Saturday, February 18, 2006

Judaism, the Bible and our World: Part II


I want to clarify the differences between protection and sheltering.

Protection is a specific move to protect your child or anyone from harmful influences for a certain period of time (or at least, that is the form that I am envisioning here) whereas sheltering is to never expose them to those influences.

The best way to demonstrate this is through an example.

When you have children, you childproof your house. You'll put outlet covers over electric outlets lest the child stick his/her fingers inside of them. You keep them away from the stove or oven. You keep an eye on them, and when you cannot, you put them inside of a swing or a playpen so that they are unable to wander around and hurt themselves. However, this protection exists for a limited amount of time, and there will come a time, when your child is older, that you will take off the outlet covers and allow him/her to cook on the stove.

Sheltering, on the other hand, is when you don't even buy the stove. You won't have a stove in the house lest the child burn himself. You somehow live without electricity, because you're so worried about the electric outlets that you won't allow your children to ever have them.

Sounds ridiculous, doesn't it?

But this all-or-nothing attitude is exactly the way people think about institutions like the Internet, or television, movies, magazines, newspapers and the like. They feel that sheltering is the way to go, as opposed to protection. Where these same people are fully apprised of the fact that they need to eat, and hence need a stove/ oven, and must protect their children from burning himself on it, they are not similarly apprised of this fact when it comes to television and the like.

Now, you may argue with me that a television is not a necessity, while a stove, quite practically, is. And you might be right. I would suggest, however, that knowing about world events- which include September 11, Tsunamis and Amona- is important. You might state that this idea is simply justification for having a television, and that I won't end up using the television to watch the news, but rather to watch Jerry Springer. But the type of person who argues this way is being a) pessimistic b) expressing the idea that s/he has no self-control c) expresses fear above all else. Fear that somehow the television is going to influence them against their will. That the television has some kind of magic, supernatural power, to hypnotize you and strip your ideas and values away from you. For some reason, they don't feel they are in control.

It's the same idea when it comes to the Internet. There are plenty of people who use the Internet for business purposes, to stay in touch with friends, even for purposes of blogging, like we do. But there's the incredible lure and attraction of the Internet, isn't there? And parents are deathly afraid of the fact that their children are going to be sucked into it. Sure, there are some extreme examples of children meeting people in chatrooms and deciding to go meet up with them. But what is the Internet, really? It's a world filled with information. It's this information that so many people fear- once their children are exposed to other ideas, to alternate viewpoints, are they going to stay religious? You can't use a pop-up blocker or Weblocker to block that. So you shelter children, and refuse to allow them Internet access.

And what about the people who are honestly worried about their children viewing pornography and other explicit sites? Well, you protect your children from this for a long time. But the key word is protection- and there comes a time for trust. I've been following the For Better or For Worse' comics lately, and they've really demonstrated the ideas that I believe in.



This is the first really important thing to note. Children are curious. Teenagers are curious. So yes, it's probable that if you have the Internet in your house, at some point in time your child is going to see a picture of a naked woman. It may not even be intentional- there are a lot of cleverly disguised web addresses that lead to pornographic material. At some point in time, your child is going to learn about drugs, and alcohol, and all kinds of negative influences. Does that mean that your child is going to do drugs, or become addicted to pornography? No.



You taught your children to be careful. You raised them carefully, intentionally deciding when to protect them and when to trust them. And do you see what she says? You taught me to make good choices. That's the end-all and be-all, the key phrase, the one idea that makes the difference between a Protector and a Shelterer.

My parents are Protectors. They protected me from negative influences when I was young. Just because we own a TV doesn't meant that I was wined and dined on Primetime. As I already mentioned, I do watch TV shows, but I watch them now- now when I can separate people's actions from my own, when I understand that just because someone acts or speaks a certain way doesn't mean that that is the way that I have to act or speak. And as I formerly mentioned, the TV I watch, the books I read, the movies I go to- these all enhance my Judaism rather than undermining it.

How can that be? Last time I gave you an example from Gone With the Wind. Here are some more examples.


The Leonardo DiCaprio version of The Man in the Iron Mask is a brilliantly designed movie that deviates from the book by Alexandre Dumas. What is extremely interesting about it, however, is how it deviates. With a plot detail that occurs nowhere in the book by Dumas, we see the influence of the Tanakh, once again. Which story is displayed? Why the story of Bathsheba, David and Uriah.

From the IMDB writeup:

"One day on a royal party, the young and unliked king gets a crush on Christine. This young lady is the fiancé of soldier Raoul, the son of Athos. Without further ado, the king has Raoul recruited and sent to war, so that he himself can take care of her. Soon Raoul dies in combat and the king has him out of the way. "

Take a look at Samuel II, Chapter 11 and then watch this movie. You'll be astonished by the similarities, down to the very fact that the King (DiCaprio) writes a letter stating that Raoul should be sent to the forefront. Later on Christine (who has become his mistress) confronts a very confused lookalike (the Man in the Iron Mask) about his cruelty.

Another example can be seen when you consider King Ahab and King Jehosaphat's conversation (about prophets). Ahab says something very interesting in Kings I 22:

    8 And the king of Israel said unto Jehoshaphat: 'There is yet one man by whom we may inquire of the LORD, Micaiah the son of Imlah; but I hate him; for he doth not prophesy good concerning me, but evil.' And Jehoshaphat said: 'Let not the king say so.'

Guess where else I had seen that before? Where a king knew that the man spoke the truth, but resented his bad news/ incessant tidings of evil? That would be- the Lord of the Rings, specifically 'The Two Towers.'

    Slowly the old man rose to his feet, leaning heavily upon a short black staff with a handle of white bone; and now the strangers saw that, bent though he was, he was still tall and must in youth have been high and proud indeed.

    'I greet you,' he said, and maybe you look for welcome. But truth to tell your welcome is doubtful here, Master Gandalf. You have ever been a herald of woe. Troubles follow you like crows, and ever the oftener the worse. I will not deceive you: when I heard that Shadowfax had come back riderless, I rejoiced at the return of the horse, but still more at the lack of the rider; and when Eomer brought the tidings that you had gone at last to your long home, I did not mourn. But news from afar is seldom sooth. Here you come again! And with you come evils worse than before, as might be expected. Why should I welcome you, Gandalf Stormcrow? Tell me that.' Slowly he sat down again in his chair.

    [Wormtongue speaks here] ...Why, indeed should we welcome you, Master Stormcrow? Laithspell I name you, Illnews; and ill news is an ill guest they say.' He laughed grimly, as he lifted his heavy lids for a moment and gazed on the strangers with dark eyes.'

    JRR Tolkien, The Two Towers, Page 138-139

This entire incident is explained still more clearly if you read Oedipus Rex by Sophocles.

King Ahab makes a statement after Michaiahu tells him the statement that he really wants to hear- that he should go up:

    16 And the king said unto him: 'How many times shall I adjure thee that thou speak unto me nothing but the truth in the name of the LORD?'

But when Michaiahu does tell the truth, the king is extremely angry with him and throws him in jail on a bread-and-water diet until he (the king) returns from battle.

That's very similar to what happens with Oedipus.

Oedipus is speaking to the seer Teresias and says:

    OEDIPUS
    Oh speak, Withhold not, I adjure thee, if thou know'st, Thy knowledge. We are all thy suppliants.

but he is enraged by what Teresias tells him, and states:

    OEDIPUS
    Must I endure this fellow's insolence? A murrain on thee! Get thee hence! Begone Avaunt! and never cross my threshold more.

And a full reading of the play just brings more similarities to the forefront.

And now we come to a work written by an avowed Anti-Semite, Tolstoy. You can learn Torah from an Anti-Semite? Well, you would be surprised.

Take a good look at Leviticus 26:8 and Leviticus 26:36

Leviticus 26:8 here:


    ח וְרָדְפוּ מִכֶּם חֲמִשָּׁה מֵאָה, וּמֵאָה מִכֶּם רְבָבָה יִרְדֹּפוּ; וְנָפְלוּ אֹיְבֵיכֶם לִפְנֵיכֶם, לֶחָרֶב.
    8 And five of you shall chase a hundred, and a hundred of you shall chase ten thousand; and your enemies shall fall before you by the sword.

and 26:36 here:


    לו וְהַנִּשְׁאָרִים בָּכֶם--וְהֵבֵאתִי מֹרֶךְ בִּלְבָבָם, בְּאַרְצֹת אֹיְבֵיהֶם; וְרָדַף אֹתָם, קוֹל עָלֶה נִדָּף, וְנָסוּ מְנֻסַת-חֶרֶב וְנָפְלוּ, וְאֵין רֹדֵף.
    36 And as for them that are left of you, I will send a faintness into their heart in the lands of their enemies; and the sound of a driven leaf shall chase them; and they shall flee, as one fleeth from the sword; and they shall fall when none pursueth.

