Saturday, May 30

The Future of Non-Orthodox Judaism

Prof. Jonathan Sarna weighs in on predictions of the demise of non-Orthodox Judaism. I agree that (in the immortal words of Yogi Berra) "the hardest thing of all to predict is the future," and that Orthodox Jews would be wise to lay off the trimphantalism. But, I'm less convinced that the "brain drain" is as bad as Sarna thinks it is (about which I've written in an Orthodox Forum article available here).

Thursday, May 28

How To Kill Kids' Imaginations

Perhaps things are less stressed here in Israel (at least regarding early childhood education, if not about security, politics, Iranian nukes, road rage...), but, I, for one, never knew that there was such a thing as homework in pre-school, let alone that it had hit epidemic proportions.

While we are at it, take a look at this Harvard Education Letter essay on how schools are killing play for even very young kids. Makes me even happier that I finished school so long ago.

Tuesday, May 26

I Don't Facebook, Twitter, or BlackBerry...

I don't Facebook and I only learned what Twitter was last week. In short, I'm a techno dinasaur. But I still managed to fritter away all of yesterday morning reading blogs (some of which were actually interesting), instead of doing what I should have been doing. Will online distractions destroy civilization, or are they part and parcel of the human creative process? Read this to find out (you can also get some background information on the great Boston Molasses Disaster)

Sunday, May 24

Lessons From the Depression

Prof. Jonathan Sarna, the leading historian of American Judiasm, tries to learn lessons for today from the Jewish experiences in the Great Depression. He is both pessimistic and optimistic, though he is particularly pessimistic about Orthodoxy. Food for thought.

Thursday, May 21

Democratize Higher Education

I'm not sure just how serious this project is, how it could work financially, and what might happen to graduates, but the idea of a free (well, almost free), online, degree granting university, focusing on helping the underprivelaged, could well be transformative (also see here). Needless to say, the guy who founded it is an Israeli.

Tuesday, May 19

No Male Teachers

Newsweek reports on a national shortage of male teachers. My impression is that this is less of a problem in limmudei kodesh, but I may be wrong. (Thanks to Uri Cohen for the link.)

Sunday, May 17

Haredi Fiction (and Self-Promotion Dept.)

Short article in the Forward on Haredi thriller fiction, in which I am quoted. For a longer and more elaborate discussion of the topic, see my article from the Torah U-Madda Journal from a few years back.

Thursday, May 14

Out of a job? Well, anyone can teach...

Those who can, do. Those who can't, teach. Those who used to be able to do, but just got fired, well, they can always try teaching, right? NY Times says, "Wrong!" (Thanks to Anne Gordon for this link.)

Tuesday, May 12

New Journal

Nice to see a new journal on Jewish education from Bar Ilan, and even nicer to see that it will be available on-line for free even for non-academics and non-students (What good does it do to publish data-based studies of education which an average teacher or administrator can't get access to?). There are not nearly enough studies of Jewish education in general and Orthodox education in particular. Sometimes I'm shocked at what we still don't know.

Sunday, May 10

What's Wrong With This Picture?

Let me see if I've got this right? Many systematic studies compare a control group of students in regular programs to those who participate in new, experimental educational programs. These studies show that the new programs have little or no effect on student achievement. Conclusion: something must be wrong with the studies. After all, how could expensive, well-intentioned plans for educational reform not be working? Makes sense to me.

Thursday, May 7

Steroids for the Mind

Attention all overachieving students without enough time in the day. Why not just borrow a perscription from a friend with a real condition, and pop the pill that will you keep you concentrating on that term paper all through the night? The scaryiest part of this article from the New Yorker is that my first reaction was, "Hey! I could use some of those!"
For those of us who refuse to pop pills, here's some practical advice on how to make your drug-free all-nighter that much more prodcutive.

Tuesday, May 5

Beit Yaakov

As part of ATID's Survey of Research in Jewish Education, I have recently posted a short summary of research on the founding of the Beit Yaakov school system in Poland. On the one hand, we know more than people realize about the context and background of the school's founding; on the other hand, there is a great deal we do not know.

Sunday, May 3

teenreads is a lively website with book reviews, author interviews, and an "ultimate reading list" for teens. I'm not sure I would recommend all these books for my own kids, but at least they are not dumbing down the suggestions. Send the link to your local teenage bookworm (or potential bookworm).