Can we have an adult conversation about education?

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    “For everyone proclaiming that Jewish education is “just fine”, what objective studies or reports can you present to support your position?”

    2,000+ years of survival in exile despite severe persecution.

    Where is the Roman Empire, the Persian Empire, the Greek Empire and countless other empires?


    “I guarantee that if a hispanic “latinx” community wanted to keep their kids speaking spanish, and have a spanish speaking school, they would not be treated this way. They would be appreciated as diverse, etc.. no matter what the results of their system would be.”

    Not if they had little to no math, social studies, and science.


    “I guarantee that if a hispanic “latinx” community wanted to keep their kids speaking spanish, and have a spanish speaking school, they would not be treated this way. They would be appreciated as diverse, etc.. no matter what the results of their system would be.

    But if Jews speak yiddish and hebrew, and run businesses, and don’t father children and run away….that’s not ok.”

    NYC public school tech math, science and a host of other subjects in Spanish for members of the Hispanic community.

    Only the Big Bad Jews are not allowed to teach all secular subjects in a non-English language — such as in Yiddish.


    @ ubiquitin If you legitimately don’t feal it necessary to teach secular subjects, than don’t. It’s a principled decision that you can defend all the way to the Supreme Court. The Amish, for example, won in the Supreme Court when they argued that for religious reasons, their children only attend school until 8th grade.
    Buts lets be honest to ourselves and others about what we are doing, and why.


    “Buts lets be honest to ourselves and others about what we are doing, and why.”

    Literally what I’ve been saying


    The answer is no we cannot have an adult conversation about education. The reason is that this is not about education. It is about some disaffected former students who found a way to get back at a system that failed them. The fact that the system needs or does not need improvement is irrelevant to the discussion. Most mosdos that are frum have a Rov/Rebbe giving guidance, or at least a Vaad Hachinuch which makes major decisions.
    Far be it from me to question a torah authority for the decisions that they make within their own mosdos. But please don’t for one second think that this issue is about education. It isn’t, and it never was.


    ymr – my apologies, I wasn’t clear. When I said that they “don’t take them,” I was referring to the way they take them. If someone fills in random answers, they’re not taking a test; they’re filling in random answers without even reading the questions.

    In chasidishe yeshivos, the standardized tests are answered at random. They do not ATTEMPT to take the test, so pointing to their 99% fail rate is misinformation.

    This fact is easily verifiable; for an “investigative” reporter, it’s shameless bias and cherry picking.


    @ AviraDeArah So do you think that if they were retested, the results would be different? Or that a different method needs to be used to assess their proficiency in basic skills? If the latter, what would you suggest?
    @ Eddie I would suggest that you have a frank, respectful discussion with you Rav about what aspects of chinuch are determined with consultation with Daas Torah, and which decisions are made by administrators. I think you’ll find there is more room for parental concern and involvement is Torah education then you assume.s


    @ ujm Yeshiva Education today is different then it was 40 years, much less 2000. Most people consider that an improvement.


    I’m going to start with four strong opinions and base the rest of what I’m saying on those.

    • A proper frum education is necessary
    • A secular education is necessary in this American golus
    • A school can be very successful at both of these
    • The secular education given by very many frum schools is very inadequate or non-existent

    The main sensible argument I’ve heard against this is “Parents have a right to teach their kids how they want and it seems to work”. I would say no! As frum Yidden we absolutely do not believe in “rights” and “personal choice”. Parents have a responsibility to educate their children properly and that includes also in secular studies. And no, it doesn’t seem to work either. Many people who graduate from theses Yeshivos are forced to fight for a small number of jobs in the frum community and rely on their wives and government aid to just barely survive poverty. It’s not even a choice for people anymore. Many feel pressured by friends, family, neighbors, and the looming prospect of shidduchim leaving only the “just Limudei Kodesh” schools as the only available options.

    Now it doesn’t matter what the NY Slimes or the moisers said. There is a huge problem with Yeshivos in New York and New Jersey that are under the mistaken impression that the only way to have a proper frum education is to forgoe a proper secular one. The fact that this has been going on for so long means that they were hanging by a thread and just waiting for something to trigger repercussions. And here those repercussions are.

