Dec 11, 2010

What Is a School's Function?

I read a "letter to the editor" which says:

"While it is true that they [our  yeshiva system] do focus on middos, there is still too much emphasis on grades and intellectual aptitude.  There is a lot of pressure put on the children (especially adolescents) to score hundreds.  I am hoping  ... that our beloved yeshiva system can be improved."

I find this view peculiar.  Isn't school a place that you go to, primarily, to learn information and skills? How to read, how to write, to cover material, to understand it, to be able to answer questions, do reports? Even if we are only talking about the Jewish studies, isn't the material the focus of the curriculum and through the curriculum you also learn hashkafa, middos and love for mitzvos and Torah?

Would we all be better off if the day was spent on story telling and craft projects, plays and sing-alongs?

Looking back at the history of the cheder and yeshiva, and later girls' schools - what did the students do in school? They learned! They were tested! They were expected to know! And good teachers conveyed Torah values along with the material.  But our schools were never about "feel good" Judaism only.


  1. I think this ties in with your previous post.
    If Torah is taught as a subject only and the focus is on marks but not on application then our chinuch system is lacking.
    Chinuch is not just about the intellectual but it's about preparing the students for life in an all round way. Learning should be about doing your personal best, not about getting the top marks. I agree with the writer that there should be less focus on grades and more focus on fulfilling one's own potential and doing the best they can.

  2. If I did not have the motivation to achieve high marks in school, I would not have exerted myself as I did.

    How can a teacher ensure that a student is doing his/her personal best without focusing on grades?

  3. Ok I don't know you but you clearly have brains. That's what motivated you. You probably COULD achieve high marks so you were motivated to.

    What about that student that isn't so smart?
    If lets say his school is very focused on high marks and he knows he can't get more then just a pass then why should he bother if he is just going to disappoint anyone anyway. Even a child that isn't stupid but not the top either.
    On the other hand if learning becomes all about doing the best he can do and not about the marks then that leaves room for him to actualy apply himself and do well.
    Then you have students that are really smart but also the personalities that have to have all or nothing. 100% or why bother. that child has to be educated that it's not about the marks.
    How can a teacher ensure that a student is doing his best? They know, or at least they should know. There are all kinds of teachers good and not so good. A good teacher knows his student and knows if he or she is applying themselves.
    This teacher will know if a child who gets 60% on a test can really do better or if 60% is a brilliant mark for that particular child.

  4. Also, in addition to the above, I don't know if the writer is complaining about the lack of middos or not, she/he seems to be implying that they do teach it but perhaps not enough. (I'm not sure if I'm reading that correctly). Either way, middos is an integral part of chinuch and yes, if school is supposed to be aiding parents in their chinuch job then middos should be a strong focus.