Ultra-Orthodox Schools Teaching Ultra-Orthodoxy
An odd complaint from parents who voluntarily send their kids to religious schools.
The sidebar of a New York Times article I was reading earlier today pointed me to a strikingly bizarre op-ed by Beatrice Weber and Chaim Levin titled “My Son’s Yeshiva Is Breaking the Law.” I’ve reproduced it in its entirety because it’s so short:
What do you want to be when you grow up? That’s not a common question for boys attending ultra-Orthodox yeshivas in New York. That’s because many of these schools focus on Judaic studies, preparing students for a life of religious scholarship — at the expense of basic reading, writing, math and science. New York State law mandates that private and religious schools provide a curriculum equivalent to that of public schools, and a 2019 report by New York City’s Department of Education found that only two of the 28 yeshivas it investigated met these requirements. This is especially problematic, considering that the city’s yeshivas receive over $100 million in state funds annually.
Authorities have failed to enforce the laws, allowing the community, which is a strong and unified voting bloc, to disregard secular education requirements. In the video above, a mother pleads with city and state officials to enforce the law so her son can receive one of the most basic rights: education.
Let’s stipulate at the outset that I have no idea whether New York yeshivas are breaking the law but that, if they are, I believe they should stop and/or the authorities should enforce the law.
But here’s why I find the piece so odd: if you believe the ultra-Orthodox religious school you’re sending your kids to are doing a bad job of educating your children, stop sending them there. Nobody is making you send your kids to an ultra-Orthodox school for indoctrination.
Furthermore, while again stipulating that I believe these kids ought to get the education the law requires, it strikes me as quite likely that the overwhelming percentage of parents who send their kids to ultra-Orthodox yeshivas are really much more interested in having them focus on Judaic studies, preparing for a live of religious scholarship, rather than, say, Western civilization and the critical thinking skills fostered by science and the humanities. Indeed, I would be willing to go out on a limb and speculate that the two are in direct conflict.