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Coercion is not Chinuch
by Rabbi Yonasan Rosenblum
Publication: Mishpacha Magazine

  Rated by 19 users   |   Viewed 44223 times since 9/18/07   |   74 Comments
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9/2/07

In his Kuntras HaBechirah, Rav Eliyahu Eliezer Dessler makes a truly frightening statement. No matter how elevated one's actions, if those actions are only the result of one's training, then they confer no merit upon the one performing them. Only those actions that result from the exercise of one's free will are attributed to a person.

That which we do as a form of imitation of our role models or as a result of some form of coercion is not truly ours. One only can only lay claim to those mitzvos to which one brings something of oneself – some thought, some feeling while performing the mitzvah

Rav Dessler taught that we define ourselves only through the exercise of our free will. And that only takes place when there is an aspect of internal struggle. That struggle is the opposite of rote behaviour – mitzvos anoshim m'limuda.

Our very relationship with Hashem depends on the exercise of our bechirah. Any true relationship must be based on the individuality of both parties – on what is intrinsic to them and not compelled by circumstances beyond their control. And that process of self-definition requires the exercise of our bechirah.

With this insight, we can understand a puzzling Rashi. The Torah tells us that Yitzchak Avinu and Rivka Imeinu stood opposite one another – each davening for a child. Hashem answered Yitzchak (and by implication not Rivka) ( Bereishis25:21). Rashi explains that Yitzchak's prayer was answered because his merit as a tzaddik who was the son of a tzaddik was greater than that of Rivka, a tzadekes who was the daughter of a rasha.

Most of us experience a certain puzzlement upon first confronting this Rashi. After all, isn't it more meritorious for Rivka to have formed herself into tzadekes, despite having no models to emulate? One possible answer is that we do not fully appreciate what it means that Yitzchak was a tzaddik.

Yitzchak was the son of Avraham Avinu, the greatest man who had ever lived, the one who discovered Hashem through the power of his own reason, and proclaimed His existence to the world. With such an overwhelming image in front of him, the natural thing would have been for Yitzchak to emulate his father's derech avodah (path of Divine service). Had he done so, however, Yitzchak Avinu might have been an exemplary person, but he would not have merited the title tzaddik.

Only by adding an entirely new aspect of avodas Hashem to that of Avraham Avinu did Yitzchak merit to be called a tzaddik. Despite the power of the parental example in front of him, Yitzchak initiated an entirely new aspect of Divine service – gevurah – and added it to the chesedof Avraham. Even when performing the same external actions – e.g., redigging the same wells that his father had dug previously – Yitzchak made those actions his. And that achievement, Rashi informs us, is even greater than Rivka's ability to escape the negative example of her father Bethuel.

IN ADDITION TO THE IMPLICATIONS OF RAV DESSLER'S INSIGHT for our own avodas Hashem, it relates to each of us in our roles as parents and educators. In those roles, our success will be determined not just by our children's conformity to halachic norms, but by the degree to which we inspire them and provide them with the tools to make their mitzvah observance something more than mitzvos anoshim m'limuda.

To coerce our children, either negatively through punishment through praise and rewards or praise, is relatively easy at an early age. And at an early age, it is perfectly valid, even necessary, to accustom them to the performance of mitzvah. At an early age, the child can understand little of the deeper significance of a mitzvah or why it is incumbent upon him to perform the mitzvah.

Yet while various forms of coercion have a place within a proper program of chinuch, coercion should never be confused with chinuch itself. Indeed it can be antithetical to true chinuch which involves the development of a person's own understanding and capacities from within, not the imposition of patterns of behavior from without.

I recently read an interview with Rabbi Moshe Goldstein, Rosh Yeshivas Sha'arei Yosher and widely considered Israel's foremost expert on yeshiva students who have experienced spiritual crises, in which he emphasized this distinction between coercion and chinuch "The goal of chinuch" he said, "is to cause the child to perform because he understands why he is do what he's doing. Proper chinuch has as its goal that the child will do what is incumbent upon him from his own free will. . . [That process of internalization] requires explanation, dialogue, and influence."

Rabbi Goldstein makes the striking point when a child's behavior is consistently perfect, and his parents find themselves the envy of other parents, this can often be a warning sign of dangers ahead. Such perfect behavior often reflects a pattern of behavior imposed from without. When a young person's mitzvah observance it internally generated, and results from his or her own personal struggles, it will not be perfectly consistent because in that internal struggle there will inevitably be ups and downs.

But what is imposed from without triggers an impulse to rebel. The external behavior may remain perfect on the outside, especially in the presence of the coercive agent, while internally everything is fraying, until one day the whole structure collapses.

Chinuch is a long, slow process. Its results are cumulative and rarely evident immediately. By its very nature, it must be individualized to each particular child. Coercion, on the other hand, has an immediate impact. But the benefits of proper chinuchare long-lasting, while those of coercion can vanish into thin air.

Yet the temptation to focus exclusively on coercion remains strong precisely because it yields immediate results and is easier than providing inspiration. Our educational institutions lack the resources to provide each student individual attention and thus tend to emphasize conformity to norms – too often without proper explanation of their significance. Every yeshiva, Rav Yaakov Kaminetsky, zt"l, once said, is to some extent a Sdom bed, cutting or stretching talmidim to a certain standard.

The temptation of the quicker and easier path must be resisted. That requires constantly stressing that the goal of chinuch is provide our children with the internal resources to exercise their free will properly in order that their mitzvos be truly theirs and not ours.

Only by doing so can we be confident of their long-term adherence to the proper path. As the wisest of men taught us, "Educate the youth according to his way, so that even as he grows old he will not swerve from it" (Mishlei 22:6).



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1.     9/18/07 - 3:06 PM
reuvain

great so the whole world is wrong. not one practical suggestion made. just a speech about what not to do. very dangerous indeed. well meaning people who value what you say will stop directing their children cause you said so and blamed it on rav dessler. the flip side is not directing children at all. that is a bigger problem. TREATING ALL KIDS AS AT RISK CHILDREN IS A TERRIBLE THING TO DO. MANY CHILDREN WILL TRANSULATE THE DIRECTION INTO CHINUCH. THATS THE CONCEPT OF MITOCHE SHELO LESHMA!!!!!!!!!! it bothers me to no end telling the whole world the problems and not having a clue what to do about it


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2.     9/18/07 - 3:56 PM
M

No matter how elevated one's actions, if those actions are only the result of one's training, then they confer no merit upon the one performing them.