    In my opinion, the frum oilom should have worked with the government better on this. They could have taken say, Chaim Berlin, for example, which is probably scores near the top on most standardized secular metrics and said that this is the baseline secular education that Yeshivos would follow. What this would have resulted in would be perceived as the Litvish and Yeshiva working crowd using the government to put pressure on certain institutions which would be potentially bad. But the alternative is (with all due respect to the Agudah, Rabbi Hoffman, and legions of other talmidei chachamim who have weighed in on this topic) a united front towards suicide. Right now, Rabbonim and askanim are in vain trying to convince the world that since Chaim Berlin does well on the Regents, therefore the government should back off from the Yeshivos that don’t even teach the kids to speak English. Which no one accepts, so now we have to deal with a government that wants to force all Yeshivos to not only study reading, riting, and rithmatic, but also gender studies, heretical philosophy, and comparative religion.


    Ymr – a better metric would be to look at the classwork assignments,and not just the 2 cherry picked papers they found which fit their narrative. I taught at a satmar-type school, and i had kids writing cute poems in, i would say, 4th grade level english, when they were in 6th. That’s pretty good for a 2nd language. Their math skills were very sharp; they did mental math faster than i did.

    And that’s just English. Their first language, which they are all literate and fluent in, is yiddish.

    My kids wrote entire grammen in yiddish, short stories…their kodesh homework included writing assignments…the times omits the language arts that is definitely gained in yiddish.


    I also agree that in the finer details – exactly how much to learn, which books, etc… it’s not the rebbe or the dayan who decides that. But the overall approach, is definitely guided by their daas torah.


    As an addendum to my previous comment, a lot of the money and success people perceive in communities that don’t have a secular education come from outside Big Contributors. The big shuls, the fancy sifre Torah, and the large weddings are usually the result of some one who went to college and did well in business that gives his money to the moised. Occasionally you have some local k’nocker in real estate, but it’s very rare.


    “A secular education is necessary in this American golus”

    It is no more necessary than a Polish and Russian education was necessary for Yidden in Poland or Russia. We did without learning Polish history or Russian history and we did without science.


    Yseribus: The rich Chasidim did NOT go to college. Any exception is rare.


    @ AviraDeArah I don’t think anyone is saying that the boys are not bright. The question is that since the state has a legitimate interest in an educated citizenry, what is an objective way of determining that they are receiving a basic education.

    Regarding the language issue, some Amish operate their own schools where instruction is completely in Dutch / German. Others send their children to the local school district, which finds and hires teachers that speak Dutch / German, and work with the Amish community to create an acceptable curriculum As I mentioned, the Amish argued and won in the Supreme Court for their children to leave school after 8th grade
    The Amish are firm in their religious principles and fought for what mattered most to them, but otherwise adhered to their responsibilities under the law.
    There is precedent for finding accomodation for a religious community.


    Yserb, go to Williamsburg and stop reading blogs. You’ll see that everything you’re saying is bogus.

    The average chasidishe father did not go to college but went into business.

    Satmar had an expo last month with 300 chasidishe-run businesses. The organizer, yoeli fried (himself a successful business owner who learned marketing from reading food ads) said that over 1,000 applied, but there was no room.

    These are businesses that can afford booths in an expo.

    And they all hire dozens of chasidishe yidden.

    It’s not “here and there”, it’s literally everywhere – chasidim do well in business; i knew that before i was a torah jew and my view of chasidim was that they were backward and weird. I knew that they were big in real estate, Jewelry, retail, etc…

    It’s the opposite – the ones who go to college are salaried and struggle to make ends meet like the majority of the litvishe world.


    As for your tirade on parental responsibility… You’re not an authority over them. Your introductory opinions aren’t binding on them. Get over yourself.


    > They didn’t interview a single average chasidishe businessman – that’s where they mostly go. And they’re very, very successful in business. They’re also very creative;

    This is true, but both sides – NYT and bloggers lack hard data in support of their position. Say, NYT quotes millions going to schools but do not divide it per student. Arguments here are similar baseless.
    Maybe we can try producing some numbers that will show something that all sides can acknowledge?

