Tuesday, September 29

Teaching In a Rubber Room

The teachers are incompetent or worse. They sit alone in a room all day doing absolutely nothing. The union defends them. The city continues to pay them. The city continues to pay lawyers and arbitrators and retired principals and a host of other players. And, in the end, it all comes out of the pockets of you and me, the taxpayers. If Kafka had constructed the educational system, it would look something like this...

Sunday, September 27

Babysitting: The Definitive History

Allright, maybe not the definitive history, but at least some interesting thoughts on how teenage babysitting came to be.

Thursday, September 24

Admission Board as Used-Car Salesman


Only a sucker pays the sticker price for big-ticket items like cars, homes, and of course college tuition.

Tuesday, September 22

How to Pray in Brooklyn

A Jew goes to Brooklyn to learn how to pray. No, not to a shteibel in Boro Park but to the Brooklyn Tabernacle, an evangelical mega-chruch. No, he's not an apostate or Jews for Jesus type, just a reporter. But it seems that Jews are not the only ones who keep praying even though they are not sure quite how.

I've Never Even Used an iPhone or Kindle...

But everyone seems to think that they are the wave of the future in terms of reading. Let's compare the old fashioned book, to audio-books, to new-fangled electronic tools.

Monday, September 21

The Cheapest Way to Help Advanced Students

It doesn't cost a lot of money, doesn't require a big administrative mess, and has proven to help advanced students progress quickly. Just have kids go to math or English with the grade above them.

Thursday, September 17

Portrait of an American Jewish Teen

I'm not sure if this new BBYO report (click on the "source" link to see the full report) on the religious lives of teens is just a bunch of cliches (today's teens want to customize everything, want instant gratification, multitask) or whether it is an insightful portrait of today's teens.

The fact that there are differences between its portrait and that of the much broader and deeper Soul Searching, makes me doubt at least some of it. For example, Soul Searching is less convinced that teens want everything to be out-of-the-box and anti-establishment. More importantly, Soul Searching claims that American teens take religion a lot more seriously than does this portrain .

Still, putting all these generalizations together on one page makes me wary of the hard work we have ahead of we are dedicated to long-term, disciplined study of texts as a key to Jewish living.

Wednesday, September 16

Me'orot/ Chovevei Torah Symposium on Orthodox Education


Me'orot, the online journal of Yeshivat Chovevei Torah, has just released a special issue on Orthodox Education (including a contribution of mine). I have not yet read the whole thing, but the few contributions I have glanced at, are insightful and thought-provoking. (The Me'orot symposium is also related to ATID's symposium, Teaching Toward Tomorrow- see here, order here).

Tuesday, September 15

Fresh Fruit and Vintage Wine

R. Yitzchak Blau's new collection of literary readings of Agadah just appeared today. If his contribution to ATID's Wisdom From All My Teachers and his material from the Virtual Beit Midrash is any indication, the book should be chock full of good material.

Accountability Without Privatization

Will privatization of public schools increase personal responsibility for decision makers and principals, or will it result in for-profit education without real concern for the students? This seems to be the subtext of controversy over a recent decision in the Detroit school district (though you can't ignore the money and turf-war issues, either).

Sunday, September 13

Let 'Em Learn What They Want

This NY Times article, about reading programs that allow students to read what they feel like, has been making the rounds recently. My first thought was that maybe there is something to this. Why make them read Catcher in the Rye if they don't want to, just because I had to? Captain Underpants is as lot funnier. Then I read this parody.

Thursday, September 10

How Many Day School Kids Are There?

AviChai has published a short summary of Marvin Schick's census of Jewish Day Schools in America, which are, on the whole, growing. I'll post a link when the full report appears in the next few months.

Tuesday, September 8

Family!? Breakfast!? Together!?

Who are you kidding!? It's email before coffee for the post-modern family. (Heck, I sent my wife an email this morning before actually talking to her.)

Sunday, September 6

The Big Bad Playpen


My kids would just sit and scream when placed in a playpen, so we didn't get much use from them, but I know they were a sanity-saver for others. As usual, parenting and guilt seemed deeply, deeply connected.

Thursday, September 3

Will Pay Cash for Test Scores

I'm one of those teachers who doesn't think that judging teachers on the basis of their students' standardized test scores, or giving financial incentives to improve test scores, are particularly good ideas. On the other hand, I don't teach anything that those tests cover...

Tuesday, September 1

Not a New Idea, But Not A Bad One Either

A new teacher in the Israeli school system suggests an ongoing mentoring program for new teachers, rather than the "sink or swim" strategy that currently holds sway.