Now for Tolstoy, specifically his masterpiece War and Peace:

    ...no one can gauge the force of a detachment. Sometimes- when there is not a coward in front to cry: "We are cut off!" and start running, but a brave, spirited man who shouts: "Hurrah!"- a detachment of five thousand is worth thirty thousand, as at Schongraben, while at other times fifty thousand will flee from eight thousand, as at Austerlitz."

    Page 775

And then there are the famous lines from Deuteronomy 8:17 (kochi b'etzem yadi) that Tolstoy utterly and brilliantly refutes:

    During this entire period Napoleon, who is represented to us as the leader of all that movement (just as the figurehead on the prow of a ship may seem to a savage to be the power guiding the vessel), acted like a child who, holding onto the straps inside a carriage, imagines that he is driving the vehicle.

So- to those of you who fear the influence of the secular world, to the Shelterers, to those who cannot have a stove or oven for fear that the child will burn himself- I say, you set yourselves up for disaster. By removing and refusing access to ideas you stop your children from thinking, by sheltering rather than protecting you do not allow your children the most basic coping skills, and moreover, you prevent them from seeing the beauty of their religion reflected by the secular- which is something that is vey prevalent in our world. The secular strengthens us; it does not destroy us- but so long as you shut it out and pretend it does not exist, you teach your children that it is destructive and antithetical to the Torah. You let them believe there is something that the Torah does not understand or include, something outside of God's jurisdiction. You teach them to fear, to believe they have no self-control. You teach them that all that is secular is evil.

You prevent the publication of books like Making of a Godol because it states that men you view as great and holy read books, secular books and classics- and did not ban them. That- could it be possible- they drew strength from them.

You ruin yourselves through this persistent sheltering...because you deny yourselves the beauty of our world, and the beauty of God and our religion reflected within it.

But you don't see it this way. And there is no one who can persuade you of this.

You have closed your ears. Stopped them up with wax, like Odysseus/ Ulysses did.

But wait. You don't know who Odysseus/ Ulysses is. Because he's in a book with pagan gods, and of course you would instantaneously ban that. In fact, you've even tried to ban history. I remember some of you calling the principal when I was in sixth grade, complaining that the teacher was teaching us about polytheistic religions. So the teacher had to skip that unit in history.

When is this going to end? When are you going to see that blocking everything out, pretending that works of literature, that movies, that the Internet does not exist or is an unholy seductive demon- is incorrect? When are you going to see?

I don't know.

Because you are all very good at engaging in smear campaigns against anyone who is more open-minded. As in people who don't rewrite history. Or read classic books. Or even watch movies.

And who draw strength from this. And find God in this.

No. You don't understand it. You don't even give it a chance.

And you never will...

53 comments:

Chacham mi'Berlin said...

Sure, if everyone your age was a brilliant as you. But you are one in a million, which, ironically, negates your post.

Jewish Atheist said...

What the chacham said, although less so.

I'll see your high literature and raise you some low: in Star Trek, the captain is often faced with some terrible moral dilemma, for example having to choose between breaking the law and saving a life. If Star Trek were (high) literature, the captain would choose and have to live with the results. Since ST is pulp, however, the crew discovers a new particle which lets the Enterprise travel back in time to prevent the Captain from having to choose.

That's sort of what you're doing. I agree with a lot of the ultra-Orthodox about the essential truth that less sheltering will probably lead to more attrition. Is it more important to retain frum Jews or to allow more Jews to lead unsheltered, richer lives even if some of them choose to leave?

You're sort of avoiding the question by saying we can have both. It may work for you, but that's no proof that it will work for everybody.

I'd be interested in seeing a discussion weighing the relative costs and benefits of retaining more Orthodox Jews vs. raising more Orthodox Jews in an unsheltered environment. Or, if you really believe you can have the best of both worlds (even for people who aren't as exceptional as you and your parents) a discussion about how that would work.

Irina Tsukerman said...

I found it extremely interesting to learn that the earliest of early Zionists drew inspiration from Tolstoy and his life of farming.

Chana said...

It may work for you, but that's no proof that it will work for everybody.

Taking this concept the whole way through, Jewish Atheist, we can take anything in the world- whatever it may be, whatever value system it is, whatever morals we have, and put it down to "It may work for you, but it won't work for everybody."

In other words, the idea of relativity.

Relative morals, values, ideals, and so on and so forth.

I think I am making a choice. It's a very simple statement. You cannot shelter people. You must raise them to know, to see, to understand.

As I mentioned before, this is the way it was in the Torah. The Jews were told not to serve idols, but they knew what idols were. People nowadays don't even know what the Internet is or what it contains.

I don't see it as an either-or situation: either we shelter Jews and keep them Orthodox, or we don't shelter them and they become heretics. That's just too easy.

In fact, once the sheltered Jew encounters the "real world" that trebles the chances he's going to be a 'heretic' because he won't have seen anything that convincing or wonderful beforehand.

And people cannot stay sheltered forever...

How do we fix all this? By teaching people how to be proper parents. Alongside the kallah and chosson classes teaching all the mechanics of sex and sexuality, bring in some books (secular as well as Judaic) and teach people how to parent.

If people knew how to parent- and this doesn't only reflect on Orthodox Jews, but on the majority of our society- then we'd be in a much better place today.

Is that too high a goal? Maybe. But it's probably the best goal at the moment.

Jewish Atheist said...

I'd agree with that, Chana.

e-kvetcher said...

Anyone see the movie The Village? It is essentially about the consequences of extreme sheltering by parents.

e-kvetcher said...

I don't know if your argument convinced me.

The Jews were told not to serve idols, but they knew what idols were.

And so the history of judaism up until the Gaonic period is replete with Jews straying en masse to worship idols or otherwise assimilate.

Ezzie said...

It's a good, but not great argument. JA and Chacham (in short fashion) made those points already - what works for one will not work for all. Is it the best path? Well, yes. But it can't work for everyone, and therefore it would be foolish to act as if it were so.

I agree that good, proper, strong parenting will generally lead to the correct path; but again, this assumes parents who don't mess up, who are smart enough and have many other talents with few flaws, who have enough time to focus on their children, who don't have other issues to deal with, and children who are willing to listen and learn. Each parent has to decide when their child is ready for what - and sometimes, parents will be wrong - even if they are excellent parents.

It comes down to schools having to make the difficult choice of how to educate a number of students of all different styles and backgrounds and parents and personalities in the same classroom at the same time. The schools must choose between exposing immature or otherwise unable to handle issues-type students vs. those that are able to do so; often, classes cater near the bottom. A) This way you aren't leaving them behind; and B) The problems those children may cause tend to be worse than the ones near the 'top' may cause. Finally, there's (C): Hopefully, the ones on top will be motivated to learn more on their own, and the school won't need to educate them as much.

While your approach is wonderful idealistically, and definitely should be carried out far more often, it's not fully practical in any educational issue. Hopefully, though, the shift will be in that direction.

Chana said...

And so the history of judaism up until the Gaonic period is replete with Jews straying en masse to worship idols or otherwise assimilate.

Yes. But that's exactly my point. God allowed us free will and free choice. He allowed us to see other gods and to observe how they were worshipped. Sure, there are laws that state that the Jews must kill the 7 nations of Canaan lest they break the laws and serve other gods. But the fact is, it came down to free will. Ba'al Pe'or is an expression of free will. So is the entire book of Shoftim. So is Izevel surrounding herself with prophets of the Ba'al.

God did not- did not- force us to serve him by never allowing us to see or be exposed to other "gods." Abraham's father made idols! Yisro was a priest of Midian. Do we see the point here? God wants us to be aware of everything- everything- all the other gods and idols- and to still choose Him.

The idea isn't to pick the path that's going to ensure the least straying. If that were the idea, we would not be descendants of idol-worshippers, and God would have seen fit never to have allowed us to see or be near an idol. But that's not how the Torah works. We have all the options.

And we make the choices.

It's about truth and free will- not how many people assimilate or don't assimilate.

Beyond that- there so many pessimistic realists here! Why "can't" this work? How do you know it's not going to work? Has it ever been tried, in a fully purified form? I'll give you the answer- no. You all decide it won't work before you ever try, so of course it's going to fail.

And where are your standards? Either we need to branch out into schools for the gifted, or Judaism needs to be taught on a higher level. At the moment, most Orthodox Jews in school don't ever learn about God. They learn about halakha and Torah and who knows what else- but not God.

How can you teach a child an entire religion, a way of life, and never teach them about God?

