Page 121 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 41

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ments o f progressivist methodology and educational psychology
into courses o f study based on “essentials” found in the classics o f
religion, literature, and science. The educated person, according
to this view, is he or she who masters these culturological funda­
mentals. Scharfstein’s “essentialism” is embedded in a distinction
he draws between the Hebrew teacher and the Hebrew person.
As he pu t it in the introduc tion o f
Methods of Teaching Hebrew:
You will say: “What is the difference between a Hebrew
teacher and a Hebrew person?” — T h e difference is great.
T he former is a craftsman who acquires for himself the best
possible ways and masters them; the latter carries in his
hea rt the vision o f [Jewish] revival. He who joins vision to
craft deserves the honorable designation of
Hebrew teacher.
Method, he goes on, is importan t in teaching: “The difference
between a good method and a bad one is like the difference
between flying by plane and walking on foot to traverse distances.
And yet the method is not the beginning and the end o f teaching.”
It is Scharfstein’s deepest conviction tha t the ingredient which
gives teaching its special flavor is “
which is the fruit o f vision
and the hea r t’s yearning. . . . Love is a contagious emotion and it
moves from teacher to student. By its power, the study o f Hebrew
will be regarded by the child as a diadem o f beauty on his head .” It
follows tha t overstressing method may, in fact, have detrimental
results which are overlooked by the more radical progressivists:
“Whoever does not seek the revival o f the Jewish people and its
language will hea r his inne r voice whisper in his ear tha t the
method o f translation in the vernacular [which Scharfstein
opposes] is good, tha t the value o f spoken Hebrew is small.” But
he who is o f ou r deeper faith —
— will not station him ­
self on the side o f “method first” nor will he, as Scharfstein states
elsewhere, suppo rt the notion o f “the child’s convenience first” or
“the env ironm en t’s dictates first.” Instead, he will give priority to
the essentials o f national survival and revival, to the command­
ments o f the Jewish people’s
Scharfstein’s “essentialism” vigorously assailed progressivism’s
child-centered school and paren t-cen tered school. Scharfstein
foresaw and tried to forestall the decline o f Jewish educational
standards, o f its will-to achieve, its concern for though t.4 These,
4 In
Asihah im ha-Morim al Hayyehem u-Melakhtam
(I Shall Talk with Teachers