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YWN Coffee Room » Yeshiva / School / College / Education Issues

English is Absent and Math Doesn't Count at Brooklyn's Biggest Yeshivas

(80 posts)
  • Started 1 year ago by achosid
  • Latest reply from apushatayid

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  1. achosid
    With Long Pious

    This was on YWN yesterday....

    It should be a good debate in the CR, or until some mod shuts it down ;)

    Here we go!

    ----------

    Every morning at school, 7-year-old Uriyah Sidof prays for extra recess.

    Literally, he prays for it — at Lamplighters Yeshivah, the Jewish Montessori school he attends in the heart of Hasidic Crown Heights, extra minutes of recess are doled out as a reward for especially heartfelt prayer.

    Recess provides Uriyah with a welcome break from the hard work of timed math tests, English language drills and science projects, subjects the majority of the 84,000 children who attend Jewish parochial schools in Brooklyn never get. Lamplighters is an exception — most Orthodox Jewish schools offer limited instruction in English, math and science, and some don’t teach them at all despite being legally required to do so, DNAinfo.com New York has learned.

    Shmueli Lowenstein’s experience is much more common. The 25-year-old is a former student at Oholei Torah, the most prominent yeshiva in Crown Heights, where, he said, “I did not grow up learning English or any kind of secular studies at all,” and subjects like phonics and math were “nonexistent.”

    “Everything was done in Yiddish until seventh or eighth grade, and then they would switch to Hebrew,” Lowenstein said. “I don’t think I ever received a paper with English writing on it, except for maybe a permission slip for a school trip.”

    Under New York state and federal regulations, stories like Lowenstein’s shouldn’t be possible — all New York schools, public and private, are required to offer “equivalency of instruction” in basic general subjects such as American history and math.

    The state allows religious students to omit evolution questions on the Regents exam, but there is no waiver to exclude science from the curriculum.

    Oholei Torah would not answer questions about its curriculum.

    But more than a dozen parents, teachers and students told DNAinfo.com New York that many of Brooklyn’s Orthodox Jewish schools fall shy of even that narrow requirement, offering only an hour or two a day of pro-forma instruction for general subjects, if any.

    “There are a number of schools which have absolutely no pretenses of it — kids from 3-years-old to 18 have no secular education at all, ” said Zalman Alpert, a librarian at Yeshiva University and an expert on the Orthodox community.

    “Many other schools in Borough Park and Williamsburg are testing the waters about either doing away with secular studies altogether or ratcheting it down another few levels.”

    What the situation amounts to, Alpert and others say, is a school system bigger than Boston’s operating virtually without oversight, making it easily the largest unregulated school system in America. This week, DNAinfo.com New York will take you inside that system, one the majority of New Yorkers and even the education officials charged with policing it know next to nothing about.

    As with anything in New York, big here means huge. More children attend Brooklyn’s Jewish parochial schools than attend Catholic schools in Brooklyn and Queens combined, and unlike their Catholic counterparts, yeshivas are growing.

    Although significant Jewish enclaves exist in all five boroughs, Brooklyn is home to the majority of the city’s 1.1 million Jews, and the vast majority of its most religious ones. In Kings County alone, the Orthodox emphasis on large families has helped spur an education crunch of epic proportions: In just four years, the borough’s Jewish parochial schools have seen an enrollment increase of more than 12,000 pupils, according to state records.

    “In some schools, they’re taught very similar to public school … where the English department is fairly normative,” Alpert said, citing the United Lubavitcher Yeshiva in Crown Heights as a prime example. “But those schools are very few in number and they’re rapidly disappearing.”

    Though several yeshiva principals declined to comment on their curriculums for this story, Rabbi Sholom Skaist of Williamsburg’s massive United Talmudical Academy told DNAinfo.com New York the school does teach general subjects — just not very much.

    “We teach math, English, some social studies and some science,” Skaist said. “They do not have secular studies in all the grades, only from fourth to eighth grade.”

    Like other children in high-poverty schools both public and private, many of Brooklyn’s Jewish parochial students receive federal, state and city aid, in the form of free and reduced lunch programs, educational materials and federal Title I allocations to educate students from poor families.

