Home
In this issue

Jonathan Tobin: Defending the Right to a Jewish State

Heather Hale: Compliment your kids without giving them big heads

Megan Shauri: 10 ways you are ruining your own happiness

Carolyn Bigda: 8 Best Dividend Stocks for 2015

Kiplinger's Personal Finance editors: 7 Things You Didn't Know About Paying Off Student Loans

Samantha Olson: The Crucial Mistake 55% Of Parents Are Making At Their Baby's Bedtime

Densie Well, Ph.D., R.D. Open your eyes to yellow vegetables

The Kosher Gourmet by Megan Gordon With its colorful cache of purples and oranges and reds, COLLARD GREEN SLAW is a marvelous mood booster --- not to mention just downright delish
April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review Nov 14, 2011 / 17 Mar-Cheshvan, 5772

Do the Occupy Wall Street protesters -- and America -- a favor … send them to rabbinical school

By Jonathan Rosenblum




Or, at the very least, teach them Talmud


http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | One of the prime complaints of the Occupy Wall Street protesters and their various imitators around the United States is that they have been robbed: They have gone deeply indebt for their college educations — about $28,000 for the average private school graduate — and have little to show for it in terms of marketable skills. That claim, at least, is largely correct. Listening to the OWS protesters define what they mean by "social justice" or defend that concept provides a rough idea of how badly they have been served by their undergraduate educations.

A study of 2,300 American university graduates of two dozen universities, by New York University's Richard Arum and the University of Virginia's Josipa Roksa, found that more than one-third of seniors leave campus, after four years, having shown no improvement in critical thinking, analytical reasoning, or written communication. And the worst of all are those in so-called practical majors, like business, communications, and education.

The expense of an American college education has risen nearly four and a half times over the last 25 years, and it is beginning to look like as big a bubble as the American housing market prior to 2008. "Students who say that college has not prepared them for the real world are largely right," says Anne Neal, president of the American Council of Trustees and Alumni

At least they are right insofar as students not pursuing a STEM (science, technology, engineering, or math) curriculum go. STEM graduates earn roughly 50% more than their non-STEM counterparts, and the worldwide demand for their services is continually growing, despite the downturn in employment. STEM graduates, unlike their non-STEM contemporaries, can be assumed to have actually mastered a concrete body of knowledge in subjects that have right and wrong answers.

Rosenblum's Rule posits that the future health and dynamism of a society can largely be predicted by the ratio of engineers to lawyers. When too many of society's best minds are attracted to largely non-productive occupations like law or legalized gambling with billions of dollars of other people's money on Wall Street, decline is sure to follow. Apparently President Obama agrees: He has called on America's universities to graduate 10,000 more engineers a year and 100,000 more teachers with strong competencies in STEM subjects.

LET ME BE CLEAR, I was the beneficiary of an outstanding liberal arts education. My undergraduate alma mater, the University of Chicago, gave birth to the original Great Books curriculum, and it was one of the few elite colleges in my day to still take a Common Core of required courses seriously. Without the education I received there -- in particular my freshman humanities professor, who once told me that there were only two students in our class who wrote well and I wasn't one of them -- my life would be much poorer.

I still believe in the value of a traditional liberal arts education; I just don't think that too many non-STEM majors receive such an education today. The non-STEM courses have too frequently been taken over by ideologues, using the classroom for political indoctrination, or by theoreticians whose jargon-infested manifestos drain all the joy out of the greatest literature.


FREE SUBSCRIPTION TO INFLUENTIAL NEWSLETTER

Every weekday JewishWorldReview.com publishes what many in the media and Washington consider "must-reading". HUNDREDS of columnists and cartoonists regularly appear. Sign up for the daily update. It's free. Just click here.


Walter Russell Mead, an undergraduate English major, who today teaches at Bard College, and whose American Interest blog demonstrates an ability to write insightfully many times each day about international relations, political science, sociology, and even religion, makes the case for both the intrinsic and extrinsic value of a first-rate liberal arts education.

As both longevity and leisure time increase, those who don't gain a love of learning and the ability to enjoy the greatest products of the human spirit, will find themselves doomed to the hell of endless reality TV. Fortunately, the books worth reading (and returning to again and again) far exceed the available time of even the most long-lived and voracious reader.

