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Spiritual Growth for Jews

Is a “Good Enough” Secular Education Really Good Enough?

Posted on | October 24, 2012 | By Administrator | 48 Comments

When talking to people about the secular education our children are receiving in their schools, many people think that it’s “good enough”. But is that true? Is the average student doing well on standard tests like the SAT? Can they write well? How are they doing in Math, Science and Technology?

Do you feel your children’s secular education is really good enough?

Why?

Why not?

What can be done given the low budgets our schools are dealing with?

Comments

48 Responses to “Is a “Good Enough” Secular Education Really Good Enough?”

  1. Bob Miller
    October 24th, 2012 @ 7:46 am

    Our three children attended Jewish day schools in Metro Detroit through high school, and we felt they had ample instruction in secular subjects by competent, caring teachers.

  2. Mark Frankel
    October 24th, 2012 @ 9:35 am

    How did they do on the objective measure of the SAT? Did they all score close to 700 on all sections?

  3. Shades of Gray
    October 24th, 2012 @ 11:27 am

    The SAT may be a good source of comparison for colleges, but many yeshivos may not release the data if they kept it.

    A different measure might be to see what fields graduates went into. For example, Touro which might be more relevant to those in the frum yeshivish community, I belive, is less interested in the SAT, and will accept those from chasidishe backgrounds. So the question becomes to what extent graduates from Yehiva X are able to move on to whatever relevant field.

    The English department of the Brooklyn yeshiva high school I went to, like other yeshivos, went through stages over its history. I was probably well prepared for the math part of the SAT(they had excellent math teachers), but I had to do studying, completely at my own intiative, to make up for what I missed relating to the verbal section. The majority of students were not interested in doing well on the SAT, and a good part of whatever I knew was not due to my formal high school education.

    There were one or two others like me, one who read English classics on his own, and the second who came from a Chasidish elementary school and who is a lawyer because of his own intiative. As I mentioned, I think the English department of yeshivos go through stages, and one should keep current on what the status of any prospective yeshiva high school’s department is, and also look at what its current graduates do.

  4. Mark Frankel
    October 24th, 2012 @ 11:52 am

    Yeshivos don’t do well in the secular area for 4 reasons:
    1) They don’t have good written sequenced curriculums across grades
    2) They don’t have good written lesson plans
    3) They don’t emphasize secular subjects
    4) They are at the low end of the pay scale for their part time Secular teachers

  5. Bob Miller
    October 24th, 2012 @ 12:55 pm

    Mark, as you should be aware, our schools teach students who have a variety of interests and aptitudes. Are you expecting all to meet some SAT threshhold? Stats run amok.

  6. Mark Frankel
    October 24th, 2012 @ 1:40 pm

    I think that reading and writing (and possibly math) are core skills that our children need to be successful, by any measure of success.

    I also think that the vast majority could become proficient (close to 700 scores) at reading and writing if taught properly.

  7. Shades of Gray
    October 24th, 2012 @ 1:58 pm

    YAFFED(Young Advocates For Fair EDucation) might be more relevant to the Chassidish community, but here is an excerpt from their website which people might want to check out(eg, their idea, in progress, for a yeshiva rating system). Also, Rachel Frier, a Hasidic woman attorney, has been active in this area as well, trying to help the Chasidish population, specifically. From the groups’s website:

    YAFFED was founded by individuals raised within the ultra-Orthodox communities of New York City, and is committed to improving general studies education alongside traditional curricula of Judaic studies.

    Due to our own upbringing, we are familiar with–and have been affected by–the severe deficiency of the education systems in the ultra-Orthodox world, particularly within Chasidic boys’ schools. From elementary school through high school, we were provided with a rigorous curriculum in Judaic studies, including Tanach, Mishna, Gemara, Halacha, mussar, and chasidus. Our general studies education, however, was limited to non-existent.

    The cheders and yeshivas we attended often provided only the rudiments of English and mathematics, and, in some cases, not even that. In many of our schools, the brief period of “English” instruction was spent with utter neglect for classroom decorum and discipline, which led, naturally, to a poor learning environment. Teachers and educators, thereby, reinforced the message that general, non-Judaic studies were of little relevance to our lives, or worse, an outright nuisance.

