File under really bad ideas...
- Balaam's ass
- Haman's ear
- A pig in a blanket
And the manna fluttered about her calves with its flavour exposed...
Plenty of j-bloggers have picked up on the parallels with the current yeshiva system (No Yid Left Behind). Of course the driving force there is not economic distinction, but another kind of hegemony: "I have the right (Jewish) values, so my study is valuable, my children are special and gifted (and if they're not we won't talk about it), and I am therefore justified in any wacky thing I might think or say."
Unfortunately, Murray's analysis of what this over-education means for Americans is also applicable to today's Jewry:
"They are taking away a mishmash of half-understood information and outright misunderstandings that probably leave them under the illusion that they know something they do not. (A depressing research literature documents one's inability to recognize one's own incompetence.) Traditionally and properly understood, a four-year college education teaches advanced analytic skills and information at a level that exceeds the intellectual capacity of most people."
Or, as Mississippi Fred McDowell puts it,
"When you tantalize the masses with some of the things studied in Harvard, they become semi-learned... But this is what many people are today and they're not going to not have opinions. The boxing fan may be wrong, but 1) some boxing fans are knowledgable enough that they do have a right to an opinion and 2) they're going to have an opinion regardless of whether they're right. More arcane fields, say, the study of Punic paleography, don't come with hangers on with stupid opinions.
"...you have got to expect that people who learn a little will have opinions. It is not arrogant or shameful--it is human nature, and the laymen would have opinions about medicine too if every layman was encouraged to dabble in advanced medical journals, indeed, to have a seder in medicine at least once a day, which is just what we are doing in the sphere of Torah, knowing full well as we do that not all laymen will ever develop into talmidei chachamim."
The problem for me is that I WANT people to get a college education, because college is usually the first place they are exposed to ideas and people that challenge their long-held assumptions about the way the world is. I want it to live up to the expectation that every single student will have life-changing revelation about critical thinking, not so much that they will take away facts, understood or not. But I'm afraid I am deluded.
On the other hand, I WANT every Jew to get a good Jewish education, to the best of his or her abilities and inclination, EVEN THOUGH (in the wrong hands) it may reinforce a world-view that discourages critical thinking (aside from "but Rashi said/but the Rambam said" fisticuffs).
So, how can both goals produce something other than a mishmashed, misunderstood, mire of misbegotten self-righteous certainty? Good teachers, maybe. Teachers who remember, as we learn on Pesach, that each student is different and requires a different approach.
Yeah, like that's gonna happen.