POLL: Haredim want to go to college
By MATTHEW WAGNER
Haredim want secular higher education, but are hampered by a lack of basic math and English skills, according to a new study.
Fifty-seven percent of 148 haredi men surveyed in a study conducted by researchers at the Jerusalem Institute of Israel Studies said that they had looked into attaining a college degree, and another 15% said they had received advice about the possibility of pursuing studies in a college or some other institute of higher education.
Three-quarters of the respondents were aged 20 to 30 and 84% married with children.
Dr. Dan Kaufmann, Asaf Malchi and Bezalel Cohen, the three researchers who performed the survey, recommended that the State of Israel and philanthropists use their findings to help haredim get higher education.
Their main recommendation was that haredim receive economic support for college education, as some 70% of the haredi men surveyed said that they would be willing to pursue a college degree if they received such support.
In a telephone interview with The Jerusalem Post, Kaufmann said that young haredi men were usually married with children, and that "for them to pursue a college degree, including the preparatory courses in English and math that are necessary before they can even begin, entails a major economic sacrifice. Many are simply unable to do it."
The researchers also polled haredi men and women already enrolled in institutions of higher education.
A total of 312 haredi students were surveyed, 193 men and 118 women.
The researchers found that while 29% of respondents mentioned rabbinic support as a factor in their decision to pursue higher education, 75% said that economic aid had been a factor.
But the single most important factor was knowledge of English and math and the level of exposure to information about educational options.
"There was a direct correlation between knowledge of English and math and motivation. The more respondents knew, the more they were motivated to pursue higher education. People who saw themselves as unprepared... were less motivated because they realized they would have to work hard to close the gap."
Another interesting finding was the high percentage of haredim already enrolled who said they had chosen their course of learning based on personal interest, proving that "in contrast to preconceptions, haredim see their secular studies as more than just parnassa [a job]," Kaufmann said.
It will cost a lot of money to get haredim the skills they need to go to college, and even more money to keep them enrolled.
The only other choice remains the status quo – tens of thousands of haredim on welfare.
I say we take the plunge and pay for haredi college attendance – as long as college is not changed or altered to conform to haredi theology.
College history course must still teach and test on real history, not hagiography and myth, and science must be science, not creationism or the like.
I don't think thousands of haredim will leave haredism because of Darwin or Kant. But I do think haredim who are college educated will be much less quick to condemn secular Israelis, and will be much less likely to reject the Judaism of their Modern Orthodox co-religionists.
In other words, haredi extremism should be noticeably dampened.
And that, along with haredim who are making a living, should be a good thing for all of us, haredi and non-haredi alike.
[Hat Tip: David Bar Magen.]