Survey of current practices and attitudes of Jewish history teachers in the high Jewish day schools in the United States
Sociology, Ethnic and Racial Studies
Education, Curriculum and Instruction
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AbstractThe purpose of this study was: (1) to examine and describe the status of Jewish history in Jewish day schools; (2) to identify problems in the teaching of Jewish history; and (3) to define the main topics that might be included in a Jewish history curriculum in the United States.It was assumed that: (a) there is a connection between the religious affiliation of the school and the conditions under which Jewish history is taught; (b) the number of weekly Jewish history lessons is lower than desired; (c) the language of instruction is English even though textbooks are in Hebrew; (d) the limited number of teaching techniques employed by Jewish history teachers leads to poor teaching and negative attitudes on the part of students; (e) teachers are constantly engaged in selecting topics and materials because the time allocated is insufficient to cover the subject.Descriptive data from sample schools were collected by means of a questionnaire. Four questions framed the content of the questionnaire: (1) current status of Jewish history teaching within the curriculum; (2) curriculum currently in use; (3) teaching needs with respect to materials and methods; and (4) Jewish history teachers' perceptions of topics and priorities.Findings indicated: (1) Jewish history is included as a separate subject in the curriculum of most Jewish day schools in the United States, but it is allocated less teaching time than other major Jewish studies; (2) Current curricula and textbooks do not meet student needs. Time allocated for the teaching of Jewish history is considered insufficient; (3) Most of the textbooks currently in use are considered unsuitable by the teachers. Most methods of instruction are text-oriented; most teachers prefer English as the language of instruction for Jewish history; (4) Teachers play a major role in curricular decisions concerning Jewish history, and there is a broad common denominator among them regarding the priority of Jewish history topics. A list of topics in order of priority was compiled by the study.The study concluded that under present conditions, more teaching periods will not be allocated to Jewish history. The curriculum should be reviewed and adapted to current conditions by reducing its scope and quantity and by offering new alternative teaching techniques. It was also concluded that the "calculated list" defined in the study (as mentioned in Item 4 above) could serve as a basis for the new curriculum. Finally, the study concluded that Jewish history teachers should play a major role in adapting this new curriculum.