For the story so far see here… and now read on.
After the auditory contest between voices of reason on one side and cacophonous canines on the other it will come as little surprise to learn that the dogs gained the upper paw. It's not for nothing that 'man bites dog' makes the more implausible headline.
What supposedly happened beyond that initially reported was that a group of school heads who did not make it to the Westminster outing wrote to Rav Padwa a sulking letter stating that they do not wish to be represented by AOJSOL. For a start they felt that the acronym is too long for people who on a point of principle shun the English language and unless is was transliterated into Hebrew or circumcised by 3 or more letters they will have nothing to do with tongue twisters of this kind. Besides, it is their firmly held belief that a policy of talking to the authorities and negotiating with the DfE over the secular education of kids carries with it the stench of capitulation and surrender and it is our shirts that are white and not our flags.
The local thinking goes roughly so. Our starting position will always be that whatever curriculum they have in mind it is still lehavdil inferior to ours. Period. Sof posuk. And even if it was equal, which of course it is chas vecholilo not, non-Jewish children are not taught Yiddish or Hebrew so there is no reason why Jewish children should be taught English. Or maths, geography, history and science for that matter, which round here all come under the rubric of 'English'. To this must be added that our kids don't do drugs and we have no teenage pregnancies out of wedlock and this, as we well know, is an excuse for anything from loft extensions to double parking, honking horns and overloaded school buses. Mind you we don't do brain surgeons or precision engineers either but that's being pedantic so let's move on.
This preamble conveniently out of the way, we must then challenge the DfE that English is bichlal not so important. You see, non-heimishes have jobs descending deep into mineshafts and window-cleaning skyscrapers and the Tower of Babel story teaches us that without a good grounding in linguistics ascending too high can cause one to hit the buffers. By contrast, us chosen ones are surrounded by zillionaires who were not taught any English and have still made it in life in a way that the schlemazels at the DfE can only dream of. And so we ought to tell them that if only they experienced the taste of a Shabbos table replete with plastic tablecloths and 13 dips before the fish they too would undoubtedly concede that Rabbi Tarfon beats Darwin and 'An alleyway that is taller than 20 cubits' trumps Henry VIII and his 8 wives, thank you very much.
(It may assist to add that Richard Branson also has no university education plus he sports a beard and has not done too badly for himself either. This could raise the rather delicate matter of the name of his brand and his proste habit of hoisting up stewardesses in his arms. In fairness, though, the last time I saw his meidelech in Terminal 3 they were all clad in coats which reached considerably further than 4 inches below the knee although truth be said the coats were red and their length may have encroached beyond chareidi and into MO territory.)
So going back to where we started, since this unfortunately was not the approach taken by the AOJSOL, the dissenting schools decided to play truant. After all, what are English lessons for if not for playing up? But what really upset them more than anything was that if not for that un-pronounceable acronym the mandarins at the DfE wouldn' t even know of our existence. And since this is their trump card it warrants some further thought.
As the previous post made clear, every year the ground somewhere on the border between E5 and N16 opens up and swallows 150 or so 13 year olds, drawn as they must be to the sweet melodies of our pied pipers. Not quite pipers as the local instrument of choice happens to be the synthetic keyboard but they are mesmerised by some kind of heimishe tune nonetheless. Given that these kids are completely off the radar, the argument goes, if not for the AOJSOL snitching to the DfE they in Westminster would know nothing about our yeshivos which could then thrive happily ever after. Our Jewish ingenuity has got us out of the deepest of ruts and this one need have been no different. And even should the education apparatchiks have decided to pay us a visit and survived the trip to our neck of the woods we would still have been able to arrange an askan here and a shtadlan there to bamboozle them with facts and figures until they'd be searching for nothing but the exit.
Well, as I almost said at the outset, this is firmly canine territory of the insane type and if there is one thing to be certain of in this asylum it is that the lunatics win out in the end. Reason and sanity have no role to play other than in their scarcity and round here the less one possesses of those hazardous attributes the more one is likely to succeed. And so the AOJSOL beat a hasty retreat and for last 18 months the barking lot were able to rub their hands in glee for having totted up yet another victory. Until this letter, of course, to which far brighter minds are currently applying their assets and who need no input from us lot.
But before I retire my pen I wish to address just once thought that may be fleeting through the mind of the casual observer. One might just wonder at this stage where the parents come into all of this. I mean, it's all very well with the Westminster door-openers appearing for a photo call in the Tribune and the opponents resorting to the shul noticeboards because to them even the Tribune is not kosher enough. But surely parents must take some stand on the matter of the education of their dear neshomolech. A fair point, I'd think.
Well, Mr Casual Observer, never mind a stand, they don't even have a seat on the issue. It's more like that they lie prostrated in a permanent vegetative state, though this does require some qualification.
If a survey were to be carried out in Stamford Hill I'd lay a bet that the vast majority of parents would prefer (not much more than that, I'm afraid) their children to be taught the basics of the English language . Let's face it, at some point in life they may have to make an insurance claim or complain about the lack of kosher meals on a flight to Acapulco and should the wife at that time be institutionalised in Beis Broche and not at hand to assist a smattering of English could be something of an asset.
I'd go one further, that most parents would think it not a bad idea to teach the kids some maths, too though many might baulk at the prospect of burdening their pure souls with Pythagorean triangles and Euclidean geometry. After all, what did Hashem create calculators for. For the sake of balance I should add that many if not most would almost certainly be opposed to the study of literature in the form of Jane Austen or Henry James and not to mention that old antisemite Mr W. Shakespeare.
Yet despite this apparent eagerness of parents for some form of secular education for their male offspring they still have the lower hand at the point of delivery. Which brings us back to the barking lot.
Parent power is not something mentioned in the mishna berura and if it makes any sense it's just another reason to shun it like a vaccination. And so parents sacrifice their kids for the sake of their kids. Deny them the education they are entitled to for the sake of their birthright of a good shiduch. Coerce them by omission into a life of limited opportunities at best and public dependency at worst for the sake of not rocking the boat.
What they fail to note is that that their vessel is no longer seaworthy, the captains are drunk and the brainiest are going overboard. But those who remain will refuse to provide a life vest to their kids to carry them through the high seas of life because like seat belts it's yet another thing we don't quite believe in.
And so backwards we drift with no pointer on our compass.