Jason Ablin, the outgoing head of Milken Community High School, has landed a new job at Shalhevet School, a 165-student Modern Orthodox Jewish day school in Los Angeles.
Ablin, whose official title will be coordinator of curriculum development, will be working with Shalhevet faculty and staff in an effort to help the school prepare its students with what he called “21st century skills.”
“A lot of the time teachers feel like they need to have kids do research on the Web, but they never teach them how to do it well,” Ablin said.
Ablin will be working with administrators and faculty to integrate these skills across Judaic and general studies courses.
His new job won’t include teaching, at least not during his first year at the school. But Ablin said his agreement with the school — he called it a “two-year plan” — could put him back into classrooms at some point.
“It’s very hard for me to stay out of the classroom,” Ablin said, noting that even now, in his fifth year as head of school at Milken, he is teaching a course on “Mind, Brain and Innovation” to students in the 10th, 11th and 12th grades.
His focus on preparing students with the skills they’ll need in 21st century life notwithstanding, Ablin said centuries-old texts are still very useful in teaching certain concepts.
As an example, Ablin cited the writings of Baruch Spinoza, the 17th century Jewish philosopher whose views were so heretical as to have ended in his ex-communication from the Dutch Jewish community. Spinoza, Ablin said, could be helpful for teachers attempting to teach students about the idea of “liberating one’s mind.”
“In our age of information, in our age of access, it can be hard to identify one’s own thoughts and mind from that of other people,” Ablin said.
“I think it’s very important to teach a child, to ask them, ‘What do you think?’ What do you know?’ ”
Ablin’s departure from Milken was announced in September 2011, and he will officially start at Shalhevet on Aug. 1. A member of B’nai David-Judea, a Modern Orthodox synagogue, Ablin said he felt a “very strong alignment” with Shalhevet’s mission and values.
Before coming to Milken 13 years ago, Ablin was head of the English department at the boys’ and girls’ Yeshiva University of Los Angeles high schools.