    Standardized tests would be one. I don’t buy Avira’s argument about minhag of filling tests randomly. If they knew the material, they would fill it out. But maybe they were studying probability theory…. Some of the schools my kids went did state or private school tests but did not disclose results to parents, maybe others know.

    There are also some zip codes that are mostly Jewish. We can look at census data: their average incomes, poverty rates, welfare rates – we would need to correct for age and family size. Anyone wants to start?

    Also, a small number of yeshivos (that register as educational like YU?) report federally required data for colleges, here are several numbers – percentage of graduates that earn >= 28K/year 10 years afer, I think. Of course, kollel, motherhood, and undisclosed incomes might have effect, but at least these are known numbers:

    for comparison:

    YESHIVA UNIVERSITY 0.798 (500 out of 4,000)

    YESHIVATH VIZNITZ 0.127 (out of 4,000 total colleges, there are 10 lower than this)


    @ Always If it is the decimal is representing a percentage that earn more than or equal to $28,000, than for YU should be 3193 out of 4000. For Lakewood, it would be
    1876 out of 4000 above the poverty line.
    My question would be Turo, at 53.1% Do they have a higher number of graduates going into lower paying fields, like social work, or choosing to be part time after marriage?
    @ Aveira Not everyone is made for entrepreneurship, and many of those who committ to it fail multiple times before possibly succeeding. The point of providing a basic education is that everyone has choises available to them.


    I wonder if there is a long game strategy to undermine the yeshivos that lay hidden behind the idea of compulsory education.

    A yeshiva with a staff for secular studies is twice the budget, or the MO dayschool model.

    MO folks have to get very involved jobs and commonly both spouses have to work to be able to pay for these schools. Typically these neighborhoods are very pricey too so professional status precedes everything in life.

    Sadly MO is emphasizing Derech Eretz a lot more than Torah, for the sake of necessity at this point. I’m watching it happen to a Shul nearby where every young family is working themselves into the ground trying to make ends meet and always looking to move somewhere less expensive. Look a Boston, it’s MO community is shelled out because of this very problem. Multiple MO Shula there only have lingering aging communities left because the younger crowd left, became more frum or fried out.

    Mandatory secular studies being foisted upon all yeshivos would create this same problem for the chassidishe crowd, if they complied at all. I really wonder if that is the long game in these efforts.


    “It’s the opposite – the ones who go to college are salaried and struggle to make ends meet like the majority of the litvishe world.”

    This is so wrong, it’s embarrassing. The “majority” of the people in the Litvishe world that went to college do not struggle to meet ends meet. I don’t know where you live but if you think that Chassidim are super wealthy while their Litivishe college friends are struggling you must live on Planet AviraDeArah.


    In reply to YM Ribiat. In my position as a Yeshiva Secular studies principal, I think that I am better qualified to venture an opinion on that. I have found that in the over 20 years that I have been in the business most decisions that Yeshivos make in issues related to curriculum have been made by the schools (usually in-house) halachic authority. This is generally so they can answer to their parent body.


    AAQ, i was there – go teach in satmar and find out. I saw it, my fellow teachers saw it… it’s just a metzius


    LostSpark> if there is a long game strategy to undermine the yeshivos that lay hidden behind the idea of compulsory education.

    I doubt that. Idea of universal education arrived to US with Puritans and worked well (comparative to the alternative). I listened with kids to Ellis Island recordings of Jews saying how happy they were when they were able to go to a free high school (one girl’s father was saving for years for her high school back in Poland). Jewish schools in NY area were able to not be fully complaint due to their political efforts. When you rely on politics, there is always a political risk, especially when you are still a minority…


    @AviraDeArah Having lived in a very Chassidishe place for a long time, (and being intimately familiar with some of the current narisch trend amongst Litvaks to ignore secular studies) I’m going to strongly disagree with you on that one. From personal experience, only the most successful of Yidden who had no secular education make it in the business world. It takes a huge amount of Hatzlacha to even get to the point that your average desk sitting businessman gets to in a year or two. And the vast majority never reach it and are literally fighting over scraps as to who gets the Meishiv Second Seder job, or answering phones at a frum mortgage broker for $15 an hour.