Because you're catering to the lower group, who can't understand lofty concepts about God? So teach them real concepts! But at least teach them...

It's true that I'm young. And maybe I haven't been as battered by the world's cruel waves. Maybe I haven't suffered terribly. I haven't undergone "the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune." And obviously, I am an idealist. But I still don't see why this can't work. If people would choose to expend the same effort on their children that they put into making money, we would live in a totally different world.

And let's say you can't do that- you can still be a role model for your children. You can be an example for them through the way you behave.

All these "can'ts" and "this won't work for everyone" strike me as excuses for why people don't want to make the effort to make it work. It's like the second-handers out of 'The Fountainhead.' Be creators, people, not users! Be thinkers! Live a passionate, thoughtful, fulfilled life!

And I personally think everyone can do that. And I don't see why this system shouldn't work. Why it "can't" work. You've all been making assertions, but where's your proof? How do you know this can't be done?

Have you ever tried?

Or is it "just too hard?"

Jak Black said...

Chana,

You make it sound as if there is a choice between sheltering or not, and that you'd choose the former. But the truth is, everyone has their point of sheltering. Will you allow your children to walk into a sex-toy shop, because hey, they're eventually going to learn what a condom, etc. is? Your point is simply different than others.

At any rate, I just blogged on this, and to me, the issue of sheltering or issurim is hardly the only reason not to have a TV. You're welcome to read my post and offer your opinion.

Ezzie said...

God did not- did not- force us to serve him by never allowing us to see or be exposed to other "gods." Abraham's father made idols! Yisro was a priest of Midian. Do we see the point here? God wants us to be aware of everything- everything- all the other gods and idols- and to still choose Him.

This is cherry-picking. In Menashe's time, everyone was running to worship idols. When Yeshayahu (?) destroyed all the idols, people were still hiding them on the doors. You can't pretend that everyone recognizes truth when they see it - and that's when it's obvious. Nowadays, is it so obvious!? Look at the Gadol Hador's blog: You can't pretend that most people are ready to face these kind of issues.

The idea isn't to pick the path that's going to ensure the least straying.

Depends who you ask. Why is that true? If that were true in life, why wouldn't you allow your children to learn not to walk into the street on their own? I'm not sure that's a true statement. And your proof isn't great, either:

If that were the idea, we would not be descendants of idol-worshippers, and God would have seen fit never to have allowed us to see or be near an idol. But that's not how the Torah works. We have all the options.

That's not true at all: We're supposed to learn from the lessons of the past and not repeat them. We don't learn the details of idol-worship: We learn that our ancestors worshipped idols, realized they were stupid, and found God. We don't need to repeat the mistakes of generations before us.

Beyond that- there so many pessimistic realists here! Why "can't" this work? How do you know it's not going to work? Has it ever been tried, in a fully purified form? I'll give you the answer- no. You all decide it won't work before you ever try, so of course it's going to fail.

Wrong. Look at all the people trying! This has less to do with pessimism, and more to do with being realistic. I'm an optimist by nature, and personally, I think a heck of a lot more should be taught and almost none of what is sheltered should be. And I think more kids would stay frum, too. (Basically, I agree with what you want - but not to the same extreme.) But you must recognize that there are major drawbacks involved, and a "fully purified" form of throwing everything at students at once is completely unrealistic. You can't expect any teacher to be able to teach a classroom of 15-30 students high-level subjects like that properly on a consistent enough basis.

And where are your standards? Either we need to branch out into schools for the gifted, or Judaism needs to be taught on a higher level.

We DO split into levels for the gifted - but it's VERY tricky to do so too early. Just taking math on my own in 8th grade seperated my from my classmates to an extent; you start creating special 'schools for the gifted', and you create serious social issues. The knowledge alone will not save them - without adequate social skills, it's almost worthless practically.

At the moment, most Orthodox Jews in school don't ever learn about God. They learn about halakha and Torah and who knows what else- but not God.

Agreed. And maybe they should learn more. OTOH, college students and above struggle with the concept - wouldn't HS students even more so!?

It's true that I'm young. And maybe I haven't been as battered by the world's cruel waves. Maybe I haven't suffered terribly. I haven't undergone "the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune." And obviously, I am an idealist. But I still don't see why this can't work. If people would choose to expend the same effort on their children that they put into making money, we would live in a totally different world.

S'ok, I'm not much older. But you'd be surprised... there is a reason people try and earn money, and it's not just to have money. Take it from someone who's trying to pay overdue rent. But it's not just that: My parents raised me very well, and my friends' parents did well, too. Nevertheless, all of our knowledge is quite limited. Why? Well, most people really don't care all that much. They'd rather learn practical material. Even those who care, with good parenting, didn't learn everything - or even close. You learned a lot, and you're lucky. You're also incredibly rare.

And let's say you can't do that- you can still be a role model for your children. You can be an example for them through the way you behave.

AMEN.

All these "can'ts" and "this won't work for everyone" strike me as excuses for why people don't want to make the effort to make it work. It's like the second-handers out of 'The Fountainhead.' Be creators, people, not users! Be thinkers! Live a passionate, thoughtful, fulfilled life!

They strike you as that, but it's groundless. You think that people are pessimistic, when in fact maybe they're a few steps ahead of you: They know already what does and doesn't work to some extent. Your ideas are nice, but maybe putting in that effort to make your specific ideas work is simply a waste of time and effort, setting you back; instead, they're focused on changing certain single aspects instead of revamping the whole thing. In the long run, it will get things to where you want them faster and with less difficulty.

And I personally think everyone can do that. And I don't see why this system shouldn't work. Why it "can't" work. You've all been making assertions, but where's your proof? How do you know this can't be done?

Have you ever tried?

Or is it "just too hard?"


Wonderful, but impractical. You're essentially lashing out to one extreme against the extreme that many don't like when in school. It's no better - you're just creating the reverse problems on the other end. The difference is, instead of the masses being okay and the thinkers frustrated, the thinkers will be thrilled and the masses clueless. Neither works well in the long run. [Though if you think about it, the former has a better chance of overall success.] You're simply replacing your misery with theirs.

The answer is to find the balance, which is always tricky. Different people can handle different levels. Perhaps schools need to cater to the middle third, and hope to bring up the bottom third while keeping it good enough to have the top third interested. It's risky both ways, but overall it might be better.

People are trying, Chana - but a) things take time and b) not everything is worth trying. Some rewards are not worth the incredible risks involved.

B. Spinoza said...

>Yes. But that's exactly my point. God allowed us free will and free choice. He allowed us to see other gods and to observe how they were worshipped. Sure, there are laws that state that the Jews must kill the 7 nations of Canaan lest they break the laws and serve other gods.

huh? you don't think that's an extreme example of sheltering in the Torah? Sure it is. The fact that they had free will to do it anyways doesn't mean that theTorah says to get rid of all the things which will tempt them. The charedi today have free will to not listen to the their Rabbis which ban these things. If we were living in the Tanach's time, the Rabbis would command people to destroy these things, not just ban it.

The fact is the Torah is all about treating people like babies. It's actually an essential part of it.

Trust me, these Rabbis who have been studying Torah all their lives know better than you what it says. I may not agree with them, but that's because I don't agree with the Torah either.

Masmida said...

Chana,
I surprised that I am the first one to bring this up but

Chachma b'goyim ta'amin, Torah b'goyim al ta'amin.

I apologize that I can't remember the source off the top of my head. The examples you cite are the the result of several centuries of Christian thought and culture, which bears much of its moral content from Torah.

So why bother with secondary, tirterary or even quanternary sources. Get the real stuff.

(2)
Take a look at what the Jewish people are commanded to do once they enter the land, namely destroy the indigenous population and all their idols and possesions because of that selfsame danger of running to do idoltry.

The first few chapters of Joshua are dedicated to capture and disposal of that which belongs to the goyim. Where do you think the mitza of tovieling vessels comes from. You don't have to if they are made by a Jew.

> The Jews knew what idols were

In Me'ah Sharim they cut off the pinky fingers of dolls so that it's clear that they are not idols. I doubt you will find that atmosphere unsheltered.

Learning about idol worship in order not to accidently commit it i.e. the margolit which was worshiped by stoning it therefore other means of destroying it were found necessary.

Chabebe, it's not teaching to the bottom of the class. It is making sure that everyone has the fundementals that they need in order to be fully active Jews.

Chana, this is something I'm curious about, can you blog on your concept of the ideal person?

Chana said...

Jak Blak- certainly a lot of people will not have televisions in their house for the reasons you blogged about. You make a lot of good points about desensitizing and the like. I find that what I watch on television actually allows me to be more in tune with people/ empathize better with them. But then again, that is my personality.

