The challenge is optional

Two Boiling Points of View, David Rokah, Staff Writer

Bleep! Bleep!” It’s 6:50 AM and my alarm blasts at full power. I roll around a bit and convince myself to get up for the start of my school day, a frivolous double period of AGT with davening and breakfast sandwiched in between. I arrive at school at precisely 7:50 a.m., only to find my entire class crowded around the teacher’s desk seriously engaged in a game of backgammon between the rabbi and one of the students.

This is what a typical Judaics class looked like three years ago. The only purpose of the class, aside from improving your backgammon skills, was to have a breather from the rest of the day. Why would anyone bother showing up to such useless classes? Good question – sometimes they didn’t! And if they did, they often slept through them.

Shalhevet is a private Jewish school that prides itself on its Modern Orthodox dual curriculum; and make no mistake, that means it’s pricey. The school must be able to pay for teachers to teach subjects ranging from Talmud to Calculus BC.  If all the classes closer to the Talmud side of the spectrum become jokes, Shalhevet would be an overpriced, single-curricular school with 47-minute recesses scattered throughout the day.

To make the argument that such excessive breaks from the “real,” secular classes were essential to student’s sanity and well-being is ungrounded, given that students also were provided with a 20-minute breakfast break, hour-long lunch, and 15-minute Mincha recess. Regardless, the new Judaic system merely creates an honors track, CAJS (Center for Advanced Judaic Studies), for students who wish to immerse themselves in Jewish studies to the same degree they do with secular studies.

While the program is rigorous, so are all honors secular classes. Just as one may opt out of honors and AP classes, one may opt out of CAJS. The school has not added an extra burden to every single Shalhevet student. It is simply providing students with the option to challenge themselves in Judaics as well as in general studies, just as a private Jewish school should.

High school students are responsible enough to avoid burdening themselves beyond what they can handle; and if they fail in that regard, they must pay the consequences. Creating a rule obliging teachers to reduce the amount of work they assign overall to compensate for the additional work that a legitimate Judaic program involves is unnecessary — especially when the program is optional.

Such a rule would also hinder teachers from completing their full curriculum, which could prevent students taking AP courses from scoring well on standardized tests.

If one really detests the high quality Judaic program now available at Shalhevet, he or she may take the alternative courses.

Now, when my alarm pries my eyes open in the morning, the urge to shut it off is mitigated; I am going to school to actually accomplish something, not waste my time discovering tips and tricks on board games for two consecutive periods.  What’s better?

And those who want to take a nap or slack off for half the day still have the ability to do so. They just have to ask Registrar Lili Einalhori to adjust their schedule.