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Monday, March 28, 2011

Production: The Ikur or the Tofel?

Enough with Pesach Money saving tips for now. It is time for a little cultural commentary.

[I ask any readers to please make this a discussion of ideas. In other words, no naming names of the school or any staff in the comments should you be familiar].

A reader sent me a letter that went home with middle-school aged girls (from what I believe is a centrist girls school) regarding Production practice schedule that left me stunned. After months and months of "rehearsing, carpools, late nights, and dance practices," the school capped off the lead up to Production with a full week of full day rehearsals for pre-bat mitzvah aged girls! The reader finds the incredible emphasis on Production at the expense of both Torah studies and general education "mindboggling" and wonders where are the priorities, as well as where is the respect for parents who can't simply change their schedules at a whim?

I couldn't agree with my reader's concerns more. As parents of (modern to centrist) day school/yeshiva students, I believe we are primarily looking for a strong education (Torah and general) within a Torah environment, and secondarily we are seeking some low-key experiences within the school environment that will help provide a well-rounded educational experience. A well-rounded experience certainly is not defined as a singular emphasis on a single area for the pre-adolescent set.

Those that kept up with the "Tiger Mom" and the surrounding debate might now easily understand just why such a parent, might categorically reject school plays. . . or in this case PRODUCTIONS. My (public) high school had some self-selected drama-geeks who spent inordinate hours on choir and musicals, some even making a name in the field. But I simply fail to see the benefit of a majority of a student body made up of 11 and 12 year olds (frum or not) putting these type of hours into a single production. For frum students, it is even more puzzling since Broadway or Bust isn't our motto. A little of this and a little of that within the confines of school would suffice for most parents I'm certain. And if a child were particularly driven in an area of their choosing, we can work with that.

So, fellow parents (and educators): Do you think that PRODUCTION has become too much of a production in Girls Schools? Leave your comments. Maybe someone will hear them.

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Just in case you need a definition of full week, full day practices, read the following. And, wow, as a parent I can't think of any more difficult hour of the day than 7PM! The last thing I want to be doing at that hour is getting in the car (with kids no doubt, since what husband is home reliably home in order to make a 7PM sharp pickup?). Talk about a way to throw everyone's schedule off-kilter!

Please note that in order to complete their rehearsals for their upcoming production of [edited], the 6th graders will [meet in a different location. . . ] Monday-Thursday [deleted]. On Monday they will daven at home and arrive at 10, bringing lunch, drinks and snacks. On Tuesday-Thursday, they will come at 8:15 AM for Tefila, followed by two Torah classes, followed by rehearsals ending at 7:00 PM all 4 days.

· Regretfully, all students will need to carpool both ways. The school districts will not provide transportation to an alternate site.

· Tuesday-Thursday, the day will begin with davening at 8:15 AM. [. . . ] Our teachers will supervise davening and then teach 2 regular Torah Studies classes from 8:55-10:20 AM, after which play practice will begin. [. . . ]

· All parents need to make carpool arrangements to pick up their daughters at 7:00 PM on Monday-Wednesday.Please be prompt.

· Students should bring the appropriate text, notebook, and, of course, a pen, for their Torah classes [. . . ].

· The students will be at the practice site for many hours. Although faculty will be there at all times (till 4:30 p.m.), the teachers will not conduct formal classes after 10:30 am, but be available for extra help, clarification or test preparation when students are not rehearsing. Please encourage your daughter to take advantage of the presence of her general studies teachers by preparing a list of topics that need clarification, or decide to engage their teachers in meaningful conversation. [Omitted: rules on I-pods and cell phones].


36 comments:

Miami Al said...

I think treating the school performance as serious is a good thing.

I find the inability of the school to manage transportation a little bizarre, especially since the teachers are going to the location but leaving at their normal hour.

That said, you're talking 4 evenings of a late pickup.

Yeah, it'll throw your schedule off, but you'll manage.

I'm more stunned by he "daven @ home and arrive at 10 packing food and snacks," the parents pay for schooling, they should get it.

I'm not sure why they don't arrive at school at 8:15 as normal, then bus the girls over at 10:30 for their activity, and let parents pick them up at the location OR take the bus back to school and get picked up 7:15?