Are we worried about merit then? Is that our top priority?

First let's get the training down right. Later, when a child matures, he can work on making it his "own."

That which we do as a form of imitation of our role models or as a result of some form of coercion is not truly ours. One only can only lay claim to those mitzvos to which one brings something of oneself – some thought, some feeling while performing the mitzvah

It's tremendously important to have role models and to be a dugma chaya oneself. Halevai we were inspired by role models, and inspired others. No, we should not merely "imitate" others, but again, that can be a starting point. Should we be worried about "laying claim to mitzvos"?

Coercion is, I think, a separate issue. A person may have a nice upbringing, not forced to do mitzvos but trained to do them, but then get into the habit of doing them and not be inspired.

"The goal of chinuch" he said, "is to cause the child to perform because he understands why he is do what he's doing.

I wonder what he means by that. What does understanding consist of? Knowing many taamei ha'mitzvos? Knowing that Hashem gave us the Torah and we are doing what Hashem wants?

How does kabbolas ol fit in?


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3. Chinuch or behaviorism     9/19/07 - 4:48 AM
Ak

Hi, The article reflects on the research Deci and Ryan have done on the negative effects of extrinsic motivation on intrinsic motivation and being self directed. Without thinking and reflection, connecting with one's feelings, putting intention and feeling into what we do , we have actions , we have behavior but it is rote and as Rav Dessler says there is not much positive about it. One could easily think that Chazal were Behaviorists - the heart follows actions, mi'toch lo lishma ba lishma , the importance of hergel, but all of this will come to nothing if no effort is made to be reflective, work on a deeper understanding and the implications of ones actions, try to put some feeling and mindfullness in one's actions. Rewards motivate kids to get rewards , but the real problem is not only the ' What's in it for me ' thinking , but extrinsic motivation undermines interest, intrinsic reward and motivation. Alfie Kohn brings research which shows that kids who are praised for being generous are less generous to their peers in other settings. We can show kids the value of what they do, how it impacts on others , their contribution to the learning in a classroom and in this way help them , not by manipulating them with praise, rewards , punishments. As far as young kids I think we underestimate their abilities to think and be refective. Here is an article http://www.journal.naeyc.org/btj/200309/Planning&Reflection.pdf If you are interested in reading more about these issues I recommend Alfie Kohn's site and books - http://alfiekoh.org and the Deci and Ryan site http://www.psych.rochester.edu/SDT/ In a world where we judge people on behavior without understanding their motives or what's beind the behavior, we feel satisfied as long as we get behavior ( forcing a kid to apologize teaches him that lying is OK , but who cares , he said he was sorry ) it is difficult to focus on chinuch and not behaviorism. If there is a negative influence from the outside it is ' behaviorism'. here is some Alfie Kohn Encouraging commitment to values. To describe the limitations of the use of punishments and rewards is already to suggest a better way: the teacher's goal should not be simply to produce a given behavior - for example, to get a child to share a cookie or stop yelling - but to help that child see himself or herself as the kind of person who is responsible and caring. From this shift in self-concept will come lasting behaviors and values that are not contingent on the presence of someone to dispense threats or bribes. The child has made these behaviors and values his or her own. Encouraging the group's commitment to values. What the first two approaches- punishments and rewards - have in common is that they provide nothing more than extrinsic motivation. What the first two share with the third is that they address only the individual child. I propose that helpfulness and responsibility ought not to be taught in a vacuum but in the context of a community of people who learn and play and make decisions together. More precisely, the idea is not just to internalize good values in a community but to internalize, among other things, the value of community.


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4.     9/19/07 - 10:49 AM
Too long in Galus

I am so grateful for a thread such as this. The topic has frustrated me for the last 10 years, and I have made no headway in trying to make my case in my childrens' schools. I was B"H blessed, as so many of us are, with very bright kids who were able and did respond to chinuch that addressed their innate ability to learn about their world. I NEVER gave prizes, only rewards inherently connected to the behavior, which the kids were happy enough to get. Only when they encountered a system of charts, stickers,checks,and ultimately prizes in school for nearly every desired behavior, did their focus change. I see this as somewhat insidious, as this system depends for it's success on making sure the kids are motivated for those prizes. The system won't work if the kid is disinterested in the prize, or in the bribe itself. So they are taught to really value the prizes, if they don't already (and obviously it is very easy to convince them). Something is wrong here, if the chinuch at home has taught them already to focus on the true reason for the behaviors, and they are satisfied with the natural rewards. This is not to say the child's behavior will immediately be perfect as a result. AND THIS IS WHERE WE STUMBLE. The priority in school is for the children to immediately produce behaviors that enable the teachers to get through the lessons as easily as possible, not necessarily for quality instruction on midos that is meaningful and lasting. The argument one hears, often supported by the social workers etc., is that children simply do not have the capacity to understand otherwise. We are very gullible indeed. At the very earliest stages, young children can understand the reasons for the behaviors expected of them. It only needs to be presented ON THEIR LEVEL. (There are many secular books targeted at very young children which do a decent job of reasoning according to the language levels of the child. The Jewish children's book market is catching up slowly.) Again, I appreciate the support on this forum, but please, please tell me how to get this message across to our schools.


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5. Spot on, Too Long     9/19/07 - 11:55 AM
Nechama

I also hate the bribe system in schools. It makes kids into babies, grovelling for prizes, after all our efforts to make them decent citizens. It makes them into liars. I hate it.


