Saturday, October 31

Debate Continued

Cross Currents chose to remove their response to my review of the Koren-Sacks siddur (they have not responded to emails suggesting that an explanation or apology might be in order). For better or worse, nothing really disappears from the internet, and the Cross Currents piece is still being read and debated here.

I had thought about writing a longer response to Cross Currents, and if things continue perhaps I will, but for the moment I encourage people to read my original essay here at the First Things website, and compare it to their attack. The essays speak for themselves, I think.

Thursday, October 29

Koren-Sacks Siddur: Debate is in the Air

My recent review of the Koren Sacks Siddur appears here. A writer at Cross-Currents, it seems, does not agree with my assesment.

Sounds Good on Paper...


Every parent has heard it: Positive reinforcement; explain clearly your expectations from your child; model proper behavior; find meaningful and natural rewards for their good behavior; remain calm and under control of your parenting emotions. So, what do you do when none of that works? Slate reports.

Tuesday, October 27

Disheartened Teachers

The bad news is that about 40% of K-12 teachers in the US are "disheartened": frustrated with their jobs, burnt out, not confident that they can actually help kids. The good news is that about 23% of teachers are motivated idealists. Unfortunately, what this study cannot tell us is whether the disheartened teachers are frustrated because they are not very good at their jobs, because the work in problematic schools, because they are poorly paid, or because something is wrong with the system. Would the stats in Jewish schools be any different?

Sunday, October 25

How To Cheat With a Cell Phone

Its not that difficult to cheat on a test or paper using a cellphone, and according to this poll, "everybody's doing it."

Thursday, October 22

Kids These Days

Like every topic, when experts get together, they seem to agree on absolutely nothing. Seems that the same is true about understanding today's youth. But, there is a lot of money to be made pretending to understand today's kids.

Tuesday, October 20

Sarna on the Jewish Future

Jonathan Sarna - probably the most significant historian of American Judaism alive today - reflects on the past, present, and future of American Judaism. We all know to whom prophecy was given, but his predictions are probably better thought out and grounded than just about anybody else you could find. For more of Sarna's prediction, see our discussion here and here.

Sunday, October 18

How Much is a Teaching Degree Worth?

Some say, a lot, and are willing to pay teachers with advanced degrees more than those without. Others (including the Obama administration) question the link between a diploma and good teaching, and want to link teacher pay to student performance. The NY Times debates.

Thursday, October 15

One-Volume Students' Guide to Torah Sheba'al Peh

Question: What to do when your teenager is spending too much time hanging out with friends and not enough time learning Torah? Answer: Sefer Hahinuch.


My mother has been teaching Sefer HaHinnuch in various settings for well over a decade, showing how it serves as a great one-volume introduction to Torah Sheba'al Peh. She has finally begun putting her teaching materials on-line, and when the next round of classes begins shortly, she will begin posting audios on-line as well. Highly recommended (pardon the nepotism)!

Getting the Most From Your Classroom DVD Player


Everyone, students and teachers alike, enjoy bringing out the classroom DVD player and watching a movie on a topic you are learning. PBS offers resources for making the most out of their educational programing in the classroom.

Tuesday, October 13

Add One Part Lawyer, and One Part Educational Administrator

... and you get utter and complete lack of common sense.

Do-It-Yourself Education, Israeli Style

Recent research from the Hebrew University suggests that some 20% of new Israeli schools are private initiatives by parents, who are trying to run end around the Ministry of Education. Don't know if this is reason to praise Israeli parents, criticize the Ministry of Education, or both, but it certainly says something...

Sunday, October 11

Bilingual Kids

As a father of bilingual kids (their Hebrew is still more fluent and comfortable than mine, despite having lived about half my life in Israel), I'm happy to hear that studies show that teaching small children two languages does not slow down their language acquisition, but speeds it up.

Tuesday, October 6

Harvard is Just Not Pushing Its Students Hard Enough


Frankly, I don't have anything invested in Harvard's undergrad program, but this essay does raise interesting points about educational accountability and "tough love" in the classroom. Perhaps we do coddle them too much. (Thanks to Anne Gordon for sending this my way.)

Sunday, October 4

Standardized Testing... In Kindergarten!!!!


Kindergarten kids are now spending several hours a day in frontal instruction and in preparation for standardized tests, and less than an hour in free play. Standardized tests!!!! In kindergarten?!?! Have we lost our minds!?

Thursday, October 1

New Sacks-Koren Siddur (Self-Promotion Dept.)

My review of the New Sacks-Koren siddur just appeared on the website of the ecumenical magainze, First Things.