I mean, this seems strangely inconvenient without reason, but nice to see them take the production seriously.

conservative scifi said...

I also don't see this as so terrible. My son's (in Newsweek's top 100 high schools) shortens school for pep rallies and a few other activities through the year. My daughter's (large community Jewish Day school) has assemblies for Daniel Pearl day, for "color war", and more important occasions.

If this school wants to spend a few days working on the "perfect" theater production, at 11 and 12, the kids won't really miss that much, and may learn the value of practice.

Nephew of Frum Actuary said...

Agree with Al on the monday late start. Tefilah is the one important thing the schools do for "Torah education" for girls; they could at least pick it up.

Otherwise, (and I know I will be flamed for this) I have no problem with losing school time. What would I rather the girls do? Learn Nach? Or perhaps go up there, perform, and learn to conquer stage fright? Our local girls school has the same thing (a week off for high school production) and I have more of a problem with losing the week of secular studies than the week of "Torah education". (My aunt might disagree, but she was pretty mad about it).

My biggest issue with the productions is that not everyone is forced to perform (at least in our local girl's school). If the school feels something can be gained from performing, then everyone should hsve to do it.

aminspiration said...

In my old high school, the play was a big deal. It is a time when the girls learned skills that cannot be learned in a classroom. They learn how to be resourceful. They learn what it means to work together towards a common greater good. They learn what it means to sacrifice for this greater good. They learn to work with people they do not like. They learn how to be effective time managers. They become friends with people they may have not met otherwise.

But I don't agree with the Nephew. Not everyone is meant to act, but they do have other talents that can shine at this point. Someone who is not necessarily book smart may be a talented artist or seamstress. The play is a time when different talents and abilities are brought out that a test or quiz would not give rise to.

It is not a waste of time, for they are still learning. It may not be memorizing facts. But they are learning life skills.

Orthonomics said...

Miami Al-the week of full day rehearsals is in addition to the rest of the schedule leading up to this.

Conservative SciFi-I'm willing to guess that pep rallies at your son's school do NOT mean that certain classes are not attended, but that all classes are shortened. Also, I'm certain that production isn't the only activity and that there are plenty of other school activities. As a parent, at a certain point too many activities mean a heck of a lot less of what I'm paying for.

Nephew-An issue in small schools when not all perform, but the majority do, is that those still left in class get a bit of the short stick. I'm hoping the emailing parent will give some details as to the percentage of students involved. Even in my large classes in public school, if too many kids were pulled out for a period, it was like the rest of the classes was on a vacation day.

Orthonomics said...

I personally am not sure that 11 and 12 year old rehearsing from 10:30 AM to 7 PM is developmentally appropriate.

Nephew of Frum Actuary said...

Ami:

If their talents are in sewing, etc. thats fine, but they should at least participate! (costume director/planner is good too, I'm talking about someoen who chooses to sit on the sidelines & do nothing).

What does the school expect to gain (or expect the students to gain) from the production?

Jacqueline said...

I was one of those drama people in high school-and I still think that this is crazy. I was at school until 10 or even 11 some nights (there were even a few nights that went past midnight, right before production times) and (public school) would spend all day (8 am to 9 or 10 pm) on a Saturday. That being said, it was clearly an extra cirrcular. I would have had to drop if it grades had gone noticeably down, and there was only one time a year that I was able to not be in class. I'm a big supporter of the arts in schools, and I agree that there are several valuable lessons to be learned, but the chief point of school is the academic study.

Miami Al said...

Orthonomics,

We're not dumb, we know what you wrote, we just disagree.

I missed plenty of school for Extracurricular activities. Every other Friday in the fall, the football team and cheerleaders were gone for a football road game, if it was far away, they left early, if it was local, they were local.

Pep Rallies put us on reduced scheduled to the point that you couldn't do much in class time.

Again, 4 days of class time to focus on practice creating an excellent performance is teaching the girls some valuable life lessons.

Sometimes, you can't do a little of everything, sometimes, you have to focus.

That's a good lesson.

aminspiration said...