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6. Alfie Kohn on schools     9/19/07 - 12:56 PM
Ak

Hi, IMHO the way to go is to read Alfie Kohn (and Deci) and see how they fit in , illuminate Chazal and share it. Educators who are not looking for the easy way out and control kids through suspensions, rewards and punishments instead of dealing with problems , would invest in their lessons to make them interesting and encourage the love of learning will not rely on rewards and competition to get kids to learn , will be receptive and welcome Alfie Kohn. A key feature is ' cooperative learning ' rather than competition , a kid feeling good because he can share his ideas , help others and contribute to the class rather than being the best. When their are winners , there are also losers , in the end everybody loses. Look at Pirkei Avos , Hashem is presence is greater when there is cooperative learning. The greatest reward a kid can have is the intrinsic reward of having helped some one understand , come up with a personal insight on an Chazal and not the A grade in a test.

check the site , the books - Punished by rewards, Unconditional Parenting, Beyond discipline - from compliance to community interviews, articles. I quoted above from the aricle - Caring Kids, the Role of schools - here is another piece

Perhaps the best way to crystallize what distinguishes different approaches is to imagine the question that a child is encouraged to ask by each. An education based on punishment prompts the query, "What am I supposed to do, and what will happen to me if I don't do it?" An education based on rewards leads the child to ask, "What am I supposed to do, and what will I get for doing it?" When values have been internalized by the child, the question becomes "What kind of person do I want to be?" And, in the last instance, the child wonders: "How do we want our classroom (or school) to be?"

The question we have to ask is what promotes internalization of values , making it part of their personalities , putting some of their personality and uniqueness into the values and not being as Deci says INTROJETS - taking in learning without integration.


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7. Understanding R. Dessler     9/19/07 - 1:34 PM
Yehoshua

Rabbi Rosenbloom:

Does R. Dessler really say "No matter how elevated one's actions, if those actions are only the result of one's training, then they confer no merit upon the one performing them". There is "no merit"???!!! I can't believe there is zero merit for a mitzva one is trained to do and continues to do for one's whole life.

Maybe it is possible R. Dessler means there is reduced merit because the struggle is less? I would like to see it inside the sefer. A page reference or paragraph quote would be helpful.


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8. Cry in the Wilderness     9/20/07 - 2:33 PM
shtarkebachur - shtarkebachur@aol.com

Awareness is the first step, painful as it is. Too many kids are not serving Hashem. They are just afraid to do anything else because of social pressure.

Take a look around you, at how many Yidden don't think about what they are doing, they just do it Because. Then, if you dare, take a look at yourself.

If it hurts, then think about what you want for your kids.


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9. balance     9/20/07 - 5:49 PM
Anonymous

We can talk about all the frum Jews who are just going through the motions and the lack of inspiration is really a problem.

But I spoke with someone yesterday who told me that 2500 women and girls paid to hear Reb. Jungreis and other speakers the other night, R'Frand spoke and got a crowd, Reb. Assaf spoke and got a crowd, Rabbi Rietti and Rabbi Goldwasser spoke and filled an auditorium. And that was just in Brooklyn.

I assume that the people who attended were inspired, at least somewhat! None of them were coerced to go (I assume) and they could have been home cooking for yomtov, relaxing with a book, chatting with friends, sleeping etc.

R' Reisman, who gives a very popular motzoei Shabbos shiur, said - used to be, motzoei Shabbos people went out for pizza and bowling, and now it's shiurim.

Granted, not everybody attends shiurim, but how about some balance in reporting about the frum world? It gets mighty depressing to constantly read about those who are dropping out or just going through the motions.


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10. I agree with Anonymous     9/21/07 - 12:41 AM
tzippyzag

For a moment, we should take pause and realize that there are plenty of people eager to grow and be inspired! On the call for Rabbi Wachsman's shiur, the phones maxed out at 10,000 callers!!! WOW - there are alot of interested Jews out there!


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11. Big Stars     9/21/07 - 4:57 AM
AK

Hi, The thread has been talking about kids and their daily learning. It is because there is no coercision and the quality of the shiur is of the highest standard, that people are attracted, school is different. But even for adults , we can ask - does the learning today encourage thinking, encourage creativity or discussion around a shiur, encourage havrutos or merely being able to say , you went to your daf Yomi shiur, what's hapenning on a daily basis . Wonderful things have been said about daf yomi, mainly the daily commitment and dedication but many people , those attending and Rabbonim are critical. A Rav once explained why ' daf Yomi is so successful ' - it has become another reliqious thing that people do each day , like washiung your hands, doverning, and going to a daf yomi shiur. People who attend complain that daf yomi is very passive and not really learning, but everything is daf yomi. One thing that amazes me is when ba'al le batim are given a chance to give a d'var Torah and we see incredible thinking and creativity, why not foster it. The question is how much do you take away from a daily shiur , does it stimulate your thinking during the day. The point I am making is that the kids are forced to take in and learn so much and so little time for their own thinking on the material learned, we adults maybe doinfg the same thing This thread


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12.     9/21/07 - 10:51 AM
M

"The thread has been talking about kids and their daily learning"

I don't see that in the article.


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13. Marei makomos     9/24/07 - 1:20 PM
Anonymous

Rav Dessler is in Chelek 4 pg 322. Read it and weep... that is what i did.

If you want i can email you copies of the marei makomos. Also the one about Yitzchak Avinu.

ShaiMarko@aol.com


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14. Thanks for the sources     9/25/07 - 1:25 AM
Ak

Hi, It seems I did not exercise my be'chira to go beyond the ' Kuntras Ha bechira' mentioned in the article. Page 135 of Kuntras He'bechira has a certain relevance to our discussion as well. I saw the section on Yitzchok - Chelek 2 - Toldot = 205

All kids ( and adults) need a chinuch which encourages them to think, be reflective and put their personal feelings and efforts into their mitzvot , learning etc and make it uniquely theirs. The good news is that this is also the way to help struggling kids. IMHO Rabbi Horowitz's message is for all kids, not just for at risk kids.


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15.     9/25/07 - 11:55 AM
Anonymous

However, R. Dessler does put an interesting point in parentheses in that piece (which I don’t know exactly what he means) as follows (????? ??? ???"? ???? ??? ?? ???' ?? ?????? ??????, ??? ??? ?? ??? ????? ???? ?????).


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16.     9/25/07 - 11:56 AM
Anonymous

It is important to note that regardless the percentage we actually see leave observance, there are many more who are falling and failing on the inside – they are these who physically observe but whose hearts are empty and who go through the motions with little emotion or connection. They are the spiritual dropouts who are merely externally observant. And while these people maintain technical observance, odds are that their children may not. Those who publicly abandon being observant are the tip of the iceberg, and they indicate that in many ways, throughout the observant Jewish world, we are losing our spiritual wealth. The chain of our tradition can only continue if observance is experienced as a privilege, yet for too many it has become a burden.