Ezzie- All right. Given. You can all be a few steps ahead of me. And I disagree with you about the gifted schools, because if I had been placed in a Jewish gifted school amidst other kids who were just as gifted, a) I would not have felt like an outcast b) I'd have been among other people who understood me c) I'd have learned much more d) there's a good chance I would have made more friends. You're worried about separation or isolation? A clever kid who is not in his/her proper environment is going to feel separated every day of his life, and wonder whether it is his fault, and then feel guilty about it. Or, if we don't like the clever kid scenario, you can just insert my name.

b. spinoza- The charedi today have free will to not listen to the their Rabbis which ban these things.

No, they don't. This is like Brave New World, where people have been conditioned since birth to accept the authority of the Rabbis and to listen to them. They have no free will worth speaking of. Only 'Savages' raised outside the culture have free will.

Noah's state of existence- to isolate himself from the rest of the world during his generation-i.e., to shelter himself- was, according to numerous interpretations, wrong. Abraham's, where he invited all sorts of people, even people he thought were idol-worshippers (the common explanation for why he told his guests to wash their feet) was considered good, right and kind. The epitome of kindness and hospitality. The Torah does not, to me, seem to express ideas of sheltering and isolationism.

masmida- So why bother with secondary, tirterary or even quanternary sources. Get the real stuff.

As I said, I am not looking for proofs to support the Torah, or for secular books to become actively Jewish. I am trying to prove that Judaism can survive clashes with the secular world, and what is more, grow stronger because of it. That the secular contains ideas that are not adverse to ours, and that they may give us strength.

Yes, there is the destruction of the idols involved later on. I didn't say that idols are necessarily good for us. I am just stating that the Torah does not forbid us knowledge.

I don't really see what Meah Shearim and pinky dolls has to do with this...

My concept of the ideal person? That's simple. Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik is one of the most brilliant people, clever writers, and leaders we have ever seen in the Jewish world. His words touch me when the rebukes of others fall far short. My ideal person? It is he. And if he would dislike this, then it is someone who embodies the many qualities that he does- qualities of creativity, independance, thought, logic, perfectionism, and viewing the world as something precious and beautiful.

e-kvetcher said...

This is like Brave New World, where people have been conditioned since birth to accept the authority of the Rabbis and to listen to them.

Chana,

Are you advocating the questioning of the Rabbis? Have you become a Karaite? :)

Seriously though, isn't the principle of "establishing a fence around the Torah." set up by the Chazal? The purpose of the fence is to shelter.

Chana said...

Nope, not a Karaite. But I hardly think the Sages of the Talmud era are comparable to certain Rabbis nowadays who ban the Internet lest their children be exposed to alternate viewpoints. Who was R' Akiva, after all? He hated the Sages to the point where he said, "When I was an am haaretz (unlearned) I would say, ‘Give me a talmid chacham (scholar) and I will bite him like an ass.’ His disciples asked: ‘Why not like a dog?’ He answered them: ‘A dog bites, but does not crush bones, while an ass bites and crushes bones!’" (Pesachim 49a)
He's an "alternate viewpoint" if ever there was one!

Anyway, that was going off on a tangent. Back to your question about fences:

From The Midrash Says: The Book of Beraishis

The snaked waited for a time when Adam was asleep and struck up a conversation with Chava, asking her, "Did Hashem instruct you not to eat of any fruit tree in the garden? If you are not allowed to eat from them, why then were they created?"

"We are allowed to eat of the fruit of all trees," answered the woman, "except for the tree in the center of the garden. NOt only may we not eat of its fruits, but we may not even touch it, for if we do, we will die!"

In truth, Hashem had not prohibited touching it, but Adam had imposed this prohibiton as an additional insurance that they would avoid any closer contact with that tree. adam was so pleased with his own idea that he neglected to mention to Chava that it was merely is own precaution to safeguard Hashem's law."

Page 45

I don't know what the acronym stands for, but the source is apparently MK"M (mem chaf mem) Beis Amud 138.

So what was the problem in this scenario?

It wasn't the existence of a geder or fence. That was a form of protection. The problem was that Chava thought it was a command from God as opposed to a command from Adam. That's why the snake's logic- pushing her against the tree, and her not dying- convinced her.

So long as we are aware that a geder is just that- a geder, a protection- then we are fine. Once we don't even tell our children that the geder is in place, we are sheltering them.

So- protection vs. sheltering. And there we are.

e-kvetcher said...

Chana,

I am not sure how you are answering my question. Is your point that the fences today are too restrictive in general or only according to some rabbi's ruling? I would agree that some are very restrictive. If you're arguing that all are, if you're not a Karaite, then you have to assume that the Rabbis have Divine sanction to understand and dispense halachic rulings. I'm relatively new to Rabbinic Judaism, but isn't that the point?

There is a range of viewpoints within Judaism, and even within Orthodox Judaism of how much secularism and judaism should mix from LW MO to Mea Shearim. You do have a choice in our society. Why do you feel the need to convince the people that have made their choice that they are wrong and need to change?

Ezzie said...

Chana - And I disagree with you about the gifted schools, because if I had been placed in a Jewish gifted school amidst other kids who were just as gifted, a) I would not have felt like an outcast b) I'd have been among other people who understood me c) I'd have learned much more d) there's a good chance I would have made more friends. You're worried about separation or isolation?

I am worried. I'm worried about a society that early on creates a school for the gifted: An elitist school. You immediately separate out a small group of people who likely will be in their own world, socially - and often, amongst such a group, will never truly adapt to interaction with mainstream society: Even with having their own friends. In fact, it may be difficult to have true social interaction amongst themselves, because often times those on the higher end of the intelligence curve lack social skills. Keeping them seperated from the rest of the world will only further erode that. Add in the difficulty in determining who should be in such a school - after all, many kids simply don't try or care in younger grades, focus on friendships, etc. - and it becomes an impossibility.

A clever kid who is not in his/her proper environment is going to feel separated every day of his life, and wonder whether it is his fault, and then feel guilty about it. Or, if we don't like the clever kid scenario, you can just insert my name.

Or mine. :)

The difference is, most of the clever kids* are smart enough to adapt - as you are doing. Not by changing themselves (though some do), but by creating opportunities for themselves and finding other people and other modes of interacting with other intelligent people.

* particularly ones with personality

You're not the only one like you; it just takes a bit more effort to find a good path, a good school, and good friends.

Re: Gedarim, I couldn't agree more. I had this fight with my charedi cousins when I was in Israel.

Chana said...

Why do you feel the need to convince the people that have made their choice that they are wrong and need to change?

Because they are hurting their kids.

And because honestly, I don't think Judaism is like an entree at a restaraunt- make your choice! We don't care if it's banana souffle or cauliflower pasta! To each his own!

There we have "relative Judaism" just like some would say there is relative morality.

True Judaism is observant Judaism- following the strict laws laid out in the Oral and Written Torah. Other types deviate from the Torah past the line of demarcation (who draws this line? that's a whole other discussion.) What is Orthodox Judaism? That's what I am trying to define. For me, Orthodox Judaism is equivalent to the Judaism R' Soloveitchik practiced.

Your question to me is, in effect, "Hey, if they're happy with what they're doing, why change it?"

Because I'm not happy with it. Someone might be happy killing people because of cartoons, but I don't approve. Some people are perfectly happy living in ignorance, but I don't like it.

In other words, this is a selfish egotistical motivation, similar to that of Howard Roark. I think that we humans can do better, can see more, can understand more, and can crave more.

Do you want pure honorable motives? I personally think that what I want is good for people. Others are going to disagree with me, so I can't give you pure and honorable.

So we'll take this down to selfish. Because I don't think ignorance is bliss, and I think- know, more often- that ignorance destroys people.

That's why I "feel a need" to speak my piece and my opinion. I personally believe people who shelter their children absolutely are wrong. You may not agree with me. That's your prerogative. But this is my idea, my feeling, and my personal understanding of the matter, and this is what I am going to say.

So yes- it boils down to egoism. If I'm ever as great an egoist as Roark, I'll be truly happy.

The best answer I can give you is that of Edna St. Vincent Millay in Dirge Without Music.

I know. But I do not approve. And I am not resigned.

e-kvetcher said...

Because they are hurting their kids.

Well, isn't it their prerogative. I know it is a slippery slope, but I do think there are boundaries. They are not denying them blood transfusions or locking them in their rooms. Parents do have a right to educate their kids the way they see fit. We are not talking about a freak occurence. It is a significant minority of people that choose to do this.

When me and my wife made a choice to become Shomer Mitzvot or Orthodox or whatever it's called, most of my family thought that what we were doing to our kids was hurting them.