    In most of our schools, general studies education ended abruptly post-Bar Mitzvah, after which our academic curricula consisted of Judaic studies alone. Many of us, at that time, had only the English reading and math skills of third or fourth-graders. The New York State Department of Education states that non-public schools must offer classes in English, mathematics, reading, writing, music, arts, history, geography, science, health education, and physical education. Many of our elementary schools offered only a miniscule fraction of these, and most of our high schools, none at all.

    Furthermore, because of the strict exclusion of secular reading material in many of our communities—secular books and newspapers were often explicitly forbidden—we had few opportunities to encounter ideas not formally taught in our classrooms. As a result, our prospects have been hindered in profound and substantial ways. Many of us have struggled to achieve economic self-sufficiency, unable to join a workforce in which one’s level of education practically dictates the individual’s professional attainments and economic status. Some of us have aspired to academics at the college and graduate degree level, but our abilities to pursue those dreams lay beyond reach. Opportunities available to most citizens have been, for us, severely hampered by our educational handicap.

    We, therefore, have come together to effect change, to work in concert with community leaders and public officials in order to create an improved and more diverse curriculum in our schools. Our goal is to help create curricula that are rich in the subjects mandated by civil laws while maintaining respect for the primacy of Judaic studies and the unique religious and cultural values within the ultra-Orthodox communities.

    Our mission is to ensure that students receive the academic skills they need in order to pursue lives of economic self-sufficiency with a broad range of opportunities for personal choice and individual fulfillment.

  8. Bob Miller
    October 24th, 2012 @ 1:58 pm

    Mark, what is the factual basis for your assumption that SAT scores below 700 indicate substandard reading and writing in real-life situations?

  9. David_L
    October 24th, 2012 @ 2:12 pm

    I think the traditional Jewish texts (e.g., Torah, Talmud, Shulchan Aruch) provide abundant opportunity to develop communication (reading, writing, oral) and quantitative skills.

    (There’s actually lots of mathematics in the Torah and Talmud. There are numerous places where various kinds of measurements have to be understood and applied.)

    Has anyone tried to make a “SAT clone” that’s based on those texts?

  10. Ron Coleman
    October 24th, 2012 @ 2:24 pm

    Do we, in this conversation, consider the purpose of secular education to be solely preparation for functioning adequately in galus [exile] — making a living — grudgingly so, because ideally they should learn only Torah?

    Do we, alternatively, believe that our children should learn reading, writing and ‘rithmetic to function as complete citizens and well-rounded people regardless of economic factors?

    Is it somewhere in between?

    Do our answers differ with respect to boys and girls?

    Should parents supplement their children’s secular education, and if so, how much and in what ways, in order to achieve these desiderata?

    These are the premises on whose establishment this discussion has to proceed. Otherwise how do any of the questions raised in the comments have any context or meaning?

  11. Mark Frankel
    October 24th, 2012 @ 3:44 pm

    Bob, 700 is not a magic number, it’s just an indication of good command of English and Math.

    I’m not a fan of good enough, so my standards of acceptability would be higher than any published statistics by an education authority. Those authorities have to deal with a much wider socioeconomic population than the Orthodox Jewish community and therefore have to set their standards much lower.

  12. Mark Frankel
    October 24th, 2012 @ 3:50 pm

    Ron, one man’s answers below. I’m waiting for yours.

    >> Do we, in this conversation, consider the purpose of secular education to be solely preparation for functioning adequately in galus [exile] — making a living — grudgingly so, because ideally they should learn only Torah?
    No, better education leads to a better appreciation of the Hashem’s world and a better life in general.
    The Torah only approach is appropriate for a small subset of the Orthodox population.

    >> Do we, alternatively, believe that our children should learn reading, writing and ‘rithmetic to function as complete citizens and well-rounded people regardless of economic factors?
    Yes

    >> Is it somewhere in between?
    As stated above: great secular education for most. Torah only for some.

    >> Do our answers differ with respect to boys and girls?
    No.

    >> Should parents supplement their children’s secular education, and if so, how much and in what ways, in order to achieve these desiderata?
    We should first try to improve our schools by collectively requesting higher levels of secular teaching and learning.
    After that, parents who believe in excellent secular education will need to supplement.

    >> These are the premises on whose establishment this discussion has to proceed. Otherwise how do any of the questions raised in the comments have any context or meaning?
    I think this discussion, and many others, can still bear fruit without explicitly expressing all the assumptions. I gave my answers because you asked.