For example, if a Ben Torah can miss zman krias shema, only a d’oraisa, bec. he is tired. And I’m not talking about the Magen Avraham’s zman. Then that means the mitzvah of Krias Shema, to him, is only “b’mikrah” and something is wrong. Perhaps another example that most of us can take to heart and personally relate to is the fact that so many of us will answer our cell phone during learning or davening. This is indicative of the fact that our relationship with Hakadosh Baruch Hu is really just “b’mikrah” and as soon as something else comes along we will jump for it instead. Is this what we are on this world for, to live our lives “b’mikrah”! This is just a siman that there is something missing in the vital lessons we are giving over to our children, most importantly in that of building a relationship with Hakadosh Baruch Hu. This is not just affecting “kids at risk” but more importantly it is affecting each and every one of our very own frum children bec. if we are Bnei Torah “b’mikrah” what are our kids going to be.

Think about it; how would most religious Jews answer the following questions. Why are you religious? Why do you daven 3 times a day? or the like. If the answer is not somewhere along the lines of truth, meaning and happiness, then what is keeping them frum? Is this how we want to present Yiddishkiet to the world, or even worse to our very own children?

Those who practice but whose hearts are empty teach us that the issues that cause complete defection affect us all to varying degrees. Disconnection is just a milder form of defection. The percentage of children that are going off only indicates the inner problem which exists even in children who are not going off. It could be said that the only difference between a child who goes off the derech and the many that don’t is really just courage - the one who went off had the courage and is not willing to live what he feels is a lie.


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17.     9/25/07 - 11:57 AM
Anonymous

This months cover article of the Jewish Observer is a must read!!!!


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18.     9/25/07 - 1:10 PM
yoni

its hard to have a relationship with someone who it feels like really doesn't care about you or what you wan't/need and only tells you what you can't do, and never seems to help you.

For far to many this is the feeling they get from frumkiet.


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19. truth     9/25/07 - 8:44 PM
M

the only difference between a child who goes off the derech and the many that don’t is really just courage - the one who went off had the courage and is not willing to live what he feels is a lie.

I liked your comment mr. anonymous, except for this line. As maaminim bnei maaminim, we know that Torah is Truth, and therefore, I would not call someone who drops it courageous, nor would I call someone who lives it, even apathetically, someone living a lie.


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20. Subjective Truth     9/26/07 - 1:42 AM
Ak

Hi, It takes courage to reject one's previously held values, those of parents and teachers, peers and face those consequences. IMHO objective truth is not very relevant when you are struggling with your own subjective integrity - ' not willing to live what he feels is a lie' . Your inside needs to feel comfortable with your outside and this I think is what chinuch is all about , connecting our deepest feelings to the values of the Torah and living by it


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21. Jewish Observer - Israel     9/26/07 - 1:45 AM
Ak

Hi, I would appreciate you guys sharing the articles. Can one buy a copy in Israel? I am behind with JO as I only read the archives on the web


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22. disagree     9/26/07 - 11:01 AM
M

I disagree. I think objective truth is extremely relevant and subjective truth is not truth. It's merely your feelings at the moment. Whether a person is disaffected or not, the neshama remains what it is.

I agree that "Your inside needs to feel comfortable with your outside and this I think is what chinuch is all about , connecting our deepest feelings to the values of the Torah and living by it."


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23. What is Chinuch - or what should it be?     9/29/07 - 10:46 PM
Benzion Twerski

This article was long awaited. I am grateful to the author for writing it, and the discussion that follows is like a splash of cold water to a hot sweated face. I do not believe there are very many absolutes. There is a place for the “chinuch” of reward and punishment, the behavioristic approach. However, the value of this needs to be recognized as limited. Rav Dessler is correct (not that he needs my endorsement, but his position is psychologically sound) in noting that the true avodas Hashem lies in bechira – choosing to serve Hashem. In this direction, I have decried the current chinuch situation that is changing too slowly to satisfy my impatience. We have created chinuch systems that are geared to mass production – usually 25-30 students to a class. It is a mammoth task to expect any rebbe or teacher to handle classroom management without resorting to the techniques that focus on compliance – behaviorism. This can involve rewards and similar extrinsic incentives. (I won’t address punishment here – I’d use up the server.) The trouble is that we have excluded the more important pieces of true chinuch here. Where is the role model of the rebbe? Will the talmid “want” to continue the avodas Hashem, actually implementing what was taught?

I once cornered a relative, a menahel in a yeshiva where he had once been a talmid. He was describing with pride how his first graders learn so much. I asked him what he remembered from his first grade experience. After a few minutes of reverie, he recalled how his rebbe returned from a call of nature, donned his hat, washed his hands, and recited “Asher Yotzar” slowly and clearly, and allowing all to answer “Omein”. As far as academics, he reported accurately that all that was learned was relearned later, and that true memory was traced to the later learning. He recognized that he acquired a desire and respect for Torah, and that this was the main accomplishment of his chinuch experience.

The question I ask is whether we need to approach chinuch with the goal of creating a younger generation of people who cherish being part of Am Yisroel, respect Torah and choose to delve into it (at whatever level is age appropriate), and wish to carry on the mesorah of Torah Misinai to the next generation. In this way of thinking, the academics is not the ultimate goal; it is the vehicle. The knowledge of Torah is certainly a virtue, but the ultimate is the d’vaikus in Hashem and His Torah, a part of which involves the knowledge. I am sure that there is little disagreement in my position (it’s good for the Jews). However, the difference in the goal will actually translate to management of curriculum in a different way.


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24.     9/30/07 - 3:12 AM
AK

Hi,

I think Alfie Kohn has the answer for "It is a mammoth task to expect any rebbe or teacher to handle classroom management without resorting to the techniques that focus on compliance – behaviorism. This can involve rewards and similar extrinsic incentives" - he wrote a book - Beyond discipline - from compliance to community.


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25. Frustrated     9/30/07 - 3:55 PM
Nechama

Dr Twerski makes a good point.

He implies that the at schools find it easier to teach using incentives and punishments and this is ruining our kids.

