Page 180 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 25

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J
e w i s h
B
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Theory and Philosophy of Education
As previously indicated, the literature on Jewish education
is rather scant, considering the m illennial history and culture of
Jewry and Judaism. Th is holds true particularly in regard to
books on philosophy of Jewish education. Some suggest that
since there is no clear division in Judaism between creed and
deed, thought and action, it was but natural that the emphasis
in education should focus on learning rather than on contempla-
tion, performance rather than deliberation or investigation. Oth-
ers question the whole idea of “philosophy of education,” since
the primary function o f education is the cultivation among the
young of ideas and beliefs promulgated by a specific culture or
tradition, hence its role is that of
a p p l ie d
philosophy rather than
p h i lo so p h y .
Whatever the reason or explanation, Jewish pedagogic litera-
ture is lacking in substantial writings on objectives and goals of
education. There was all the more reason to welcome the re-
cently published volume,
Jew ish E d u ca t ion in D em o c ra tic Soc iety
by Rabbi Jack J. Cohen. In this book the author attempts to
formulate a philosophy or, as he terms it, “a general theory of
education” by which “educators can extend their vision of the
meaning of Jewish education.”
As a leading and articulate disciple of Dr. Mordecai M. Kaplan,
Cohen’s Pveconstructionist approach to education is in the man-
ner its followers apply to problems of religion, worship, Israel
and Jewish peoplehood. In matters of education the author leans
heavily on John Dewey and the ideas and practices of his dis-
ciples, some of which he would like to introduce to the Jewish
school.
T he book is divided into four sections: T h e Impetus to Edu-
cation; The Educational Process; Th e Treatment of Tradition;
and some Proposals. Each section deals with basic problems in
general and Jewish education, which do not lend themselves to
superficial treatment. The writer will, therefore, refer to but a
few of the issues raised by Jack Cohen which he considers essential
for Jewish education in America.
In the chapter dealing with the “context o f the Jewish com-
munity” the author inveighs against what might be described
as the “Madison Avenue” approach to problems of faith, ob-
servance and education, even by those who profess loyalty to
Jewish ideals and institutions. Since the second world war,
spokesmen of Jewish organizations and institutions of different
schools of thought and shades of op in ion have been trying to
“promote” the cause of Jewish education as a
s in e qua non
for
Jewish survival. There is hardly a Jewish convention or confer­