Tuesday, September 4, 2012

unschooling gemara

In case you were wondering, chana finished all her rashis last night.  But we went to the bronx zoo today, so we didn't do chumash yet.  It's almost 8pm and nobody's in bed yet...

Anyway, back to the unschooling question.   The recent daf yomi siyum has engendered the question: how come so many adults LOVE dafyomi and so many people talk about how wonderful it is and how it's changed their lives and are so excited to do it, when so many teenagers in school hate gemara?

I read an interesting article on that today.

Though off the top of my head, I can think of two differences:

1) One hour of daf yomi a day instead of 1.5 hours of chevrusa and 1.5 hrs of shiur.
2) Being an adult instead of being a kid.

Despite that, there are a few good points in this article:

How To Teach Gemara by Rabbi Zalman Baruch Melamed

That means that the Yeshiva High School and Junior High School rabbis must take the time for introspection. Perhaps it is those who teach the teachers how to plan their lessons who need ask themselves – how can it be that Gemara study can attract ordinary, working Jews so strongly, and  get them to sit together and study after a long work day, but that many young students in yeshiva high schools have admitted that they do not like to study Gemara?

These youngsters are not at fault, the methods with which they are taught are at fault. Instead of learning Gemara as Oral law, concentrating on the content and only using the text for review and recall -  teachers spend their time on word study, on syntax – and very little time on the content and its presentation.

If they would teach the content first, orally, and read the text afterwards, the sessions would be alive and interesting. This way, they would also cover much more ground, their students would feel good about it, and know that they are being filled with spiritual riches.
 I note that this is the method I've been thinking about regarding unschooling: focusing orally on the content and less focus, at least initially, on the word study and syntax.  He mentions that the flow of gemara was written down in a way to preserve its character as Oral Law.  It is like a discussion, with arguments, citing pesukim and other sources, and going back and forth, with lots of topics coming up on the way.

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