Wednesday, September 02, 2015

Yeshiva Education

In odd confluence of events, I heard Frimet Goldberger's excellent radio piece on Lipa Smeltzer on the same day I saw this unsavory bit of spin in the New York Post, written by Eliyahu Federman and Jason Bedrick:
Activists wrongly assume that being “educated” means whatever the government says it means. But there is and always has been a legitimate diversity of views about the meaning and purpose of education, what children should learn and how best to teach them. 
Yeshivas have educational priorities that differ from mainstream society, but that doesn’t mean their students are uneducated. Most people would be impressed to hear that students were studying Aristotle and Plato in their original Greek and Virgil in his original Latin. 
Yeshiva students spend most of their day studying the ancient Jewish texts in their original Hebrew and Aramaic. And like studying law or philosophy, vigorous Talmud study develops highly analytical and critical thinking skills.
Meanwhile, Lipa is on the radio complaining to Frimet how the yeshiva he attended robbed him of an education, leaving him functionally illiterate in English and barely competent in elementary school math.

While there may "a legitimate diversity of views about the meaning and purpose of education" I think we can agree that the Hasidic schools are failing in their basic, bottom-line  obligation to provide an education; also, the comparison to Virgil and Aristotle is laughable. There's nothing impressive about a kid who can read Greek, but can't find his way through a Judy Blume book. Besides, Federman and Bedrock are lying by omission. Only MALE yeshiva students are studying the ancient Jewish texts in Hebrew and Aramaic. Girls, on the other hand,  might get a some bible stories... maybe. And the way in which boys are learning the ancient texts is primitive at best.

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