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Neanderthals in Ramat Beit Shemesh
No, this post is not what you think it's about. I'm using the word "Neanderthals" literally. (And I'm using the word "literally" literally.)
Overall, I am happy with my children's charedi-leumi school here in Ramat Beit Shemesh. There is great education in both Jewish and secular studies, and the kids also learn a lot about what it means to be part of Am Yisrael. (It's a little strange that they come home with so many homework assignments for me to do, though.)
But charedi-leumi can often veer strongly towards charedi, especially with regard to the faculty. And there are times when the kids learn stuff that is so anti-rationalist that it makes me want to tear my hair out. Taking extreme Midrashim literally, learning stories with the most fanciful interpretations, explaining them in an entirely ahistorical way, and so on. I once posted a memorable picture that one of my kids brought home from gan, of Rabbi Adam in the Garden of Eden. Then there was the striking zoological error in a picture of a ram that another of my kids brought home.
And so I was thrilled to bits when my third child, in first grade, brought home the following collage that she had made in class:
A primitive bovine of some sort! A woolly mammoth! A spear-bearing and club-wielding caveman!
My daughter told me that these people "lived a very long time ago," and that she had seen an accompanying video which explained how they lived. I was doubly flabbergasted when she told me that this was a project that she had done in "archeology class." In England, archeology classes are something that you take in university, not in first grade!
This is terrific. I have found that the way that most people react to conflicts between Torah and science has very little to do with the actual content of the topic, and much more to do with their emotional comfort. Hopefully my daughter's project means that if she ever encounters the topic of human prehistory later in life, instead of feeling threatened and insecure, it will bring back happy memories of elementary school. Yabadabadoo!