Sunday, April 11, 2010

Co-ed sex ed in Jewish schools

I was Emailed this link by a blogreader and asked what I think of the article.


I'm a generation Xer, even without being religious, I'm from a generation that still has a tiny bit of understanding about men and women and girls and boys remaining seperate. When I was younger, there weren't male and female roommates. Guess what else? In my public school, we didn't really have a sex ed class. We discussed some of it in health and some in gym. Those were co-ed classes but, seriously this seems like it's way out on the left wing, even for Modern Orthodox. Although, Modern Orthodox in Manhattan is a step to the left past MO in Brooklyn and Queens.

I know of a beis din for conversion that told an acquaintance of mine that they wouldn't convert her if that's where she put her kids.


  1. I may be off here, but where and how sex ed is taught isn't as important as some of the other things that need to be taught (ethics, morality, etc)in orthodox schools.

    Further, orthodox kids with a healthy sexuality (and that does NOT mean availability or promiscuity) isn't such a bad thing.

    I think there is more than enough evidence of dysfunctional sexuality in the frum community.

  2. The fact that a beis din wouldn't be willing to convert someone over that says more about the beit din than anything else. I'm amazed sometimes at how it takes only small differences in level of frumkeit for people to decide that someone else is too far away from the ideal. If a beis din would refuse to convert someone if they sent their kids to an MO school I'm much more likely to believe there's a problem with the beis din than with the school.

    Co-ed sex-ed is actually an interesting issue. It isn't clear to me from a halachic perspective what issue there would be with it unless one thinks in general that co-education is somehow bad. I can see pragmatic reasons to have separated sex ed. For example, kids will be more willing to be open and ask questions that they are worried about. But that's not a halachic issue.

  3. You think it's modest to have teenagers of the opposite sex learning about sex with each other? I don't.

    BTW, that beis din permitted other MO schools but Ramaz is REALLY modern. I mean that's a crowd where women wear tight jeans, short skirts and married women don't cover their hair. I had an interview for a babysitting gig with a Ramaz mother. Her 12 year old daughter was wearing a skirt half way up her thigh. tsk-tsk.

  4. I don't see anything intrinsically immodest about it, no. It might be a bad idea (in fact, I think it is a really bad idea). But there's nothing intrinsically immodest about discussing an essentially intellectual subject. Clothing can be immodest. Discussion by individuals about their own personal sexuality can be immodest. But discussing these matters isn't intrinsically immodest (if it were does that mean they shouldn't have biology together at all? A lot of biology has to do with reproduction in living creatures in general, much of the material about mammals will apply to humans).

    Regarding Ramaz, I'm not sure how relevant any of that is. For example, there are modern Orthodox poskim who don't see a problem with women wearing pants. At that point, how tight is too tight isn't at all clear from a halachic standpoint. Nor for that matter is it the job of the beit din to decide about issues like this. If she were sending kids to a school that was unambiguously seriously halachically uncompliant (say having a large fraction that wasn't shomer shabbat) that might be a different issue. Part of my concern here is over charedi betei din that have made noise about converts who accept evolution or send their kids to schools that teach evolution. In general, this makes very leery of a bet din dictating more than is absolutely halachically necessary about what gerim do with their kids.

  5. It wasn't a Chareidi beis din. They actually approved other schools that are really MO and co-ed. One of them, I know many of the kids come from homes not Shomer Shabbos but, then I think shomer Shabbos means Shomeer Shabbos. Far too many think if you don't drive and have your Shabbos meals, that's keeping Shabbos. You can't use the light switch or tear paper towels or watch Persian MTV....

  6. Part of the issue there seems to be just general ignorance among a lot of the MO population. The light switch thing puzzles me since there are such strong and obvious arguments that lights are malacha d'reitah. I suspect that a lot of this behavior wouldn't be as annoying if the people at least had something resembling halachic arguments. Of course, even if one did make a halachic argument for why they shouldn't be malachah d'reitah, minhag klal yisrael is very clear.

    But again, I'd understand concerns over shabbat a lot more. Tzniut is very much based on community norms and other issues.

  7. Ramaz has the reputation of having both a strong secular/religious curriculum.

    In my mind, it's more similar to Solomon Shechter than a traditional MO school.

    As for the beis din putting Ramaz on their black list, I'm not surprised. This is an excerpt from the GPS (for couples converting a minor):

    "commit to 12 years of Orthodox day school education for that child. The Bet Din should set criteria for what it considers to be schools in which the child will receive a serious Orthodox day school education."

    Personally, I think it's an interesting idea to discuss sexual issues in a frank manner...just not co-ed. I went to a really modern public school (it was the first one to distribute condoms) and our sex-ed class was co-ed. It was just supremely awkward.