    At least a few also receive Title III funds specifically earmarked for English learners, which is hardly surprising in communities like Williamsburg where the lingua franca is Yiddish and even adults often struggle to communicate outside of that language.

    “I can’t read, I don’t know anything about the outside world — I have to struggle every time I have to read a menu for a restaurant,” said Hershy Gelbstein, 18, who got the majority of his education at United Talmudical Academy.

    “I have a good spelling, but not a good grammar. I lose the words. When I start talking English in front of someone who knows a good English, it’s like I’m speaking Spanish to someone who knows only English.”

    http://www.theyeshivaworld.com/article.php?p=153679

    Posted 1 year ago #
  2. Ferd
    Shikur Ferd

    Great topic.

    I agree. The secular studies became a joke in most Yeshivas.

    Children do not take it seriously. And I am not referring to Chassidish Yeshivas. I am talking mainstream Litvish Yeshivas.

    We will pay the price for this in, say, 5 or 10 years.

    Posted 1 year ago #
  3. sushee
    Joseph

    The Chasidim have survived the past 60+ years in America without a serious secular studies program. The Litvaks are catching up and they'll manage fine, just like the Chasidim.

    Posted 1 year ago #
  4. YW Moderator-007
    Bond. James Bond.

    "The Chasidim have survived the past 60+ years in America without a serious secular studies program"

    They haven't.

    Thousands can never get real serious jobs due to their inability to spell etc.

    I have a 35 year old chasidish friend, who just checked himself into night classes to learn how to READ ENGLISH.

    And here is another issue. Not only do they not know how to read English, they no longer know how to read Yiddish.

    So no, they are not surviving at all. they are failing miserably (in my humble opinion).

    Posted 1 year ago #
  5. popa_bar_abba
    Incorrigible; eccentric; somewhere between mean and average; sometimes only a bit over the top; arbitrarily engaged in cynicism.

    One of my mashgichim used to talk about guys who are "illiterate in 3 languages."

    Posted 1 year ago #
  6. boysmom
    Member

    I find that chassidish men over the age of 45 speak a pretty good English because in those days the schools taught secular subjects and the teachers knew their stuff

    Posted 1 year ago #
  7. funnybone
    humerus

    I know several secular studies principals from chassidishe yeshivos in Boro Park. So, let's set the record straight.
    Some yeshivos start secular subjects in 1st grade. Most don't; they start in 3rd grade. Dr. Jed Luchow from the BJE says that it would help the Hebrew reading if the children would start reading English the same time that they start Hebrew. I agree with him.
    All of the yeshivos that I know of take the subject matter seriously. They try to hire qualified teachers, research text books and workbooks that are appropriate (Ever hear of Palmtree Publishing? They make sure that there are only appropriate pictures in their books.) and try their best to maintain decorum.
    It's not easy; the boys are all worked up after a long morning of work. Some of the work is memorization, while some of it may be handwriting... each child has weaknesses and strengths; things that they enjoy and things that are torturous. But, all of the teachers and principals try hard. Some children speak only Yiddish at home and may have learning difficulties. Unfortunately, the parents are spending money for tutors in the morning and might not be able to afford additional help for secular subjects.
    That being said, I can't speak for Oholei Torah. Maybe someone else can.

    Posted 1 year ago #
  8. yaakov doe
    Member

    It's a well known fact that many male chassidim born and educated in New York do not speak a fluent English, let alone read and write on an adult level.

    The Bais Rochel girls have excellent language and writing skills.

    Posted 1 year ago #
  9. zahavasdad
    zahavasoneluckygirl

    I can tell you the Litvish arent much better. I asked a family member about his secular studies and he told me They had "Optional" Physics every other Sunday

    Posted 1 year ago #
  10. achosid
    With Long Pious

    Sunday?

    What Yeshiva has English on Sunday?

    None that I know of.

    Posted 1 year ago #
  11. zahavasdad
    zahavasoneluckygirl

    It was a dorm Yeshiva

    Posted 1 year ago #
  12. Torah613Torah
    (613)Torah²

    Well, I think the girls' schools are doing pretty well.

    I think we should compare the results to inner-city schools. It's horrible how much tax money goes into those schools, and the terrible education those kids get. I think it's racist that people are so concerned with the private school system, but not with the public school system which has several failing schools which combined fail a much larger amount of students each year.

