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Wednesday, May 18, 2011

My comment not being approved on cross-currents

Yaakov Menken wrote a post called Who Are We Kidding? with which I partially disagreed. You can see the thread. Unfortunately, my last comment was not accepted so I am posting it here:

>Where they are at age 18 is remarkable, but where they are by age 25 is as well.

But that is my point. It is not particularly remarkable. Most do not have even one masechet fully under their belt – much less any serious bekius. And it is even more amazing that most do not have it by 25 (except for in the Israeli Sephardic chareidi world where they stress bekius and learning aliba deHilcheta). This is to a large extent a subjective judgment but R’ Moshe Feinstein once remarked that no yeshiva student in Europe would have dreamed of learning less than 400 blatt in a year – and that it is impossible to become a talmid chacham with anything less. The average American does nothing close to that either at age 18 or 25. And their abilities in other Torah subjects are on average completely sub-par as I wrote above. Their abilities in tanach, kinnot, etc. as mentioned above are below what should be expected. The excuse of a busy schedule simply doesn’t fly. Something is extremely inefficient in the way their learn if after 12 years of education they are not fluent in Hebrew in all its forms. most gentile American high school students can learn a foreign language properly in 2-4 years. Why should we expect less from our boys and girls?

>Living in an English-speaking community doesn’t prevent a person from becoming an outstanding scholar of traditional texts,

No one suggested this! We all know brilliant scholars who live in America! But it IS a great handicap and for the masses, the immersion in English language and thought has a negative effect on their learning abilities. It seems foolish to deny this.

In an email, Yaakov justified his decision with the following abrasive email:

I was going to accept your comment, as inappropriate as I thought it was, until I got near the end. I took French for 7 years at an elite prep school in the American Northeast. Not one member of that class was anywhere near fluent. That's just completely unrealistic. You have no clue. And I have 2 sets of Tisha B'Av Kinnos which translate them -- into modern Hebrew. For Israelis. So again, you have no clue. Don't submit something this silly, please.

To which I responded as follows:

Unfortunately, it is you who have no clue.

I am sorry that you and your classmates could not become fluent in French after 7 years - but that is probably simply because it was not an immersion program - as Hebrew for Americans SHOULD be. Any immersion program can produce fluency within a couple of years. My grandmother was in an immersion program in Poland before the war - and became fluent in Hebrew. My chavrusa was in an immersion program German high school - and became fluent after a few years. My old neighbors were in a French immersion high school - fluent.

The fact that non-immersion language programs are a waste of time is old news and just because there are good and bad ways to acquire languages does not mean that the whole thing is a waste of time.

The fact that there are various aids to help Israelis access kinot is also meaningless. I am not claiming that any Israeli can simply pick up kinot and understand them fully - just like I don't claim that the average American can pick up Shakespeare and understanding it fully. But Israelis, with a relatively SMALL amount of effort, can get a working knowledge of that style and genre of Hebrew - and appreciate it in a way that Americans simply can not appreciate - even after years in a yeshiva.

You are the one without a clue since you have such low expectations for what Jewish education should achieve. The current Jewish education curriculum simply does not produce talmidei chachamim - those who do become talmidei chachamim do it in spite of the educational system.

Of course, I don't expect you to let such a comment through. You have in the past consistently stopped threads that were not going your way. I remember several years back when I showed how your "proofs" for the gedolim's view of Zionism were wholly taken from a neturei karta website which in turn took their data from a translation of Dovev Siftei Yesheinim which in turn is a notorious forgery of rabbinic letters. Of course, despite all my efforts - going so far as scanning an entire book dedicated to exposing Dovev Siftei Yesheinim, you did not let the comments through - which is of course reflected in the complete intellectual dishonesty of your system of comment moderation.

You can continue living in your fantasy world and imagine that English Torah literature, engagement and interest in sports and entertainment, rampant materialism, general education in schools, etc. are NOT functions of American influence (aka assimilation) on the orthodox American community. But people on the outside looking in see the truth. The wise will learn from them and the foolish will continue to stumble.

In other words, I am not impressed.


Here is Menken's latest pathetic response (basically an appeal to authority combined with some argumentum ad hominem all the while ignoring any real issues that might lead to self analysis and self criticism):

I'm glad that you know so much more than the Gedolei HaTorah in so many areas, and it's unfortunate I suppose that they, rather than you, are the Eynei HaEidah, and that they believe the immersion program should be in Gemara rather than modern Hebrew. But such is life.