As acrimonious debates continue to rage in academic circles about the less than stellar performance of our nation’s schools, our attention now turns to yeshiva (Jewish day school) curricula in New York State. Several years ago, the media exposed the shocking fact that in some Charedi schools, the secular education in which they were providing their students was subpar at best and totally non-existent at worse. These yeshivos (mostly located in Brooklyn and Monsey) were only offering a rigorous program of religious studies as they prepare their students to confine themselves in their insular communities without having the requisite knowledge to pursue an academic or vocational career.
A new measure that was recently included in the state’s $168 billion budget was written specifically to lower the bar on educational requirements of Chasidic yeshivas.
It should be noted that New York City’s department of education launched an investigation in 2015 on the curriculum issue in Chasidic yeshivos but the results have yet to be released. Having said that, a clarification of the facts is most definitely in order.
The new measure says that students should be afforded the knowledge to write an essay; be fluent in “mathematical functions and operations”; be able to “interpret and analyze primary texts to identify and explore important events in history” and to use the information “to construct written arguments.”
There is no doubt that Chasidic yeshivos should seriously give consideration to providing this kind of essential education to their students, but it should also be noted that it would be a grave mistake for the government of New York State to lump all yeshivos into one exclusive basket.
The fact is that there are a panoply of yeshivos in New York State and a large percentage of them double as college prepatory schools in that they have a proven track record in providing a top shelf secular curriculum. Many students who graduate from such schools as Yeshiva of Flatbush and Magen David High School and others like them go on to attend the nation’s Ivy League schools and subsequently take their place as society’s emerging leaders.
Providing premiere educational opportunities for their students has been the unwavering credo of the vast majority of yeshivos in NYC and has been since their inception almost 100 years ago. The very few egregious aberrations to this timeless tradition of learning should not sully the impeccable reputations of those yeshivos that have worked assiduously to provide our community, our city, our country and the world with the finest leaders in business, finance, academia, medicine and culture.