represents something to them, you know, that this is like a holy place for them and the church was not aware It’s going to be a protest It’s going to be have any political affiliation and they were very upset because they felt the organization that rendered it from them Lied to them.

Maya: And a lot I saw a lot of people again on the app and also Friends of mine who felt this was It would have not have been accepted when it came to any other religion on [00:22:00] campus but when it was christianity it was okay because I remember my friend said he got really into that because it really means a lot to him and he saw a lot of people that say, you know, it’s like it’s okay because christians were oppressors throughout history or it’s okay because Israel is doing something bad.

Maya: So what we’re doing is okay. So they saw a lot of excuses. And they felt like no one is really there for them But I also saw a lot of criticism about that. So it really Changes from one person to another.

Alisha: Yeah gosh, it’s so complex just to think about all pieces of this right and how many people are impacted and Those who have voices.

Alisha: So, and what I appreciate is your acknowledgement of being in the Harvard bubble, right? And what may be happening on campus may or may not be happening in the rest of the country. So I appreciate that perspective. So I want to talk about I think probably a difficult question, and I’m, as I mentioned, [00:23:00] this is so complex, right?

Alisha: And these issues have gone on for centuries. On October 7th, 2023, the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, a U. S. designated foreign terrorist organization, led a surprise attack against Israel from the Strip, and more than 1, 200 Israelis and foreign nationals, including 35 U. S. citizens of Israel, were killed.

Alisha: And since then, More than 34, 000 Palestinians have been killed. And so can you talk about this ongoing conflict and what it’s like for you being an Israeli student on the Harvard campus and frankly living in the world right now during and since that time?

Maya: Of course, yeah. I mean, it was hard to be a Harvard student, an Israeli Harvard student, before that.

Maya: I think people don’t really hear about that and they don’t understand what was the environment before. And I think it’s important because nothing really, it’s not just one day people woke up and were like, oh my god, Hamas is awesome. I love this. No, [00:24:00] it started way before that. It’s for 20 years there has been, I don’t know if actually for 20 years, but I mean, my point is that for many, many years since, Israelis that have been here 10 years ago can speak and say it was, it wasn’t the same, but it was growing since then.

Speaker 6: This

Maya: idea that, you know, you can inflect your, political ideas on people that just carry this nationality. Like I’m Israeli and therefore I am to blame for what Israel is doing. I am to blame of what Israel represents to them. And therefore they’re allowed to treat me in this manner. And it doesn’t happen with any other nationality.

Maya: I have, you know, I have friends. Who are Russian, they are just not treated the same, they’re not blamed just the way that we are And I think people fail to see that this is like complete bigotry. But yeah, it started before I mean I know people we have this thing called final clubs, which is basically our version for sororities and fraternities There are [00:25:00] some differences, but the idea is similar And israelis were rejected at least two that we know of were rejected because they were israeli there were so many other cases.

Maya: I was called a friend of mine was told to leave the class because she was Israeli by a professor and, there were other people in the class auditing the class like she was and she was the only one who was asked to leave, I assessed that about 30 percent of the student body in my department wouldn’t be friends with me, whether because But it is because they care actually about my identity and they actually have an issue with that or in some way my political beliefs and they shouldn’t, I mean, they wouldn’t know what my political beliefs are because didn’t bother to talk to me.

Maya: And I think if they, would talk to me, they would actually understand we have a lot of similarities. I talked to someone who I, Really, really disagree with about everything happening on campus. You know, she’s, a prominent person on the protesting side, and really disagree with a lot of like the end result of what she thinks.

Maya: When we talked, we discovered we have a [00:26:00] lot of similarity, we have a lot of the same values. Our interpretation is very different, but we have the same values. And I think at that point, we were able, to find, you know, we were able to find compassion for one another. We were able to, I’m not, you know, I’m not, Best friends with her, but I wouldn’t want anything bad to happen to her.

Maya: Um, Cause I do, I do, like, I do see that we have similar values and we, we do believe in good things and just have different interpretation of what that means. But most people just wouldn’t understand this and just. as a result wouldn’t want to be friends with me? And then there are people who just don’t want to deal with it Like why would you become really good friends with an israeli when it has social cost?

Maya: To it and they’re in like people tell you like don’t be friends with israel It’s like people as a friend, who other people wouldn’t they want, didn’t want to be included in the picture where he was. So they refused to take group photo where he was and they had to rotate. One time he was in the picture.

Maya: And one thing, the other person was in the picture. yeah, another, you know, another friend who an [00:27:00] organization he was a part of wanted to like, not really like, you know, publicize that he was with them because they didn’t want to anyone cause them issues. So it’s affects our personal and professional lives all the time.