  13. Bob Miller
    October 24th, 2012 @ 3:56 pm

    Ron Coleman offers some possible approaches. All Orthodox communities and parents should be free to make their own choices. A lot hinges on the values a given subgroup has, which are reflected in its institutions. Are we here trying to impose our values on others?

  14. Mark Frankel
    October 24th, 2012 @ 3:58 pm

    Unfortunately many of us have had poor secular education imposed on our children under the guise that it’s good enough.

  15. Bob Miller
    October 24th, 2012 @ 3:59 pm

    Educated consumers should band together.

  16. shmuel
    October 24th, 2012 @ 4:08 pm

    In response to Ron Coleman, I would say that the goal of secular education is both things Ron said (i.e. make a living and be a good citizen) as well as a complement to one’s Torah learning. To take a simple example, I would think that one benefit of being educated as a physician would be increased understanding of medically-related halacha. I mean this as increasing understanding lishma,not only in a practical sense. The same principle can be extended to other realms that aren’t as specialized. If you don’t know how to count, you can’t understand the beginning and end of sefer b’midbar. In learning various parts of chullin I have found myself wishing I knew more about certain types of animals.

    Even though I take this view, though, I try to be realistic. It is too much of a demand on the school and the children to have the best Torah education and the best secular education. I do demand that secular studies be taken seriously though. Not as important a value as Torah, but taken seriously.

    And in response to Mark Frankel, when I was in high school in the ’80s, if you got in the 700s on your SATs (each part, not combined), it meant you were likely headed for Harvard or Yale or Princeton, etc., clearly not something expected of everyone. I don’t know what has changed.

  17. Mark Frankel
    October 24th, 2012 @ 4:37 pm

    The average score at Harvard or Yale or Princeton is above 700 on each part, so 700 no longer means your headed to a top Ivy school. Admissions have become more competitive and the average top students have upped their levels of achievement.

    I don’t think the argument changes if we make the number 650 or 600. Our children are getting weak secular educations.

    I think they can excel at both Kodesh and Chol if our schools took secular more seriously and paired better teachers with good written curriculums and lesson plans.

    However I think many people agree with Shmuel and feel that the secular education is good enough. Therefore those of us who value good secular educations will have to settle for much less.

  18. shmuel
    October 24th, 2012 @ 5:04 pm

    Mark Frankel, it is only a guess, but you and I may not actually differ in our approach to secular education (I tried to show above that I value it very much) but rather the schools we are dealing with may be different in their approaches.

  19. Miriam Peromsik
    October 24th, 2012 @ 7:17 pm

    I am pleased with my children’s secular studies. *But* I wouldn’t be if I felt it to not be a quality program. My oldest two are just barely in high school (9th and 10th) so I don’t have scores on SATs yet… my oldest just took the PSAT and probably won’t want me to share his score when we get it, but I will say he aced all his regents exams last year. (we’re “out of town” but he’s boarding at Yesodei (aka MYY) in KGH.)

    I think it is important to give children a strong and balanced base on which to build, in both secular and judaic subjects. keep their options open, so to speak.

  20. Yitzchok Alper
    October 25th, 2012 @ 6:05 am

    The emphasis on the sufficiency of secular studies is highly misplaced. I have sent kids to both high schools that did not skimp on secular studies, and I have sent kids to schools not known for their secular studies (but were known for their high level of limudei kodesh). I cannot overemphasize that NECESESSARILY, the schools that provided strong limudei chol caused a laxity in the study of limudei kodesh. When kids are worried about their book reports, or their upcoming geometry test, etc. it took my sons away from the review of gemara,and promoted in my daughters a skewed sense of priorities. DO NOT WORRY ABOUT THE SUFFICIENCY OF SECULAR STUDIES. Ultimately, if your son or daughter were to attend college, the education provided by yeshivas will enable them able to compete against their classmates. At least through the high school level, focus SOLELY on maximizing your childrens’ religious studies.

  21. tesyaa
    October 25th, 2012 @ 10:13 am

    An intelligent child will function well in college and catch up even if he or she received a subpar secondary secular education. A child of average or lower intelligence will struggle or fail.

  22. Shades of Gray
    October 25th, 2012 @ 11:24 am

    “I cannot overemphasize that NECESESSARILY, the schools that provided strong limudei chol caused a laxity in the study of limudei kodesh”

    This is a valid concern, but there is Daas Torah that believes in taking limudie chol “seriously”.

