All academic disciplines within a school’s general studies program can incorporate constructive conflict within their classes. To do so, have teachers and their classes examine a conflict that has happened within a specific subject area. Use the lens of elu v’elu divrei Elokim chayim (these and these are the words of the Living God), which means valuing and respecting different perspectives, to analyze the disagreement, the purpose it served and the extent to which the conflict was mahloket l’shem shemayim (disagreement for the sake of Heaven) or not.
Here are some examples of Middle School General Studies opportunities to learn about the challenges and benefits of mahloket:
Judaics teachers should prepare to deepen learning with text study of sources that speak to mahloket l’shem shamayim, and elu v’elu…, as well as identify areas of conflict within their own subject area. Specialist (arts, technology, physical education) teachers should also plan to teach about conflicts within their subject areas, during the 9Adar school-wide learning.
The person leading this program should provide all teachers with the same brief, introductory background about the Jewish perspective on the importance of valuing and maintaining respectful, constructive conflict, as well as resolving conflict prior to the time teachers begin preparing their lesson/project/activity for the 9Adar program. For instance:
It was taught: …Rabbi Abba said in the name of Shmuel… For three years, the House of Hillel and the House of Shammai argued. One said, ‘The halakha is like us,’ and the other said, ‘The halakha is like us.’ ….A heavenly voice spoke: …”These and these are the words of the living God, and the halakha is like the House of Hillel.” A question was raised: Since the heavenly voice declared: “Both these and those are the words of the Living God,” why was the halakha established to follow the opinion of Hillel? It is because the students of Hillel were kind and gracious. They taught their own ideas as well as the ideas from the students of Shammai. (translation from Sefaria).
Teachers from a variety of disciplines could easily make meaning of this quote and apply it to their fields of expertise.
For further information about mahloket l’shem shamayim and its implementation in schools, please see the Pardes Rodef Shalom School Program at www.pardes.org.il/prss.