Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Divrei Chaim: what do we expect kids to walk out of yeshivah kno...

Divrei Chaim: what do we expect kids to walk out of yeshivah kno...: A follow up post on education: We spend thousands of dollars and invest hundreds of hours of classroom instruction in educating our kids. ...

Didn't write this! Totally my brother in law. But I wish I did! I only think that some of his assessments of the current thinking are wishful thinking! This is what he wrote:

We spend thousands of dollars and invest hundreds of hours of classroom instruction in educating our kids. After 12 or more years, what do we expect them to know? What are we getting for our money?

My question assumes that, like E.D. Hirsch argued, there is certain “core knowledge” that is essential. It’s not enough for students to have some vague set of skills or good “midos” or hashkafos. They need to have real facts and information at their fingertips. 

Here is what I consider the bare minimum, at least for girls: 

1) Knowing all of chumash with rashi;

2) Familiarity with the text all of all nevi’im rishonim and basic content of nevi’im achronim;

3) Knowing orach chaim halachos as found in Chayei Adam or Kitzur;

4) Understanding basic principles of belief (this point needs a post of its own to define better).

That’s it.

Sounds simple, but I challenge you to test your average Beis Ya’akov graduate and see if she has mastered the items on my list.  My own kids have gone to what is considered a more academic B.Y., one which comparatively speaking does provide a decent education, and they complain to me that I’m being unfair when I expect them to know a pasuk and Rashi that they never learned in school.

(If you think boys education is any better, you're kidding yourself. A kid can walk out of 12th grade knowing 60-70 blatt gemara (in some cases, ha’levai that much) and the reid a rebbe said over to them for 4 years and that’s it – no knowledge of navi, chumash, hashkafa (outside of mussar shmuzen), and a smattering of Mishnah Berurah at best. Of course you have boys who become masmidim and excel – but those are the ones who are above average. What about the guy in the second level shiur in MTA, in DRS, in Chofetz Chaim, NIRC, or YFR?  What do they really know after 12 years of school?)

What is worse than girls not having learned this stuff in school is the fact that they never given the message that they have to learn it on their own, not because of the mitzvah of talmud Torah (which of course does not apply to girls), and not because they will do some kind of aveirah if they don't know a Rashi somewhere in Sefer VaYika (a very unlikely prospect), but simply because how can you live as a thinking Jew, a Jew who wants to connect with Torah = with G-d, if you don't even know chumash and Rashi?  

I should get back to posting on Torah only topics before I get myself too worked up or into hot water  : )


  1. To more forcefully state what I commented there: I would have focused on meta-knowledge -- skills and desire rather than knowledge itself. Yes, you need some base of knowledge in order not to be entirely lost in the field.

    But (to use RCB's #1 as an example) the girl who graduates knowing how to learn Chumash and Rashi on her own and wants to will eventually learn Chumash and Rashi. The girl who lacks the skills or lacks the desire to use them will forget much of the Rashi of her youth and not find much relevancy in what she does retain.

    And about his #4, "Understanding basic principles of belief...": If we get overly literal with our etymology, learning halakhah is learning the art of walking. Since we don't teach hashkafah or mussar in any organized way, we don't teach them a derekh to walk down. That means more than the Ani Maamins and basic yedi'os like the names of books of Tanakh, sedarim of mishnayos, the holidays or how to find a topic in the Shulchan Arukh. Those numerous kids aren't going off the derekh, they were simply never given a derekh to begin with. No inspiration from an experiential education of the Torah's concept of a Meaningful Life. And so, their "Search for Meaning" leaves them spiritually parched.

  2. Conversation at

    1. More constructive conversation at

  3. My thoughts:

    1) Why Rashi? How about just Chumash itself! It should be given over using the Torah Shebal Peh (including Rashi) by the educator, but the students should then know what the Torah means by reading the pesukim alone. Then, later, they can learn meforshim on their own to get more perspectives. I think too many times people ONLY know Rashi to the exclusion of even Chazal!

    2) I think they should have been through ALL tanach, if only a cursory reading.

    3) I agree with the halachah requirement given, but emphasis should be placed on asking shilas and the fact that there are many pesakim for each situation.

    4) This is vitally important. I think it is critical that outside knowledge/challenges/etc should be brought in and squarely dealt with before the students find them out on their own.

    5) HISTORY. I think they should come out knowing the basic flow of Jewish history, including the history of halachah, and how Jews actually lived throughout history. It would also be important to make sure to include "exotic" Jewish communities to steer the kids away from fantasies of monolithicness of OJ.

  4. Since they clearly spend a lot of time in school and doing homework after school, what would you delete from their current routine to make way for your complete program?

    1. RAM (Qarnei Re'eim?): I don't think it's a matter of more limudei qodesh as rearranging how the time is spent. Certainly WRT boys' education -- most of the time is spent on gemara, and yet most of our graduates end up in the long run dependent on the Schottenstein's gift to Artscroll.

      BTW, the greatest rabbeim of our generation, in terms of "gadol ... beminyan" are the anonymous workers on Artscroll's translations, explanations, and footnotes. More people are learning Torah from them than from any one maggid shiur.

      (And not just posted because I know RYGB is following this conversation.)

    2. RAM: The more modern school day has been chipped away at over the years. It should be re-extended. The more yeshivish schools have added more straight-Gemara afternoon seder. This should be replaced.

  5. I'd like to see the practical side of these interesting ideas. How would you distribute the proposed curriculum (including review) over four years?

    1. You should ask my brother in law.