    For example, R. Yaakov Kamentesky, IIRC, believed that students shouldn’t waste their time in the afternoon. R. Shimon Schwab advocated Torah im Derech Eretz in today’s times. I suppose, though, people will disagree with what a “strong” secular studies program is.

    Here is an interesting quote from R. Daniel Eidensohn about R. Yisroel Belsky, well known for his knowledge about non-Torah topics, including kashrus-related(Daas Torah Blog, “Rav S. R. Hirsch & his contemporary incarnation – Rabbi Slifkin”, 11/6/11, Comments) :

    “I had a discussion a number of years ago with Rav Belsky in which I asked him about his knowledge of Science. He said when he went to high school the sciences were taken seriously. He noted that because secular subjects have become marginalized the rabbis have become increasing ignorant of these fields – even when it applies to fields such as medicine and kashrus.”

  23. Mark Frankel
    October 25th, 2012 @ 12:11 pm

    Yitzchok, I agree with regards to homework and studying for tests, time allocation is an issue.

    But when we consider that our children are spending 2-4 hours a day over 12 years sitting in a secular studies classroom, I think it’s a no-brainer that we should not waste their time and our money by not teaching them those subjects well.

    Both the students and parents deserve the best secular education we can deliver and we’re far far away from that.

  24. Bob Miller
    October 25th, 2012 @ 12:26 pm

    While we’re on this subject, let’s also take note of insufficient education in civics. This applies broadly, not just to our schools. Students ought to learn enough about the Constitution, the rights and obligations of citizens, and how their government (Federal, state, city) was designed to work. Nowadays, too many adults look on voting as a process strictly to get one’s group a bigger share of the goodies at every other group’s expense.

  25. Yitzchok Alper
    October 25th, 2012 @ 11:27 pm

    I was not suggesting the the limudei chol curriculum should be a waste of time. All I was saying is that there are parents who hyperfocus on the quality of the limudei chol education so that their child could compete someday in college. I suggest that there is little need to be concerned about that issue in the high school years.

  26. Bob Miller
    October 26th, 2012 @ 9:24 am

    Yitzchok Alper,

    Isn’t the college application process done during those high school years? What do you put on an application if the student’s high school preparation and achievment were below par as a college would judge that?

    By the way, the idea (you didn’t float this) that our native brilliance is recognized by all as a substitute for preparation won’t fly.

  27. shmuel
    October 26th, 2012 @ 1:38 pm

    I know from working with them or having gone to law school with them individuals who had lousy secular educations and spent years learning and then went to law school. They went to very good law schools and got what are considered in the field very desirable jobs. Every single one of them had one thing in common: they were in the top 1% of the population in intelligence. I am not sure how successful the same strategy would be for someone closer to average (which after all includes most people).

  28. Judy Resnick
    October 26th, 2012 @ 2:35 pm

    I’d like to applaud what YAFFED is trying to do in terms of raising the quality of secular studies being taught at Chassidishe and “ultra-Orthodox” yeshivos. Even if their graduates are not going to go to college, at least they should reach a minimum level of proficiency in the basics. I cringe when I meet (as too frequently happens) Chassidish and ultra-Orthodox Jewish adults who are for all intents and purposes illiterate (and innumerate). It’s not even just English being a second language, with only Yiddish in the home: it’s allowing young people to graduate twelfth grade with a totally deficient skill set.

  29. Steve Brizel
    October 26th, 2012 @ 3:31 pm

    As long as secular studies ( aka “Limudei Chol”) are seen in certain sectors of the Torah observant world as somewhere between a necessity, a necessary evil, Bitul Zman or worse, secular studies in some yeshivos and girls schools will be seen as a stepchild to the overall purpose of the school.

  30. Mr. Cohen
    October 27th, 2012 @ 8:47 pm

    Rabbeinu Yonah commentary on Mishnah,
    tractate Avot, chapter 3, last paragraph:

    The study of Mathematics [Chachmat HaCheshbone] sharpens [the mind of] a man.

    פירוש רבנו יונה על אבות – פרק שלישי משנה כד
    וחכמת החשבון מחדדת את האדם

    CHRONOLOGY:
    Rabbeinu Yonah of Gerona died in Toledo, Spain, in 1263 CE.