Mead points out that today's incoming college students will confront a much more fast-changing world than any that has preceded it — one for which their mentors have no more familiarity than they. The shock may be largest for children of successful white collar professionals, as the familiar paths to career success disappear. Even acceptance to one of the name law schools will no longer constitute a guarantee of a modicum of financial security. Competition will no longer come primarily from students in the next library carrel, but from ambitious, hard-working Chinese and Indians. And those whose academic schedules are based on the rule of no classes before noon to accommodate late-night partying will lose out.

In the fast-changing world of the future, success will depend on the ability to learn new skills. And for that, Mead argues, a classic liberal arts education, including literacy in math and at least one science, familiarity with the broad strands of the cultural tradition into which one was born, and mastery of at least one foreign language, is the best preparation. "In times of rapid change it is paradoxically more useful to immerse yourself in the basics and the classics that to try to keep up with the latest developments and trends," Mead urges the incoming freshmen, for the latter will surely be obsolete in a few years. Better to use the college years for grounding in the great books and key ideas and values that have endured.

In a more competitive, less secure world, nothing will be more valuable than one's reputation for integrity and honesty. Character will count. And as career shifts become more common and life has more ups and downs, so will the need for spiritual grounding to keep one's life on keel become even more important. A familiarity with how great minds have wrestled with the ultimate questions of life and defined the good life is no guarantee of a moral core to one's own life, but it at least puts the issue on the radar screen.

IF ONE KEY TEST OF A LIBERAL EDUCATION is the ability to learn new skills, then Talmudic learning could be an important component. True, Talmudic learning will not teach one math, unless one studies the Rabbis' complex calculations of the lunar cycle; nor will it provide grounding in a specific science. But it is not irrelevant to any of these pursuits. And the combination of intellectual rigor, discipline and concentration required is unsurpassed.

The great Harvard medievalist Harry Austrn Wolfson described Talmdudic study as "the application of the scientific method to the study of texts." Hypotheses are continually being formulated and either successfully defended or rejected. The Talmud says that one who studies alone grows stupid, and the battles between study partners are nothing less than the "wars of Torah." Even when one studies alone, he must act as his own study partner, constantly asking: Does my theory fit all the facts? Is there another way to explain all the relevant data?

Students must learn to follow complex arguments that proceed over pages of texts, and to hold firm at each step as to whether and in what way the argument is being advanced or questioned. Ten-year-olds learn to apply, without being aware of it, the tables taught in mathematical logic to actual cases.

At every level, the student is exposed to conflict and competing views. The Tannaim of the Talmud argue with one another; the Amoraim argue with one another and over the proper understanding of the Tannaim. The Rishonim (early commentators on the Talmud) differ from one another over the principles that emerge from the debates of the Talmud, and sometimes over the text itself. Each Rishon must be understood on his own terms, and in terms of why he argues with another Rishon.

But while a single right answer can never be given in Talmudic debate, it is often possible to demonstrate that a particular solution is wrong. Thus Talmud study is the antithesis of much of contemporary academia, which, in Mead's words, "encourages mushy thinking about mushy disciplines." One cannot just offer opinions; one must argue propositions. That itself is a healthy antidote for the young for whom the height of wisdom is: Everything, including morality, is a matter of opinion, and all opinions are equally valid — a view, incidentally, held by no serious thinker of the past, no matter how greatly they differed with one another.

Though the study will not teach elegant prose style, it demands clarity of expression and the ability to structure a logical argument. Rabbi Chaim Soloveitchik, the great 19th and early 20th century Talmudic genius, whose style of analysis dominates much of contemporary Talmudic study, emphasized that there is no such thing as a concept that cannot be expressed.

Finally, the study of Talmud places one in a dialogue with many of the greatest minds in Jewish history, and grounds a Jewish student in his own culture — one in which the legal and moral realms are seamlessly intertwined.

Click here to comment on this column.

JWR contributor Jonathan Rosenblum is founder of the Jerusalem-based Jewish Media Resources. A respected commentator on Israeli politics, society, culture and the Israeli legal system, who speaks frequently on these topics in the United States, Europe, and Israel, his articles appear regularly in numerous Jewish periodicals in the United States and Israel. Rosenblum is also the author of seven biographies of major modern Jewish figures. He is a graduate of the University of Chicago and Yale Law School.


Interested in a private Judaic studies instructor — for free? Let us know by clicking here.

Every weekday JewishWorldReview.com publishes what many in the media and Washington consider "must-reading". Sign up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.

Columnists

Toons

Lifestyles