Monday, February 27, 2006

Things Change, Dude

Recently there has been a hock about the shifts to the right of two local schools - Rambam and TA. I have spoken to some friends and acquaintances regarding these changes and the responses have varied. Some, who would not send their children to Rambam, see the right-wing shift as positive for YR. However, I have spoken with two of my close friends and they have expressed utter dismay at the inevitable changes. One of these friends attended Rambam at its inception and the other's mother supposedly helped start Rambam and has a sibling there now.

Q: So, what is the source of their dismay?
A: Essentially, they claim that "these values (essentially segregating the school by sex) are not what the school was founded on."

I believe the way I approach their claim is the same way that I approached another topic discussed on my blog. On a previous post regarding alcohol/drugs in the frum community, I discussed (mainly in the comments) about how my Kiddush club is more than drinking - Torah is also an integral part. I received a comment from one of the founders of the UMD Kiddush Club who basically said that it was a crock of S and that KC was just an excuse to drink. I explained to him that as times changes, institutions change.

Change is inevitable. Everyone must agree that if this country were modeled after the morals and values prevalent at its inception, we would be a very different country - we would have slaves. But, as the times went along, we realized that blacks deserved the civil rights which they enjoy today. If George Washington were to come back to life and say it was preposterous that we changed the way we did things in the US today, he would be laughed at. The same is true by my Kiddush Club and Yeshivat Rambam. I find it laughable that the founder of the UMD Kiddush Club views its current manifestation the same way he viewed the original institution. I also find it laughable that the founders of Yeshivat Rambam resist any change to the school.

Now, I agree that YR has a "tzioni" hashkafa at its core. I agree that to change the core hashkafa of the school would be wrong. However, the job of a school, or any business for that matter, is (in no specific order): to grow, to make money, and to serve the community. If a school's population suffers attrition, if a school loses money, or if a school does not serve the community, it is not doing its job. I believe that the more kids a school has, the better it is serving the community, and logically, it will have more $$$. Therefore, anything a school can do to increase population (albeit, while holding on to core haskafos), is in its best interest.

Yeshivat Rambam will inevitably lose children with this right wing shift. There are those that cannot fathom their children learning in separate classrooms (let alone in separate buildings) and will send their kids to Beth Tfiloh, or down the road to Hebrew Academy. However, I believe this number will be small. I am confident that the number of students gained by making this shift will far outnumber those who leave. There are plenty of parents in the community that view Yeshivat Rambam's secular studies as worthy, but will not send their children to a co-ed school.

Personally, I grew up interacting with girls on a daily basis and would want my children to have some interaction with those of the opposite sex. When I have children, I may not find Yeshivat Rambam to be the best suitor for my children. But regardless of that, it boggles my mind to think that the founders of the school would rather the school stay co-ed and succumb to attrition (and perhaps its extinction) than to make a right-wing shift and flourish.

36 Comments:

Anonymous peninah said...

I hesitate to write this because i don't want to make trouble, but in reference to the shift to the right, one of these "founding parents" types said to me, "I'd rather they just shut the school down."

Ridiculous.

7:59 PM, February 27, 2006

 
Anonymous Greg said...

The link to my site is messed up.

11:03 AM, February 28, 2006

 
Blogger Opinions said...

You have misinformation. Rambam, was founded on the basis that classes were to be seperate to the extent financially possible. I have spoken with several people on both sides of the issue who agree that this was one of the three principals of the school. The got a "heter" (this was the word used by the parent not happy withthe changes) to keep the classes together in high school so that they could afford to have AP and honors tracks. The people against the change claim to have an issue with the process more then the actions.

11:19 AM, February 28, 2006

 
Blogger AlanLaz said...

BO,

What is my misinformation? Your understanding of what the school was founded on is 100% my understanding as well. Whether the shift is merely part of the original plan or something that was not originally intended, the school is reaching out and shifting in order to cater to a larger population. I am confused as to my misinformation, and I do not think we disagree.

