The idea: A site to host the development of “open source” curriculum for learning how to learn Talmud and other texts in Hebrew/Aramaic.
The need: There are few if any curriculae which are targeted at the student who wants to start a serious learning practice, or for use by teachers who want to initiate students into a serious learning practice. There are many, many sites for introducing the unaffiliated and the uninterested. However, the interested and affiliated who want to take their study practice one step up are in a bind. This is especially so for those who don’t live in a major urban center. Moreover, teachers in day schools and the growing number of community high schools who want to up their game and teach on a higher level are also in bind.
The project: The web site would be a collaboration between Jewish educators and web designers. Tools would be developed that would allow educators to collaborate with each other across geographical boundaries on curriculae and methodologies.
Obstacles: Years ago when I was the chair of the Rabbinics Department at the Ziegler School, I wanted to start a conversation about teaching Talmud in the original languages to adults on a graduate level. I discovered that there was almost nothing published on the subject. There was one article by Dr. Marjorie Lehman of JTS in the Journal of Jewish Education. The situation has improved somewhat. A conference was convened two years ago at Brandeis University to address the issue. Some more articles have since been published. However, when a teacher, pressed by time and not compensated for creating curriculae on her own, wants to teach Talmud to her tenth grade class, she is back with her Talmud and nothing else. (The level of compensation for most Jewish educators at all levels is a stain on the Jewish community and an insult to Torah—but that is a rant for another day.)
What I suggest is that the ability to collaborate—either to have a great idea and put it up to allow someone else to develop; to step into the middle of the process and add a twist which will make it better—will spread the work out and also keep the means of production in the hands of the workers. Credit for the work will be assigned to those who do the work and not to the institutions who benefit from it.
Process: While the curriculum will be “open source,” in that permission will be given to modify, add, etc. to the educational products in process, there will have to be a screening process for collaborators to avoid the wikipedia fallacy, otherwise known as the blind leading the blind. Those who collaborate will have to have been trained and perhaps credentialed in recognized ways so that there is a serious element of quality control.
As an example of the type of curriculum I am referring to, I am appending here for download, a pdf textbook that I created several years ago for Kiddushin 29aƒƒ—the discussions dealing with the obligations of parents and children. This curriculum has been used successfully in various different high-school and graduate school settings by several different teachers, and, not to sound like the bitter old man that I am, I should have been well-compensated for developing this—but I harbor no illusions that that will ever be the case. So I present it here in its uncompleted form as an example of the type of curriculum that could benefit from further development by qualified collaborators. (If you are interested in exploring the curriculum, you must download it to your computer and open it with Adobe Reader or the full Acrobat, otherwise most of the functionality won’t be available.)
This post is part of the series 28 Days, 28 Ideas. Check out yesterday’s idea, Birthright Diaspora over at 31 Days, 31 Ideas. And be sure to check out tomorrow’s idea at JTA’s Fundermentalist blog. You can also visit 28days28ideas.com for the full list of ideas as they progress.