Does Ramaz Have Too Many Assemblies?

Everyone knows the excitement of getting a Schoology post that classes are shorter to accommodate an assembly. But, what about when that assembly is during B4, one’s only free period of the week? Throughout the first semester, students have felt that there has been an increase in assemblies: some for holidays or commorations, like 9/11 or Sukkot, and others to educate students about current or past world events, such as an assembly interviewing Yaakov Katz about his book, Shadow Strike. Two writers, Rebecca Massel ’21 and Charles Speilfogel ’21 took this took this issue to the journalistic debate podium, Massel arguing that the assemblies are educationally beneficial, and Spielfogel asserting that the assemblies are not relevant to students’ daily life.

 

Rebecca Massel: A positive aspect of assemblies is the knowledge they allow students to gain outside of the classroom. While class is important, sometimes it is even more necessary for students to learn about the value of holidays or to discuss current events. For example, this year’s election day assembly was not about the election at all. Rather, Mr. Adam Szubin spoke about his work acting as Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence. This assembly, like many others, taught students a range of lessons. First, it was the embodiment of Ramaz’s “commitment to democracy” aspect of its mission statement. Second, it showed students the importance of Election Day. And third, Ramaz students saw the incredible work of a Ramaz alum. Learning can reach far beyond memorizing facts about the French Revolution or geometry formulas.

Charles Spielfogel: Assemblies are generally negative because they are not usually relevant to students’ daily lives. Assemblies would also be more enjoyable for the students if they were given prior knowledge about the topic of the assembly. They have the potential to be good ways to catch up on global issues, but many of the assemblies have little relevance to our lives. Assemblies are a good way to congregate as a school to hear issues, commemorate important days, and listen to interesting speakers, but Ramaz should realize that it’s possible to overdo it. These periods should be used only for what is most relevant, not just to take up time.

 

RM: While some assemblies do need require further background knoweldge, the experience of meeting different leaders and activists is a great opportunity for Ramaz students. Even if a student does not understand the entirety of an assembly, they still come away with an experience they would not otherwise have had. In high school, students are preparing for a world outside of the “silver box” of Ramaz. As such, it is important for students to learn from different scholars, writers, and rabbis before going off to college. When a senior goes off to yeshiva and hears about Rabbi Willig, they will now associate him with his dedication to helping agunot after 9/11. In the same way, a Ramaz student on a college campus will now understand and be able to add to a discussion about Syrian nuclear power after Yaakov Katz’s discussion about his book Shadow Strike.

CS: Many assemblies take place during the B4 period which is often a free period. The biggest downside to having too many assemblies is the loss of this free period. These free periods help reduce the stress of the day. They are often used to meet with teachers to review work, study for exams, socialize with friends or just relax during a hectic day. Although learning about the world around us is often more important than the day-to-day curriculum, the administration should take into account when they fall out, how often we have them, and how relevant they are to the entire student body. 

 

In conclusion, assemblies are advantageous to opening a student’s mind. However, the timing of each assembly is critical to the students’ reactions. Like most teenagers, students do not enjoy giving up their free time to hear an educational speech or lecture. At the same time, intellectually-driven Ramaz students are appreciative of the experiences to learn about different areas and professions. Students are looking forward to hearing from more inspiring educators in the future, but especially if it’s not during a free.