Bubbles are Real Too
An argument for the sake of heaven is an argument in which one's goal is not to defeat the other, but rather to attempt to reach the truth together. According to the Mishnah in Avot (Chapter 5, Mishnah 17), the antithesis of an argument for the sake of heaven is the argument of Korach and his followers, as described in this week's Torah portion. According to this interpretation, all that mattered to Korach were the questions: Who has more power? Why is Moses the boss and not me?
The Mishnah uses Korach as a symbol, but there is a little Korach in each of us. Everyone has an ego, and in the real world there is no dispute that is entirely free of personal motives. But just as each of us has a little Korach inside of us, there is also within us a little Moses - a leader with values, driven by vision, who does not demand honor, but rather, in a place where there is no man, tries to be a man.
Institutions that seek to develop leaders must be places that encourage argument for the sake of heaven. They must be places where arguments for the sake of heaven are the norm and not the exception.
Some might argue that such places are disconnected from reality. Indeed, they might accuse those who work and study in them as living in a bubble.
I understand where they're coming from, but ultimately I reject their view. We should indeed ask ourselves anew each day whether we are sufficiently involved in society and whether we can do more. However, I will never apologize for creating a bubble where different rules apply – listening and criticism; lateral thinking and long-term planning; a discourse that connects theory and practice; a meeting between different sectors and world views; and even more basic practices, such as arriving on time and coming prepared.
These practices and habits are indeed rare in the professional worlds of education and social welfare, out there, in the "real" world. But this does not make our "bubble" any less real. On the contrary: the fact that here, in our bubble, we can live like this, day after day, week after week, proves that it is a viable alternative to professional life as we know it "outside."
In 1897, John Dewey wrote in "My Pedagogic Creed": "I believe that education ... is a process of living and not a preparation for future living." I believe the same is true of leadership development. To develop and spread the professional habits of leadership in the real world, each leader must do as Wittgenstein's wrote in his Philosophical Investigations: "He must, so to speak, throw away the ladder after he has climbed up on it."
To bring their educational visions to life, each leader has to build his or her own bubbles – each in their own professional setting – a bubble within which to live, think and act differently.