    Mind you, these are not the people I referred to that put the money into the communities. A בִּיג קאָנטרְבְּיוּטַר is generally someone who grew up outside the community and becomes infatuated with their lifestyle. Walk around any overtly massive shul and tell me how many of the names on the plaques did not go to high school.


    Lost: A yeshiva with a staff for secular studies is twice the budget, or the MO dayschool model.

    Your following description is similar to what I see in MO model. It is (also) not sustainable. Both parents exhausted working full time to pay for schools, kids seeing this are not so excited, and all other problems given that not all kids are observant in school …

    As to the cost of general studies in schools, I think it can be gradually improved at limited cost, provided there is a will and recognition of the problem. Use computer-based classes, focus on those kids whose parents want to give them extra general studies, obtain government funds for general studies.


    Avira > i was there – go teach in satmar and find out

    Right, but we need to learn to defend ourselves without experiencing everything ourselves. Your arguments are full of self-confidence, but YSerbius disagrees. Any possible way you can construct a verifiable argument?


    Lost > it happen to a Shul nearby where every young family is working themselves into the ground trying to make ends meet

    In my areas, there are schools where both modern professionals and Jewish professionals sent their kids. I presume about 40% of modern family tuition is paid to support the other group. Jewish professionals contribute by working as teachers for low salaries, and during summer – for camps.


    Yserbius, the changes in economy in last 100 years are such that rather than having a small number of business parnasim and lots of poor yidden, we have a large group of middle-class self-supporting people who are not ultra-rich, unless they are in high-tech or finance. More observant community kept more of the old structure. I don’t know what would be the totals. Census numbers might tell you some of the story.


    a note o the term – “Secular” means unrelated to religion. I think this is coming from a different religion and is apikoirosus.

    Hashem created the Newton’s apple and Mendel’s peas and taught us to count days. A legitimate discussion of whether we should spent time marveling at Hashem’s creation, finishing what he gave us l’asos, or just focus on the seforim that he gave is should not confuse us about the Creator of the World.


    ymribiat, yes, these numbers require more to be analyzed. These are just the first I found.
    yes it is 0-1 share.

    more from the same list.


    @ eddie “This is generally so they can answer to their parent body.”
    Please elaborate. What are parents expectations, what constraints do schools face?
    Also, what would be an objective way if determining whether students in yeshiva boys schools are getting a basic education in secular subjects? Standardized tests or some other metric?


    What I meant was that the parents, in general do not want to hear that decisions are made by an administrator. They choose a school because of the torah philosophy that they follow (this excludes out-of-town, where there is one community school).I choose the school that I send my children to based on the fact that I respect the hanhala
    ah of that school. If not, I shouldn’t send there. This includes in a chassidic community. My school was considering a major change in its program. When consulted, I told the hanhallah that it is their school, and they can do what they want. But understand that the type of boys that come will change. A school is a business. Its profits are successful students, and it markets education. The difficult part of running a school is finding the balance between what the parents want and your educational/torah philosophy.
    In response to your second point, in theory standardized testing would be a good metric. However, as in most things, theory does not come out in practice. The regents are a good example. They should show how a child is doing, but if the scores are low, the state just changes the curve. All that standardized testing gives you is comparative information
    ; how your child is doing relative to the other students in the state. The issue is that I cannot figure out the inherent value of a secular education. The mark of a successful school should be based on where the students are 10 years later. If I am happy with the results, it was a success. I know parents that thought that their child was a failure because he became a doctor and not a lawyer. (this is a true story.) In the public school system there are specialty schools. A child has to be above average to get into those schools. There are always issues as to which students can get ahead by going to those schools. I don’t understand the issue, just mandate all schools to be on that level. Obviously not all parents want such a level, and not all students can maintain such levels. The point is, when choosing a school for your child, look at the results of the schools in question and use that as a starting point. Like a restaurant, if you don’t like the food, don’t go there. It is ridiculous to think that you should start demonstrations outside the store to force change.


