Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Illiteracy Epidemic: Follow-Up

You might recall an opinion piece last February by Dr. Shawn Zelig Aster about the problems he found teaching Bible in Yeshiva University of some students having difficulty reading and understanding Hebrew (link). R. Shalom Z. Berger wrote a guest post on this blog in response to Dr. Aster (link). Dr. Aster has since taught a remedial course in Hebrew literacy and developed an entire program to deal with the problem. His write-up can found here in PDF (link). It can also be found in the archives of the LookJed e-mail list of Jewish educators, followed by an interesting discussion of educators, many of whom disagree with Dr. Aster's approach (link).

A number of the objections include fond recollections of "Ivrit Be-Ivrit" (teaching Jewish subjects in Hebrew - Modern Hebrew transliteration intentional). I wonder, though, whether the teaching of Hebrew language skills was at the expense of religious inspiration (what educators call "affective"). Was the drop-out rate from religious observance significantly higher then? I think so. Maybe if less time had been spent on Hebrew language skills and more on religious inspiration, like we do now, more people would have remained in the fold.

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