    Posted 1 year ago #
  13. YW Moderator-007
    Bond. James Bond.

    An update just posted on the YWN homepage:

    http://www.theyeshivaworld.com/article.php?p=154016

    Posted 1 year ago #
  14. achosid
    With Long Pious

    zahavasdad - "It was a dorm Yeshiva".

    No such dorm yeshiva exists.

    Period.

    Do you always make things up? because you have s nice track record of fabrication in the CR.

    Posted 1 year ago #
  15. zahavasdad
    zahavasoneluckygirl

    I wont name the name of the School, but I could.

    Its a very well known and top Litvish Yeshiva

    Posted 1 year ago #
  16. Ferd
    Shikur Ferd

    zahavasdad, you sicken me.

    You have no problem talking Lashon hara about gedolim, and large parts of klal yisroel, as recently a a few minutes ago by saying in another thread that frum Jews can leave Israel if they refuse to go to the army. That is an attack against gedolei olam. From the Chazon Ish and down.

    I agree with achosid. There is no such "dorm yeshiva".

    Go ahead and name it.

    Posted 1 year ago #
  17. WolfishMusings
    The Wolf

    What Yeshiva has English on Sunday?

    None that I know of.

    The high school I went to (not a dorm yeshiva) had English every other Sunday.

    Yes, I know some of you will think I'm lying. Too bad. I remember it, whether you choose to believe me or not. And if you think my saying that I had English every other Sunday is somehow an "attack on gedoli olam," go ahead.

    The Wolf

    Posted 1 year ago #
  18. akuperma
    Member

    As long as the public school produce students who are both uneducated and lacking the skills gained from systematic disciplined education, yeshiva kids have no problem. They finish “high school” knowing four languages (Hebrew, Yiddish, Aramaic and English), used to academic study on level that in American universties is typical of graduatge school (study of ancient and medieval texts in original language), and can pick up what they need to know.

    Remember that in America, one can study on one's own, and then take the SAT, CLEP, AP exams, and go to a university. Our kids learn how to study on their own, or in havrusa, and are quite prepared to take on subjects if they ever have a need for them.

    Posted 1 year ago #
  19. OneOfMany
    Today, the Impressively Arbitrary Nymphadora the Purple is sporting One Of her Many eyebrow colors, as well as her Morgul-blade ^_^

    Remember that in America, one can study on one's own, and then take the SAT, CLEP, AP exams, and go to a university.

    Let's be realistic here. To prepare for even one of those exams takes a decent amount of time and practice - when supplemented to the regular curriculum it is intended for. To study for them without the basic knowledge they test on would be enormously time consuming and stressful - time that would be better spent distributed over the course of a regular curriculum, if only for the sake of the test-taker's mental health.

    Unless you presuppose that all Jewish students are incredibly gifted geniuses with great emotional resilience. Then fine.

    Posted 1 year ago #
  20. Veltz Meshugener
    K'shmo kain hu

    Akuperma: The point of school is to get an education. It's absurd to defend a school system that doesn't educate because the deprived students can always educate themselves.

    Posted 1 year ago #
  21. popa_bar_abba
    Incorrigible; eccentric; somewhere between mean and average; sometimes only a bit over the top; arbitrarily engaged in cynicism.

    The point of school is to get an education. It's absurd to defend a school system that doesn't educate because the deprived students can always educate themselves.

    I suspect the communities in question would dispute that as the purpose of their school system. They would probably say the purpose is to teach Torah.

    Posted 1 year ago #
  22. Veltz Meshugener
    K'shmo kain hu

    PBA, the communities are not a monolithic bloc. I haven't studied this but I would suggest that the interests of the parents and of school administrations are not completely aligned on this, especially in yeshivish, as opposed to chassidic schools.

    Posted 1 year ago #
  23. MDG
    Member

    akuperma said:
    "As long as the public school produce students who are both uneducated and lacking the skills gained from systematic disciplined education, yeshiva kids have no problem."

    So they will all be a bunch of schleppers.

    BTW, chances are that your grandchildren will not receive that education that you received, nor be able to communicate as well as you.