11:24 AM, February 28, 2006

 
Blogger Opinions said...

I understood you to mean that these changes were contrary to the principals Rambam was founded upon. If that was not what you meant I apologize. People want to put on blinders. I heard of inappropriate actions by students due to freedoms to go off campus for lunch. Some think that revoking offsite privileges will prevent these issues. They refuse to realize the underlying problem. I respect the idea that parents want their children to be comfortable interacting with the other gender. At the same time it is important to keep in mind today’s society is not the same as it was 20 years ago. Too much coed activities will inevitably lead to problematic issues.

12:31 PM, February 28, 2006

 
Blogger AlanLaz said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

12:35 PM, February 28, 2006

 
Blogger AlanLaz said...

It is my understanding from my mother-in-law that the school WAS founded on these principles. However, I have heard from two people, who both were founding fathers (mothers) who said, however, this was not the case.

My post was basically just saying that institutions have core beliefs. As long as these core beliefs are upheld (which appears to be a machlokes rishonim - or rishonot), change is inevitable and not always a bad thing.

Whether co-ed school is a good thing is not for here. All I will say is that I bet the "hooking up" rate at TA is = to that of the "hooking up" rate at Rambam.

12:36 PM, February 28, 2006

 
Blogger Jewboy said...

You make some good points about how things evolve. Some people are scared by change and therefore oppose it. Call me clueless, but I don't understand why the mixing of the genders is considered by some to be a core part of the school's hashkafa. We know that Rambam has a Modern Orthodox viewpoint with an emphasis on Zionism. If the school has a charter, which it probably does, is there a provision about the school being mixed that is thought to be such an important part of what the school trys to convey to its students? I guess that's part of the machlokes rishonim you mentioned. But as for me, I don't see why Rambam can't separate its classes while maintaining its hashkafos. Forget any Jewish boy-girl issues, it's generally better for education if classes are separated by gender. I think this is a theory held strongly by many in the non-Jewish world as well.

1:07 PM, February 28, 2006

 
Blogger AlanLaz said...

Jewboy,

I believe that the school, at its core, its "tzioni". If the school were to, along with segregating genders, make kids wear hat and jackets, that would be rediculous. My point is that as long as it stays under the umbrella of "tzioni", change is inevitable and probably a good thing. Sorry if I was ambiguous, but I don't think we disagree.

1:15 PM, February 28, 2006

 
Anonymous peninah said...

Besides for Maimonides, all of the YU/Tsioni schools theat Rambam is looking to be like are separate sexes (i.e., MTA, Central, Bruriah, JEC...).

1:26 PM, February 28, 2006

 
Blogger Jewboy said...

alanlaz- What you said was my point exactly. The school could separate genders and still be "tzioni". As Peninah just commented, there are a lot of schools that are modern and separate. For all those worried that kids won't know how to interact with girls if Rambam is no longer mixed, I assure you that the fact that many New York schools are gender separate does not prevent the "interaction" of boys and girls.

2:28 PM, February 28, 2006

 
Blogger AlanLaz said...

Agreed and agreed. Rambam wants to be affiliated with YU, but I guarantee YU does not approve of the current set up.

2:36 PM, February 28, 2006

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

5:21 PM, February 28, 2006

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

5:23 PM, February 28, 2006

 
Blogger Zazy said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

5:27 PM, February 28, 2006

 
Blogger AlanLaz said...

Zazi,

Interesting point. Seeing some of these kids around though, I have a hard time believing the difference is statistically significant. You are probably right though...the kids at TA that are "hooking up" are probably are more at-risk long term than the ones at Rambam. This is a very important point to which I hope everyone reading this will realize.

5:31 PM, February 28, 2006

 
Blogger Jack Davidov said...