Rabbi Horowitz shlita has previously said that this is all because parents want their kids to shine, and they put pressure on Yeshivas to produce "results", which forces them to act in ways that are unhealthy for the kids.

Since we have decided to be open on this forum, may I question whether these "parents" are a handful of wealthy parents, who substantially support the school?

Because if they are, perhaps solutions can be found. For example, Rabannim might make a Takano forbidding parents from paying more than the school fees. And if the parents/grandparents honestly want to support their child's yeshiva, they should be forced to do it anonymously, via a Rov.

The outcomes are likely to be many-fold.

1) The schools will have less money.

2) The schools might make more of an effort to try to attract kids with nice Middos, since these graduates are what really give the school a good name.

3) The school will try to reflect the value system of the average parent, which (IMO) will encourage the schools to tone down the extracurricular supplies and trips (yes, even though the kids will complain. Money doesn't grow on trees, and the price currently being paid is too high), increase the level of individual attention, decrease class size, constant retraining classes for Rebbes and Moros, better co-ordination of support services between schools such as buying Kodesh workbooks (why should all good teachers have to reinvent the wheel? If good resources for teaching Mikroh, Mishnah, and Gemorrah are available to be bought, the Rebbes won't feel so underpaid, since they don't have to put in any additional time at home. Nor will they need laptops.) As opposed to kitting out a science lab with the latest in high-tech. If computers are to be used for teaching word processing they can be 15 years old, so long as they function well. Similarly graphics programs. They really do not have to be state of the art to teach kids how to use them well.

4) The parents will feel that the school refects their values and will be more willing to pay school fees. They will also participate more in fundraising drives.

5) Tuition could then go down down down! And Rebbes and Menahel's salaries could go UP, to reflect and respect the quality work that they do for our chilren.


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26. Wealthy Parents     10/1/07 - 11:40 AM
Andy - Wesley Hills, NY

You say, "Since we have decided to be open on this forum, may I question whether these "parents" are a handful of wealthy parents, who substantially support the school?"

It's wishful thinking to blame this on the wealthy. It's parents across the spectrum who are caught up in our current competitive live style. Even the Mosdos Hachesed have gone nuts! I recently read a slick, color brochure on a wonderful Mosad that does kindness with bereaved families. They are touting the extremes they go to to provide live phone hookups for family that can't make the funeral, how they have the shiva chairs in place before the family is home from the funeral, etc.

While this is certainly chesed par excellance, it does demonstrate how spoiled we have become. (If you don't get it, I'll explain. In the old days, if you couldn't make it to a Levaya in time, you simply missed it. End of story. If you used to wait two hours for not so, state-of-the-art shiva chairs, it was not a compounding of the tragedy.)

Now parents want more perakim of chumash, more blatt and graduating 8th grade classes of Gedolei Yisroel, instead of healthy kids. (And Heaven forbid that one child in the class is not up to par. He has to be removed from the classroom, lest he taint the Yeshiva/Bais Yakov's reputation.) This sick stuff sources from good intentions, but it is no less sick.


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27. Paradigm shift/ Cheating and coercion     10/1/07 - 1:26 PM
Ak

Hi, It will take a paradigm shift from all involved to move away from a competitive learning environment where memory and absorbing material is important as opposed to a ' cooperative learning atmosphere, where the love of learning is important and as Alfie Kohn says creating interdependence in learning and a built-in incentive to help, cooperative learning promotes prosocial behavior. Empathy and thinking are closely connected , we are not teaching kids to think , to explore ideas , to express how they perceive or understand a Chazal , just learning information and giving it back.

One can justify any parenting or educational approach from the Torah but for me , I don't see even limited value in rewards and punishments, except as a short term emergency tool. The behaviorists are saying that positive reinforcements are better than punishments , you catch flies better with honey than vinegar. If the research says that incentives and bonus don't improve productivity and motivation in the work place , that extrinsic motivation impairs intrinsic motivation , why is it so readily used in Torah? If you are interested in rwards and intrinsic motivation check http://www.psych.rochester.edu/SDT/cont_reward.html

www.alfiekohn.org/teaching/cheating.htm Here is an interesting look ay the research as to why kids cheat in school, something I found very prevelant in a charadei highschool here in Israel, maybe the schools have a big role as the article shows.


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28. Alfie vs. Chazal     10/1/07 - 7:56 PM
M

"It will take a paradigm shift from all involved to move away from a competitive learning environment where memory and absorbing material is important "

It's extremely important, and Alfie Kohn knows nothing about yeshivos and the study of Gemara. No doubt he would disdain the Chazal, "kinas sofrim tarbeh chochma," as well as the "stuff 'em like an ox" Chazal which applies to children as young as six.


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29.     10/1/07 - 8:50 PM
yoni

It's extremely important, and Alfie Kohn knows nothing about yeshivos and the study of Gemara. No doubt he would disdain the Chazal, "kinas sofrim tarbeh chochma," as well as the "stuff 'em like an ox" Chazal which applies to children as young as six.

according to the most prevelent view this starts at 9, not six (ie the age of chinuch, for which the accepted oppinion is 9). Secondly, do you know what chazal wanted the kids to be doing at that age? They wanted them to be learning to read the tenach until they could memorize the nekudot and the trop. This simply ment reading over a posuk in tenach many times, and going over and over the entire safer repeating with the teacher line by line with trop and nekudot. From chazal they are not obligated in anything more than that until they are ten, when do you know what they do then? they learn mishnah until they know it baal peh and can repeat the halacha. In ourdays they would also learn simple halacha. The primary task before they're 10 is to teach them to LOVE learning torah. Everything else is secondary, and most of it will be relearned later.

It is only at the age of 15 that they actualy began learning gemorah (ie the laws together with the exploration in to the reasons for them) not earlier. Any earlier would be to hurt the child's enjoyment of learning.


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30. ben chamesh     10/2/07 - 11:34 AM
M

the recent opening of yeshivos that use the Zilberman method follow the mishna in Avos and have kids memorizing Tanach by repeating it numerous times. The Zilberman method has its maalos and chisronos, like any method. Obviously, the chadarim for the past many centuries that did NOT follow the mishna's guidelines, were not run by sinners. NONE of the thousands of gedolim, poskim, rabbonim, and roshei yeshiva of the past centuries were taught according to the mishna's guidelines.

and by the way, if you want to follow the guidelines of the mishna in Avos of "ben chamesh l'mikra," that means a child who is 4 years old and a day should be starting to learn Tanach. For some reason, the proponents of Gemara at age 15 fail to mention this point ...