True Judaism is observant Judaism- following the strict laws laid out in the Oral and Written Torah.

I am not disputing this.

For me, Orthodox Judaism is equivalent to the Judaism R' Soloveitchik practiced.

Fine. But you have to be aware that there are many people that don't see it as equivalent.

Someone might be happy killing people because of cartoons, but I don't approve.

Huh?

ou may not agree with me. That's your prerogative. But this is my idea, my feeling, and my personal understanding of the matter, and this is what I am going to say.

Well, it is your blog:)

e-kvetcher said...

When me and my wife made a choice

See what a secular education gets you :)

*blush in embarrassment*

Chana said...

Ezzie-

I think we're seeing this in two totally separate ways. You're thinking of making an elitist society of clever snobs. I'm talking about a child's basic needs.

Firstly, smart kids are social. They have difficulty interacting with kids who don't understand them, who put them down, bully them, or make fun of them for their knowledge. This means that they withdraw more into their own worlds, where they can explore to their hearts' content. The teacher misreads this and sees it as "anti-social."

Secondly, our society places a tremendous amount of pressure on kids to be extroverted. Schools need to teach it's okay to be an introvert. You need some basic social skills or tact, but you don't need to enjoy big gatherings and parties and having lots of people over.

I don't think that I've adapted at all. I couldn't adapt at Templars, so we had to switch me my new school, where I am effectively part of the "Academic Group." It was because I refused to adapt that I got into all the trouble in the first place. Do you think I couldn't have pretended I was a perfect Templars girl? I could have. In terms of knowledge, I am certain I could have gone to BJJ. But that's not me. And I refuse to adapt, because adapting is, in effect, to act hypocritically.

You may want to read up on a book called Genius Denied. I'm not saying I'm a genius. I'm not even saying my case is as extreme as some of the people in that book. But I do think there's a need, a definite, definite need for kids to be challenged- and that is the need that schools for the gifted fulfill.

This "adapting" suggests a lowering of standards that I find distateful. Why do I need to adapt to people who can't think- because there's more of them? So I can learn how to behave amongst them? That's absurd. I agree one needs to know how to be polite, tactful and social, to an extent, but one does not need to "adapt."

Chana said...

E-Kvetcher:

That's the reason I used the words for me. I am aware other people don't see it the same way.

I really don't know how to answer your "Huh?" comment, because I don't know what's confusing you.

Read the poem. Maybe that'll clarify things.

e-kvetcher said...

The "Huh?" was there 'cause it sounded like you were equating disagreement over chinuch to murders over cartoons.

Tobie said...

I think all of the basic points have been made here, but I just want to throw in a couple of more questions. If you assume that a wide, diverse, eclectic knowledge base is an essential, I think that I will grant that it should not be sacrificed for safety.

But who says we grant that? Maybe it is best that we live out our lives entirely submerged and saturated in Torah. Maybe it is best that we avoid all outside influences and devote ourselves only to it. And why not? We know that Torah is supremely holy, infinitely holy, so why veer from it for a moment, especially to things that we know are less holy?

Why expose ourselves to the garbage of television when the same news is perfectly accessibly through newspapers and even newspapers that are part of the chareidi world? Why search for wisdom when we already have the answers?

Why must we give ourselves choices when we're afraid that the answers we reach may be wrong? If we believe in an absolute morality, then we do believe that even a sincere journey may lead to the wrong place. Wasn't Ulysses' tactic was a good one, since it avoided having the sailors jump ship? Would you have preferred that he let the men hear what they wanted and make their own decisions? Why shouldn't we spend our entire lives protecting ourselves and our children from making decisions that we konw are the wrong ones, are evil? Especially if all we have to sacrifice for it is some knowledge which, though perhaps a loss, can always be gleaned from the Torah, the source of all wisdom?

I know, I'm devil's advocating, and probably not doing it as well as someone who really held those views would. But still...I'm not sure I have answers to all of those questions. Do you?

Jewish Atheist said...

My school had a large number of gifted children but wasn't limited to such. I don't think you need a separate school, just the resources to be able to handle gifted students, "normal" ones, and those with special needs. I think the best of both worlds is to let them all socialize in the same schools and even in some of the same classes but to make sure each student gets what he or she needs.

In my experience, the most important thing as far as keeping kids Orthodox (not that I think this is so important, obviously) would have been to ensure that the gifted kids had Rabbis who could keep up with them. Some of my Rabbis caused only contempt among my peers with their simplistic and closed-minded view of Judaism.

Ezzie said...

Actually, I think I'm looking at it the same way; I think that the elitist society of clever snobs is the end result.

Firstly, smart kids are social. They have difficulty interacting with kids who don't understand them, who put them down, bully them, or make fun of them for their knowledge. This means that they withdraw more into their own worlds, where they can explore to their hearts' content. The teacher misreads this and sees it as "anti-social."

I disagree. You'd be amazed how poor the basic social skills people have are - particularly among otherwise smart people (maybe you just haven't seen enough of it yet). They absolutely should explore to their hearts' content; but they should also make sure to learn to interact with others better. My FIL would love to sit all day in his office and read and learn to his heart's content - and basically does so. But he knows when to come out and interact with everybody as well - many of the children you refer to simply don't.

Secondly, our society places a tremendous amount of pressure on kids to be extroverted. Schools need to teach it's okay to be an introvert. You need some basic social skills or tact, but you don't need to enjoy big gatherings and parties and having lots of people over.

Of course not. Society does place too much pressure to be extroverted, but when it comes down to it, some of the most social people I know are introverts. Most people don't really enjoy big gatherings; they enjoy the cover of a big gathering to be to themselves while appearing to be spending time with everybody. Big gatherings usually seperate out into many little groups for a reason.

I don't think that I've adapted at all. I couldn't adapt at Templars, so we had to switch me my new school, where I am effectively part of the "Academic Group." It was because I refused to adapt that I got into all the trouble in the first place. Do you think I couldn't have pretended I was a perfect Templars girl? I could have. In terms of knowledge, I am certain I could have gone to BJJ. But that's not me. And I refuse to adapt, because adapting is, in effect, to act hypocritically.

But of course you've adapted. Adapted is not the same as changed; you've simply adjusted your life to fit with how you want it to be led. It's not hypocritical at all.

You may want to read up on a book called Genius Denied. I'm not saying I'm a genius. I'm not even saying my case is as extreme as some of the people in that book. But I do think there's a need, a definite, definite need for kids to be challenged- and that is the need that schools for the gifted fulfill.

I've been meaning to read that for a long time, actually... but I disagree. You just need schools to develop curricula or special programs within their current frameworks to challenge those kids. To some extent, thank God, my HS 70 miles to the north of Templars did so; of course, it was nowhere near enough, and I was bored for most of 4 years. But it worked for most of the (very smart) guys who were with me, and they were challenged. Is that rare? I don't know, probably. But the more schools that learn how to do so, the better.

This "adapting" suggests a lowering of standards that I find distateful. Why do I need to adapt to people who can't think- because there's more of them? So I can learn how to behave amongst them? That's absurd. I agree one needs to know how to be polite, tactful and social, to an extent, but one does not need to "adapt."

Yes and no. I think you're misunderstanding adaptation, but... (from here to end is purposely said strong, don't misunderstand) Of course you need to adapt to an extent. You're asking them to as well. They should develop curricula and a way of life for an extreme minority!? That's absurd! Why should they do so?! YOU must adapt to THEM because they are the majority.

But in reality, that has to be done only minimally. You don't have to change who you are or what you're about; but you can't just wall off most of the world simply because you're smarter than they are. In the end, you'll be on your own. You need to adapt to living in a society where not everyone is like you. You have to be a part of society to expect society to help you.

