Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Father Of Chasidic Overdose Victim Says Jewish Educational System Is Failing Weaker Students

The tragedy of Malky Klein's untimely death must become a learning experience for the entire Torah community. In the following article, her father tells us how this must be so:
http://www.vosizneias.com/276351/2017/07/31/brooklyn-ny-audio-in-tearful-interview-father-of-chasidic-overdose-victim-says-jewish-educational-system-is-failing-weaker-students/

Most significantly, Judge Ruchie Freier also expressed, in a most powerful way, similar sentiments regarding our present educational systems. Please see:
http://www.vosizneias.com/276361/eid/10400271

I am in total agreement with their thoughts and, from what I have heard from teachers and parents in our Torah school systems, what is being expressed in these two articles is indeed true and must be addressed. We have to care for and serve the needs of all students.

I just want to add that there is also another type of student whose needs, many times, are also not addressed and that is the inquisitive, challenging, often highly intelligent one whose questions and probing insights are not met with appropriate responses. Teachers and others, rather than recognizing their own inabilities in responding to such students, use their status and authority to browbeat such students into temporarily accepting weak answers and/or accept their legitimate and deep questions as foolish. The result is also students who lack confidence in their own being -- until they meet someone who will restore this confidence -- with that result also often being that this student is thereby drawn "off the Derech" for this person who responded to the question properly was outside the pale of Orthodoxy. OTD sadly is also not the only result of such poor education within our systems.

The call in our school systems must be to accept all students as they are and to meet the challenge of teaching all students no matter how variant they are. Chanoch L’Naar Al Pi Darko (Mishlei 22:6) is actually a demanding task -- and it is time for the Torah community to recognize it and truly implement it.

Rabbi Ben Hecht

4 comments:

Micha Berger said...

So, are we to conclude that had we listened to Shlomo Rechnitz 1-1/2 years ago, Miss Klein a"h* might have had hope that things were changing, and not given up on herself?

The wealthy philanthropist (and self-identifying former poor student) stood before a dinner for a 30th anniversary for the leadership shared by 6 Lakewood schools and called for a revolution:

"We turned our frumkeit into an idol but we've forgotten some of the basic tenets of yiddishkeit. This new Torah some of us have created has a few Ani Maamins that have crippled us, have crippled so many of our children. Here are some of the new distorted Ani Maamins: Ani Maamin that I am better than you. Ani Maamin that I have to show all my chumras so everyone can see how frum I am. Ani Maamin that your children are not good enough for my children. Ani Maamin that the Torah was given to perfect children and perfect families.

"Ani Maamin that there is no room for individuality, we have to all fit into the same perfect model. Would you not agree with me that these five ideas are kefira, they are contrary to the entire message of yiddishkeit? And: This is a churban for Klal Yisroel. How dare you destroy another child's life because of your opinion of another child? How dare you face Hashem by davening when you snuffed out a yiddishe neshama? ... If the school isn't good enough for your child, shut you r mouth and go find him a school that works, or create your own school just for your child. Make a yeshiva just for him. This way nobody will ever be able to have any negative influence on your child prodigy.... I look forward to building schools but I'm not going to take any part of this."

But then, the powers of stability and continuity forced him to back down and apologize, and nothing changed, and we continue to embrace ideas "contrary to the entire message of Yiddishkeit", more children left the community, and others lost their place in the world.

(* Aleha hashalom, indeed. May the Creator bestow on Malka Klein in the afterlife the shalom that so eluded her here!)

Mark Skier said...

"But then, the powers of stability and continuity forced him to back down and apologize, and nothing changed, and we continue to embrace ideas "contrary to the entire message of Yiddishkeit", more children left the community, and others lost their place in the world." So basically the same forces of conformity that stifle and turn off our children worked to stifle this one candle of light in the darkness. Typical.

Micha Berger said...

Not "so basically the same forces", because it's not the same people doing two separate things, Malka Klein stands as one of the extreme examples of exactly what Shlomo Rechnitz was talking about: overly exclusive schools telling too many people they cannot succeed in our system -- a prophecy which self-fulfills.

Tell a kid they're not capable of success, and of course they get depressed. At best they stop trying to succeed, and simply go OTD. At worst... they agree with the assessment and collapse in depression. (Perhaps with a detour into trying to succeed at things that don't really want, joining the "At Risk" population.)

Rabbi Ben Hecht said...

I think the key phrase in Shlomo Rechnitz's statement is the presentation of this 'standard' of "Ani Maamin that there is no room for individuality, we have to all fit into the same perfect model." My point in the original post was that is not only individuals who are identified as "weak' students but also those who can be recognized for their intelligence who are also suffering. In presenting both ends of the spectrum, what I guess I was really trying to identify that there is a problem in the system when we don't see the individuality of a student.

Too many of our schools thus set a standard of cookie cutting as its goal. The desired cookies of each school may be different -- depending upon the blanket hashkafa in the school -- but the recognition that different students may need a divergent goal to which schools have to be sensitive is not accepted. The problem increases in that each school then thinks they are correct and all the others are wrong -- so the idea that a student may fit in better in another school SEEN AS AN EQUAL is not considered.

I once read an argument presented that while Joshua ben Gamla's creation of an elementary school system has to be praised it was also sad that it was necessary. The ideal Torah education is home education for in that model the individuality of the child is clearly recognized and is a focus. Schools have a problem in that they cannot respond as individually to each student but they, at least, have to understand the importance of this consideration. This is really what i believe is meant by Chanoch l'naar al pi darcho

RBH