(and the age of chinuch has nothing to do with this and it's way lower than 9 for many things like eating in a succa, for example, when it has to do with the child's needing his mother)


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31. Revisiting chinuch - Should it change?     10/2/07 - 1:12 PM
Benzion Twerski

I am unfamiliar with Zilberman, but the description of his method that follows the Mishna in Avos of “ben chomesh le’mikrah” is worthy of discussion. For those who wish to follow the references I am paraphrasing, they are both by the Maharal. One is his commentary on Avos “Derech Chaim” on the above mentioned mishna, and the second is his Drush al HaTorah” towards the end. He decries the pattern, already prevalent at that time, of learning with children much earlier than the mishna suggests. In the “Drush”, he actually asks the kehilla to daven for him since he erred by accepting the prevailing method of chinuch, found similarly among Sephardim and Ashkenazim, and this was in violation of the mishna. He states that the Chazal understood the human mind better, and that their prescription was better for the spiritual growth of the child. He also attends to the pattern, found in many yeshivos today, that children are taught the beginning of each parsha, according to the parsha of the week. Considering that the young cover less material, he voices his discomfort with the fact that the child never gets the opportunity to complete any of these limudim, only samples of each parsha.

No one needs me to challenge the Maharal nor to endorse his statements. I simply postulate that he was willing to accept responsibility for subscribing to the prevailing system, recognize that it was incorrect, and seek to modify it to comply with Chazal. I believe that our gedolim need to revisit our patterns of chinuch with a critical eye. If they feel we are doing a spectacular job, fine. However, in light of the Chazon Ish’s statement that yeshivos are no longer for the tzibbur (to transplant Torah to thrive after the holocaust) but are given the mission to meet the needs of each yochid, we desperately need this reconsideration of the purpose.

The kids-at-risk situation has many blaming fingers, and probably each individual youngster represents a different combination of factors. One often cited direction for the pointed fingers is at chinuch. I only disagree with those who point a single finger and make general statements. Chinuch is one factor which can easily mess up. It is rather easy, with the heavy burden expected of mechanchim. The learning impaired, especially those who have not been evaluated or diagnosed, fare poorly without proper supports. Those who just have “different needs” can easily slip through the cracks. It is the exception when a rebbe knows every talmid well. If our systems were more effective, we could hypothetically eliminate this source of trouble. Even the individual talmid that is lost to the streets is an indication that there are gaps to fill and breaks to fix. I hope my intention to re-evaluate and fix is not mistaken for a broad based blaming finger.

On a personal note, I am not very pleased with the yeshivos whose claim to fame is that their talmidim were tested by a guest Rosh Yeshiva, Rav, Dayan, etc. and knew the material. I do not insinuate that knowledge of Torah is unimportant, chas veshalom, but it is secondary to the learning of the Torah way of life and the motivation and love to learn. I would be happier with the publicizing of talmidim who, without prompting, engaged in spontaneous acts of chesed and mesiras nefesh. Those talmidim who learn extra on their own indicate the absorption of Torah, not the memorization and retrieval of text.


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32.     10/2/07 - 1:15 PM
yoni

m, no, age of chinnuch, from a halachic perspective, means either 6 or 9. Generaly we accept nine in this regard, some rabbanim have accepted six.

Now, I will hasten to remind you that none of the gedolim of yesteryear were trained like you are proposing training generations of children in our times. Do you know how gedolim were trained?

It was simple. Like all children they were either taught to read by their parents, or they were taken to cheder like every other child when they were three. The regular children continued to learn chumash for a long time, later halacha and/or mishna, and started on gemorah sometime around 14 or 15.

Those who were truly bright children were identified, and the moment they mastered reading and understanding chumash and siddur they were taken out of school to be taught by another teacher (usualy a tutor) with another bright child and itroduced to mishnah, gemorah, mefarshim on those and on chumash, midrashim, and massive amounts of other litturature, after the intrests of the child. After a couple years that were spent teaching the child to study these kinds of texts anyliticaly they were turned loose, either by themselves or with a chevrusa on specified texts (usualy following a sylabus) and from time to time they would be given private lessons by the rosh yeshiva (personaly) or by other senior teachers, or otherwise tested on their progress. These same students were encouraged to study secular sciences and math, in order to assist their torah studies and ability to produce a psak. Their time was completely their own and left up to their own descretion, and noone dictated where they needed to be or how they needed to do it, as long as they got the task done. This was how students mastered the entire shas by the age of 16 or so. The reason why students nolonger master the shas by that age is because we are spending far to much time dictating scheduals to the young illuyim, which actualy constrains them and encourages them to drop out, especialy because they become bored and disruptive in shiur, mostly because they already got what you were trying to tell them within the first ten minutes. This is one of the reasons why the modern system will produce no gedolim ever.

I would welcome returning to the old system, it would make me feel alot better about sending my kids to yeshiva. BUt the people who do not have such bright kids? theirs will be left in the dust by the young geniuses, and they will only be starting gemorah at age 13-15 like any other generation in years past.


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33.     10/2/07 - 2:41 PM
M

I think it's wonderful that talmidim anticipate being tested by prominent people (not that this should be the yeshiva's sole claim to fame). It adds an excitement and cheshek to learn. The goal of yeshivos (need it be said? apparently so) is to teach Torah and get children to be able to learn Torah on their own, and to want to do so. Chesed (and mesirus nefesh for what?) is extremely important, but not the goal of yeshivos.

Yoni - you are confusing age of chinuch with how we teach children Torah. As soon as a child can speak, his father is obligated to teach him "Torah tziva." No, he does not wait till age 6 or 9.

The gedolim of yesteryear may or may not have had private tutors. Generally, they went through the cheder system, which was not the foolish system we have with cut-off points because your birthday falls on a certain date. When they mastered keria, they moved on to Chumash, then Mishna, Gemara. The very bright were not accepted in yeshivos until at least 12, with some of them marking their bar mitzva in yeshiva (without a catered meal, band, gifts, trip to Israel, T-shirts that said "Ari's bar mitzva" etc.). These same students were rarely if ever encouraged to study secular studies. You keep trying to promote that, without anything to back you up.