    @ eddiee
    Alot to unpack.
    Your experience is that while administrators make recommendations, the final decisions about the school are made by הנהלה.
    But if parents dont like the decisions, they have the option of sending their child elsewhere.
    I don’t think that its accurate to say that parents are happy with the secular education in a yeshiva or else they would send them to a modern orthodox or public school. There are alot of factors that parents consider when choosing a school and considering alternatives.



    You have a nice passionate post, but it might be in the wrong thread.
    tHis is about Chasidish schools.
    The one comment you made about Cahsidish schools “If not, I shouldn’t send there. This includes in a chassidic community” Is not correct.
    It is not like A Satmar chossid has a choice.

    You can argue, too bad thats the way it is.
    But you cant argue if you don’t like it don’t send there.


    YMribiat as with anything, parents prioritize what is most important to them. In order for a school to be ideal for a parent , there would be only one person consulted for any decisions to be made. That person would be the parent him/herself. We find that no two parents have exactly the same outlook on any major topic. we all try to find the school that most identifies with our philosophy.
    Ubiquitin: Call me naive but I thought that following daas torah means subjugating your opinion in hashkafic matters to your choice of Hashkafic mentor. If the Rebbe of that particular sect feels that there shouldn’t be secular studies in any amount, why are you disagreeing? and if you choose to disagree, then why would you want to send to the school that is run on the foundations of his hashkafa. I wont send my child to Satmar, and I also wont send to Yeshiva of Flatbush. Not that I know that they are wrong, but rather Why would I choose a school and Hashkafic mentor that I don’t agree with?


    I taught in a chasidishe school in Williamsburg which was about 30% satmar. No one’s chaining them to specific schools – most Williamsburg chadorim have the same hashkofa standards.


    ubiq, if a Satmar Chosid is unhappy with the Satmar school choices he can send his children to a non-Satmar school. If that means changing Chasiduses (and I’m not sure that is even necessary) to another, say to Vien, Bobov, Stolin, Ger, or any of dozens of other large or small Chasiduses (or try Oberlander or Yeshivish for that matter), that too is an option.


    are there any tests for Torah subjects that allow comparing schools and monitor student progress?


    no not really
    As Avira correctly points out “most Williamsburg chadorim have the same hashkofa standards.”

    you suggest “(or try Oberlander or Yeshivish for that matter), that too is an option” thats weak argument, to get a kid a basic education required by law, they should have to change theirentire lifestyle, lose their community, home friends, uproot their children.
    sure its POSSIBLE. but to flippantly say “that too is an option” no not a practical one. Edidee tseems to think its as simple as if you dont like Torah Vodas just go to chaim Berlin or Torah Temima. It doesn’t work like that.

    “Call me naive”
    I wasn’t going to , but yes a little – at least vis a vis Chasidim (and about daas Torah)

    To answer your questions
    why are you disagreeing?”
    – I assume you mean generic ” you” since I didn’t disagree with anything , but I’ll answer for the Satmar parent who wants to chnage to school either 1) . Because I think he is wrong 2) I struggled with a job and think that if my kid speaks English it will be better or 3) its the law. OF course there are other reaosn and more than one can be true.

    “and if you choose to disagree, then why would you want to send to the school that is run on the foundations of his hashkafa.”
    Because I am part of the community, its the only community I know, its where I live its where my other 9 children are part of

    ” I wont send my child to Satmar, and I also wont send to Yeshiva of Flatbush.”
    Good for you. Same!

    “Not that I know that they are wrong, but rather Why would I choose a school and Hashkafic mentor that I don’t agree with?”

    Lots of reasons. its a good price, its geographically close to your home , you are part of that chasidus

    Please let me know if you have any other questions


    No point in discussing how to change old schools. Won’t happen because of talk. Talk about how to start new schools that align with what you want. That is far more likely to happen. Particularly if you are willing to do the work and put up the money


    @ Always Ask Questions…. Except for that one


    Maybe Israeli school have some basic literacy tests in Hebrew and Chumash? Maybe those can be adjusted for generic observant public? I think every parent should get access to test results for his own kid and for the class in general, both in kodesh & chol, to make rationale decisions.. There is also research how to evaluate teacher quality using test results: you don’t look at just the class test as it is affected by who goes to that class, but you measure comparative improvement for each students from year to year.


