Dr. Simcha Katz’s message (“Strengthening Orthodoxy on Campus,” fall 2012) includes a surprisingly blunt assessment of Jewish day school education: “Sam . . . attended a prominent Jewish day school and high school . . . spent the usual year in Israel . . . [but] confessed that he felt ignorant of Judaism.” It is likely that Sam’s parents spent about a quarter-million dollars on his Jewish education, only to end up with an “ignorant” product. What a devastating indictment of the education we are providing to the next generation.
Unfortunately, Jewish schools and educators have not been immune to the lunacy sweeping the educational enterprise—suppression of competition, safeguarding students’ feelings at all costs, promoting self-esteem over academic achievement and dumbing down coursework to the level of the least-capable student. What has been lost is the insistence on excellence, an aggressive curriculum of core subjects (both Jewish and secular) and devotion to hard work.
We repeatedly see the most capable students departing Jewish schools—not for public schools due to economic pressure, but for schools that are even more costly. In city after city, Jewish children with the highest academic potential are to be found at non-Jewish private schools. If our academic institutions cannot satisfy the best among us, we will lose the next generation of top-quality achievers—both secular and religious.
This is not to argue against strengthening Orthodoxy on campus. It is to argue that, with his educational background, Sam should have been a leader rather than a follower in the religious sense. The fact that he is not should be disappointing to him personally, and unacceptable to Klal Yisrael.
Dr. Bernard H. White