Halfnutcase said...

first off ezzie, if you have ever looked at a single psychological or psychiatric study on gifted kids you'll find what you are saying is dead wrong.

first off you are compleately innacurate as to those whom you lable "gifted" the gifted are not the "smart kids" the gifted kids are the kids like chana, (yes chana i can tell just by reading the way your write that you have impressive enough mental capacities to be gifted at the least in language) and my self, whom everyone, whith out exception consideres anywhere from seriously weird to out right insane, the brighter they are the more thay are veiwed as the latter. these kids are so past the "smart kids" that if you tested them in knowlage and closed reasoning capacity they make the smart kids look litteraly mentaly retarted. (no offense ment to anyone)

these children cannot be placed in standard schools because to a large extend the reality of child cruelty is that they will destroy the gifted child entirely body and soul.

it may strike you as elitist, but should they turn bitter at their mistreatment these children are the same kinds of chidren who make revolutions, who compleately and utterly destroy sociaties from with in and with out, with the power and force of their ideas. if worst comes to worst. that's what the perkei avos means when they say "lest others follow you there and they drink and die" for every gifted child you destroy you run the risk that if that child becomes dissafected and rejects your point of veiw, it wont be just them that goes, they will and have in the past litteraly dragged entire populations of people along with them.

the only reason that it offends you ezzie that these children be given what they need is because you have the shear falicy of a "fair and equal" playing feild in you mind, but the thing is, denying these children what they need to attain their potential is just as unfair, and many times more dangerous than denying help to someone who is mentaly dissabled.

second i'm going to reinforce what chana said about these children and their social skills. we are not born with bad social skills, those social skills are created by the shunning and downright abuse we suffer at the hands of our peers. they beat in to us that we are inferior, and less than they just because we are not like them, and there is nothing you can do to make us like them, you'll only destroy us. however when placed in an enviornment where we are around true peers, meaning other gifted kids, we thrive both in that enviornment, as well as in others, with the more general peer group of "normal" children. because the social skills you learn with your true peer groups are widely adaptable, and can be used, although the first time the gifted child may be severely shocked at the exposure, they will quickly adapt and enable themselves to get along. study after study bears out this hypothosis, look them up. there are alot of them.

further more your assertion that it is difficult to asses who is gifted and who is not is possibly the most attrocious of the lot of your assertions about them. IQ tests identify these children quite well, and addapting one to the needs of the jewish community would be rather easy. i know i was identified because of my bad grades when they administered an IQ test, and i scored about 160. later it was discovered that the test aplied to me wasn't even that accurate, because it couldn't relyably give consistant answer which is highly unusual. however they have fairly consistantly gaged me at that range. i'm telling you from personal experiance and with a wealth of research that has been done, what chana and i are telling you about the gifted is true.

and now that i've said this, i want to point out one other thing. when you hurt the gifted you not only hurt the gifted child, you hurt your selves to boot. because of the simplistic systems used in educating our children we are systematicaly weeding out every single child who would be worthy of becoming a godol, just as chana and I where weeded out. we are litteraly killing our own society and beloved torah by treating our best and brightest in this fassion.

(i hope i haven't put any words in your mouth chana if i have i'm sorry. and btw, you are quite gifted rest assured on that, at least as bright as i am)

Ezzie said...

Wow, HNC, I think you completely misunderstood almost everything I said.

First, when I'm talking about smart and genius kids, I'm not talking about the people succeeding in school; I'm talking about the truly smart kids. Kids like Chana, apparently kids like yourself. If you want, we'll include myself, so you don't think I'm some jealous semi-smart guy. If you want me to rattle off my numbers, you can email me.

I'm not a psychologist or anything remotely similar, so I can't say I've read through countless studies, but speaking to people in the field, teachers, and others, along with my own personal experiences, I don't think I'm making stuff up here. Those at the high end of the IQ range *tend* to be less able to cope socially. What do you think Asperger's is?

Seperating them out from the mainstream will, IMO, destroy them socially. As it is, the fact that I took so many classes either on my own or separate from my normal classmates made social interaction a bit tougher in elementary and high school; but it was a dorm high school, so it wasn't a big deal. The more social interaction anyone has in their formative years, the better; this is only more true for those who are starting a bit behind. [If you want proof of this, go to any American program in Israel. Those who dormed in HS are far ahead of those who didn't almost every time.]

I don't think placing these children in regular schools destroys them; I wasn't destroyed, my friends weren't destroyed. Instead, we're all talented but normal college-age guys who can walk into anywhere and take charge without anyone getting upset.

The 'schools for the gifted' are completely elitist. I'm not sure what you're talking about with revolutions; the brilliant are almost never capable of being successful leaders. Ehud Barak was probably the smartest recent world leader, and he was an utter disaster. The 2 candidates for President this past election were both C students at Yale (Bush a point higher average than Kerry). Clinton was a rarity, in that he was a Rhodes Scholar; then again, he didn't accomplish as much with his brain as he did with his charisma and charm. He developed incredible social skills - in normal environments. My first cousin is a Rhodes Scholar, got his PhD in astrophysics from Berkeley, working in the Univ of Chicago. He is not as capable socially as either myself or most of my brothers-in-law.

I absolutely think these children should be given what they need, and made that quite clear in my statements. I think it should be done only within the normal confines of a school, though. The way I did it worked out pretty well; I would take certain courses with my class (such as history, for example) while taking others on my own or with higher grades.

I'm not sure how forcing a smart child to be bored in class is 'worse than denying help to a mentally retarded child'.

Re: Social skills, that's simply not true. People are born with certain abilities which allow or inhibit their ability to be sociable; and a lot more is ingrained in us at a very young age. It's also something that people can constantly change as they get older, and particularly in their preteen, teen, and formative years. I made a conscious decision to change certain aspects of my personality (from withdrawn to open) while in HS [mostly because of a girl]. There was a *dramatic* change because of it.

Yes, you can develop social skills within your own level somewhat more easily than with those who are not; but you develop far better social skills by being exposed to a wider range - the same range you will face on a day to day basis. Your line about the 'first time being a shock' but 'then they'll adapt' rings most true: Except if you come across wrong in those first 5 seconds, you're pretty much done for. You'll never be able to truly experience it to adapt to it.

You misunderstood what I meant about not being able to identify the smart ones: By 1st grade, I already knew who in my class was smart and who wasn't. My point was it's hard to measure it - even IQ tests have serious problems, particularly with those who have other issues (say, dyslexia). A good friend of mine is incredibly smart - but she's dyslexic. She fails almost every test like that. My sister is smart, and scored less than 65% of what I did on the SATs. Hell, I blew the English part of the SATs because one mistake cost me 90 points.

Perhaps I simply was luckier, but my education was anything but simplistic and did not keep down the geniuses to the extent you say. By 3rd grade, a 1/3 of us were taking enrichment classes instead of math; a couple kids per grade (me and my best friend) were taking after school science; and now that we're gone, 6th grade already has 3 different tracks for math. My HS class had people in 4 different levels for math, 3 for Gemara. Now they have 10th graders in the Beis Medrash shiur.

Separating out society into elitist tracks vs. regular tracks is terrible for everyone; it's better to have people together, but focusing each on what their talents are.

David_on_the_Lake said...

Chana..
The problem I have with your arguments is that the secular world and weltanshaung is one that is conastantly changing. What may be tolerable now may be intolerable in 20 years.
A typical 1950s parent would never allow his/her child to watch anything on the television set of 2006.
Are we any worse than that 1950s dad?
That same 1950s Dad today does watch these programs..because he's become de-sensitized.
The beauty of Judaism is in it's stability. In it's steady morality. To create a sheltered world is to incubate this morality. There are ways of giving your child enough education and a thorough understanding of the world and current events without exposing them to everything.
That should be his/her decision as an adult.

Chana said...

E-Kvetcher- The same emotion or conviction that allows people to state or feel that killing for cartoons is wrong is that which motivates me in my "need" to speak what I see as being the truth. That was the point.

Ezzie and HNC- You probably both intend to be completely civil and polite, but your different experiences are going to shape your different viewpoints. The twain never shall meet. Your experiences are completely, completely different, and while whatever your school did worked for you, Ezzie, my school didn't cater to my needs and HNC's school obviously didn't. Because of our different experiences, we are not going to see this the same way.

Ezzie-I personally still disagree with you about schools for the gifted meaning strictly elitist schools. Northside Prep, here in Chicago, has earned the reputation of being a school for the gifted, and the kids who go there are remarkable, social and normal...not elitist.

HNC- Your writeup is beautiful. Thank you very much. Based on your personal experience (and what I've seen you write) everything you say is true. There are certain kids who will be destroyed when placed in regular school systems.

Tobie- For me, the answer's simple. Who do you want to lead Judaism in the future? Do you want Jews who are educated, exposed to the outside world, able to interact with it and its inhabitants to be our future leaders? Or do you want leaders who have been sheltered since birth?

Personally, the answer to that (for me) is so obvious, there is no question.

David- you've reiterated my idea of protection vs. sheltering. So good. We both agree about protecting kids until they know how to cope/deal.

Tovya @ Zion Report said...

I noticed the same thing when I watched Man in the Iron Mask (I actually just watched it two weeks ago, yes I don't get out much).

Of course Louis was certainly not David HaMelech by any means...

Ezzie said...

Chana (and HNC) - I still think you're misunderstanding me somewhat. My point is simply that the fact that your schools did a poor job does not indicate a failure of typical schools nor a need for 'schools for the gifted'. I brought in my own schools to show how it obviously can work to have split tracks within typical schools; this is a better, and more practical, solution than creating a seperate level of schooling.

