We are proud to present our readers with Volume 13 of our series: Studies in Jewish Education. This volume is concerned with the possibility of “translating” insights derived from areas of knowledge sometimes thought to be outside the purview of education – to issues and problems on the agenda of educational thinkers, researchers and practitioners.
As we have learned from our teachers, Prof. Seymour Fox, of blessed memory, and Prof. Michael Rosenak (may he be granted many more years of fruitful creativity) – “translating” from philosophical systems or lead concepts, from principles deriving from the tradition of Jewish thought, or from cultural visions – to educational thought and practice,is a most complex matter. Some prefer to work in the “normative” mode, wherein normative world views are “translated” from fundamental philosophical “principles” to educational “ideals,” “goals” and “means.”
In the transition from one category to the next, however, certain terms must necessarily be modified or reinterpreted. This process is both enriching and impoverishing – as certain understandings are inevitably “lost” in translation even as other insights are gained. Others prefer to work in the “deliberative” mode, beginning from symptoms of malaise emanating from the field of educational practice, accessing world-views and disciplines of knowledge in order to arrive at an informed formulation of the “problem,” then generating alternative solutions to the “problem” – alternatives from among which some will be chosen for implementation and others, perhaps just as promising, will have to be discarded or shelved. For those who feel more at home in this mode – world-views, concepts, disciplines and cultural visions do not function as overarching norms, but rather as “resources,” drawn upon to the degree that they are seen to address problems as experienced by those affected by them. As if this were not complex enough, Prof. Rosenak has reminded us that neither mode – normative or deliberative – is, or should be sufficient unto itself.
On the one hand, normative discourse that does not also have its “ears tothe ground,” picking up on current educational problems and addressing them in terms intelligible to those who suffer from them, will end up being sterile and hortatory. Deliberative discourse, on the other hand,is always anchored in normative assumptions, without which one could not articulate what it is about the “problem” that is “problematic,” or in need of amelioration. According to Rosenak, there must be a constant, dialectical interaction between the normative and deliberative modes if educational issues are to be addressed both honestly and intelligently.