The reason that people get so worked up is association - if a school is no longer coed, it is no longer "modern." It could be the same school in terms of its religious and secular studies, and is now labeled a different place. Frum people are so caught up in labels - its disgusting.

7:18 PM, February 28, 2006

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

9:39 PM, February 28, 2006

 
Blogger Semgirl said...

Its a very dangerous trend in the sense that often, schools are reduced to just nasty businesses that want to survive at all costs, regardless of the harm done.

In Lakewood, there was a school, Betzalel. It was set up originally as a Kiruv school. In the last few years, to stay in business, they became two seperate boys and girl's schools, and became very Yeshivish, in ordered to be included in the umbrella of "Lakewood mosdos" schools.

As a result, the core student body left and went to Solomon Schecter. Basically, now the place just attracts Yeshivish near-dowells, and families on the fringe. Whereas , the affluent doctors, and lawyers that want a modern school, either move out of Lakewood or send them children to S Schecter.

3:53 AM, March 03, 2006

 
Blogger AlanLaz said...

Semgirl,

Thanks for the comment. I do agree that schools shouldn't be seen as money-grubbing businesses. However, I believe that the situation here in Baltimore with Yeshivat Rambam is a bit different from that school in Lakewood. It sounds like that school in Lakewood totally changed its core hashkafos to make more $$. If Rambam does the same thing, and turns, for instance, yeshivish, I would be vehemently against it. However, they are (for now) keeping their core hashkafos, but just segregating their classes - all while being in the same building with each other. Are they changing? Yes, it certainly sounds like it. Are they overhauling all what the school stands for - I don't think so.

7:26 AM, March 03, 2006

 
Blogger SephardiLady said...

I am not particularily familiar with the schools being discussed. However, the situation is one that is seen over and over again in frum communities.

I think we all do ourselves a disservice when when establish schools that do not ebb and flow with the desires and needs of the community. To insist on co-ed schooling while loosing students just means that a school will struggle to survive and will end up either burdening their parents as tuition is shared among less students or burden the community (not a bad thing as I believe K-12 education should be supported by the community) as the school is unable to meet its obligations.

The other problem that is unique to Jewish schools is that parents are so willing to ship their kids (esp. boys) out of town to meet their desires, which makes it less lucrative to come to agreements and compromises regarding what is best for in town students.

Great post. Looking forward to hearing more.

6:15 PM, March 05, 2006

 
Blogger Jewboy said...

Sephardilady- right on about sending kids out of town. I feel that practice is largely negative-one of my rebbeim said that dorm kids are raised by other dorm kids. Teenagers need a normal home environment. Sometimes kids need to be sent out of town for whatever reason, but I think it should be avoided if possible.

9:13 PM, March 05, 2006

 
Anonymous Sammy said...

Much talk out there. Someone told me some of the parents working against the school about the letter they sent out(types who would say "I'd rather they just shut the school down") truly believe that Rambam should mimic Camp Moshava as Camp Moshava is some goal. I always thought Rambam is teaching when boys and girls are together they should interact according to halacha. Of course the school is only as good as its parents. Some parents may deal as parents with their kids but how about all those that check out and feel "frum" kids can simply be trusted.

Anyone who thinks Camp Moshava is the best environment for boys and girls to interact according to halacha are in never never land. It may be good for zionism yes but come on. It might have leaders that would like that but parents are in a fog if they think that environment increases their kids chances to learn "how to interact according to halacha".

Your point about many YU schools being separate is a good one. I know of some friends who go to some of these schools and they still know how to interact with boys and girls and still have a tzioni haskafa. In fact someone told me the bnai akiva schools in Israel are all separate yet they want boys and girls to know how to interact according to halacha. Who is going to call bnai akiva charedi and even they separate.

Rambam is doing the right thing and about time. They discovered that if they want to be a frum school in more then their own marketing material, they needed to do what they always said and teach these principles to kids and separating them at times is one good way to start.

10:48 AM, March 06, 2006

 
Anonymous I like girls said...

