Monday, May 24, 2004

Jewish Observer & "General Studies"

I had a chance this past weekend to read the latest Jewish Observer, official Mouthpiece of the Agudah. I don't know if its a sign that I am getting frummer in my Old Age or the Agudah is moving to the Center, but I have finding the JO a more readable magazine lately.
As usual they had a single focus in this issue; in this case, General Studies. In three articles various educators and public intellecuals discussed secular studies in Yeshivahs (and I am not talking about Yeshiva of Flatbush or Frisch here). Basically they admit that general studies are terrible and they give various formulas for fixing them.

For Ortho-watchers it's a must-read.

Several observations on my part:
>The authors/editors insist on using the term "General Studies" instead of "Secular Studies".
>R. Moshe Eisenman argues for a Hirschian approach to this topic (rejecting the basic worldview of the Velt).
>The arguements used to justify General Studies are similar to many of the arguements for Torah U-Madda:
Science: A (pre-Kantian) variation of seeing God in nature
History: Zechor Yimos Olam: Seeing God in history
>Another article basically downplays the natural and social sciences for math and english (i.e. basic functioning in society).

Obviously, even if not in the articles, the problem will only get worse as subsequent generations of parents & mechanchim are not getting college educations. Therefore the expectations for their children and students with regards to "General Studies" can only diminish.

Another important (if obvious) point to note is that R. Moshe Eisenman begins his article saying that the JO is talking between friends so that we can be honest. A fundamental rejection of the ethos that says let everything be as public as possible.

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