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August 19, 2009



You have good points, but as a graduate of this system, I know that it is far simpler. They are not addressing secular education vs. no secular education. All school have a secular department, it is however deficient in the very frum schools. The deficienty is not only academic, but structural as well. There simply is no importance to it in the overall system and therefore there is a lack of proper oversight, no decent acting principle, and most importantly, a lack of expectations coming from the staff and parents to the school and students.
In discussing this with fellow graduates from this system, I stress to them that the most important thing they can do to remedy the problem is to hold their children accountable in their secular studies. Show them that you care about reading and writing skills etc.
The child will attach importance to it, he will be a better student, and improve the entire classroom.
When I was still a student in one such Boro Park yeshiva, we had an adequate secular department. It was sorely deficient, but adequate to learn basics. Then, we had an influx of a few boys from Williamsburg who turned the place into a circus. They spoke not a word of English, did not care to in the future, and just saw this as a waste of free time.

With regard to the general lack of middos in frummer schools, there is a lot to say about it. But I will address one point, the segregation from larger society, and insensitivity to cultural norms.
I think this is an outcome of the battle with modernity and haskala gone bad. Among European Chasidim there was a conscious effort made to counter modern sensibilities. Many good developments were bunched into the 'bad' pile, as a means for separation from modernity, socially, culturally, spirtitually etc. As a result certain attitudes against manner, politeness and other sensitive behavior associated with modern sensibilities were labeled 'modern'. A young boy or girl today cannot distinguish between one who is a true baal middos or baal chesed, however with a gruff manner, and the one that is truly boorish.


I agree more with David than our host's theory. Our need to stand apart in order not to assimilate has cost us many things simply because they were not rejected by, and therefore take a more central role (less competition) in, the more liberal "Judaisms". This includes knowledge of Tanakh (particularly among men), diqduq, and yes, simple politeness.

It's not that we lack chessed. Frum Jews are huge baalei chessed, far more tzedaqah and time invested in others per capita than most other communities. But many (and probably most) of us are racist, many of us have problems with financial scruples (the culture is certainly deficient since we often speak of a "frum guy who was cheating in business" and not feel the oxymoron), gruff, boys can get away with bullying, etc...

A big problem is that it makes the limudei chol period a bunch of bitul zeman. And if the kids know it (consciously or not), they have no reason to respect their teacher's authority, to sit still, to behave. And so much of what's taught in the morning is lost in the afternoon.



So, the simpler and more correct interpretation of the quote is that if the English periods are undermined and the message is that they don't matter, kids will misbehave during that time, and from there, carry the poor middos that they learned into the rest of their lives.

How would I know? I grew up in a Torah Im Derech Eretz school and my kids go to a school that values both kodesh and chol.

Thank you the commenters for teaching me something.

steve mcqueen

I think you are over-romanticising in your analysis. Once an institution permits mediocrity in one area, the attitude infests every area. If mediocrity is encouraged, even worse. The best schools strive to be excellent in all they do - children learn from the atmosphere before they hear what is being taught.

There is an article on matzav today that included the quote "Complacency, however, is not an attribute that is admired nor coveted by those in the Torah community.". This is well understood but not often enough applied.


Two comments:
1. On the issue of mediocre secular education, in my mind there is no question that, while I would prefer for my children a school that has a serious secular studies department, I would rather send my kids to a school with no secular studies at all than one which doesn't take the secular studies department seriously.

2. On the issue of professionalism, this is changing very rapidly in the chinuch world today. There is a great deal of openness towards new methods and professional development. (There is also a great deal of skepticism about these things, which, considering some of the narishkeit that comes out of the modern educational establishment, is all to the good.)


There is a spectrum between isolation from others and acceptance of others. "Frumness" implies isolation (from other communities), while good middot implies acceptance (of other individuals). Sure, the ideal is to reject unwanted influences while being welcoming towards individuals. But one's tendency to isolate or accept is a deep character trait, and it is very hard for a person to switch back and forth on demand.


i like shlomo's assessment.

very good point!

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