Maya: And I mean, after, after October 7th, it just became way worse. All of these are still happening, all the things I mentioned. And it just became worse. We have friends who cut contact with us who felt, you know, on October 8th, it was just like the day after we just, we are still ahead by the trauma and a friend just like, didn’t text one of my friends, and he was a close friend of this guy.

Maya: And then my friend texted him and was like, what, what’s going on? And he said sorry that I didn’t contact you. I let my politics get into the way.

Speaker 5: And

Maya: we’re like, what, like, my family could have been dead, like, and you didn’t contact me. Even if I have severe problems with the fact that you think that a terror attack on, you know, that involves anyone but civilians is okay.

Maya: And I don’t think it’s a political perspective that is, should be mainstream, but maybe it is, [00:28:00] I don’t know, but even if you do, like, how, how could you be my friend if you don’t even, you don’t even worry about my well being or my family’s well being? Um, And I think a lot of us kind of, like, felt this wow moment of how severe the situation is.

Maya: Again, there were this is just one of many example. I had to drop one of my classes. Because the environment was just just became too hostile and teachers were actually really great about it. They tried to help me, but they can’t really do anything because the environment doesn’t start an end in this specific class.

Maya: It starts. the first day you come to Harvard it starts in the admission process If do you bring people that are open minded and are compassionate or do you bring people who just want to yell loudest? I was also, you know attacked, on side chatting in the anonymous app I was interviewed for the Israeli television about antisemitism at Harvard and I Uploaded this short clip my story And the day after on Sideshot, there was a post, I think it was pro doxing, pro genocide blondie [00:29:00] sophomore thinks she’s the shit for going on Israeli television, she looks as dumb as her nose is crooked.

Maya: Now, so many, like, yeah, so many inaccurate parts in this, like, lies, not just, like, lies in this one post, but also, while I was talking about antisemitism on TV, People were insulting me with an anti semitic slur which just proves my point. Yeah I mean they it’s like too like I couldn’t care less about what they think but It’s it’s not everyone feel like that and this kind of language starts, These kind of lives and this kind of language When it becomes normalized and it kind of is, it’s just that, you know, it’s the beginning of a very, very dark chapter in, our history.

Maya: And we were there. I mean, this kind of language was used like 80, 90 years ago in Nazi Germany. And, and it’s making a comeback, unfortunately.

Alisha: First of all, thank you for sharing that. [00:30:00] I think for our listeners, and I’m sure for Albert and I, it’s just an eye opener. Thank you. You don’t really realize the things that are happening day to day on campuses like yours.

Alisha: So I appreciate you sharing that. And I’m just so sorry that this has to be your experience right now. And I think your being here helps people to understand what’s going on and hopefully will. Just a couple more questions for you. I want to, you know, you talked about, you said something very powerful, which is just because you are Israeli, there are students around you and others who want to blame you for anything that Israel does.

Alisha: And so can you talk about you know, the fact that anti Semitism, of course, is an age old problem, and it’s been around for A very long time. But can you talk about what you think the general historical knowledge is that you find among students and adults about topics like anti Semitism, the Holocaust, or even wider Arab [00:31:00] Israeli conflict issues?

Maya: Yeah, I mean, I heard I think people actually have very little knowledge, which is really scary. Because, first of all, you guys. You know, Harvard is known to be the best university in the world, at least in some aspects, and it’s supposed to, have some of the best students in the world, and yet people are so ignorant, but what is more scary is that people are ignorant and they feel comfortable having an opinion, so, They don’t know things and they think that they have this moral obligation to do something Although they don’t know things.

Maya: And I think that’s a really really dangerous idea acting without knowing what you’re actually talking about that’s how you know propaganda and that’s how you Make people just you mobilize people into doing very very dangerous things.

Speaker 6: Yeah

Maya: I mean regarding these specific topics.

Maya: I know there is one holocaust class at harvard You and I believe that it’s gonna not be continued next year, because the professor is retiring. And I think [00:32:00] people in general don’t know much about the Holocaust. I mean, I, I grew up in Israel. It’s prominent in every aspect of your life.

Maya: You, we study about it. We have ceremonies every year. So, I personally feel like I know a lot. But I really think that most of my peers don’t. Especially the ones that are not Jewish don’t know a lot. I think people also just are very ignorant about anything related to the conflict that doesn’t match their political opinion.

Maya: The word Zionism, which just means the right of the Jewish people to have self determination in the land they’re indigenous to it doesn’t even you know, it doesn’t draw the borders. doesn’t say where it doesn’t say any kind of specific and there’s a lot of place for interpretation because of that But that’s the idea of zionism.

Maya: That’s what the word means and people made it’s it’s used as a slur on campus like completely like Identifying as a Zionist is actually, the result would be like social, like social suicide. And it’s scary because, you know, a lot of, you know, I don’t know what the statistic is exactly. I looked it up actually [00:33:00] for an article I wrote at the time, and I couldn’t find a specific statistic, but a vast majority.

