Bintel Blog

Diane Ravitch Flunks Hebrew School

By Daniel Treiman

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Noted historian and education expert Diane Ravitch is weighing in on New York City’s planned Hebrew language charter school. And, unsurprisingly, this champion of civic education and e pluribus unum — and ardent opponent of multiculturalist cant and other centrifugal forces — is not pleased by this latest effort to enlist the public schools in the service of yet another particularist agenda.

She writes in the Daily News:

Our public authorities have forgotten that the public pays for public schools to advance public purposes. Among those purposes are: teaching kids their rights and responsibilities as American citizens; teaching them to live and work with others of different cultural backgrounds; and preparing them for higher education and for the modern workplace, where people of diverse backgrounds interact.

It is the job of family, the community and religious institutions to teach children about their heritage. The job of public schools is to teach children a common civic culture and a shared commitment to democracy.

In a city with hundreds of different ethnic and cultural groups, we should not be encouraging the creation of schools that are specific to a single non-American culture. That way lies separation, segregation and the fraying of the bonds that hold us together as Americans.

Of course our public schools should teach foreign languages. We should expect students to learn a language other than English. If there is a critical need for speakers of Arabic, Hebrew, Spanish, Chinese and other languages - and there is - then school officials should make sure to hire enough language teachers to offer these languages in middle schools and high schools.

If the goal of the Hebrew Language Charter School is to strengthen the religious identity of Russian and Israeli Jews, then it should be a private school. If the goal is to teach Hebrew to a broad variety of students, then the Regents should encourage the teaching of Hebrew in the regular public schools. And the same goes for schools that promote Chinese, Russian, Korean, Spanish, Arabic and other world languages.

Read the full article here.



Comments
Yehuda Tue. Jan 20, 2009

Once upon a time, the Yiddish speaking immigrants in America were anxious to be integrated into their new society. The public school system was a main instument in this ambition. One hundred years later, the Jews are part of American society in every imaginable aspect. Unfortunately, a price was paid in this process - Jewish culture has become foreign. Family and community did not have the time or means to maintain continuity. The charter school is really an excellent idea to re-introduce the culture of Israel. Since the charter school option is constitutional, the founding of Hebrew language schools will very likely spread to other communities. Those who have ideological opposition to the charter school concept (like Diane Ravitch) won't send their children to study there. It's an option for those who wish to strengthen Hebrew literacy in a Jewish reality where American culture is already self-evident for a number of generations - and where it is equally self-evident that access to a Hebrew book is only for that rare expert. Kol ha-kavod to those behind the founding of the new Hebrew Language Academy.

Joseph Thu. Jan 22, 2009

The same policies that allow Spanish language schools should also allow Hebrew language schools. The legal protections for members of a minority remain even if it as a very small minority.

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