Thursday, January 14, 2010

What Are The Goals Of Yeshiva Education?

In order to solve a problem, it is often useful to take a step back and see the forest for the trees.  Focusing too intently on the details of the problem can make one lose sight of what exactly is the problem itself.  Obviously, yeshiva tuition is far too expensive for the vast majority of parents who send their children to yeshiva.  But, before we examine various cost saving measures or start finger pointing, it is important to consider and ask ourselves: Why do we send our children to yeshiva in the first place?  In other words, what are the goals of yeshiva education?  What are we hoping to gain or accomplish?  I believe that the answers to these questions are critical to how we approach the problem.  In particular, I believe that part of the problem is that parents have vastly different goals and therefore cannot find consensus on a solution.

In no particular order, below is a list of 40 "aspirational" goals often cited for the Modern Orthodox yeshiva system (Note that some are likely not fulfilled by any yeshiva.  Also note that I chose 40 to focus on the most important).  In a subsequent post I will look at how well my yeshiva education fulfilled these goals as well as whether these goals are reasonable given the current crisis.

Goals of a Modern Orthodox Yeshiva Education
1) Provide religious Judaic studies
2) Ensure that children remain frum
3) Teach HOW to learn
4) Teach Hebrew language skills
5) Teach practical halacha
6) Teach davening skills and the meaning of the prayers
7) Make frumkeit (and Judaism) interesting and engaging
8) Inspire children to be active in Jewish life
9) Create a love of Israel
10) Teach that we should love all Jews regardless of affiliation or practice
11) Teach (and teach by example) midot and how a Jew should behave
12) Impart a memorable and lasting body of Torah knowledge
13) Learn significant portions of Torah, Neviim, and Ketuvim
14) Become versed in gemara learning
15) Become familiar with "big name" commentaries and "famous" interpretations
16) Learn to bench and say brachot
17) Be immersed in a Jewish environment
18) Learn Jewish history
19) Provide secular English studies
20) Ensure students earn top SAT scores
21) Ensure a large percentage of kids go Ivy League or equivalent universities
22) Ensure a large percentage of kids go to YU or Stern
23) Ensure a large percentage of kids go to extra yeshiva study in Israel
24) Provide a large number of AP courses
25) Provide a large number of extracurricular groups and activities
26) Have top-notch computer labs
27) Have top-notch science labs
28) Have accredited teachers with advanced degrees in their field
29) Have large gyms and other sports and exercise related fields, courts, tracks, etc.
30) Have kosher cafeterias and/or lunch programs
31) Provide excellent math and science education
32) Provide excellent American and world history and social studies education
33) Teach strong English language and grammar skills
34) Educate children so they are well-versed in English literature
35) Separate children from non-Jews
36) Ensure children will not intermarry
37) Ensure proper separation of the sexes (even if the school is co-ed)
38) Help create a "yeshiva culture" that unites frum Jews
39) Create bonds with rabbis and classmates that last a lifetime
40) Inspire children to consider aliyah when older


Lion of Zion said...

Honestly, no. 36 (preventing intermarriage) is the only real reason i can think of that it will be worth spending so many thousands of dollars on a jewish high scool.

just some other comments

"Teach that we should love all Jews regardless of affiliation or practice"

and goyyim too. i'm appalled that my son has been coming home saying nasty things about goyyim (and chassidim and fat kids as well)

"Learn significant portions of Torah, Neviim, and Ketuvim"

significant portions? in 12 years they should be able to cover the entire tanach at least twice.

"Teach Hebrew language skills"

skills? we're talking 12+ years here. how about nothing short of fluency? i consider it a scam that in 12+ years most day school grads are functionally illiterate in hebrew.

"Inspire children to consider aliyah when older"

most certainly! but in the meantime we live in america and our kids should learn to be civic-minded toward fellow citizens and honor our great republic. (marching band starts playing "God Bless America" now).

Tuition Talk said...

Yes. Probably #36 followed by #2 (Ensure that children remain frum).

I agree that the yeshivas fail miserably at many of these goals. A followup post will address that.

Do you feel I left anything else off the list? I included many goals that I personally thought were silly or unnecessary simply because I see many schools doing just this and parents seem to like this.

Btw, your point about respect for non-Jews, and in fact all people, is well-taken.

justajew said...

I would add:
- build social skills
- provide a network of friends (related but not identical to above)

Lion of Zion said...

as someone who is increasingly liking the public/charter school option (under the right conditions), i'm wondering if the quesion in your title should really be "What Are The Goals Of Yeshiva Education That Can't be Provided by Alternate Modes of Education?"

Tuition Talk said...

Well, I think that in order to look at the issue objectively (or at least rationally), you need to see what goals yeshiva is fulfilling and what goals they are not (and how well).

