Thursday, February 08, 2007

2 opposing viewpoints on Charedi education

Today I read 2 different articles which are in stark opposition to what should be taught in the schools.

In shul this morning I saw a pamphlet decrying the secular education that girls get in Bais Yaakov.

It advocates a return to basics where girls would not learn computers, english, etc. where academic standards would be low and there would be no pressure. Here is a short quote:

... the expectations are unreasonably high, the workload is much too great, and the fattening up of the girls with knowledge and information that does not contribute towards building their character and personality. The girls are exposed to a heavy amount of information, math, English, science, and other subjects with a tremendous amount of pressure and competition. The expectations are unreasonable and they grow up as students of Judaism and and general knowledge (my emphasis).

Here are the kind of teachers that they want.

...oversight of the curriculum! checking of goals! We are not interested in teachers who have a good (secular) education for our daughters, we don't want teachers with degrees, rather we want teachers who know less (my emphasis), who are vessels full of fear of God who can influence their surroundings - meaning their students through their character, their davening, and most importantly by their actions serving as a personal example.

What is the result of this?

.. I have heard from mothers that their learned daughters when it comes to marraige relate to "Bnei Torah" who went up in fear of God and torah but are not worldly, disparagingly . They dismiss the possibility of building a house with them by saying if I marry him I should get money for becoming a shmatta. One mother quoted to me from her learned daughter "he is not interesting, he is small minded, he doesn't know what is going on in the world, he doesn't know geography, and worst of all he doesn't speak correctly (grammar errors) ..." and this is not the place to go on about what happens after marriage!

In short, the girls need to be protected from the outside world, not be so learned so that they can be wives for the Bnei Torah.

This position is untenable today for 1 simple reason, the girls need the education in order to be able to work and support their husbands who learn in kollel. You can't have it both ways.

The second article Are Our Children Too Worldly? takes a very different stance. His thesis is that our children are not worldly enough. This is a very worthwhile article to read. Here is 1 short quote which drives home the point:

We had put a number of practical questions about teaching to Reb Yaakov. To cite just two examples: whether and how to teach a) evolution, and b) the history of the Roman Catholic Church and Greek mythology. Reb Yaakov answered each of these questions with specific suggestions and advice
I’ll tell you. I’m often asked here in Monsey and especially regarding girls, “How much should we or can we shut them off to protect them from the culture at large?” I
always tell them, “You can’t! Unless, that is, you live in Squaretown.”
Not tell a young boy about evolution and then wait until at age 16 or 17 he reads in the New York Times, which he ‘knows’ prints only ‘verified facts,’ that the bones of a person 2 or 3 million years old were found!?? And the Times will print this without any mention of detracting opinions or controversy. What will this young man do? He’ll be completely lost! This would not happen if he had been taught at an earlier time in school by his rabbei’im and teachers
Reb Yaakov was talking about two kinds of knowledge to which he felt our talmidim should be exposed.
1. A knowledge and understanding of ideas that are widely accepted in the general culture, where a lack of understanding of which, can potentially harm our children and of which our children will perforce become aware.
2. A knowledge and understanding of those aspects of the general culture which are not only benign, but perhaps also important for our growth; language, history, science, social mores, etc.

This quote is quite sad, what kind of education is it when you can't ask serious questions.

There is an unwritten but whispered rule amongst Bais Yaakov girls that, “If you have some really serious questions, whatever you do, don’t ask your teacher, not unless you don’t care what it does to your shidduch chances!”

As you can imagine I agree with the second viewpoint and think that all of the efforts to create more and more walls are destined to fail and even backfire.


Cosmic X said...


As a father with daughters in the Beis Yaakov system, I think that there is a lot to be said for both sides of this issue.

The truth is that Beis Yaakov in and of itself was not looked upon as the lechatchila way to raise girls. Rather it was the reaction of Sarah Schnierer to what was happening in her generation: Young women demanded education, and their only outlet were non-Jewish or non-frum establishments.

In the end there isn't really a choice as you mentioned.

bluke said...

This quote from the second article is quite sad

There is an unwritten but whispered rule amongst Bais Yaakov girls that, “If you have some really serious questions, whatever you do, don’t ask your teacher, not unless you don’t care what it does to your shidduch chances!”

bluke said...

I don't know if I would say it is not l'chatchela, it was a change from what used to be. However, as RHS says many times, the halacha doesn't change rather the facts change, sif 1 used to apply now sif 2 applies. That is the case here. Society changed and because of that girls needed to receive a formal education.