Nephew- The school expects to promote school unity among all the other things that i listed. Everyone was and is still required to participate. No one gets a free pass to miss school while everyone else is putting in hours and hours of work.

tesyaa said...

My complaint about Productions is that they are usually based on the same insipid stories and songs about tzadkaniyos all over again. I wouldn't mind seeing something a bit more broadminded (while still modest and wholesome, of course. Yes, such plays and musicals exist!)

Orthonomics said...

Miami Al-I didn't mean to be condescending. Sorry.

I wonder if 8 hour rehearsals are appropriate for the majority of 11 and 12 year olds. I think diminishing returns are certain to set in and the result would be the same with a shorter, but still intense, rehearsals. Unlike Jacqueline, my drama experience is limited and I don't want to compare instrumentals and sports to productions, but I think that at a certain point, a day can be too long and the work gets sloppy. So instead of practicing well, you are practicing sloppily. Just my opinion.

Miami Al said...

Orthonomics,

It's been a long day, we all get snippy on here. :)

I was not a drama geek, so I don't know. I would guess that they do get sloppy. Just suggesting that missing four days of classes for something of value is important.

I also fully disagree with the "we're not broadway or bust" viewpoint.

If my goal is impart a little bit of knowledge, but my kids have no need to excel, because Frum Jews don't excel (in the theatre, in math, in whatever), then I have no need for all this fancy schooling. A crappy public school with some learning in the morning is fine, or a chassidish school that costs nothing and teaches little is fine, why spend a fortune on education to teach mediocrity?

I mean, to teach my kids, "you don't have to be good at anything you're Frum," you don't need this schooling, that's easy.

To teach your kids that you can be anything AND Frum, well, that's where the Day School SHOULD shine... in a secular school, you miss out on things being Frum, in a religious school, you don't.

But if the school isn't going to do stuff, then you miss out anyway, and what's the point? My wife, in public school, couldn't be in the school play because they rehearsed on Shabbat mornings. She sacrificed that interest for Judaism.

A day school should remove that issue, but you bring it right back if you just gut the program.

Sorry, the non Orthodox Jews I knew that brought Matzah to school on Passover and missed school for the second day of Rosh Hashana all seemed more willing to be inconvenienced for their sake of their religion than most Orthodox Jews, and that's sad.

Orthonomics said...

I enjoy the arts, and if a child of mine was interested and involved in the arts I'd want them to be learning great technique and giving it their all. I'm not much of one for doing things halfway.

Part of my Broadway comment has to do with drama being THE activity in frum schools. There is very little in the way of variety and I find it interesting that this is where it is at.

Aunt of Nephew, aka female life actuary currently teaching HS math said...

I do not have a problem with the week off of school per se, it is that I have to rush through the curriculum because we don't have enough school days. We lost 4 days to snow, 5 or 6 to concert (would they have had school or at least Math on President's day?) and we end on May 23! We are off for Pesach starting Apr 6! It is crazy. There is not enough school.
All that said concert is not what I would cut. It is an invaluable experience for the girls. I do agree that no one should be sitting on the sidelines (they can sew costumes, build sets, manage backstage, paint scenery etc) but our school lets the girls sit out totally and that I don't approve of.

tesyaa said...

I don't agree that everyone must be involved with the production, but there are other opportunities for extracurriculars. Some girls are good at drama, some are good at sewing, some are good at art/scenery; but some are good at sports, debate, literary writing and other pursuits that can't be used in the "production". Jewish middle schools, though, don't offer much in the way of sports, debate, and literary journals; high schools, thank God, have a little more.

Anonymous said...

When push comes to shove, I learned more from my extra-curricular activities than I did from any one class.

tesyaa said...

After thinking about it, I believe you're missing some salient points. These productions, in addition to giving the girls a chance to engage in drama and dance, are almost always big fundraising events. Mothers, grandmothers, aunts, and great-grandmothers are invited and given the opportunity to sponsor the event - in addition to the regular ticket prices. Also, it's a school differentiator and a recruiting tool - if a school is known for a great production (or conversely, known for a wishy-washy or nonexistent production), it can make a difference in how the school is perceived by prospective parents. Finally, the schools believe (correctly or not) that high schools take the production into account when evaluating the middle school girls for admission.

