Last month, a college professor in Jerusalem gained internet fame for a mundane gesture – at least, the act was mundane for him. Sydney Engelberg teaches organizational behavior to graduate students in Israel. Because students must complete compulsory military service prior to beginning higher education, many young women in his classes already have children.
Engelberg welcomes the babies into the classroom when students are unable to arrange childcare during class. And if a baby becomes fussy, Engelberg does what comes naturally to him: he picks up the child and allows the mother to continue learning while he teaches. Engelberg’s daughter told Buzzfeed News: “My dad just loves kids and loves babies, he has five grandchildren, so he just takes the baby. He’s the one that’s in motion, he’s walking around the class. So he just takes the baby and continues teaching.”
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Someone took a picture of the professor doing what he always does – holding a baby during class—and posted on social media, where the photo went viral. According to CNN:
Engelberg said Israeli society is very family-oriented and doesn't just give lip service to the proverb that it takes a village to raise a child. Secondly, because of compulsory military service, Israeli students tend to begin school at an older age and are more likely to have young children. “Just for that demographic reason, one has to be understanding.”
Engelberg says that practicing what he teaches – such as empowerment and respect, according to CNN—is important to him. “You can't simply talk about them, you also have to act on them,” he said, “and one of the ways that I'm able to act on them at least in the academic setting is by relating to the mothers — relating to those students who are unable to find alternative childcare arrangements in a way which enables them to remain engaged, which shows respect for their situation.”
Engelberg truly empowers young mothers to better themselves and their children’s lives by achieving an education. Whereas many professors view having children – and certainly bringing them into the classroom – as an inhibition or even disqualification from achieving an education, Engelberg instead ensures that his students are empowered to accomplish their goals, even with babies in tow. Mothers even breastfeed without fear of judgment in Engelberg’s classes.
If popularized, Engelberg’s attitude would change the landscape of American abortion culture. College-age women, ages 18 to 24, are the most vulnerable to abortion in the United States; we must ask what we can do to improve the circumstances of students who become pregnant during school. Changes as simple as campus health centers providing pregnancy resource center referrals, adding changing stations to college restrooms, providing a housing solution for young parents—in short, doing everything in the university’s power to ensure that a young mother is not forced to choose between her child’s Life and her own education – would make an incalculable impact on the lives of American students and their preborn children.
Before he died at the age of 22, Jon Scharfenberger worked with Students for Life of America to film the following video of the American attitude toward parenting on campus:
Thankfully, the tide is slowly beginning to turn. The “Pregnant on Campus” initiative of Students for Life has begun to see success. There is still much work to be done, and you can help. Find out more here.