Last week, the New York Times published an article about the purported inadequacy of secular education in many ḥasidic schools and the efforts to convince municipal authorities to do something about it. The article, notes Ira Stoll, is one of several recent pieces on the subject and is deeply flawed:
This report is faulty [in part] because it quotes four different people complaining about the supposedly inadequate education offered by the yeshivas, but not a single person defending the schools from the accusation. . . . Another flaw was the article’s conclusion, an anonymous negative quotation. . . . The Times doesn’t subject [the informant’s words] to any of the skeptical scrutiny that other news sources are often subject to. . . . The anonymous quote appears despite a recent and highly publicized supposed New York Times crackdown on the use of such anonymous quotes in news articles. . . .
It’s certainly possible that some yeshivas could indeed do a better job of educating children in math, English, and science, and that some parents and former students are upset about it. But I know, too, that plenty of other schools that aren’t run or attended by Orthodox Jews are also doing sub-par jobs at teaching those topics, without even trying to teach the children any Talmud along the way. It’s certainly not clear to me that bringing down the government bureaucracy, [the civil-liberties activist] Norman Siegel, or the New York Times on the Jewish schools will do anything to improve the education offered to the children there. . . .
If the Times is going to choose to cover, rather than ignore, the topic of Jewish education, it would be nice to read some success stories, instead of just the complaints and scandals. In the long view, this whole area is such a success story, and quite an incredible one at that.