Friday, March 03, 2023

The Different Goals of NYSED and OFSTED

Chasidic children (JC)
It does seem like it. But is it? The question is whether Charedim – or more specifically Chasidim are being targeted unfairly by government educational agencies (NYSED and OFSTED). If one reads the collective Orthodox responses to mainstream media reporting about them - one might conclude that they are. 

But as I have said many times in the past, I don’t think that’s necessarily the case. So, what is it that is really going on here? Is there some sort of subliminal prejudice against a segment of Orthodox Jewry that self segregates from the rest of the world doing so in part by being as different from the general population as they can possibly be? 

Can’t prove it. But I concede that there might be some of that going on. I don’t, however, think that this is what motivates them. 

It is happening in two different parts of the world: New York and the UK. In both instances Chasidic schools are the targets. But for different reasons. In New York it is about the lack of fulfilling the state’s mandatory requirement of offering a curriculum that is substantially equivalent to public schools. In the UK is about not living up to their government’s  requirement to teach about alternative lifestyles.  

In both cases they see non compliance with the law as a problem  worthy of sanctions. But  what is being asked of the schools in each country is qualitatively different.  What is being asked of them in New York is to teach core subjects ;like English, math and science. What is being asked of them in the UK is to teach values that - for religious reasons - they do not agree with.

From the JC

Primary schools are required to make pupils aware that there are “different types” of families as part of relationships education; that might include single-parent families, for example, but LGBT content is not mandatory at this age. 

Primary schools are required to make pupils aware that there are “different types” of families as part of relationships education; that might include single-parent families, for example, but LGBT content is not mandatory at this age.,,

Strictly-Orthodox schools feel “victimised” by Ofsted, which they believe is adopting an unnecessarily harsh approach towards them, representatives of the Charedi community have told the JC…

If a school is graded as “requires improvement”, it may be forced to produce an action plan on how it proposes to remedy the identified failing, and face the threat of additional inspections or even enforcement action such as a bar on admitting new pupils…

“We also ensure that our inspectors are properly trained and that enough time is given to inspection activity.”

An independent primary school, she explained, would “not automatically be judged to fail the relevant standards if it does not teach about LGBT relationships.

“However, we will need to be satisfied that the school has fulfilled its requirement, set by the Department for Education, to make pupils aware of protected characteristics in an age-appropriate way.

“If it cannot do this then it is likely we will judge that the school has failed to meet the relevant standards.”

It is for that reason that I am more sympathetic to the complaints by Chasidim in the UK than I am to complaints of New York’s Chasidim.

It is one thing for NYSED to require a core curriculum that consists of English, math, and science for example. It is  an entirely different enterprise when a OFSTED requires teaching things which are anathema to them. I believe it is an attempt to shove down their throats cultural values that are clearly against the religious values of all Orthodox Jews.

But my sympathy goes only so far. UK Chasidim have a way out. Uncomfortable tough it may be for them. The plain truth is that they can satisfy OFSTED  by following the guidelines issued by UK Chief Rabbi, Sir Ephraim Mirvis who is Orthodox and created them in ways that satisfies bith OFSTED and Halacha. All of the Orthodox school that follow them have been left alone. 

What about the slippery slope argument made in the US that fears eventually being forced to teach LGBT in their schools the way Chasidim are being forced in the UK? 

I never took much stock is that argument. I have heard it argued that Orthodox educators are in part fighting NYSED in part because of the ‘slippery slope’  argument. Pointing to what’s going on in there and saying it will come here if we don’ t stop them now UK. 

There is no evidence whatsoever that NYSED is attempting the kind of social engineering that OFSTED is. And even if in the unlikely event that it ever does, They will have the same way out that the UK does by adopting a version of Rabbi Mirvis’ s guidelines.

Just my two cents.