    It is a business trivia – you can not improve what you do not measure. Thus, tests should be first step that will motivate to go further and free us from positive and negative biases.


    I would like to make a disclaimer. I also have my ideas to improve education in various mosdos. I also don’t understand how or why they do or don’t do certain things. I only question anyone’s right to demand that they change the way they operate. It is no different than me going into your grocery store and demanding that you have no right not to sell Cholov Stam products because you are the most convenient store and I want it. What gives you the right to foist your chumros on me? ( BTW I don’t eat cholov stam, it was just an example) Obviously this is ridiculous.


    Ubiquitin- If a member of a particular chassius (I don’t want people to think that I am beating up on Satmar, so lets just use the generic term “chassidic”) wants to educate his child in a manner that is diametrically opposed to the chassidic philosophy, I would tend to believe that there is a larger issue at hand. For a school to start teaching secular studies properly, it requres more than hiring a few qualified teachers, buying books and allocating time. You are changing the entire outlook of the school. I would venture that we could compare it to asking a mainstram yeshiva to institute a “don’t ask don’t tell” policy.(Which obviously wouldn’t fly). In addition, schooling is almost always a factor in where people choose to live. I personally send my children to a school that necessitates traveling between an hour and an hour and a half every day. This is because I feel that the chinuch is more in line with my values than the closer ones. This is my choice. I have no right to demand the closer schools change the way they do things. As far as price, there is an expression” You get what you pay for”. You want to send to a school because the tuition is lower, and then you feel that you can make demands on them to change the way they do things??? It sort of smacks a little of hubris.



    “to get a kid a basic education required by law, they should have to change theirentire lifestyle, lose their community, home friends, uproot their children.”

    Three points, each independent but all important —

    a. Satmar parents (while remaining Satmar) sending their boys to Vien, Chasan Sofer, Stolin or another Chasidish mosod that gives the Regents and/or otherwise has a notably more advanced secular studies program than Satmar, is not even close to a major change in lifestyle — and there’s surely no loss of community or friends (anymore than any child changing from one school to another). This IS a practical option.

    b. Even if the above weren’t an option (or if you assert that it isn’t a viable difference), the fact of the matter is that being a part of the Satmar community by definition means forgoing any serious secular education. This is part and parcel of being Satmar. Just like you can’t be Satmar and still go to the movie theater to watch (even) “G” rated cartoon/animated Hollywood movies designed for children — because that’s a contradiction to being Satmar; you also cannot send your children to an Orthodox High School that is designed to get the students at an educational level to have a chance to get accepted into Harvard or other universities (whether or not they pursue that option.)

    c. If the family changed to another Chasidus, say Bobov, Stolin, Vien or whatever, such a change does NOT entail “changing their entire lifestyle, losing their community, home friends, and uprooting their children.” It, too, is a viable option.


    “It is no different than me going into your grocery store and demanding that you have no right not to sell Cholov Stam products”

    Agreed. And that’s a right you absolutely have. When Stella Dora switched to ou d many many people complained called in etc . They aren’t required to just say ok let’s buy other cookies.

    All the more so when the law is on their side.
    When Ben and jerries stoped selling in Israel gues what happened? If Ami were to start printing pictures of women do you think stores in williamsburg would say “ok that’s their right”. Of course it’s their right. And it’s my right to try to change it. Again,especially, if the law is on the parents side

    3 points all independent none really true. Particularly b since we ate t talking about “serious” education we ate talking about basic education at the elementary school level which they did have more of a few decades ago. So the argument thst this is “part of satmar” like the argument thst Satmar could just go to chasan sofer I just not true, and that R Moshe was “very against” bas mitzvahs is just not true


    ujm I left of my last line,
    unlike Bas mitzvah I can cite chapter/verse showing you that you are wrong. Here I can’t Im familliar with Satmar, I lived most my life in Boro PArk, I went To a Chasidish Yehiva, and have spoken to several about this, (They laughed out loud about the idea of sending kids to Stolin or chasan Sofer is a practical option that wouldnt have social ramifications including shiduchim for siblings) , but I grant that there is not much reason for you to take my word for it I cant exactly cite their addresses

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