  31. Michoel Kelmar
    November 15th, 2012 @ 12:31 pm

    Just saw this string now. I attended parent / teacher conferences for our sons last night so this is very much on my mind. I don’t really hear where Mark is going with the SAT scores. In public highschools the stress is very much on getting into college, and the colleges very much stress SAT scores. So naturally kids in those schools try hard to ace the exams, with Kaplan, self-study, tutors etc. Their scores are not such a strong reflection of how their schools alone educated them. It is more of a culture issue. A better comparison would be the SAT scores of public schools students vs the SAT scores of that specific sub-element of days schools that are very college focused.

    Another point: the secular studies can only be as strong as the amount of time students can conceivably put into them. A boy of bar mitzvah age, that get’s up before 7:00 am to daven, and still is young enough to require 9-10 hours of sleep, simply cannot put much time into math, even if the school stresses the importance of it, and has excellent teachers. The time is just not there.

  32. Mark Frankel
    November 15th, 2012 @ 4:26 pm

    Michoel,

    SAT scores are a very good indicator of the level of education received which is why average to great colleges weight them so much.

    If a person does poorly on the SAT English, it is a pretty good indication that he is weak in English.

    SAT success is not a cultural issue and I would be very interested to see any support that says it is.

    However I do agree that acceptance of a weak secular education is a Frum cultural value. As I tried to point out before I think it’s harmful to our children.

  33. Michoel Kelmar
    November 15th, 2012 @ 4:53 pm

    what I was trying to say is as follows: I could agree that a yeshiva student getting a 480-520 on the SAT English or Math, shows that he was likely poorly educated. What I don’t agree with is that a Greatneck public school student getting a 760 math shows a better education than a yeshiva bochur’s 700. The Greatneck student is focused specifically on excelling at the SAT and has his (and his parent’s) self esteem very much tied to getting into a top school. The yeshiva boy is not focused on it in the same way.

  34. Ron Coleman
    November 15th, 2012 @ 10:30 pm

    Hi, sorry I missed the discussion.

    I couldn’t help but post this here, however; I have in the past added the likes of this to the old A College Education? post. It’s a link to a post on Glenn Reynolds’s Instapundit blog featuring a review by Inside Higher Ed on Glenn’s new book, The Higher Education Bubble.

    I post these to raise a point about college in the 21st century I keep making because BT’s with 1970′s and 1980′s college degrees keep forgetting. An excerpt from the book, quoted in his post:

    As I note in the book, research indicates that today’s graduates are learning less, studying less, and yet paying more for college. What’s more, that underperforming education is supported by an increasingly unstable mountain of debt. It’s fine to study things that won’t earn you a living — just don’t borrow money to do it. Unfortunately, at most schools, most people will have to borrow money if they are to attend.

    This point about debt is pretty salient, since so much of this discussion tends to juxtapose the supposedly economicall yconservative university degree approach with almost any alternative.

  35. Ron Coleman
    November 15th, 2012 @ 10:47 pm

    Mark wrote:

    I do agree that acceptance of a weak secular education is a Frum cultural value. As I tried to point out before I think it’s harmful to our children.

    I agree on both counts. I wish the problem were only “acceptance of a weak secular education” but from what I see, in many circles there is actually contempt for knowledge and skills other than what is taught in the bais medrash.

    And let’s not be sanguine about that learning. It is true that the best Torah-only, or even “Lakewood-track” yeshiva students develop analytic skills and a very good work ethic. But with very few exceptions, not only are their language skills very poor, but their reasoning skills are also.

    I used to think that someone who has a “gemara kop” could readily transfer the skills of talmudic scholarship to other fields of endeavor. I don’t think that any more (again, as a general rule). For one thing, you need to know how the world works to make use of well-honed analytic skills — they don’t operate in a vacuum, and analogy will only take you so far. But I have also come to see, largely in my professional work but elsewhere too, that people can spend decades in the beis medrash and still be unable to engage the sort of abstract or dialectical analysis fundamental to advanced problem-solving.

    There isn’t an obvious solution for orthodox parents who want their kids to have the best possible Torah education and outlook but also want them to be at least functionally literate, much less “high achievers” beyond the gemara. (Don’t even ask me about the arguably more troubling dilemma facing the education of girls.) There are a lot of variables at work here, and they’re changing at a scary rate as well. But at the end of the day, I do think parents have to do a lot of work to make this work — far more than many of our parents did a generation ago.