    Posted 1 year ago #
  24. lesschumras
    More Kulas

    The high school I went to (BTA) had English on Sunday . The school day Monday to Thursday went until 6:10 so on Friday we had lemuday kodesh only and Sunday we had the secular subjects.

    Posted 1 year ago #
  25. zahavasdad
    zahavasoneluckygirl

    Sunday?

    What Yeshiva has English on Sunday?

    None that I know of.

    Just because you dont know of it, doesnt mean it doesnt exist.

    Perhaps you need to get out more

    Posted 1 year ago #
  26. Let's be honest here for a minute: exactly how much of the secular studies that are taught in school are truly necessary for life? Personally, I think it's a very small percentage; the rest of it just gets forgotten within the a month of the last test. All you really need (and therefore all the yeshivos really need to teach you) is basic english and math.

    Posted 1 year ago #
  27. zahavasdad
    zahavasoneluckygirl

    The Gemrah is Sukkoth (I think) discusses the value of PI, In Gitten the Gemorah discusses Nero.

    If the Gemorah can discuss Math and History, It is not "uneeded"

    Posted 1 year ago #
  28. yitayningwut
    I have no idea wut this screen name means. Do YOU know what this screen name means?

    The yeshiva I went to had English on Sunday.

    I suspect the communities in question would dispute that as the purpose of their school system. They would probably say the purpose is to teach Torah.

    In which case they shouldn't be milking the government for funding. But that's old news, just like the days in yeshiva when they'd give extra special lunches and tell everyone to smile because the inspectors were coming; we thought we were playing dreidel so the yevanim wouldn't kill us, when all along we were simply assisting the school in cheating the government into thinking they actually use the lunch money for lunch.

    Posted 1 year ago #
  29. gavra_at_work
    caution

    IIRC (it was a long time ago), the best learners where I went to Mesivta were offered "advanced" english classes on Sunday evenings, and if they kept up, were allowed to stay in the Bais Medrash during the equivalent english classes over the week.

    Posted 1 year ago #
  30. AZOI.IS
    Member

    The Kanoi Next Door,

    Let's be honest here for a minute: exactly how much of the secular studies that are taught in school are truly necessary for life? Personally, I think it's a very small percentage; the rest of it just gets forgotten within the a month of the last test. All you really need (and therefore all the yeshivos really need to teach you) is basic english and math.

    99% of American born male Hasidic school graduates speak and write English like they just came off the boat. This does not increase their chances at getting anything more than a dead-end shlepper job, which does wonders for confidence and Shalom Bayis throughout life (unless they have a family busine$$).

    Posted 1 year ago #
  31. Torah613Torah
    (613)Torah²

    Zahavasdad: By that logic, they can also teach Aristotelian philosophy, the Rambam quotes from it. And history, Zechor Yemos Olam.

    They do, and in my sibling's yeshiva, nearly all the boys who took the Regents passed the Regents.

    Posted 1 year ago #
  32. akuperma
    Member

    Even the "worst" of our schools in secular studies provide an excellent education. It's the equivalent of the "classical" education that was the norm in western countries until about 150 years ago. They learn they can master hard subjects, learn to work together, learn to work independently. There's nothing wrong with a "classical" education (ours are in Hebrew, there's in Latin and Greek). Classically educated people have gone on to mastery of many other subjects. The schools that skip the modern subjects don't realize it, but they are carrying on a tradition that has produced many of the greatest scholars and scientists of the western world. Only a simple minded person needs to be "spoon fed" everything in school. Most people need to get into the mindset to learn and study (our schools do that nicely), and they can tackle anything.

    If they get interested in some other subject, it's just a matter of getting the book and studying it, and take the test - as many have done. Meanwhile the public school kids often end up being sent to Rikers Island to learn a trade - we can look at Bloomberg at the like and tell them to get their act together and leave us alone.

    Posted 1 year ago #
  33. dotnetter
    Member

    Most of the Litvish yeshivos in NY State that I know of teach secular subjects. The students are expected to take regents AND PASS, and if they don't, they take it again.

    Statistically speaking, are the regent marks of public school educated children higher than those of their yeshiva student counterparts?