I agree with you about smart kids and their being held back.


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34.     10/2/07 - 2:55 PM
yoni

read things like the friediker lubavitcher rebbe's sefer hazichronos, which clearly accounts the way things were 300 years ago, and you'll see that what I am saying is true, factualy even if not in theory.

And with regards to the not getting in to yeshiva until twelve, what you need to understand is that the brightest of bochurim often did not even necesserily go to yeshiva in the formal sense. They were loosely associated with the yeshiva through the rebbeim, as personal or private talmidim. On an offical level they were with the yeshiva, but they had none of the seder obligations that everyone else had. (and until they were 12 they were privately tutored either by a rosh yeshiva, parent, the community rabbi, or whomever was qualified to tutor and guide the child. Many of these children walked in to yeshiva having almost mastered gemorah study (but not actualy done much more than a handfull of mesechtas).)


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35. Kin'as Sofrim,     10/2/07 - 4:51 PM
AK


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36. Kin'as Sofrim     10/2/07 - 6:01 PM
AK

Hi, If Tosfos was a blogger , maybe he would have his Title for his comment- Rashi against Chazal - you can see this on every page of Gemorroh , so Alfie Kohn is in good company. M- I have said this to you before. It shows intellectual inadequacy to dismiss an idea because you don't like a person's credentials. Kohn sees the classroom as a community and cooperative learning the way to develop the love of learning, to learn from each other, to help each and also become more caring people. Pirkei Avos and the living example of a Beis Medrash are proofs for cooperative learning, but in our schools we do the opposite by having kids compete against each other , where there are winners and losers, in fact I think all lose out. Rabbi Horowitz and others complain about this competitive atmosphere and the negative effects competition has on kids , on the academically bright kids as well. So how does one explain the Chazal - Kin'as Sofrim Marbe Chochma - We are talking about Sofrim , not children , people who can be inspired to learn more because of the love of learning, who will be willing to help and share with others , he does not see them as competitors but part of a combined effort to teach Torah and discover its depth. He is humble and stands up before others who have taught him something. So instead of encouraging the brighter kids to get A's , being the top student , learn things off by heart, why not let them make a contribution to the class by teaching others, saying chaburos and trying to make everyone successful, we daven for to learn , to teach , to love learning. And one's attitude to competition will impact on the type of learning. It is easier to define a kid , and compare him to others by testing memory or facts, so what's important is covering ground in a superficial manner without thinking and reflection, and then test who has the better memory. What we teach is that you can look at Chazal superficially .And we are so impressed by people who know things off by heart , how many mishnayos and pages of Gemoro , not their insights , perceptions, questions etc But we seem to forget the lesson of the seider to encourage reflection and thinking, to notice something odd, to ask questions . The most important part of learning is sevoro , how a Jew thinks. And to work with sevoros we need to know the piece of the shaklia and tariah of the Gemorroh we are dealing with by heart. M- you quote Chazal ' Stuff them like an Ox ' - Rabbi Horowitz, Twerski here have dealt with this. When implementing this approach is at the expense of thinking, understanding, reflecting and intergrating the lessons into ones life, when there is competion instead of cooperative learning we will get a chamor no'sei kelim. Whe learning is competitive , when quantity is the main goal , the end product is important, the score sheets, how much do you know and not ' the process of learning'


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37. Revisiting Chinuch     10/3/07 - 4:17 AM
Ak

Hi, IMHO if one holds that one cannot look at any Chazal superficially, that one needs to be focused and concentrate on undertanding in depth , the difference between in b'yiun and be'kius can be the extent that one looks at other texts and peirushim and answering all questions. One of the challenges in chinuch is looking at Torah with fresh eyes , the eyes of someone , a day wiser and not like we look at Chazal when we were kids. Are kids ' thinking' , connecting to what they learn, find it relevant and can generalize the lessons and thinking skills into their personal lives?


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38. Critical thinking     10/7/07 - 9:53 AM
Benzion Twerski

As the discussion on this issue continues to unfold, I am watching a general point be subjected to nitpicking, which is unfair to the issue. Let me explain. Many of the comments here have merit. However, we are sidestepping the fact that no two talmidim are identical. Each has his own needs and successful learning methods. There are always basic skills that need to be taught and learned. The position I hoped would be heard most clearly is that the individuality and uniqueness of each and every talmid would become the mission of the chinuch system, the yeshiva, and the rebbe. The cookie cutter will always have its casualties, even if it works for some. And to this position, I quoted the Chazon Ish ZT”L who proclaimed that the mission of chinuch is to address the needs of the “yochid”, no longer the “tzibbur”. That was also why I referenced the Maharal. I do not know whether we need to adhere to the strict numbers of the mishna, and I cannot cite scientific data to support that position either. My purpose was to suggest that we do what the Maharal did. We should examine what we do, subject it to critical thinking, be open and honest about whether what we do works, and be willing to make changes. So as the famous rabbi’s wife asked, how can the disputing positions both be right, “You’re right”.


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39. Individual Needs v Special Needs     10/7/07 - 12:07 PM
Nechama

There is Boruch Hashem a wonderful awareness of what special needs are, and how it is possible and helpful to meet kids' special needs. Now turn to the normal kid. He also has needs - perhaps they do not manifest as societally disruptive behavior, or as obviously stupid or scary, but they are stopping HIM from reaching HIS goal.

For example, for a few weeks, a father is between jobs. The mother is in early pregnancy. The younger kids are being whiny. The oldest tries really hard to help, but goofs occasionally and gets screamed at. How does he make sense of his world? Does he understand why his father has a short fuse? Does he have the emotional maturity to see that his Dad is acting wrong and he really is good? No Sir he does not. His whole internal world turns upside down. He may become a people pleaser or sullen and withdrawn. He may feel generally unacceptable. Yes, big problems come from little, understandable life situations. And yes, when dealt with effectively (using EFT) the child can be restored to recognizing that he is good, was good, etc. But nobody is dealing with these things until, as mentioned, his behavior becomes socially disruptive, or obviously stupid or scary.

