June 7, 2016

Honors-Components: Beneficial?

Sam Russo ‘18

Scribal Arts Judaic Studies Course with Rabbi Adam Gindea
Image courtesy of Golda Och Academy
While the concepts of Judaic Studies electives and honors-components are foreign to many parents and students from other schools, they are major parts of the Golda Och Academy curriculum.
The Judaics Studies program at GOA is viewed positively by the consensus. One major benefit of the Judaic Studies elective system is its effectiveness. Surely, in a system where students are able to choose their classes, they will absorb more information and be more engaged in class.
To many, the proof of the positive net benefit of honors-components would seem to be as straightforward as the elective system; of course, it is best for students who choose to take more responsibility and work to have the ability to do so, and in the process, receive a slight grade boost. However, to some GOA students and perhaps even faculty, the issue is a bit more complex.
To fully understand why some people see honors-component courses as problematic, it is important to look to the purpose of honors classes. They aim to give more motivated and advanced students a place to learn more in-depth about topics and to move at a faster pace. They also require more work.
Some students, however, claim that such courses do not fulfill what is required to make them honors classes. For example, many honors-component students are required to read an extra passage at home; however, in doing so, they are not always given the space in class to discuss or further explore and internalize what they have read.
A final facet of their argument looks at classes like Bioethics or Jews in America, in which students are required to write a research paper as the only requirement for honors. In these classes, while students surely do more work, they may not necessarily be learning more material than their college-prep counterparts.
Despite all of this, proponents of honors-component classes argue that students are able to develop a more complete understanding of topics through additional readings and that assignments based on the readings help students reflect on and absorb what they have learned.
Additionally, because many honors students look at texts in their traditional Hebrew, they hone their skills in that area as well. Finally, research papers help to give students exceptionally strong and in-depth understandings of particular topics in the class.
Overall, honors component classes have both positives and negatives, as seen through each side of this argument. Because the Judaic Studies curriculum is reassessed every year, this is just one more area in which it is of utmost importance that students are open and vocal about their opinions.

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