    Posted 1 year ago #
  34. zahavasdad
    zahavasoneluckygirl

    Depends on the school

    For the record, Most education today does NOT teach Latin and Greek classics, other than the one time I read Antigone, Ive never read a Greek or Latin Classic. And that includes University (I did read English Classics like Shakespeare and Dickens and Yiddish Classics like Sholem Alechem and I.B. Singer)

    Posted 1 year ago #
  35. zahavasdad
    zahavasoneluckygirl

    And BTW there is an opinion that things the knowledge the Greeks and Romans are best known like Math, Science, Philosophy etc were actually jewish disiciplns and they stole it from us and called it their own.

    Posted 1 year ago #
  36. Veltz Meshugener
    K'shmo kain hu

    Re: Whether secular studies are "necessary for life", it would be silly to claim that each individual "fact" is an absolute necessity, but education is not learning a set of facts, it's engaging material in different ways, learning how to think critically and creatively, and so on. If you don't learn how to do that in elementary school, the odds are that you never will. And no, you can't get it all from gemara, and certainly not from gemara as it's taught in yeshivas.

    Posted 1 year ago #
  37. artchill
    Member

    Yet another reason why many employers give pre-employment tests...

    Posted 1 year ago #
  38. MorahRach
    Member

    Tknd, a lot more than you think. I studied in high school science, psychology, history, math, music, Spanish just to name a few. All but Spanish has helped me I'm the real world. ( I couldn't get the hang of Spanish and my teacher was a mean person). If you don't plan to go out in the real world and get a job outside of the diamond district you do need many more skills them are being taught in these yeshivos.

    Posted 1 year ago #
  39. dotnetter
    Member

    zahavasdad - "For the record, Most education today does NOT teach Latin and Greek classics"

    The ideal is obviously that we should study Torah and Torah only. The Yeshiva of Volozhin closed its doors rather than teach secular studies (which the govt was demanding). We are unfortunaly in golus and therefore must teach/learn other subjects other than Torah, but we are not learning these subjects for the sake of learning! There is only Torah Lishma! And therefore, there is absolutely no reason why Yeshiva students should be learning Greek/Latin classics.

    If you are a girl then you don't have a chiyuv of Talmud Torah so go ahead and learn whatever you'd like. But keep in mind that alot of what you are reading is false. I would be against my daughters reading many so called 'classics' because they are full of foreign beleifs, whether it is beleif in the power of man or beleif in false forces of the world. They only true beleif is Torah.
    I once heard a speech from a Rabbi in which he said that before Mashiach comes, all false beleifs will need to be crushed, so Liberalism, Conservatism and even these greek philosophies which are false will go the way of Socialism and all failed 'isms' before it.

    Posted 1 year ago #
  40. dotnetter
    Member

    (sorry for going a bit off topic...)

    Posted 1 year ago #
  41. zahavasdad
    zahavasoneluckygirl

    MR

    Did you go to a more modern school or more Charedi?

    The more modern schools do teach Spanish, Spanish is probably the most useful of all especially in the NYC area. Its not as unpleaant as Spanish teachers in High school teach it.

    Posted 1 year ago #
  42. MorahRach
    Member

    I didn't mean that's it's my useful ZD. I meant for me ( jokingly) because I just couldn't grasp it. But science ( I was a bio major until I decided to study education, I was a psychology minor , also useful. Everything I learned has been useful. A bit more modern but still a orthodox yeshiva.

    Posted 1 year ago #
  43. akuperma
    Member

    dotnetter: I am fully aware that modern western education no longer features the classics. You can tell by the quality of the writing. People like Adam Smith (who invented modern economics) and Benjamin Franklin (who when he wasn't the leading politician of his era, and one of the leading businessmen, was also one of the leading scientists of the 18th century), not to mention people like George Washington (a major player in agricultural research, not to mention a few other things) and Thomas Jefferson - all had "classical" educations. Their proficiency is other subjects including all the ones we consider to "practical" were largely self-taught. The point is that a kid with a pure yeshivish (i.e. studying the Jewish classics) background who wants to enter a career is in no way prevented from doing so, and maybe better off than the typical public school who has been learning how to have self-esteem while being politically correct without mastering either specific academic skills or developing the ability to learn on his own.