From there, you can compare alternatives while factoring in the cost difference.

To be overly simplistic, yeshiva doesn't teach Hebrew language fluency and costs $15K a year. Hebrew language charter school does teach Hebrew language fluency and costs $0K a year. Overly simplistic, but you get the idea.

Lion of Zion said...

i'm not sure i follow.
i look even the goals the yeshivah *is* fullfiling and wonder why i should pay for it if i can get it for free elsewhere.
take your nos. 24 and 28. so what that my school had widest array of APs and teachers with advanced degrees compared to any local school. i could have had that for free too.

Tuition Talk said...

I think we're saying the same thing.

In your example, it would be Yeshiva provides #24 and #28 for $15K and charter school / public school provides #24 and #28 for $0.

Anonymous said...

is it a trus that a certain bergen county yeshiva with 900 students has an annual budget of $5 million - if it is true - could someone verify ? - than each tuition paying parent is subsidizing 1.7 children of scholarship parents and children whose mom's are assistant teachers

Tuition Talk said...


What school? No need to talk in innuendo.

PayingParent said...

First of all, I believe HALB also publishes its tution rates online on their website.
Secondly, many of the Bergen County schools offer their teachers (even assistants) 2 children free plus 50% off the price of additional children. This is in addition to salary. With tuition prices of this magnitude that amounts to way more than a teacher should be paid and is putting too hefty a burden on paying parents.
Lastly, an idea: we should make our yeshivas more community centric. Yeshiva education matters whether or not you have children. Why pay a shul building fund and school building fund? Why can't our shul memberships cover yeshiva tuition (granted, with hefty surcharges per additional child)?

Eliezer said...

I am heartened by the discussion above and would like to shift gears on discussing the current problems with the finacialy burdensome yesiva day school system that is currently in place. Once people agree with the problems, solutions that tie into finances may be proposed.

My opinion of the Major Problems with Current System:

1. There is no culture of Derech Eretz.

2. Most yeshiva students cannot speak, write or understand Hebrew –the language of the torah - Fluently

3. Most yeshiva students have no idea how to learn Gemera without an artscroll. Many of them are functionally illiterate when it comes to rishonim and achronim.

4. The dual curriculum approach – half day Torah, half day secular studies reinforces an impression that the torah does not permeate all subject matter in life and creates a “compartmentalized Jew” –who identifies with the Torah only in the synagogue and not in the workplace.

5. Social promotion – Birthdays are more important than IQs? Why? Grouping children and young adults by age rather than intellect– is a proven failure. The disparity of intellectual abilities across a single age category impairs teachers’ ability to teach and students’ ability to learn and develop. This problem is not just specific to yeshivas.

5. Most elementary schools do not nurture children’s vast ability to utilize their memories. Children in elementary school have much more powerful memory than adults and can absorb and retain much more material than they are currently learning. This applies in both Torah and secular subjects. In the Torah world, memory has been the cornerstone of education for over 1400 years. No Children have more baseball stats in their minds than real Torah knowledge.

6. The finances of the Yeshiva System are not run or audited by independent financial professionals and therefore lack transparency and lack accountability. Stealing and misappropriation of funds may or may not be rampant. No will will know without some sort of audit.

7. Parents do not know what they are paying for and do not have a vote on the budget. Please tell me if you feel you need to pay for Building Funds, two teachers in a classroom (why get two mediocre teachers when you can have one very good teacher??), a mini army of psycologists (sometimes people may mistake a school for a nut house), special extra curric. items (Do people understand the enormous costs of E.C?), wasteful technology,special events that everyone can live without, enormous subsidies of mostly mediocre teachers' children, and of course - a theiving principle (and his pretty secretaries) who takes over 5 times the salary as a teacher -- do parents even know WHY yeshiva cost so much?? I'll give you a hint - it certainly does not go to the teachers!

Before I propose solution. I am eager for all your thoughts


Tuition Talk said...

Paying Parent,

Do you know this personally? There's a lot of talk about teachers getting huge tuition breaks. I'd like to see some proof of this if you have it so I can write a post on it.

PayingParent said...

It was the response that I got from teachers at YNJ when I asked how people are able to afford the Yeshiva tuition in the area and have more than 1 or 2 kids.

LMNOP said...

PayingParent, I checked with a former YNJ teacher. They confirmed that teachers get 2 children free. But assistants do not and never have. I believe that currently, they get 50% off one student, but I have not confirmed that.

What you are missing is: the salaries. From what I understand the salaries at yeshivas (even in Bergen County) are shamefully low. Add in the 'free tuition' and the teachers are still making significantly less than most other working parents.

Tuition Talk said...

Would it be possible for you to have this former YNJ teacher contact me?

I'd love to get some idea of salaries and benefits that teachers receive.