Isaac Kaplan

"Is it any wonder I've got too much time on my hands?"

Tuesday, June 01, 2004

MEDIA NATION: Finally, a JO article I agree with!

I'll be honest. I am not a fan of the Jewish Observer. Firstly, it's their views that I can't stand. I agree with their take about as often as I agree with the New Yorker and the Nation. Secondly, I just find many of their articles to be bores. I once saw a cover story about how the Israeli government is cutting funds from Yeshivos. I was thinking, "oh, what will the Jewish Observer say about this? Will they argue for it?" Some of these articles are as predictable as a Full House rerun. And other articles just don't interest me. Articles on Megillas Rus, Succos, etc. are generally ridiculously long-winded and NOT engaging. I'll take out a sefer instead. The book reviews are pathetic; they're as pareve as it gets.

Okay, enough ripping the JO. Time to give credit where credit's due. This month, the cover story was about general studies. I figured, "okay, more complaining about schools making boys read Romeo & Juliet and hiring non-frum teachers who make dirty jokes." But I was pleasantly surprised by an article by a Rabbi from Chicago on discipline during general studies. Here are the main points.

1) Discipline systems should treat infractions during Hebrew and English EQUALLY.

2) Teach children the importance of derech eretz and the gravity of making a chillul Hashem.

3) Reinforce the importance of secular studies. English is vital for improving communication skills, math is necessary for gemaras in Eruvin and Sukkah, etc.

4) Lift the salary and morale of the secular staff.

I've been waiting for a while for the yeshivish to address these issues, and was pleasantly surprised by the JO.

My only beef with the article is that I believe that while such changes can be implemented in a place like Chicago, on the other hand, a place like New York, with its schools' intense PR wars, will be harder to budge. There is less competition between schools out-of-town. In Brooklyn, I believe that some people have become so extreme to the point where they would be turned off by a school that has a solid secular studies program. Any school with an English department may end up with a bad reputation. "You mean these kids are actually spending time listening to an English teacher instead of (hopefully) learning? Terrible!" Nobody is minimizing the importance of Torah. But, as our sages said so eloquently, "No bread, no Torah!"

Just when I thought JO was turning the page, there was an article about a suggested curicullum that featured no homework. Oh please. And the Montreal Expos are winning the World Series this year. Get real, people.


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