Tuesday, April 11, 2006

HAFTR & Rambam - Analysis: Hashkafa & Conclusion

Previous questions were technical. Who will stay and go? Will courses be offered? Can they be offered? Financing? But there's one question, more fundamental, which has yet to be raised.


Rambam and HAFTR have (seemingly) different hashkafos. Coed education and single female teachers are but examples. As I've mentioned earlier, I don't think parents choose between HAFTR and Rambam. The two are too different. Nor would it surprive me if the contingent of students from outside of the five towns hail from different communities and different elementary schools. I know of Brandeis students that have gone to HAFTR, none to Rambam. How many Darchei students have gone to HAFTR?

In essence, HAFTR is more LW than Rambam, with a wider variety of students. In a community which is moving "to the right," this bodes ill for HAFTR (why the community is moving to the right is not for now). In fact, in order to maintain current student levels, they'd need to increase their diversity, which won't help with cohesiveness. Pressure from Northshore doesn't help matters.

Expect HAFTR parents to be very concerned, just as Rambam parents would be if HAFTR administration was running the show instead.

But what hashkafic changes will be brought to HAFTR and Rambam? Provided the schools maintain their own admissions standards, the student bodies shouldn't change greatly. From the student body perspective, we won't see a "Rambamization" of HAFTR or a "HAFTRization" of Rambam. Any attempt to impose hashkafic views which HAFTR parents disapprove of could be disastrous.

But there are plenty of areas which parents won't disagree with. Its my understanding that while Zionism courses are taught at HAFTR, they are focused on seniors. We might see the introduction of those courses at the freshman level, where they'll do more good.

Interestingly, this partnership may arrest the communal move to the right. To paraphrase a friend, the average Chaim is more "religious" than the average "Mike." Additionally, MO adherents are willing to be in a secular world, they face challenges that the UO do not. While a level of religious belief and grounding might suffice for UO, the same level doesn't begin to suffice for MO. The idea of "Torah uMadah" is a hard one for adults. I regularly get into discussions with learned and intellegient people, who just can't understand that science or philosophy provide for a deeper understanding of Torah. Imagine how hard it is for children? As a result, these kids go to yeshivas, where there heads are filled with other views, views which make sense. In the face of no alternative, is it any surprise that many "flip out?" In the long term, this partnership may make it a more serious MO community, instead of a RW community.

To conclude:

Like the other issues, the hashkafic views are more complicated that this single post. But I'm trying to wrap this up before Pesach. Please feel free to bring up additional issues in the comments.

This deal has some upside, but its far from certain that HAFTR and Rambam can pull it off. Financing is an issue, the girls school is an issue. Hashkafa is a huge issue, I'd wager its one larger than most people give it credit for.

If they can't pull it off, the deal will collapse. The schools will remain where they are today. Even if they do pull it off, I can easily see a new school or two opening its doors to cater to parents who feel like HAFTR or Rambam abandoned them? I can also see HAFTR's high school population decreasing in the coming years, so that the two schools are more evenly matched, population wise (especially if an all girls school opens up).

There's a lot we still don't know. How will internal administration work, what's the exact power given to each of the personalities, and how will HAFTR's lower and middle school be impacted? I've tried looking at some of the major issues (this last one less than most due to time constraints), but as they say, the devil is in the details.