Posted by Jeffrey Saks
Not long ago, I wrote the following to LookJed:
On the topic recently discussed on-list of the importance of having Jewish Studies in the morning and General Studies in the afternoon, various ideas have been mentioned, and still others circulate out there in the"velt". Meaning no disrespect to the Lubavitcher Rebbe, et al, who argue that having Torah study first sends the message that it's more important, or any of the other reasons--does anyone have any evidence that this message is indeed transmitted (on the average) by the scheduling? I am similarly curious about the assertion that some schools make that having Jewish and General Studies interspersed throughout the day communicates a message/position re "integration" or "Torah u-Madda" or similar slogans. Isn't it possible that students happily move from period to period, or trudge through under duress, but the order in which that occurs from beginning of the day until we let them go home transmits NO message (even if we say/think that it does)? (Put another way: Tefillat Shacharit not withstanding, are the most important things in your daily life always those you do first? I know that I do about a dozen activities/tasks in my office as part of a daily routine, in addition to the other 100 that arise ad hoc. I assure you that the order I tackle them in does not reflect the importance I necessarily place on them.) Just speculation, but I'm curious if anyone has evidence (even anecdotal).
Of course, this generated some response...
In response to my question about impact of having limmudei kodesh in AM or staggered throughout the day I got a number of off-list responses (perhaps they'll also post to the list). Most of them suggested that the main thing for a student's appreciation of how seriously the school takes any given discipline is...(you guessed it): how seriously the teacher takes it him/herself, regardless of whether it's 1st period, or "batting cleanup"at the end of the day. On the other hand, one person did write to me with the following implied critique of my "speculation"--(see my response following):
----- Original Message -----
Subject: Re: day school schedule
I was told that there is a t'shuva from R' Moshe Feinstein z"tl on this topic. If you come across it, I would love to hear what he wrote. If he had good reasons, what purpose is served by speculation?
I responded: Yes indeed, see: Igrot Moshe, Yoreh Deah vol. 3, #83. Rav Moshe gave a yasher koach to R. Moshe Sherer, who moved all limmudei kodesh to the AM at a school in Argentina. R. Moshe Feinstein said it was valuable because it helps kodesh learning succeed more, sends message that Torah is "ikkar" and chol is "tafel", and sends message that we only learn chol because the State makes us. Personally, I agree that ALL THINGS BEING EQUAL it's better to have kodesh first. But if you have to weigh that against other values, we may agree that it's not Torah miSinai. For example, if having an interspersed schedule allows attracting full-time teachers (for both kodesh and chol) and paying them a proper salary to only teach in our school, with the obvious benefits to staff commitment to our institution, quality teaching, staff morale, attracting better teachers, etc.--wouldn't you agree that it would be worth it (Rav Moshe's yasher koach notwithstanding)? To be clear: Rav Moshe was clearly expressing his opinion about something which had been done. It's not clear to me that he was paskening that to do the opposite (for some legitimate benefit) is assur. In all cases, my original posting, which asked for evidence or anecdotes that support one side of the argument or the other, was to see what the kids are picking up on -- not necessarily what we are (trying) to communicate. There's sometimes a big difference.
Well, now TCR publishes research suggesting that "all things being equal" kids who take a class later in the day do better. Seems not everyone is a morning perosn--and that almnoist no teenagers are. The full research findings are available only to online subscribers, but the summary is here.