JS said...

I have very mixed feelings about this and I think it stems from the fact that there is an inherently different approach in frum circles between girls' education and boys' education. You'd NEVER see a boys' yeshiva take a week off from school for a production. And since that's the case, I don't see why a girls' yeshiva should either. Either the skills being learned are crucial and invaluable to a student's education and yeshiva experience or it's a tremendous waste of time. I don't see how it can be the former for the girls, but the latter for the boys. This just fundamentally makes no sense to me. Maybe it's because I strongly believe in women's education (Jewish and secular) and independence, but I simply can't stand the way the frum community deals in such a flippant manner with women's education.

At the heart of the issue though is what exactly is the point of yeshiva education. Especially since we're talking about modern/centrist schools, it's my impression that the kids come away with a mediocre education across the board, both Jewish and secular. Partly this is because of a lack of standards and a poor educational curriculum, but it's also due in large part to rushing through many subjects in a long, but, given the amount of material to be covered, short day. 40 minute periods simply aren't enough to teach mastery of math, science, history, language arts, tanach, halacha, gemara, tefilah, etc. Combine that with the fact that many schools simply don't care about mediocrity or don't see their educational product as mediocre, and there's a real problem (13 years of yeshiva and the kids can't read, speak, or understand Hebrew, have no mastery of even the plot lines in tanach, only know the rudiments of halacha picked up at home, etc.).

So, it bothers me to see such a focused approach on an extracurricular when the main subject matter is neglected. How about that kind of devotion to tanach or to math? How about hours and hours of concentrated study in science followed by all day labs and science experiments? It kills me that our schools focus on everything but the essentials.

Of course then you get to the larger issues of why do the girls (I'd substitute, "children") even need to be experts in tanach? The vast majority don't ever use such information day to day. Either way you look at it, there is a real fundamental problem with how we're approaching education.

To the direct matter at hand, I'd just point out that not everyone loves drama or has talents in this area. It would be nice if the kids who don't want to participate had other extracurricular activities.

Miami Al said...

I also learned more from ECs than any one class, maybe than any two classes. And I made up whatever work I missed, but it was very valuable.

That said, the response to this is part of what concerned me. Rather than discussing the merit of the production vs. class time, the responses immediately moved to a bunch of hand waiving in "Yidlish," where rational thought stops.

The kids are only in school 180 days/year +/- 10 depending on the school. To pretend "we can't miss one day of Torah study" is quite frankly, nonsense. There are 312 non-Saturday days/solar year. Taking out 16 days for Chagim, Purim, and Tisha B'av leaves us with 296 days. The school has already accepted being closed 116 days for non-Torah reasons (or 106 if you think Chol Hamoed + travel days are mandatory), so to pretend that these 4 are somehow Bitul Torah but a ski week in January is acceptable is you picking priorities (vacation over production), but not a general purpose ruling about Torah study every day.

Deb said...

personally I think the focus on production is ridiculous. It's not a choice for girls to be in production, just what area ( be it set decoration, costume design, or performance) they will do.

the message is that school/education/class is not as important as the holy extra curricular, and the weeping and crying over who gets to be the head, who gets to be in the "important" roles....
yuck.

Don't even get me started on color war, for high school girls.
unbelievable.
and for this we pay tuition.

Anonymous said...

"Don't even get me started on color war, for high school girls.
unbelievable.
and for this we pay tuition."

Frisch has a week long color war called Shiriyah. You can read about it on their blog frischschool.blogspot.com or on their live twitter feed @frischschool where they are tweeting Shiriya updates live.

The latest (twitter.com/frischschool) is that the "Senior stomp bangs away on their drums." and that "Massive amounts of progress is made on the #Shiriyah mural."

One of the rabbis on the blog writes:
"As I mentioned to the students, Shiriyah is a time where we have a simply magical existence in our Yeshiva. Everyone cultivates his or her talents, finds that bit of tzelem elokim in each of them, and allows it to come forth. Please let me know if, for any reason, your child is having difficulty find their place."

