Interdisciplinary integration has become an increasingly important focus of The Frisch School's curriculum. From a pragmatic perspective, it is helpful to give students who are studying eight or nine different disciplines (which leads to the possibility of intellectual fragmentation) the opportunity to focus on core ideas which can be explored across the discipline. Integration also has an important theological value in a school which takes seriously the ideal of Torah U'Maddah, of helping students see the world not as divided between the secular and the religious, but rather as an organic whole.
In 2008-2009, all ninth-grade courses are unified under the theme of Identity, a theme which is appropriate for students venturing into the new territory of high school and having to confront who they are on many levels. Through their courses, we hope to strengthen their identities in a positive and meaningful way.
Thus, in history and the study of ancient civilizations, students become aware of how our current civilization came into being. In biology, students learn who they are scientifically and become more sensitive to the way organisms including themselves are grouped. Works studied in English class are coming-of-age stories that deal with personal growth in a complex way. Foreign language courses will also cover some of the same issues having to do with growing up but in another language and from the perspective of another culture. Chumash classes are studying Sefer Bamidbar and discussing the qualities one should develop in him/herself if he/she wants to be a strong leader who influences others positively. Nach classes which cover Ezra, Nechemia, Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi also speak about types of leadership. Massechet Baba Kama deals with various tort laws and, thus, with our responsibilities as individuals to others our identities vis a vis other human beings.
The courses interface with each other on a wiki page created for the integration program. The wiki has many pages with ideas related to the theme that cut across many of the courses. Teachers contribute information to the wiki pages to which students respond to on discussion boards and in class. Students have the opportunity to shape the wiki by posting relevant information on it enabling them to more readily see how their classes are inter-related and relevant to each other. The learning process will therefore be enriched, and the students identities will, hopefully, as a result be developed in a truly constructive way.
The tenth grade deals with the issue of the interaction of religion and politics. In History and English classes students read about church and state issues as they arose in Colonial and late eighteenth-century America. Tanakh classes deal with the roles of judges and of kings in Jewish law. The Talmud department focuses on the related, but more contemporary debate over whether or not Israel should be a religious state, based on Rav Aharon Lichtensteins article, Religion and State: The Case for Interaction. The Chumash teachers address the same issue based on letters on the topic authored by Rav Joseph B. Soloveitchik.
The eleventh and twelfth graders deal with integration units on the issues of the dialectic between personal religious growth and social responsibility and on the question of whether the concept of natural law and of suprahalakhic ethics are part of the Jewish system.