A follow up post on education:
We spend thousands of dollars and invest hundreds of hours of classroom instruction in educating our kids. After 12 or more years, what do we expect them to know? What are we getting for our money?
My question assumes that, like E.D. Hirsch argued, there is certain “core knowledge” that is essential. It’s not enough for students to have some vague set of skills or good “midos” or hashkafos. They need to have real facts and information at their fingertips.
Here is what I consider the bare minimum, at least for girls:
1) Knowing all of chumash with rashi;
2) Familiarity with the text all of all nevi’im rishonim and basic content of nevi’im achronim;
3) Knowing orach chaim halachos as found in Chayei Adam or Kitzur;
4) Understanding basic principles of belief (this point needs a post of its own to define better).
Sounds simple, but I challenge you to test your average Beis Ya’akov graduate and see if she has mastered the items on my list. My own kids have gone to what is considered a more academic B.Y., one which comparatively speaking does provide a decent education, and they complain to me that I’m being unfair when I expect them to know a pasuk and Rashi that they never learned in school.
(If you think boys education is any better, you're kidding yourself. A kid can walk out of 12th grade knowing 60-70 blatt gemara (in some cases, ha’levai that much) and the reid a rebbe said over to them for 4 years and that’s it – no knowledge of navi, chumash, hashkafa (outside of mussar shmuzen), and a smattering of Mishnah Berurah at best. Of course you have boys who become masmidim and excel – but those are the ones who are above average. What about the guy in the second level shiur in MTA, in DRS, in Chofetz Chaim, NIRC, or YFR? What do they really know after 12 years of school?)
What is worse than girls not having learned this stuff in school is the fact that they never given the message that they have to learn it on their own, not because of the mitzvah of talmud Torah (which of course does not apply to girls), and not because they will do some kind of aveirah if they don't know a Rashi somewhere in Sefer VaYika (a very unlikely prospect), but simply because how can you live as a thinking Jew, a Jew who wants to connect with Torah = with G-d, if you don't even know chumash and Rashi?
I should get back to posting on Torah only topics before I get myself too worked up or into hot water : )