Baruch Hashem is all I can say.

tesyaa said...

I think what we're seeing with this discussion is that some parents prefer a focus on academics, while others see benefits from extracurriculars. What's wrong with different strokes for different folks? In many areas there are multiple school choices, and you may be able to find a school with the best fit for you and your child. If you live in an area where there is no choice of school, there's nothing wrong with scheduling a meeting with the administration and making your feelings known. (With no guarantee of change, naturally).

My main concern is that if the girls are required to put in so many extracurricular hours, they should mostly find it an enjoyable experience. If many of them are frazzled and exhausted, that's not a good sign. Personally, given the fact that I cynically see these "productions" as recruiting, fundraising, and reputational tools that may help the schools more than the children, I'd be concerned if it seemed like the girls were being used for these purposes. If not, and if there's genuine and sincere enthusiasm, I don't think the amount of work missed will make a difference in these kids' lives one way or another.

JS said...

tesyaa,

I think the real issue is that there isn't choice even where there are multiple schools. There isn't one school focused on academics while the next one focuses more on extracurriculars. It seems all the schools do these productions or color wars or shiriyahs or whatever they want to call it. I think it's the lack of choice even when you have lots of schools to choose between that is frustrating. And for the students themselves I imagine many are frustrated as well at being forced to engage in these activities. Not everyone likes drama or the arts and not everyone is all into ruach and singing and dancing or into the whole camp-like color war experience.

I also have to wonder about how much of this is just another fundraiser for the schools. It seems you can sponsor color war at many schools.

As I mentioned above, seeking excellence in a specific area is to be commended, I just find it odd that it's always in areas like this one - it's never anything academic. Certainly the time won't be missed, but it still strikes me as odd when the educational product isn't all that great to begin with.

Julie said...

If the girls are putting on a high quality production where every girl is pushed to do her absolute best, I think that it is fantastic that they are spending so many hours on the production. There are so few opportunities for girls to be the center of attention, to be able to celebrate their unique talents, that we should not try to dumb down those opportunities that do exist.

I think the question becomes, are they learning what excellence is. I agree with tesyaa that the girls should be putting on professionally written plays or musicals. They should work with good materials. Student-written (or faculty-written) plays have a place at a later point when the students know what is good theatre is. Insipid, poor theatre is not good education.

But there should be the same opportunity to spend that many intensive hours on lots fields of study.

Solomon said...

Do you think your strong reaction to the final rehaersal week is actually based on doubts about the academic quality the rest of the year? It seems to me that if the school is meeting your high standards the rest of the time with a strong academic program, then the week isn't such a big deal. But if it is falling short year-round, that is a different story altogether.

conservative scifi said...

JS

I'm not sure why you don't see schools which have extracurricular activities devoted to secular excellence (or even Torah excellence). In my area, the public high schools (and in a few ways also the Day school/Yeshivas) compete in teams of Its Academic, in Math team, Science Fair, in Model UN, debate team and in other academic extracurricular areas. Just as the kids are expected to practice an hour running for track, if they are on the track team, kids on the math team must practice math.

Many years ago, my sister-in-law was involved in a competition on Jewish knowledge which led to a free trip to Israel. I don't know if there are still such competitions, but there easily could be in any of the larger communities.

I also think that no particular fact or facts learned in elementary or high school are probably really significant to any working adults, beyond reading and basic arithmetic (and spelling;)).

The important aspect is to learn how to learn and get some basic information along the way. If missing a few days of school will expose a child to a career or interest they might otherwise never have discovered, I think it is beneficial. Sure, most of these girls will never be broadway actresses, playwrights, or even run lighting in a theater, but maybe one or two will find something they love. The rest will at least have exposure to an area they otherwise would know nothing about.

JS said...

Conservative sci-fi,

The schools I am aware of do have extracurricular clubs devoted to secular and Jewish achievement and excellence. My comment was directed at the fact that the mandatory activity, if secular, is directed towards a play (with a Jewish theme, of course) and, if Jewish, is directed towards a color war-esque ruach-fest.