Maya: of Jews consider themselves Zionists because it’s a core part of our identity, the idea that we want to live as a people somewhere, especially because of the historical importance of, you know, being prosecuted for 2, 000 years, which led up to the genocide of Jewish people, the Holocaust, just 80 years ago.

Maya: And there’s, I think there’s this idea where, these are better days it’s in the past Jews are not in danger anymore. And I think if you’re, if you’re not Jewish, that’s kind of easy to feel especially because you look, you know, five, ten years ago, and it’s like the golden age of the, I, I, I thought somewhere, the golden age of the Jews But we’re entering really scary days. I talked about it with a friend. I feel more pressure than ever to have a very, you know, solid career you know, that will allow me to escape if I need to. And it’s, I know it sounds crazy, but this brings back to our community, these, It’s not our memories, but it’s the memories of, you know, [00:34:00] our ancestors that ran away from Poland and Germany and Hungary and all these places or didn’t run away and, you know, were murdered.

Maya: So I think a lot of us feel that pain and are really scared about this lack of knowledge that other people show and its effects on us.

Speaker 3: Yeah.

Maya: I can talk about what, whatever people don’t know for hours. But yeah, I think, I think people just. Don’t know much and yeah, they they are pushed into action and it’s something that’s very scary about my generation also They just consume all their information on tiktok and on social media I know people that you know they posted something that was like factually incorrect and someone just did that and I I replied to them very nicely.

Maya: I was like, The new york time confirmed. This is not true and like other media outlets and You This person, they were saying, they told me I don’t listen to the New York Times or these like, or Western media, I only listen to Al Jazeera and Instagram. And this is like a comp, [00:35:00] you know, and a Western student.

Maya: And I was like, so yeah. And Al Jazeera is like funded by the Qatari government. Instagram is obviously, you know, every, I can open an account tomorrow and say whatever I want. So, and people really, and that’s a Harvard student and people really, that’s how they consume their information. It’s really scary.

Alisha: Yeah, it definitely is. And I think it doesn’t help that right in some of our schools. We’re not teaching history the way that we need to. So my final question for you, Maya, again, and I want you to know how courageous you are and how important your voice is. You’ve been on. stages as a dancer, right? And you’ve performed in that way, but now it seems that you’re on a different kind of stage.

Alisha: So can you talk about your experiences in Israel and at Harvard and elsewhere and how you hope You can use public service to help educate people about some of these thorny American campus problems and international conflicts. [00:36:00] And, I am a believer that, you know, we’re all chosen to do, you know, certain types of work and make an impact in certain ways.

Alisha: And listening to you talk, hearing about your experiences think you’re definitely one of those people who’s been chosen for a time such as this to use your public platform to educate people. So can you talk about that? What that feels like and how you’ve been able to do that? You know, to use this public platform and use this as public service.

Maya: you’re being very kind. I don’t know if I’m one of these chosen people. people ask me if I regret coming to Harvard, like Israelis, Jewish people, just people in general, but mostly from these kinds of, these communities, and I say, absolutely not, not just because I won’t let other people, you know, take.

Maya: The opportunities I earned for myself, you know, by they making it up, you know, an unpleasant and even like dangerous environment doesn’t mean that I don’t get to, use what I earned. [00:37:00] But because me being there matters, like, not just because it lets me have these opportunities, like talking to you and, you know, giving my perspective to the world.

Maya: But because the other students like they get to know me they get, you know, they have an example. This is an Israeli person. Oh, they’re not the devils that people say they are. not that scary. I know I have a friend whose dad said that, I think he was asked when he went to Harvard, 40 years ago where are his horns?

Maya: Because someone was truly believed back then that Jews have horns. They never met a Jewish person and they thought they had horns. So, us being there matters because people see we’re human, people see who we are, and it’s really hard to hate someone you know and sort of like, or just you know, having some sort of a connection with, so I think it absolutely matters.

Maya: And I really believe that we need more Jewish and more Israeli people at Harvard because it’s humanized us and it gives us an opportunity to show who we are. Except I really [00:38:00] like writing. I read for the Crimson. And I have, you know, something that really, I’m just something that sits.

Maya: It sits in my chest. I just go and, and write a piece about it. And, you know, I’m very lucky to Crimson have a lot of, readers. So I, I, I get to, to say what I, what I need, what I need to yell to the world through writing to a lot of people. Yeah. Yeah. I also get opportunities to talk to a lot of people.