  36. David_L
    November 16th, 2012 @ 9:04 am

    “…people can spend decades in the beis medrash and still be unable to engage the sort of abstract or dialectical analysis fundamental to advanced problem-solving.”

    I’m not sure what that means. Could you provide a couple of examples?

  37. Shades of Gray
    November 16th, 2012 @ 12:26 pm

    Some might find a kindred spirit in “Thoughts on General Studies in the Yeshiva”, by Dr. Yitzchok Levine, of which the following is an excerpt:

    http://personal.stevens.edu/~llevine/thoughts_general_studies_full.pdf

    “…About twenty years ago my eldest son applied to Mesivtha Torah Vodaath for admission to the ninth grade. Part of the admissions procedure involved an interview with the General Studies principal, Rabbi Moshe Lonner, z”l, who had served in this position for many years. My son and I both met with him, and, during the course of the interview, he asked me about my educational background and what I did for a living. When I replied that I had a PhD in mathematics and that I was a college professor, he was obviously pleased. (I subsequently learned that Rabbi Lonner had an advanced degree in mathematics also.) He then proceeded to outline the general studies curriculum with emphasis on the mathematics component. He spoke of the math courses in the ninth, tenth and eleventh grades and of the excellent instructors he always strove to hire. I then asked him,

    “What mathematics do you teach in the twelfth grade?” He became somewhat crestfallen and replied, “What can I tell you, Dr. Levine? It is not like it was years ago, when boys like Rabbi Belsky and Rabbi Steinwurzl would stay after school and attend an extra math class that I taught. It is not like it was years ago.”

    A friend of mine recalled that when he studied in Torah Vodaath, he and other boys would forgo their lunch hour to attend a calculus course that Rabbi Lonner taught. It is indeed “not like it was years ago.”

  38. Ron Coleman
    November 18th, 2012 @ 10:59 pm

    David_L wrote:

    “…people can spend decades in the beis medrash and still be unable to engage the sort of abstract or dialectical analysis fundamental to advanced problem-solving.”

    I’m not sure what that means. Could you provide a couple of examples?

    The ability to see, clearly, both points of view — much less more than two — to a controversial issue, i.e., a point of view that is contrary to one’s own interest, if only for the sake of argument.

    The skill to analogize consistently, i.e., to actually compare apples to apples and oranges to oranges.

    The best practical example I can give of this is when I explain to a yeshiva-educated client why the judge might not agree with our position on a legal issue. I explain what the other side’s argument will be. Almost inevitably this results in the comment, “Why are you arguing their side?” I might expect this from someone off the boat from Eastern Europe, or a simple person, but these comments come from people who are second- or third-generation Americans with years and years of “advanced beis medrash” study behind them.

  39. Shmuel
    November 19th, 2012 @ 12:21 am

    Ron Coleman: I certainly have no argument with the experience you’ve recounted, but I must say I am surprised to hear that some people with “years and years of ‘advanced beis medrash’ study” cannot see two points of view. The reason I am surprised is that to the best of my knowledge this is a large part of what Torah study is about,

    One can’t even learn chumash and rashi witout understanding multiple points of view (let alone learning chumash in greater depth, let alone gemara, etc)!

  40. Bob Miller
    November 19th, 2012 @ 9:02 am

    If Torah study itself has fallen on such hard times, we’re really in a fix. Do we have more than anecdotal evidence on this point?

  41. tesyaa
    November 19th, 2012 @ 11:43 am

    With regard to the inability to see other sides of an argument, we only need to look to the recent election to see that this is not an inability, but rather a type of unwillingness. On the face of it, the utter shock that many conservative voters and pundits expressed at Romney’s loss is hard to understand, given that the election was clearly going to be close, by all objective measures. The explanation is that living in a bubble in which one surrounds oneself with others who share one’s point of view, with limited access to others who hold a different point of view, engenders an inability to see other points of view, even if they can be understood on a cognitive level.

  42. Bob Miller
    November 19th, 2012 @ 5:32 pm

    The shock is more from the negative consequences than anything else. No one wants the bad guys winning.

