Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Why Jewish Education Fails

Tobie and I were recently swapping war stories from our high school days with our friend Elisheva who went to high school in an Israeli ulpana - which is, for those who don't know, an Israeli daati-leumi high school for girls, frequently but not always including a dormitory (in her case it did) - and I have to say she held her own pretty well. Which is impressive, but also more frustrating than anything else, since high school education in this country is my chosen profession.
(side note - if you find the term "war stories" inappropriate you have never attended a Jewish school, for I assure you these institutions are indeed the sites of daily battles between the students who try desperately to establish some sense of self, and the teachers who are constantly and senselessly trying to crush them.)
As the years go on, I find myself more and more offended as a person and as a Jew by people who claim to be Torah educators. A prime example is this courtesy of Chana. Chana does a pretty good job of eviscerating this speech, so I won't do it again here, but it really has come to a point where something needs to be done.
When did it become ok to make turning people trying to establish an intellectual dialogue into a joke? Why are we trying to squash every piece of intelligence, personality, scholarly striving, why have we made these things things which need to be removed from the community? Why does Rabbi Orlofsky have to make fun of a girl who is trying to get some sound halachik opinions on an issue that is important to her? Which by the way she did not get. What she got was a lot of nonsense from a "Rabbi" who does not know his sources and moreover DOESN'T CARE that he doesn't know his sources but beyond even that, DOES NOT CARE TO KNOW THE SOURCES. And does not feel that Jewish soul striving for some clarity has just been eternally damaged by his so called "sense-oh-humor." Respected members of our communities, people who we pay lots and lots of money to educate us, people who are held up as examples of middot and learning and the Jewish ideology personified deal callously, casually, without respect, knowledge, wisdom, or even a grain of common sense with children who genuinely want to know things all the time, and then they turn around and claim that there's a crisis with kids who are "going off the derech" and they just don't know why or how it happened.
To be perfectly honest, I look back on the things that I and many friends of mine put up with all the time from these people and it is a miracle to me that we remained religious at all. Thank G-d for all that arrogance they accused us of having, it actually saved our relationships with G-d, can you imagine? I knew there had to be a reason He created that one.
Anyway, clearly all I can do at the moment is rant on a voiceless blog with almost no readers, but this has to be said in a public forum and this is the only one I have:
These people are ruining our children. They're hypocrites and liars and the worst thing of all is that they don't know anything and they encourage more people to not know anything. That's how you manipulate mobs - by discouraging individuality, discouraging learning, discouraging any form of achievement, and being laitzanim about the people who actually care about these things. Just in case you weren't clear, I'll say it one more time - Jewish schools are ruining Jewish children, and they will be the ruin of the Jewish communities. It's not assimilation this time around guys - Sharansky had it wrong. We're self-destructing from the inside out. And the disturbing thing is, that seems to be just fine with all the people who claim that they care.


Blogger e-kvetcher said...

On a separate topic, do you know what the scoop is with Ida Crown and teaching evolution? Their website mentions it explicitly under Biology, but we just had lunch with a Conservadox couple who decided to send their kid to public HS because they said that ICJA doesn't teach evolution...

Which led to an interesting conversation with my wife where I asked her - how big a deal would it be if our kids did not study evolution in HS? Really? Unless they decide to be paleontologists or evolutionary biologists it probably wouldn't make a lick of difference.

1:16 PM  
Blogger Miri said...

well, as a historian and a philosopher, I can't say that not knowing evolution made a whole lot of practical difference, but I've always kind of wondered about it. I didn't go to ICJA, but we shared their bio teacher and he didn't teach us evolution, or human reproduction. (we learned human reproduction, but they brought in a woman for that unit.) however, I am quite sure that that was not his doing. as I say I do not know what they teach at ICJA, but they're administration has become increasingly black hat over the years, so it would not surprise me if they don't.

4:37 PM  
Blogger e-kvetcher said...

BTW, I am on R Clownofsky's side when it comes to platonic inter-gender relationships. I think that once there is a certain level of closeness and intimacy, it is very difficult to keep them platonic. Now this does not mean that I think that these folks all consummate their relationships in a physical way. Often it may just be flirting or sexual innuendo, romantic tension, whatever you want to call it. But it is seldom platonic.

What strikes me as funny about Chana's post, is that she seems to say - "I can envision it being platonic" and therefore there is nothing wrong with them. Which seems like a strange way to justify any type of legal reasoning, even if this were not a discussion which has a halachic overtone.

7:35 PM  
Blogger Tobie said...

Entertainingly enough, those of us who chose to take the SAT II in Biology had to teach ourselves quite a lot of the subject, including everything on evolution. So yeah, don't want it in your classrooms, you want your brightest students learning it completely on their own? Clever.

As for R' Orlofsky, I actually do have some sympathy for the point that platonic relationships are a delicate and unstable equilibrium, more often believed to exist than actually in existence. I actually do believe in shomer negiah as one of the ways of maintaining this somewhat artificial element. Nevertheless, his emphasis that men are animals and women must fear them is just insulting, not least to the intelligence of his listeners. And his delight in having a witty reply to some high school kid just seems mean and sad.

A final point is that I have a hard time wearing a halachist hat and discussing anything relating to tzniut or shomer negiah. Negiah you can actually say might have some absolute halachic basis in sources, although it's pretty tricky when you're left with a definition like "affectionate touching". Tzniut is completely outside of the realm of law. Which is fine, it's a legitimate lifestyle discussion, it's just hard for me to get all legalistic about it when it clearly isn't.

11:39 PM  
Blogger Miri said...

It wasn't so much the actual concept of platonic relationships that bothered me about his speech as it was a)his complete lack of sources b)his complete lack of respect for people who care about things like sources and oh yeah 3)HE'S NOT EVEN THAT FUNNY! or maybe I just think so because I'm busy being offended by every word that comes out of his mouth. i can't respect a man who so clearly has no respect for the people he is talking to, and you cannot convince me that he deserves it, or deserves to be regarded as a legitimate Torah educator when he is not an educator, and when he makes almost no mention of Torah at all.

10:21 AM  
Blogger e-kvetcher said...

Yes, the man is not very impressive. I heard him speak at our shul dinner.

10:44 AM  
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12:51 PM  
Blogger Michaltastik said...

I think I'm coming in, in the middle, if you will. They are always promoting R. Orlofsky "shiurim" in my area and they say he's so funny. However, I've never heard him and because of the shul where they have him all the time, I don't doubt that he's insulting. However, is there a link or something so I can come up to speed?

7:43 PM  
Blogger Miri said...

sorry I haven't chked this post in awhile. I included a link to the specific speech i was referring to and I think there are more speeches online at that site. here it is again though:


12:45 PM  
Blogger Miri said...

As a ps, I did once as that biology teacher a question which led off into a discussion on evolution and he was really excited to tell me all about it, so I'm reasonably sure he's against that policy.

12:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

And pray tell, where would YOU send your children to school in the US, spoonicus?

6:58 PM  
Blogger Miri said...

an excelent question, and one I hope I will never have to answer.

7:01 AM  

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