Chana, your example of Northside Prep proves the point somewhat. It earned its reputation likely because it figured out a way to cater to smarter students within a typical framework. Is *every* student there a genius? No. There are obviously better and worse schools, particularly among private high schools. That is very different than creating specific "schools for the gifted."

Of course, if that's what you had in mind all along, then we were never in disagreement in the first place. :) Ah, the art of clarification...

Chana said...

Of course there are going to be different areas of talent or gift.

Er...every student there is incredibly smart. You have to have really high test grades to be accepted there. And high test grades is an indication of knowledge if not talent. (Although they are usually linked.)

After all, this is a Magnet school. As is their motto, not all students learn in the same way, yes, those who are brighter included.

You might try reading this page from the Northside Prep site.

"Northside College Prep is a school with a distinct difference. The convergence and synergy of excellent and gifted students, enthusiastic expert faculty, and caring and supportive parents have created and sustained a unique community of learners, a place where excellence is expected and attained."

Both the points I have been making the whole time, fulfilled in one simple paragraph.

(BTW- this is hardly the "typical framework." Typical framework is not going to give you Colloquium on ever Wednesday or a very unusual way to learning math. Take a look at the Wikipedia entry on this school.

Schools that are made for children with a specific learning style, i.e. students who are bright, are hardly "typical." And that's what Northside Prep is.

dbs said...

Very interesting post and discussion. The issue of to what degree children should be ‘sheltered’ exists universally, not just within orthodox jewdaism. Personally, I agree with you. Sheltering beyond the point of responsible protection is harmful to our children. They will ultimately make their own choices and must take responsibility for those actions. If they are to find a path which is happy and fulfilling, they must be able to make mistakes and learn from them. We, as parents, can and will convey our own values and messages, but they will choose. If you are the type of person to whom having your child grow up religious (or atheist or a soccer star or whatever) is the MOST important thing, then you can try to make that happen, and you may well succeed, but will you then have a child who has become all that they would have.

dbs said...

...oh, and I can't resist this. What better analogy could there be then Denethore (spell?) for not shutting yourself in and basing your views on a supernatural source.

Halfnutcase said...

ezzie, at least according to many of the people who run the education classes, most schools just don't measure up, and produce expiriances closser to chana's if not mine.

some do work yes, but most fail misserably, and from what i have observed in the yiddishe education system, we have an even higher fail rate for these kinds of people than the general population because we don't even single these kids out to expose them to serious source matter, and instead pray they will be content with watered down sources. i can tell you the first time i had the oppertunity to pick up rambam, or out right kabbala instead of more lightweight chassidic type texts i was positively spell bound and actively engaged, the normal rashi/no involvement gemara/pathetic english studies does not do these kinds of kids really well, they get dissafected because they believe that this is all there is. mabye we can set up something inbetween, but you still face what you're calling an elitist problem.

Ezzie said...

Chana - HNC was arguing that test grades are meaningless; but I don't think that's important. I'm not sure it's a realistic or true claim to say that *every* student there is a genius. I'm not impressed by schools' descriptions of themselves, either. (If you are going with tests, though... That such a top-notch school has graduates headed to just 3 of the 8 Ivys, and 83% are managing a 3 on AP's are not impressive statistics, either.)

Don't get me wrong: It could be a great school, a top of the line prep school, with an average intelligence way above normal. And I'm not arguing against magnet schools, nor school choice - both ideas which I think are great.

But this is not the same as what you were suggesting originally; it's more similar to what I've been suggesting all along, having different tracks within a normal environment. It sounds like a good way of approaching study, individualizing it a bit more than most schools; but that's what every school wishes they could do. It's (sadly) not economical, though. NCP was criticized for taking up $52 million dollars when created - money that people say could better have been spent on improving other schools. Imagine trying to do such a thing in the Jewish world, with far less money and far fewer students to cater to: It would be an economic disaster.

Something to remember, in general: The world is not individualized and organized to suit everyone's individual skills and desires. Think of school as good practice. :)

HNC - It depends what you consider a failure: Are most people who go to Catholic or other religious schools religious? I'm not sure. You seem to be saying that the lack of exposure in schools to deeper levels of learning is a problem; I agree with that completely. I also agree with the problems Chana identified in the Jewish educational system. I only disagreed with her solution, similar to what many others above did. I simply don't think such schools are wise or practical.

We need to come up with a better solution: Improving what we have I think is the best way of doing so.

Chana said...

Ezzie, you haven't made your solution very clear to me at all.

If you don't like the idea of schools for the gifted where we can be amongst similar types of children and a "community of learners" what are you suggesting? A track system? Laughable. Absolutely laughable.

Templars had a track system. I was in Honors classes with a bunch of kids who simply slowed down the class because they didn't deserve to be there. I wasn't challenged, I didn't learn, and I was extremely bored. And when I tried to get out of the Track system to take an Indepedant Study or the like, the school forbade me to do so. It was for different reasons, but let's take the reasons you've been suggesting lately. Suppose I couldn't take my Independant Study because that would "isolate me, make me lack social skills, and put me in an elite class all by myself."

How are you really going to help us? Let's hear your "wise, economically feasible" plan.

Be constructive, not destructive. You've told me why you don't like my plan. Now let's hear yours. And don't just say "Tracks." Because tracks are meaningless, and oftentimes, you can't group people appropriately. You just slow down the enjoyment and pleasure we get from learning, and instead subject us to hearing the same piece of information 40,000 times because there's somebody in the class who needs it.

charliehall said...

I came to traditional Judaism late in life, after having been exposed to all the alleged evils of society (partaking in a few of them myself). So my opinion will certainly reflect my rather unusual history.

Here is my opinion on sheltering:

1) It is unnecessary. Chas v'shalom we imply that our lifestyle is less attractive than the hedonism of much contemporary culture. I don't watch television today, not because some rabbi banned it, but because I'd rather read Pesachim -- or Tolstoy!

2) It won't work. It might have been possible to keep out the modern world 200 years ago in Eastern Europe. No more.

Ezzie said...

Chana - what you described is simply a poor implementation, not a bad idea. I took AlgI and Geometry on my own, AlgII with other classmates and 10th graders (in 9th), and PreCalculus with Juniors and Seniors (in 9th). I took Calculus as a sophomore with a junior and 2 seniors (in 10th). I took US Gov. as a Junior with Seniors. My class was split into 2 shiurim, and others went into 2 other grades' shiurim during the year. I did an entire semester of English assignments - in one day.

*Mostly*, it worked out. Was I still bored most of the time? Plenty of it. Did it work well for most of my friends? Yes. The biggest difficulty I had was when they dropped me in shiur for lack of effort. There was no need for me to put in effort; but they refused to stick a 10th grader in a senior or BM shiur who wasn't trying. (Circular fight, I lost.)

I've spent my life hearing everything repeated time after time after time after time. My friends wonder why I never came to class in college - after 15 years of it, I'd had enough. [Oooh, I just realized one of my favorite parts about blogging. Thanks!] To some extent, that's something I accepted (sad).

But what you're describing isn't the fault of the system, but the fault of Templars! They shouldn't have had people in Honors who shouldn't be there. (Side note: You'd love my father-in-law, who is in charge of all the honors classes in a NJ HS. He won't let anyone in unless they meet his standards - which are crazy.) They should have worked out independent study classes when necessary, but within the school's framework so you're still with your friends and classmates. Will there be some jealousy and the like? Yes, probably. But it's not seperating out like a special school.

How to group people? Get people who know what they're doing working at schools. Thankfully, I was in schools that were run well - and by educators, not parents. Educated educators, who continually kept themselves current with educational techniques. Educators who knew their students well - usually put as "a heck of a lot better than our parents". Small classes help. More teachers help. Teachers who care help. Teachers who are more concerned about the student's welfare than an agenda. It's not a matter of revamping the schools, it's improving what's already there.

Masmida said...

A different angle perhaps (still developing)-

What if you leave the gifted kids in the same class, but let them do their own work. In high school, I habitualy derailed entire classes because I wanted to understand one aspect of the material and the really good teachers let me.

They took the tangent for all that it was worth and the other smart kids followed and the regular kids picked up some of the depth of the material.

I think something is lost when you pull all the smart kids out of a system. What remains just congeals into some sort of aimless mediocrity.

If you leave them in and let them do what they do best, which is push the upper limit, the level of the entire school goes up.

The balance takes expert teachers, which are a rare commodity but the result might be worth it.

Pragmatician said...

