Friday, October 23, 2009

Articles of Interest

Micheline Maynard has an article in the New York Times about Americans choosing to go car free. As a green libertarian, I look forward to the day that the government cuts off all funding for housing, roads and gas subsidies, eliminating American suburbia and the American car.

Also in the New York Times, Ralph Blumenthal discusses a new documentary dealing with the controversial figure of Rudolf Kastner. Kastner negotiated with the Nazis on behalf of the Zionist government and saved the lives of over 1600 Jews, ironically enough including the Satmar rebbe. Kastner was latter murdered by another Jew on the charge that he collaborated with the Nazis in the destruction of Hungarian Jewry.

As the deadline for college applications draws nearer for my students I offer Rabbi Reuven Spolter, who makes the argument against going to a secular college. I disagree with Rabbi Spolter but I think he does an effective job in making his case and is therefore useful food for thought.

More on the topic of college as Ofri Ilani of Haaretz writes about the growth of Haredi colleges in Israel with the daughter of Rabbi Ovadia Yosef playing a leading role. I tend to be very skeptical about the very concept of a Haredi college. For me an education means a math, a science or something in the humanities. All of these fields require the mastery of specific methods of thinking. Haredi institutions do not focus on any of these fields. Instead they teach utilitarian occupations such as physical therapy and psychology. I see this as an attempt to allow people access to jobs while avoiding giving them an actual education and risking allowing people to engage in actual serious thinking. In essence such institutions offer fake educations.

Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein offers a Hirschian critique of Haredi society for its willingness to ignore larger society issues. For a critique of this article see Not Brisker Yeshivish. I found this Haredi response telling in that it completely ignores the issue.


Miss S. said...

...Instead they teach utilitarian occupations such as physical therapy and psychology.

Both of those fields require a foundation in the sciences; I would hope at least. I mean I went to physical therapists for months, and I would hope they have some sort of knowledge of human anatomy, math and scientific deduction.

I found this Hared response telling in that it completely ignores the issue.

Whoops I think an 'i' is missing?

Izgad said...

Thank you

Izgad said...

There is a difference between knowing pieces of information that comes from science and knowledge of the scientific method. The scientific method is necessary if we are going to make any further progress than just simply passing down the information necessary to pass tests and get a piece of paper. The scientific method can also be a form of authority to challenge Haredi ideology. It goes far beyond simply finding things that contradict the Torah. The scientific method is its own authority structure and therefore is a direct challenge to the Haredi structure particularly as the Haredi structure demands that you view tradition as the trump card of authority and the scientific method requires you to almost completely downplay tradition.

Miss S. said...

I am not refuting your argument, but raising a separate, but related point. The article points out that these "professionals" reared in haredi institutions of higher education will serve haredi populations with their services. Such an endeavor undermines the integrity of the said profession. Yes, there are multiple camps of training in Psychology other than Freud - who seemed to focus on sexual dysfunction as the root of psychological issues. I am not thoroughly trained in either the fields of psychology or in the particulars of standards put forth by the haredim in regards to which secular studies are muttar or not. But you will face some resistance and even disqualification from your professional peers when you are trying to place yourself on equal footing with them and you are not properly educated in the various [scientific] methods and approaches to the fields of psychology, physical therapy, speech therapy, etc.

My point is (and I am not implying that this is not your point as well), that it is a great disservice to say that these are professionals who are being trained to work with the haredi community. So what is being implied here is that the haredi community deserves access to "professionals" who are educated and trained via inferior methods. This is a clear example of the haredi community accepting a lower standard in lieu of their non-haredi/secular co-populace. Which is yet another example of low Jewish self-esteem in my opinion.