I agree with your approach about "learning to learn." However, I don't think the schools do that, especially not in the Jewish context. The Jewish education is increasingly experiential, which is where the color war events come in. The kids graduate after 13 years barely able to read Hebrew let alone speak or understand it, for example.

It is only in this context that I find it odd that countless hours are devoted to a play or a color war when the most basic of skills is neglected. Again, in the secular context I imagine many parents would be upset if the school took a week off for color war or a play when the kids couldn't do rudimentary arithmetic or read at a 4th grade level.

Also, the one size fits all approach just doesn't work for me. Some kids just don't connect with these activities and past a certain age, I don't think it makes sense to make participation mandatory.

Finally, I don't know if this point applies to the play, but I think it does apply to the color war: it strikes me as overly self-indulgent. Why not have a week off from class devoted to chessed or other community service? At all of the local yeshivas chessed is relegated to a club or is done through "mitzvah points" which essentially amount to listening to what your parents say and providing free baby sitting.

Miami Al said...

JS,

100% on the Mitzvah Points -- listening to your parents is not "bonus credit" any more than not worshiping idols is. It would be VERY beneficial to see more of a community service push with ACTUAL community service, both inside the Frum community, inside the non Frum Jewish community, and in the outside world.

It would be absolutely wonderful if good Frum kids doing community service were to volunteer inside the larger Jewish community, I know when I've attended meetings of community events, I'm often the only person with a Kippa on. The percentage of the Jewish population doing these is tiny, it would be nice if we would show up to help, not just with our hands out.

But I'm going to disagree with your statement that "Jewishness is increasingly experiential," Judaism has always been predominately experiential. The educational component has historically been MUCH MUCH smaller than now.

Indeed, the pre Day School Orthodox Talmud Torah, we entirely educationally based with nearly no experiential Judaism and was a total disaster.

You're right that the Day School graduates are relatively Jewishly illiterate. But they are in-marrying and remaining Orthodox at a seemingly unmatched level than previous generations. Experiential based Jewish education seems to be working, so why knock it.

That said, if the summer camp style "color wars" work to make kids Jewish, and hours and hours of Gemara do not, it raises the question of if the way we allocate communal dollars is so wise.

Nothing wrong with well off parents providing their children with Gemara training, but I question why that is a communal goal instead of cheaper, retention oriented programs.

JS said...

"That said, if the summer camp style "color wars" work to make kids Jewish, and hours and hours of Gemara do not, it raises the question of if the way we allocate communal dollars is so wise.

Nothing wrong with well off parents providing their children with Gemara training, but I question why that is a communal goal instead of cheaper, retention oriented programs."

Bingo. This is exactly what I was trying to get at. If what works is experiential - kids feeling good about being Jewish, kids having ruach, kids being best friends with their rabbis, etc. then let the money go to this. But, the schools all claim they offer a top-notch Jewish education. They say the Hebrew subjects have to be in the morning because that's when kids are most attentive and able to learn. They give the kids double periods of gemara.

The result is that parents pay around $15k-$16k for a dual curriculum that doesn't really teach all that well, but apparently does a great job making the majority of kids want to stay Orthodox. With tuition being the problem that it is, maybe it would be better to come up with a cheaper program that concentrates on the essentials and stops paying lip service to a knowledge-based education - though perhaps sitting through those double periods of gemara and having your parents bankrupt themselves so you can do so is part of the experience :).

Worried dad said...

Not much to add, but some thoughts on girls schools having production but not boys.

There is no halacha of "bittul torah" for girls; but there is for boys. And that is why the girls ahve it and the boys don't.

Unfortunately, in my opinion it has led to this: In the RW circles I travel in the average girls HS graduate is well ahead of the average boy HS graduate - not in learning gemorah, but in just about everything else. They speak more clearly and using better language with less 'yeshivishe' terminology, perhaps due to the extra curriculars they are exposed to that the boys aren't. They write better and have better study habits. By and large they are more musically inclined. They are more "into" Chesed, again a requirement for the girls school but not the boys.

And when my daughter soon starts dating and has to go out with a boy, who is likely "beneath her" (much like myself and my wife, and most of my friends and theirs) I'll just have to take a deep breath and hope and pray that it works out. Eventually, the boys become men and catch up (much like myself and my wife and most of my friends and theirs).

