Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Naivety Seen

Attending a frum school from nursery through college has its benefits. Frum colleges are known to be easier and more of a joke, and you don't have to worry about taking off for yom tovim. Your classmates are all frum girls (or guys), and you don't have to worry about the environment being unsuitable for a bas yisroel (or ben torah) or getting yourself into a compromising situation. Sure, in high school you only get half a day of general studies, but I haven't found my general studies education to be lacking in most areas, and compared to most "in town" high schools I think I've actually received a better general studies education.

This summer, after 3 day schools, 1 frum high school, 1 seminary, 2 frum colleges and 117 credits I found myself in a secular school for the first time. The subjects? Art History I and Art History II, two courses required for my degree through a frum college, but not offered there for obvious reasons.

One of the main subjects of art, especially during the Renaissance is religion. The religion of choice being Christianity.

Of course, growing up in the frum school system we are not taught about dinosaurs or theories of evolution. Certain chapters in Psychology and Biology are skipped, and we don't learn about the "other religions". I do remember learning about Isalm, but not much about Christianity. You can imagine how confused I was sitting in class listening to the teacher's explanations about "Yushka", Mary, another Mary (?!), Madonna, and John the Baptist in about 100 different paintings. The Last Supper had something to do with.... Easter was it? Wasn't it before the crucification?? Why are there two babies and who is John? I had no clue what was flying, a basic background in Christianity is pretty much a necessity for most of the course. And oh yes, of course blaming Eve for eating the apple is sexist - that must be what the "author of the Bible" intended. (Don't get me started on the apple.)

While most yeshivos and seminaries probably don't approve of college, the reality is that most students looking for pursue a professional career will attend secular colleges. We don't believe that we came from Monkeys and we don't learn about Christianity in school, but maybe a brief "for Dummies" course should be given by a trusted Rav in a torahdik manner to prepare us before entering such an environment.

What about when we are approached by classmates, teachers, or even missionaries? We should have enough knowledge to be able to discuss Judaism vs. Christianity and disprove them with confidence.

My first course this summer was taught by a German Anti-Semite who gave me trouble the minute she figured out I was a Jew. She'd get into religious discussions during class, and ask provocative questions such as "When was the Bible put together?" (What do you mean put together? G-d wrote the bible....), or she would put down the "Hebrews" and occasionally mumble about "some custom or another of the Hebrews". In her class I actually felt like "the Jew" and not just another student.

Antisemitism is not something that I've been confronted with often, especially in a school setting. It's hard to sit and take the abuse quietly and not mouth off.

You can dis frum schools and their "fake degrees" all you want, but sometimes it's nice to fit in and not worry about controversial topics.

And hey, where else can you earn 60 credits in one semester?