  43. tesyaa
    November 19th, 2012 @ 5:50 pm

    Bob, I’m really surprised by your comment. Don’t people want to prepare for a negative event, especially when the likelihood of it coming true is at least 50%? Either a bunch of smart people were living in a self-contained bubble, or had their heads in the sand. Neither is something to be proud of.

  44. Ron Coleman
    November 19th, 2012 @ 7:08 pm

    I had also thought that at the very least, that sort of dialectical thinking was part and parcel of Talmud study. Of course I have plenty of yeshivah-trained clients who do not have this problem. But I wouldn’t expect it of anyone who has ever studied gemara past high school.

  45. Bob Miller
    November 20th, 2012 @ 11:58 am

    Tesyaa,

    Unfortunately, the rightwing media this time grossly overpredicted turnout for Romney. Even on Election Day itself, we were hearing glowing descriptions from them of packed polling places in Republican-land. Wishful thinking overcame logic to the point that the outcome was a shock to their listeners/readers.

    However, this was small compared to the greater shock of knowing that corrupt socialists were endorsed to remain in place to do further damage.

  46. Always a BT
    December 5th, 2012 @ 8:58 pm

    Unfortunately, Yeshivas have to make a choice–Limudei Kodesh at the expense of Chol or vice versa. No school can excel at both; it’s not feasible within the confines of school hours–even with the long day of the typical Yeshiva student.

    We chose a school that emphasized Kodesh over Chol simply because we were better equipped to augment secular subjects. In the 25 or so years we’ve had kids in Yeshiva we have seen in their school a (very) slow upturn in the respect accorded the secular subjects and/or teachers (it’s about time).

    What I’ve gleaned from this thread is that BOTH the Kodesh AND Chol have been watered down. I guess it’s because kids need to “feel good about themselves” as opposed to achieve. What does feeling good about oneself have to do with acquiring knowledge? Grades are a measurement of achievement, not a measure of effort and certainly not of character. The average student who is a hard worker will almost always fare better in life than the genius who can coast through school without breaking a sweat.

    As the mother of 2 kids who were BH blessed with better than average intellect and another 2 kids with significant learning issues who barely made it through high school, I learned a long time ago to focus on EFFORT. Now that’s how to teach self esteem. Intellect is a gift from HKBH, where as effort is within anyone’s control.

    What I don’t understand is those who “tolerate” Limudei Chol instruction. Don’t they see the benefit of being able to write a coherent letter, express oneself clearly, do simple arithmetic or be able to reconcile a bank statement (I am the only one who does that anymore?)? Don’t they see that an articulate, erudite individual is a walking Kiddush H’? Kal v’chomer vice versa with the ignorant boor.

    Kids cannot think for themselves. They are used to having everything done for them from parents who “help” with research projects to spellcheck to the cash register that tells them how much change to give.

    The learning is in the process. No process, no learning.

  47. Judy Resnick
    December 10th, 2012 @ 7:32 pm

    My grandsons attend Yeshiva Darchei Torah in the Far Rockaway area, and I am very pleased with that school’s excellence in both Limudei Kodesh and Limudei Chol. While the Gemara learning is taking place at a high level, it appears to me (admittedly, not an expert in pedagogy) that the secular studies are at a high level as well. For example, my oldest grandson was asking me about an example of an “epic simile,” and I had to admit that I didn’t know what that was (I know of course what a simile is, but I had never before that minute heard of the literary device known as an “epic simile”). So I am quite pleased with Darchei Torah and the level at which my grandsons are learning in both secular and religious studies.

  48. Ron Coleman
    December 11th, 2012 @ 12:06 am

    Just so, once again, we are clear that the grass is not so much greener on the other side, this from the New York Times:

    Much attention has been paid to for-profit colleges that offer degrees online while exploiting federal student-loan programs and saddling ill-prepared students with debt. But nearly all of the institutions caught up in the 10-day credit dodge exposed by The Chronicle were public, nonprofit institutions. And both the credit-givers, like Western Oklahoma, and the sports machines at the other end of the transaction, like Florida State University, were doing nothing illegal. . . .

    The lack of meaningful academic standards in higher education drags down the entire system. Grade inflation, even (or especially) at the most elite institutions, is rampant. A landmark book published last year, “Academically Adrift,” found that many students at traditional colleges showed no improvement in critical thinking, complex reasoning and writing, and spent their time socializing, working or wasting time instead of studying. (And that’s not even considering the problem of low graduation rates.)

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