    Posted 1 year ago #
  44. zahavasdad
    zahavasoneluckygirl

    MR

    Its actually fairly simple to learn Spanish, Its alot easier than Hebrew.

    The hardest part is remembering the Male and Female tenses of words which english does not have (But Hebrew does) Once you get that is just a matter of memorizing the words, and Spanish unlike Hebrew the words have a direct translation into english. Hebrew has far fewer words so you have to figure out what the word really means by how the person used it.

    A simple example the words Kador in Hebrew can mean a Ball, Pills or Drugs, but you have to figure that out

    Posted 1 year ago #
  45. Veltz Meshugener
    K'shmo kain hu

    AKuperma, it seems like Orthodox Jews like to believe that secular education is a monolithic exercise, in which there is one school with metal detectors at the door, pervasive immorality, social promotion, skyrocketing failure rates, and overwhelming malaise. But there's not just one goy who's getting one education. High-level academic performance at good schools develops specific skills as well as specific knowledge, and the people who would like to see more secular education aren't arguing in favor of terrible secular education but in favor of good secular education. But even if the cost of going all out doesn't justify the return, it doesn't follow that the frum world should expend no effort at all on secular education.
    Besides, you're extrapolating from a few individuals who are by definition gifted, to reflect on everyone. Possibly the person who will go on to be history's greatest economist had an affinity for economics so strong that he could have taught it to himself; although arguably there were fifty other potential greatest economists who were never introduced to economics, spent four years in kollel, and ended up working in a grocery. Either way, the average person stands to gain from education, both as a general matter and as a method of earning a livelihood/developing interests/succeeding at life.

    Posted 1 year ago #
  46. Confucious
    Joseph

    1) The Yeshivas in Brooklyn outperform NYC public school students on standardized tests. (High School Regents, SATs, etc.)

    2) Like someone mentioned above, Volozhin closed its doors rather than submit to giving the government required secular studies program. We are on solid ground in minimizing secular studies.

    Posted 1 year ago #
  47. gavra_at_work
    caution

    I once heard a speech from a Rabbi in which he said that before Mashiach comes, all false beleifs will need to be crushed, so Liberalism, Conservatism and even these greek philosophies which are false will go the way of Socialism and all failed 'isms' before it.

    And as I like to add, "Yeshivishism, Charadism & Chassidishism as well".

    Posted 1 year ago #
  48. akuperma
    Member

    Veltz Meshugener: Any good education will work. It doesn't matter if you are learning Greek and Latin (and all educated westerners did in the 18th century), or Hebrew and Yiddish. Being educated isn't a function of which odd facts you'll never need in real life, but rather of having the skills you need. A good yeshiva education gives you those skills.

    When the goyim switched from "classical" to "modern" subjects, we considered it and the rabbanim chose to stick to our "classical" subjects. Time has proven them right. The goyim's schools do not appear to be producing students with a love of learning, or respect for their subjects. The schools are famous for things we'ld rather not be known for. The vulgarity and crudeness of their culture speaks volumes on how well this educational experiment worked. Their schools are infamous for behaviors of the sort we don't discuss here - all resulting from their curriculum. And it turns out the grduates lack the skills needed for careers, and have trouble writing English beyond the level of a tweet. Our rabbanim were correct to emphasize the "classics". Learning specific skills without a thorough grounding in your own heritage leave you a intellectual zombie.

    If someone needs them, the rest can be learned. Increasingly "distance education" is become the norm. Virtually all introductory college courses are covered by the AP/CLEP system.
    Even when discussing schools that radically reject secular subjects, we have nothing to be ashamed of or to apologize for.

    Posted 1 year ago #
  49. zahavasdad
    zahavasoneluckygirl

    The Volozhin closing is a myth. They Taught secular subjects there before the closing, the documents prove that.

    Posted 1 year ago #
  50. dotnetter
    Member

    gavra_at_work - "...Yeshivishism, Charadism & Chassidishism as well"

    If you can prove that part of their belief system is neged HaTorah then you would be correct to include them. Notice, I did not say their actions, I said their belief system.

    An action that is neged Hatorah is called a sin, not a false belief.

    Posted 1 year ago #

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