Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Jews Love: Secular College

For the record, I didn't forget "Jews Love: St. Patrick's Day," but as the holiday took place on Shabbat, and I was nursing a red wine hangover from Shabbat dinner, I didn't feel particularly celebratory. Nor was there any green beer nearby. If you want a short summary of the REAL reason for Jews to love Saint Paddy's day, take a look at DaboysOf905, where JT has a good explanation.

Now, to get down to business. Secular Colleges. I went to one. Harley sort of did. I'm pretty sure that David Bogner of Treppenwitz did (and the navy too!), and he turned out alright. Although, apparently it was a near thing; Phoebe discusses (on Jewlicious) Shmuley Boteach's most recent rant in JPost, this time about how secular colleges, among other things "make kids dumber." For the record, I don't recall a "giant orgy filled with misogynistic men" although it might have made my freshman year more interesting. I should ask Michael and Chris (of Kosher Eucharist) though. They look like they had more fun at college. Maybe even a misogynistic orgy or two.

And another thing, as Phoebe points out, it doesn't look like religious/seminary universities are necessarily so much better. Certainly if you ask David Kelsey about his experience at YU, he wouldn't really recommend their environment as so conducive to learning. Or necessarily to focusing on academics. I know that back in the day, when my parents lived in the same neighborhood as Stern College, they used to see frum kids making out in doorways on Saturday nights. Maybe it's a different era now, but Shmuley is closer to my parents' age than to mine.

Yeah, I have some issues with the university system, and as I may have mentioned before, I think that High School should be 3 years long, with a year of mandatory national service afterwards (or optional catch-up time for students who need an extra year to compete required courses). I think that many students arrive at college without a real understanding of the opportunity which they are being given, and there are a lot of people who just need an extra year to grow up. Clearly I am an FDR-style democrat. But none of these is necessarily the fault of secular colleges. The institutions haven't really changed as much as the culture, and while the institutions are guilty of not adapting, that is all they are guilty of.

And in case you were worried that only the Orthodox are down on secular colleges, Conservative Apikores of Live "Frei" or Die! has an old post on how Jack Wertheimer (JTS provost) claims that "American college campuses [forbid] Jews -- or any other white ethnic, for that matter -- from "identifying" (whatever that means) with their ethnic group."

Yeah, I totally noticed that at college. I had a very difficult time identifying with my ethnic group. Right. Not.


The Pedant said...

I don't trust anything said by a man whose name reminds me of a kosher pickle manufacturer.

Also, I would have done quite a lot my freshman year to have been invited to an orgy, misogynistic or no.

treppenwitz said...

Full disclosure: While it is true I spent 4 years in the navy, the 'secular university' I attended for the first 2 years was Hebrew University in Jerusalem... not exactly a party school. I then transferred to Yeshiva University. There is also the important factor that I had become observant while I was in the Navy, so I was already moving in a direction that made me less susceptible to secular influences that are typical of the college experience.

That having been said, one of the [many] reasons we made aliyah is that we were frustrated at the prospect of sending our kids to private religious schools for 12 years of school and then have them attend a secular college in the US where the prevailing secular culture would quickly conspire to undo all those years of insular religious training.

Obviously many kids from religious backgrounds go to secular schools and come out the other end with their commitment and observance intact. But there are many, many who take another path. American culture (which is heavily weighted towards secularism, multiculturalism and Christianity can be a very tempting thing for college kids who are in both their formative and rebellious years.

I mention all this because it is one thing to say that statistically, secular colleges are not such a danger to the Jewish identities of our children. It is quite another to roll the statistical dice with one's own children.

DK said...

Treppenwitz, you said,

"I mention all this because it is one thing to say that statistically, secular colleges are not such a danger to the Jewish identities of our children. It is quite another to roll the statistical dice with one's own children."

You know what? FWIW, it is one thing for frummies to declare the dangers of secular college for their own kids, and quite another to deceptively hammer away at the socio-economic opportunity of others by attempting to deny them college, including other peoples' teens.