And yes, I've got both boys and girls.

tesyaa said...

Worried Dad, are you concerned that your son is missing out? Do you think time spent on other activities is best spent in learning another sugya? Bitul Torah implies that learning should take place at any moment in which one is not taking care of needs that no one else can take care of. (Like taking a shower). So boys should really not be doing much else other than learning ... is that what you think is best for their development?

I just wonder how many people really believe that bittul torah is a major problem, and how many others would LIKE their boys to be involved with other activities but are worried about what other families will think of them if their son plays some sports, or takes music lessons, etc.

How much do people do out of fear of heaven and belief that this is what God wants, and how much do people do because of what their neighbors will think?

mlevin said...

Here are the problems with productions:
1. When my daughter was in high school she was forced to participate in production. The school’s rule is everyone must be in it. Well, she did not want to do it. She does not like to be in the spot light. She takes piano privately, but she does not want people hear her play. So, she chose to work on the back ground, and stepped back and let others take over. She simply was not interested.
2. Our children spend little time at home as is, with the production practice on 6 days in a row and no classes scheduled, my daughter was not home. She would return from school at 10 pm or even later. During the practice, there was a lot of time when girls were simply bored with nothing to do. While a dancing group was doing their number on stage the rest were left to do anything they wanted except for going outside. So, for 6 days straight, the girls were prisoners.
3. The school obviously did not provide girls with hot food, so for six days these girls were eating sandwiches and nash they brought from home. There were no healthy meals. At the end of the week, my daughter was exhausted from lack of sleep and became sick. She was throwing up and running a fever. After production, about a third of the school was out sick. Despite what anyone would say, these girls got sick because their exhausted bodies could not fight the disease. Teachers obviously could not teach half the classroom, so they missed almost a week of classes.
4. My daughter was taking AP classes. That means tests in May. Two weeks off for production (a week for rehearsals and a week for being sick) meant less prep time for the test. Her teachers had to rush through the material to have them ready for the exams.
5. These productions do not teach girls anything. If a girl had prior singing lessons she was selected to sing on stage, if a girl took dancing lessons she was selected to dance. Except for a new song or dance, these girls did not learn anything. They used girls who took gymnastics to flip during dancing. Same goes to behind the scenes girls. Those who took art lessons were responsible for art stuff and costumes were made by a couple of mothers.
My take is that these productions are a waste of time and energy. And frankly the results are not nothing to brag about. I know many people proclaim how marvelous these things are, but once you see a professionally made show you know the difference.

Julie said...

I think one of the problems is that because many schools are so small, all the girls must participate in the production. There is no option of opting out.

When I was in eighth grade, the 65 students in my class put on a production of "I Never Saw Another Butterfly". For two months, our English and social studies periods were dedicated to preparing the play and completing an independent study on the civil rights movement. The requirements for the civil rights project were determined based on what you were doing in the play. Those students who got larger parts in the play did a minimal project while those who were barely involved in the play had to do more for their civil rights project. That way, everyone had plenty to do, either rehearsing or working on a project. It was an amazing educational experience which forced us to see ourselves as Jews and as Americans, as victims and as privileged whites. I think I learned more from those two months than I did the rest of my middle school years.

worried dad said...

Tesyaa; My son spends many hours learning, but "bittul torah" does not prevent him from showering or having hobbies (mostly baseball-related, but hobbies nonetheless).

It does seem to prevent him from shaving mreo than once a week for some reason :)

I am not worried about him; he has been taught to do the right thing and pay no attention to others. I am worried about the overall RW group. Of course this entire comment belongs under some other post.

My daughters just killed themselves for production but woudn't trade the experience for anything. (Or so they tell me now. When they fail their APs they may feel differently.)

Ariella said...

No question about it -- the production take up way too much time. Learning suffers, as a result in a very obvious way. They literally cancel whole days of classes -- nearly a week's worth for the sake of the high school production.
Back in my day in the same school, we also put on productions, but they did not take as a much time away from other school obligations.