Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

21 Iyar 5764 - May 12, 2004 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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Shema Yisrael Torah Network

Opinion & Comment
Arguing with Chareidi Educational Success

by Mordecai Plaut

For an educational system, one important measure of success is if its graduates become functional, productive members of society. By this measure, the chareidi educational system has been very successful, as the overwhelming majority of the graduates find themselves fully prepared for life. They establish homes and take a place in society no less smoothly, and certainly more frequently and consistently, than the graduates of any other educational system. Although there are no academic studies that have produced quantified results, the overall success is clearly evident in the homes and streets of communities like Modi'in Illit, Beitar, Beit Shemesh and Elad that are comprised exclusively of the products of the Israeli chareidi educational system.

To be sure there are difficulties and failures. Our system faces the challenges of constant growth from within and some aspects of the flux of modern society from without. However, the problems are certainly no greater than those of other educational systems, and the impression is that they are much smaller. They are discussed openly because, for one, now that the chareidi system has become so large, bli ayin hora, even a small percentage of problems is a large absolute number. Also, it is the mark of a healthy, vigorous system that it seeks to confront and overcome its failures and not to excuse them away.

But there is no way to argue with the general success. Thousands of homes are established yearly. In due time, kein yirbu, families are raised and the children are sent to the same types of institutions that their parents attended. That clearly shows that the parents were at least satisfied with their own education. The communities themselves are model communities.

A typical chareidi young man or woman is a mature, responsible individual whose mind is active, agile and capable of learning and growth. If he or she chooses to learn a trade or profession at the proper time, they have the intellectual development to do so, even demanding professions. Learning Torah is itself an intellectually demanding occupation, and this is where most are oriented. This is well-known.

By this measure, a Torah education is wildly successful. It clearly develops people's minds to a level that is at least comparable to any other educational approach. Although there is the normal variation among individuals that is found in any human population, mental abilities like the ability to analyze a complex situation, the ability to synthesize many elements, and the ability to produce original responses to given problems, are very highly developed by the products of Torah learning.

Another measure, in its own terms, of the success of an educational system is if the graduates turn out as the molders and shapers of the system want them to turn out. By this measure too, the chareidi educational system has been successful for the last generation, as the overwhelming majority of the graduates continue along the path laid out for them by the rabbonim who comprise the responsible boards of all chareidi educational institutions.

Again, this does not mean that there are not problems and that there is no room for improvement, but the performance of the system should prove that the system itself should be the source of improvement from within. The chareidi system is not broken.

The people least qualified to improve the success of the chareidi system are those who run the general educational system in the State of Israel. There is violence in the schools and the graduates have not learned what the system is set up to teach them. Their skills are poor and their ties to their upbringing are weak. They seek their future in the mountains of Tibet or the fleshpots of Los Angeles.

It is particularly absurd when the claim is made that it is for our own good. Shouldn't a chareidi teacher "benefit" from the latest fads and fantasies of the distinguished professors who do such a "good" job of running the Western world? Training teachers will certainly benefit them, that is true. But they are not telling us to train our teachers; they are telling us that they want to train and certify our teachers -- and supervise our curriculums, and who knows where it will end?

We know where it would end, chas vesholom, if gedolei Yisroel now led by Maran HaRav Eliashiv, did not stand firmly against all attempts to interfere.

As the Shinui-inspired government officials attempt to argue with our success, we must, besiyata deShmaya, make sure that we win the argument.

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