February 23, 2024
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February 23, 2024
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Secular Colleges Should Not Be Discounted

The letter from Martin Pollack in the October 24 issue, “Warning for Parents Researching Colleges” is very interesting. Mr. Pollack essentially advocates for Jewish students to forgo secular universities and exclusively enroll in sectarian institutions such as Yeshiva University and Touro College.

I disagree with this notion. An observant Jewish person, if he or she is truly observant, will continue to be so regardless of the environment within and external to the college he or she attends. Mr. Pollack suggests that, essentially, students should be cut off from the secular world in college and be protected from its “evils.” One of the purposes of a college education is to open one’s mind and expose the mind to a wide range of ideas, cultures, people and knowledge. That is a traditional definition of liberal arts, by the way. Does Mr. Pollak really believe the Bible is the only literature worth reading and studying when he cites “Bible criticism”? All literature is worthy of critical analysis and debate.

Honestly, this letter reminds me of “Professor” Harold Hill, the protagonist in the classic Broadway musical “The Music Man,” when Hill convinces the townspeople that billiards is the evil to end all evil and that it must be eradicated for the good of the people (of course, Hill’s real motivation was to distract the populace so that he can sell his musical instruments to unsuspecting students and never teach them to play). Mr. Pollak is suggesting that any semblance of secular ideas should be prevented from reaching the “impressionable” minds of college students.

If one is truly dedicated to his or her faith, he/she will not allow that dedication to be sullied by opening one’s mind to the world.

Seriously now, would many parents out there—even the devoutly observant—suggest to their children that they should attend Yeshiva or Touro instead of MIT or Columbia if given the opportunity to attend the latter?

Barnet M. Schmidt, PhD, PE
West Orange
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