Thursday, December 13, 2007

"What is a Yeshiva College student?"

[ANOTHER UPDATE: See Religious below.]

[UPDATE: This post has been modified somewhat because I realize I wrote something stupid. I hate when that happens.]

YSU (Yeshiva Student Union) is trying to survey YC for ideas and information pertinent to the Yeshiva College Curriculum Review (YCCR). Here it is.

I am very pleased that YSU is trying to spread awareness about YCCR and trying to get ideas and feedback. That said, I think the survey itself could be severely improved.

Here is my favorite question from the survey: "What is a Yeshiva College Student?"

It is not clear to me what is being asked. Is this question descriptive or prescriptive? Do they want me to describe the average Yeshiva College student (whom, parenthetically, I see no need to capitalize)? Or, do they want me to describe my ideal Yeshiva College student?

I will do both here:


A Yeshiva College student is:
  • Orthodox (culturally, not necessarily "frum", whatever that means)
  • Most likely from NY/NJ (we don't really mean Tri-State when we say Tri-State)
  • Most probably went to (at least officially) "Modern Orthodox" day schools
  • Most probably went to post-high school Israel
  • Attends YC either because he couldn't get in anywhere else and/or because of social, religious, possibly financial, and insofar as it is "good enough" academic, reasons.
Sadly, despite the accuracy of this general description, YC does not necessarily take the reality of its student body into account in its curricular development.

Prescriptive (this one is more fun)

A Yeshiva College student should be any Orthodox student who can get into any college better than YC OR who is committed to both Yeshiva and College.

YC's stated and explicit goal should be to deprive the Ivy League (and NYU, Brandeis, MIT, etc) of every single Orthodox student attending or planning to attend those schools. Any student who cannot get into any college better than YC should only go to YC if he has fitting ideological commitments, namely, to their personal best in both Torah and Madda. Otherwise let them go to Touro, Ner Israel, or Queens (assuming they aren't better than YC).

As of now, this is not YC's stated goal, nor is it their actual one. I am really not sure why not.

Of course, it is not even close to a realistic goal, but I will discuss that in a future post.

I [still] really like my definitions. What do you think?


Of course, RIETS (that is, the Religious Jewish Undergraduate Program) should have another ideal student:

A RIETS student should be any Orthodox student who is considered a "top guy" (whether in learn-ability, character, etc, and in terms of the fit for the different programs) OR who is committed to both Yeshiva and College.

So, RIETS should be happy getting that really bright Charedi student, even if he is going to spend his YC time in the Beis.


Julian Horowitz said...

I too answered this question with two models, but in a slightly less elitist manner. I describe both the before and after student that I imagined if YU were to institute proper Torah uMadda education.
There I wrote at much length (they didn't know what they were getting themselves into when sending this survey to guys like me and you) but the basic gist was as follows:

Now, the YU student is someone who is lackluster about about either his morning, his afternoon, or both.

Properly reformatting the curriculum would result in someone who takes both his morning and afternoon seriously, and is actually happy to be at YU, instead of happy to get out of YU.

Noah said...


Well, your point is certainly a fair one.

I think a little elitism would be good for YC. Why do we have to apologize for being YC students, as if we were involved in something in many ways beneath us?

All good colleges, to their credit, I think, generate a sense of elitism/pride among their students. In many cases, it is earned, in large part, by rejecting students not deemed fitting for the school.
If Harvard started accepting everyone who lived in Cambridge, regardless of their quality, the sense of pride/elitism there would plummet.

YC would be all the greater, I think, if it followed my approach. Which, I think, it never will.

Anonymous said...

Out of all the people who are accepted to colleges better than YU, how many would actually attend if YU would adopt your policy? This would seem to leave the college surprisingly small...