If the school isnt co-ed, then where will the guys find girls? I just don't get it, don't you like girls?

10:52 AM, March 06, 2006

 
Blogger The Mink said...

Alan-

You said:
"Are they changing? Yes, it certainly sounds like it. Are they overhauling all what the school stands for - I don't think so."

I understand your point here but whether you want to believe it or not, creating two separate schools for boys and girls would certainly be a major overhaul. Sure they will still keep their tzioni ideals but this switch completely change the face of the school.

The philosophy of a school in my opinion is made/overshadowed by the type of families that send their kids their. I could be wrong but I see the new Rambam becoming like Yeshiva High in Silver Spring which is interesting because it certainly started out much more like the Hebrew Academy. The switch very well could attract a lot more kids but it seems like it will be a much different type of student body. So it is in my opinion going to be a major overhaul even if they aren't willing to admit this.

11:05 AM, March 06, 2006

 
Blogger Jewboy said...

Certainly using coed camps for a model is not what Rambam should be doing. As Sammy said, anyone who thinks coed environments leads boys and girls to "interact" according to halacha is living in a dream world. I'm having trouble understanding why parents don't understand the proven facts that education is better, in the Jewish or non-Jewish world, if classes are gender separate. Rambam doesn't have to change its hahkafa, and I'm sure there will still be plenty of out of school activities where boys and gitls can "interact" according to halacha, whatever that means. As Alanlaz and I have emphasized, don't delude yourself into thinking that because the classes are separate, there won't be interaction of a non-halachic nature between boys and girls.

12:02 PM, March 06, 2006

 
Anonymous Sammy said...

"I like girls said...

If the school isnt co-ed, then where will the guys find girls? I just don't get it, don't you like girls?"

Come on. You sound like a hs school kid.

The letter I was shown said nothing about boys not being able to talk to girls. You are sounding like this is a TA/BY discussion. The point "was according to halacha"

There is a far cry between putting them together (ie. camp moshava) and thinking halachic interaction is taking place under the guise of "religious zionism" as opposed to defining borders as a method to teach them.

I wonder how many of these parents who are against the letter Rambam sent out think that frum kids dating in hs (including yichud) is halachicly permissible and if they answer no then what frum planet do they think exists where rabbi's would think that is acceptable. Or do Rabbi's not count too in the sphere of religious zionism / modernity".

Of course boy/girl stuff goes on at TA/BY as it is inevitable everywhere but Rambam is supposed to make it work. That is what they always said. Becoming another TA / BY / or Yeshiva High is not the answer. Educating with separation and according to halacha as many YU schools in NJ and Bnai Akiva in Israel do, is well worth Rambam's continued efforts.

1:05 PM, March 06, 2006

 
Blogger AlanLaz said...

Mink,

Thanks for the comments - it is my understanding that Rambam isn't turning into two separate schools - they're staying in the same building and the only new additions will be separate lunches and limudei chol. I am not saying that I agree with what they are doing - I do not know if this is a place that I would now want to send my children to more than the previous Rambam - maybe it is, but I don't know. I think the comparison b/w Yeshiva High is silly, as their campuses are separated by some 20 miles - Rambam will still be in the same one. If they would decide to stay integrated, it's time to drop the YU hoopla from their letterhead, because I'm sure YU wants them segregated.


I like girls - I do like girls, always have. I learned alot from my interactions with people of a different gender, race, religion, ethnicity, etc. Like I said before, I am not sure how I feel about the changes - only that I know they are inevitable.

Sammy - Agreed and Agreed again.

1:08 PM, March 06, 2006

 
Blogger The Mink said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

1:20 PM, March 06, 2006

 
Blogger The Mink said...

I heard that the eventual plan is two different campuses, don't know if this is true but that's what I heard. And if this is the case I would argue that the comparison to Yeshiva High is not so "silly."