Maya: That’s how I got to this, onto this podcast. I just was at an event and talk to people and someone thought this perspective is interesting. And yeah, I think creating positive connections with people is just so, so important. I also study Arabic. I really hope that one day, you know, to, to find a solution to this conflict, this is like my one, the one thing I want to do in life.

Maya: You know, I chose an easy goal. I want to solve the Israeli Palestinian conflict. And, yeah, just really, really easy. So I study Arabic, because I really believe that, you know, you need to start by knowing the [00:39:00] other person’s language and, yeah, in order to communicate with them. So, you know, I do my best.

Maya: To connect with people in all levels and hope that it works.

Alisha: Yeah, you, I can assure you that it’s working and that’s why I’m saying you got to, you got to keep this going. Thank you so much for being with us today. I’ve learned so much and you’ve really, You’re inspiring. As I said, I’ve learned a lot.

Alisha: You’re inspiring. You are, you have a great story. And I think the, the one thing that you want to do to solve this conflict, I think is probably one of the most important things I believe you will help to do. So keep it up.

Maya: I really hope so. Thank you so much. And thank you for inviting me.

Speaker 3: Our pleasure.[00:40:00]

Speaker 3: Well, Alicia, I really enjoyed that

Albert: interview. You know, I didn’t mention that I spent some time at Harvard myself for part of my career and it’s been a while, but I mean, it’s a hard topic, but it’s kind of nice to always kind of think about Cambridge and that campus, but

Alisha: yeah, and I bet times have changed since you’ve been there.

Alisha: I’m guessing.

Albert: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. Well, anyway, enough reminiscing I know there’s plenty to think about after that conversation, but that takes us to the end of our show. Before we close out though, I want to give the tweet of the week. This week it comes from the Boston Globe. The tweet reads, we’re kicking the can down the road.

Albert: Critics say BPS is slow walking decisions on school closures. BPS, of course, referring to Boston Public Schools. [00:41:00] And, you know, Alicia, it’s an interesting article to consider. So, you know, what’s going on in Boston Public Schools is, declining enrollments. And so, There’s actually a lot of school campuses that have empty seats, unused space, and in order to be financially viable Boston Public Schools are faced with the tough decision of how to close certain schools, but of course, closing schools is a huge disruption to the students that are there, so, I really don’t envy the board there for having to navigate that.

Albert: This and you know, I understand this is not just a situation unique Boston, but we have declining enrollments across the country for a variety of reasons, you know, not, not just COVID exit, but declining birth rates and mobility. And so,

Alisha: and people vote with their feet, right.

Alisha: When they don’t. Yeah, they do. Yeah, their zone for all that is true. And listen, you’re right. If you ever want to pick the biggest fight possible, close the school link in the community.

Albert: Yeah. I know it’s, it’s such a tough thing. And it’s like no good solution. It [00:42:00] seems, but some things just have to be done.

Albert: It seems.

Alisha: Yeah. And you have to do what’s best. Both for the institution that you’re running right and for kids, and you’ve got to do well with those resources. So as you said, I don’t envy them. It’s a tough decision. You can definitely see why they are kicking the can, but it has to be done

Albert: well anyway, Alicia.

Albert: Thanks for Being on the show with me again this week. It’s always a pleasure to have you on and

Alisha: same I think i’m gonna be joining you a little bit more. So I look forward to that

Albert: All right, looking forward to that and speaking of looking forward. I hope you all join us next week We have jean heidler who’s a professor emerita of history at the united states air force academy She and her husband david heidler, have co authored numerous books including the one we’re going to talk about Next week it’s the critically acclaimed book on Henry Clay, the Essential American.

Albert: So, until then, I hope you have a great week, and I will see you then, perhaps with Alicia.

Alisha: That’s right, see you [00:43:00] soon.

This week on The Learning Curve co-hosts U-Arkansas Prof. Albert Cheng and DFER’s Alisha Searcy interview Harvard student Maya Shiloni. Ms. Shiloni discusses her Israeli upbringing, academic journey at Harvard, and experiences as a world-class dancer. She addresses leadership crises in higher education, religious toleration, and the impact of the October 2023 Hamas attacks on Israel. In closing, Shiloni also highlights her aim to bridge understanding on American campus issues and international conflicts.

Stories of the Week: Albert shared an article from Education Next discussing the new University of Austin’s attempt at reviving the culture of inquiry in higher education; Alisha discussed an article in Ghana Web sharing the success of Ghana’s education system, one of the best in Sub-Saharan Africa.


Maya Shiloni is an Israeli-American student at Harvard College studying Government and Economics with a citation in Arabic. She is an opinion editor with The Crimson, Harvard’s leading student newspaper. In 2023, Maya interned for Knesset Member Meirav Cohen, and this summer, she will be working for Congressman Josh Gottheimer. She is also three-time gold medalist at the Dance World Cup, the largest international dance competition..