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Isn't it pretty?

Friday, June 10, 2005

In Need of Options

I was speaking to a friend of mine last night whose oldest son will enter the 4th grade next year. This friend of mine recently left Baltimore for a much smaller Orthodox community where there is only one school to send her children to for kindergarten through 8th grade, and the school is co-ed. That is significant for my friend, who leans toward the yeshivish end of the spectrum, but she and her husband have decided to deal with that drawback of living in a small community. What I thought was so significant is that she mentioned to me that her son will be joining the band next year, and learning to play the clarinet. I was so excited for him. I have known my friend's son since he was a toddler; he is a sweet, sensitive, creative and very bright boy who I can only imagine will flourish with having the outlet of playing an instrument. I was so happy that the school they are sending their children to includes the advantage of including music and performing arts as a part of their curriculum, because I think it is so important for all students to have some way of expressing their individual talents and to get away from the intellectual atmosphere of the classroom from time to time. She lamented a bit the fact that the Torah learning is not at the same level as many of the yeshivos they would have chosen; that they were going to have to learn with him at home on a more intense level than they would have otherwise. But my perspective is that such a singular focus on Torah learning must be incredibly stifling to a child. A few children will enjoy the learning immensely, and probably excel, but I think the vast majority need to have some kind of option and individual development considered in developing educational objectives. Each child is different, and to have only one path through which a whole school is gear is, I believe, a way to really turn many students away from that which is so intensely focused on, especially if a particular student has difficulty with the subject matter. It is often said that a school can't offer everything at a distinctive level. I agree, and understand the focus that is put on Torah, because it is incredibly important. But I don't think everyone can, or should, focus on it to the exclusion of all else. So I am extremely happy that my friend's son is going to be in the band - for him, I think it will make an incredible difference. I wish that all kids would be nurtured into finding their individual outlets, I know for me, it was one of the highlights of my education.

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