1:21 PM, March 06, 2006

 
Blogger Shua said...

Just to put in my two cents..First Laz, I appreciate your objectivity regarding Rambam's recent changes. I am a parent of 2 kids at Rambam who does not have strong feelings either way regarding the splitting of more classes (while if forced to choose, I do lean more towards splitting). At the end of the day, I look at the kids the school produces (overall good kids, excellent Midot, appreciation for Torah, Israel, and the world we live in) as well as the parents who send their kids there (normal, thinking, observant Jews, like myself) I think people are splitting hairs a little too much about this issue (on both sides). I am not so sure that kids who go to Rambam engage in any more inappropriate behavior specifically regarding boy/girl interactions, than they do in other schools. I DO honestly believe that my kids have a close to 100% chance of becoming responsible, Torah-observant Jews, as result of going to Rambam. I don't have any official stats from the other schools, but it is disheartening to observe many of the kids from the other schools going "off-the-derech". This observation (again, this is my opinion) that Rambam breeds good, Torah observant Jews, is in addition to (or perhaps, correlated to) the emphasis on Torah-Umaddah, to which I fully subscribe. The school may not be for everyone, but I strongly encourage people to see past any boy-girl issues (pro or con splitting) and really look at the students attending and graduating the school for who they are, and what they are becoming.

11:00 PM, March 07, 2006

 
Blogger AlanLaz said...

Shua,
Thanks for the comment. The point of the post was not to agree or disagree with the pending changes - rather to discuss institutional change. That being said, it just so happens that I agree with you 100%.

11:09 PM, March 07, 2006

 
Blogger Shua said...

Laz,

Perhaps I rambled a bit, but I think I stayed within the topic at hand. My basic points were:
1) The changes at Rambam neither change the Hashkafah, nor in my opinion, will it practically change the product (students) of the school.
2) Co-ed/Not Co-ed issues in general are way overblown -- based on my observation that all Orthodox Balt. schools have similar issues outside of school regardless of Co-ed/Not Co-ed classes.
THEREFORE, the changes at Rambam are not a big deal in reality, but only in perception (again, just my opinion).

I believe that falls within the spirit of the discussions posted.

Very nice blog overall. Keep up the fantastic work!

7:05 AM, March 08, 2006

 
Blogger AlanLaz said...

Shua,
You certainly stayed within the framework of the post. I just wanted to make sure I wasn't coming off as either a staunch misnaged or supporter. I'm not so opposed to their segregation, but I also, like yourself, believe that the co-ed schooling hock is blown way out of proportion.

Bottom line: I want good, solid kids that are serious about Torah, Israel, middos, and normalcy. Maybe all four of those together is too much to ask, but Gd I hope not.

7:39 AM, March 08, 2006

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I beg to differ on the idea that separate classes are better academically. Recent studies actually show that separate classes even in non-Jewish schools cause more bullying and a drop in academics test scores.

More important, Rambam has a niche in this community. It does produces good kids, by any definition, so why mess with this. TA is not going to sit around and watch it students leave and BT is going to try to grab parents upset with the changes so it seems like a lose/ lose for Ranbam. So how is that going to help Rambam's $$ issues? It is a great school which is why this is so upsetting for so many students and parents that love the school.

11:52 PM, April 04, 2006

 
Blogger AlanLaz said...

Anon,

Way to be about a month late...
I challenge you to find those empirical studies you speak of. Don't believe what you hear, only what you see. I'll believe those claims when I see research in front of me.

So why mess with this? The answer is simple. Mess with this, get more kids. Don't mess with this, lose kids. Sounds like a no brainer to me. Sure, there will be a couple misnagdim that will run off to BT, but the kids that they will gain will be far more. There are kids that don't send their kids to Rambam ONLY because of the Co-ed issue. There's no way they're going to lose kids to TA, as TA's secular education isn't great, and that isn't something that can change over night.

3:43 AM, April 05, 2006

 

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