I always get so frustrated when talking to non Jews and to ignorant Jews, everyone is credited but the Jews on various ideas and untold stories, yet so much of it has a steady basis in Tanach and the Talmud!
I was deeply disappointed about the ban on Making of a Godol, such a book has been needed for so long, it's time kids don't feel a million ties inferior to Tzaddikim, they should feel infinitely smaller than H'Ashem but not human beings from flesh and blood, many who erred just as we do, and who attained certain positions not always purely based on merit.

But I don't agree on the whole line, Internet is invaluable for business and entertainment purposes but fear for religious reasons aside, many secular educators will tell you that Internet is not an asset, where is the time you actually had to hop on your bike and ride to the library to copy hundreds of texts and images, working hours on a project? Where is the time when kids read more than one book every two years when a new Harry Potter comes out? Orthodox Judaism aside, even the constructive uses of the internet and television are counter productive for the youth.
As for magazines, the best selling ones like People mag have no, I repeat no, inherent value for Jewish or non Jewish people alike.

Halfnutcase said...

ezzie, my point on the more in depth classes is not just because they are harder and more fun, but because i have litteraly seen people who needed more only exposed to the most basic levels of our culture, and when they where exposed to some things in non-jewish philosophy they saw a tremendous breadth and depth, which they had not seen in simpler classes at school, and they held on to it, clung to it, and compleately fried out and replaced one indocterination with another, never truely having learned to objectively evaluate the truth of either, because they attempted to indoctirinate someone in to judaism who was way to smart for that to work. had they exposed her to the more indepth and systematic resources in our tradition it would have never have happened.

and this can hurt normal kids to if you underestimate their ability to assimilate things.

and masmida, that's an excelent point, but i wish that i'd had more teachers who could do that, very few either could or would.

and also ezzie, i'm not saying the test grades aren't accurate, of course they are, they just wheren't accurate for me.

and perhaps with what masmida said, if they would do that in the jewish schools, appoint seriously capable and intelegent teachers who can out class or at least engage the really bright kids, then all the rest of the kids listening, even if they don't fully get the question would see a greater depth in the material and be more sure that even if they don't know the answer in our tradition, that there is one.

Ezzie said...

HNC - I agree with that. As I said, I think that the teachers need to be good, and many sadly are not.

I understand why many teachers are hestitant to do what Masmida's did, fearing that the rest of the class will be left behind. I think that's a mistake, and Masmida's teacher got it right: The rest of the class will (if it's a good discussion) try and rise to that level, which is good for everyone. At some point, if everyone else is losing interest or can't follow at all, the teacher may have to stop - but the teacher should at least try.

Chana said...

This comment is from g, with the part that I found offensive edited out.

g said...

--Hey Ezzie, not one Mesivta joke. Do you hear me? Not one!

~

For future reference, I don't tolerate making fun of other commentators or posters on my blog. I don't know whether it was intentional or not, and I'm hoping it wasn't.

A. Nony. Mouse said...

Sorry to blog anonymously, but speaking of protecting our kids, I'm not sure that mine would particularly care to have his/her identity known. And, to be honest, I'm protecting my own and my spouse's egos, too.

I'm coming from left field, here. I know all about bright kids who don't fit in, socially. It runs in the family: Neither I, nor my spouse, nor our kid has the best social skills. To give you an idea of the intelligence levels involved, I should state that I have a bachelor's, my spouse has a master's, and our kid is currently in college.

What I can tell you is this: Both our kid's secular and Jewish educations failed him/her. Until s/he was put into a self-contained special ed. school, s/he was faced with either having his/her academic needs ignored or having her/his social-development problems ignored. As you can well imagine, neither approach did him/her any good.

His/her Jewish education was a farce. Considering her/his behavior problems, we were lucky that s/he never got kicked out of Hebrew School. (Don't even ask about a Jewish day school--s/he was refused admission.)

So I have some sympathy with those who advocate separate schools for the gifted. Our kid was mainstreamed for one year, and it was the worst year of her/his entire academic life. S/he was totally incapable of coping either socially or academically with the mainstream. When we finally got him/her admitted to the self-contained special ed. school, s/he blossomed both socially and academically. While his/her social skills will probably never be great, they're now close enough to "normal" that our kid can now "pass" in a "mainstream" college. In fact, s/he has been on the Dean's List any number of times. I strongly doubt that that would have happened if s/he hadn't been "segregated" in a school that met both his/her social-skills-development needs and her/his academic development needs.

To make a long story short, I think it's a real pity that the Jewish community doesn't provide a broader spectrum of educational environments. Kids are not made with cookie cutters--all are not alike. Yet the Jewish educational system tends to treat them as if they are, ignoring those who don't "fit." Probably one of the most upsetting things I've ever read in the Jewish blogosphere was the tale of a certain blogger who, somehow, managed to go through years of yeshiva education without anyone figuring out that the reason why he was having trouble with his studies was that he had trouble reading. A lifetime of yeshiva education, and it never occurred to anyone that the guy might be learning-disabled??!! The Jewish community pays big-time for this cookie-cutter approach of trying to make everyone "fit." The party in question is now "off the Derech," and has stated in no uncertain terms that if he hadn't been forced to fit the mold and given no alternatives, he might still be observant today. But since he was deemed a failure for not being able to fit the kollel mold, he dropped out.

A. Nony. Mouse said...

As to the issue of sheltering our kids, I don't even think its possible in this day and age. We don't live in ghettos anymore. Even in places such as New Square or Kirias Yoel in New York, or Bnai Brak or the Mea Shearim neighborhood of Jerusalem in Israel, all one has to do is walk or drive a few miles to see all the things that your parents don't want you to see. Television screens are in store windows, forbidden publications everywhere, the Internet available for free in your local library or for pay in Internet cafes. It isn't possible to shut out the outside world. It's far better to teach our kids how to deal with it, so that they don't go nuts at their first exposure.

Besides, look at Jewish tradition from another angle: Don't we thank HaShem every weekday for giving us intelligence (Baruch . . .chonen ha-daat)? It's HaShem who gave us humans the ability to invent these things! Do we not, then, glorify His Name by putting them to good use, for the betterment of ourselves and/or humankind?

Ezzie said...

Chana - G happens to be an old friend of mine from when I was growing up. I didn't see his comment, but I know him pretty well - my *guess* it was a joke at me...

G said...

-->but I know him pretty well - my *guess* it was a joke at me...
You *guess*? Thanks for the vote of confidence.
The comment was a play on the old "hukd onn phonikz werkd four mee" joke. It was a cheap shot at the Cleveland education Ezzie and I received, hence the Mesivta (local high school)line. My bad, I didn't think that it could be taken another way.
I apologize to any and all offended.

Anonymous said...

My daughter's dean just announced that they're going to teach the girls to be machmir so that when they graduate they'll "be in the middle." BS. When they graduate, they won't know actual halachah from chumrah and will go wayyyy off, instead of keeping actual halachah w/o the chumrahs. As in, "I'm not wearing a ponytail, so I might as well also wear skin-tight skirts with slits up to the waist and look like a magazine model," instead of, "Hey, I graduated and don't need a pony anymore because I'm not wearing the stupid uniform. And now I can wear denim skirts that still cover my knee!"

Again, another case of putting up gedarim w/o mentioning that they are fences, not the actual mitzvah.

I'm going to call another school this week to find out about switching her.

Chana said...

To both anon.y.mouse and anonymous- I very much appreciate your comments and viewpoint/ perspective. Thanks so much for taking the time to write.

G- good to know you didn't mean to insult anyone. :)

Alan said...

Chana,

I am afraid I must differ with you about free will.

Yes. But that's exactly my point. God allowed us free will and free choice. He allowed us to see other gods and to observe how they were worshipped. Sure, there are laws that state that the Jews must kill the 7 nations of Canaan lest they break the laws and serve other gods. But the fact is, it came down to free will. Ba'al Pe'or is an expression of free will. So is the entire book of Shoftim. So is Izevel surrounding herself with prophets of the Ba'al.

God did not- did not- force us to serve him by never allowing us to see or be exposed to other "gods." Abraham's father made idols! Yisro was a priest of Midian. Do we see the point here? God wants us to be aware of everything- everything- all the other gods and idols- and to still choose Him.

The idea isn't to pick the path that's going to ensure the least straying. If that were the idea, we would not be descendants of idol-worshippers, and God would have seen fit never to have allowed us to see or be near an idol. But that's not how the Torah works. We have all the options.

And we make the choices.

It's about truth and free will- not how many people assimilate or don't assimilate.


What exactly do you mean by free will? And how exactly do we choose freely? When you make a choice, what factors into it? Choices are made by human beings, and human beings are products of their upbringing and their genetics. Those are the factors that influence choice. Without them, how could any human being make any choice that wouldn't be entirely arbitrary or random? And yet our genetics and upbringing are beyond our own control.