This is where Individual Needs differ from Special Needs. We treat special needs kids because we see how the child needs help, and it bothers us to leave the situation untreated. Individual Needs mean that we believe that all kids are REAL. Their feelings are REAL and they MATTER, and they SHAPE the person. Kids need help developing their balance, their intelligence, their focus and their Middos.

And yet how is the teaching in current schools planned? The main focus is on the syllabus. The next focus is that the kids should have fun. Then we try to make sure they have community awareness and Middos training and skill building.

And what about what is going on *inside* the little boy or girl?


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40. the gimmick     10/7/07 - 1:50 PM
Anonymous

most of us when we think of coercion think of it as being a sort of , aggresive, that takes on the clothes that makes it easily recognigzed. however coercion can take many forms, in the form of love, or the form of bribing, giving children sweets to get them to do what you want for example. so i find it rather irritating, and a sort of an insult to ones integrity when you offer free ipods to people to get them to sign up to your web site. this is coercion, because by giving them an ipod you get them to do what you want them to do that otherwise they would not be intent on doing. it just fluffed up to look attractive. this casts your integrity into doubt as being someone who does'nt practice what they preach, an idealist, that talks about the goal but never reveals how to get there because you have'nt walked the path your self. i don't know if this is the case but you should certainly take a look at your methods of getting people to your web site. or at least not write things that causes you to contradict your self. either way it's a real shame, even if your target audience is young teen's that need to hear your message, but teenagers smell a rat very easily, they are super sensitive to it, they have been coerced all their lives, emotionaly molested, they know all the tricks and so will sign up, take the ipod and walk away. There are so many Rabbi's floating around, all thinking that since they have learned alot of Torah, know how to deal with people, how to effect change, to cause growth when in fact they are clueless. if revert to gimmicks, you undermine Torah and turn your self into one as well.


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41.     10/7/07 - 2:05 PM
Anonymous

great! another Rabbi, yapping about the problems of the world, as if we don't know, but offering no practilce advice what so ever. if you can't tell the "how" then informing the "what" does more damge than good, and makes you whole articel completely useless and turns it into an oppotunity for you to show of to the world how much Torah you know and your amaizing ability to quite sources and incredible feats of mental gymnastics to string it all together. Achmed the Arab can go to Hebrew university and learn amazing amounts of Torah, because he also has a brain, he can also quote sources, because he also has a memory. what SHOULD be the difference between him and a Rabbi, is that the Rabbi practices what he learns and this knowledge of haveing done it, is demonstrated to the world by him informing the people of the "what" AND the "how". anybody can talk about the "how", there a many goyisha books out there that talk about exactly the same thing. at least they offerd some practicle advice about how to acheive the solution. I wish you would'nt bother to say anything if you can't actually help. it painful to watch how demeaning this is for you.


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42.     10/7/07 - 2:42 PM
Anonymous

(to the last post) you said it very well. it's the same as asking a person for directions and he says "well..what you need to do is not take the first right, it's full of potholes, the second left is a dead end, and the third right is one way." you then ask "ok, well..which way should i go?" and he shrugs his shoulders and walks away.


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43. Work in progress/ creative thinking     10/7/07 - 2:49 PM
AK

Anon, I don't think we get it right all the time, we are essentially ' work in progress' and you reminded us of this with the Ipod gimmick. Another good point you make is that you can teach anybody to remember facts but intergrating them into ones life and generalizing the lessons, that is particulary Jewish. I would go further that being creative in Torah , accessing one's personal chelek , the Torah in one's heart is being Jewish. R' Twerski - I think I have answered the opening thread idea , that the goal of chinuch is to help the child be self directed and access his own thinking and personality while learning Torah. This allows for individuality , not the competitive atmosphere that we see and using the framework of a beis medrash , pirkei avos , we have cooperative learning which leads to prosocial behavior and providing for individual needs. I also addressed the Marahal concern about of lack of exposure ( covering the weeks parsha , not just rishon ) and yet not giving up on thinking. Deci and Kohn have written IMHO articles and books that focus on the real issues of chinuch, the type of people we want our kids to become and in what community. We don't need critical thinking , we need creative thinking and as Alfie Kohn asks , is what we are doing helping to help children to think , explore , take perspectives , empathize , ask what type of person I want to be , how would I like my class to look like. We are educating our kids to be better than the next kid , use subtle coercision to get behavior , be a metzuyan so he will get a shiduch with a 4 bedroomed home etc R twerski , how about some ideas from you ?


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44. I had a dream     10/7/07 - 6:36 PM
Benzion Twerski

I have some ideas, but this posting is going to be purposely radical and extreme. I do this with the awareness that the extreme may at least be heard, even if dismissed as drastic. Perhaps some of the ideas contained therein might register. I hope they will not be ignored just because I couched them in such a diatribe. This may sound a bit like a science fiction novel, but here goes.

1. The mission statements for our schools should specify that academics serve as the vehicle to raise our children in a Torah lifestyle in which their lives are dominated by the midos of ahavas Hashem and yira’as Hashem. 2. All mechanchim and menahalim should be retrained in mandatory programs that provide a solid understanding of self esteem, childhood development, and basic paradigms of learning. This training should also cover the spectrum of learning disorders, and perspectives on memory storage and retrieval. There must be a solid background of cognitive processing. 3. Further training should require all practicing in chinuch and the supervision roles to have exposure to multiple classroom methods used by successful, veteran mechanchim. It requires this experiential contact to insure that those who wish to work in the field have the equivalent of a supervised internship. 4. In this ideal situation, one may not enter a classroom, even as a substitute, without the requisite training and credentialing. Our gedolim should participate in the process of developing and maintaining such a system. 5. Anyone involved in chinuch must be registered, fingerprinted, etc. There should be mandatory training with a state approved program for child abuse reporting. Our gedolim should establish an ironclad policy that will address suspicions of any behavior by a mechanech or other school staff for purposes of investigation, psak halacha, replacement of a guilty individual, and determination of how and when to report to secular authorities. 6. Talmidim need to know that their chinuch needs are precious to all, and need to know that they cannot ever be expelled unless certain criteria are met. These include the halacha of rodef – where a student is recognized to be likely to ruin others, the referral to appropriate resources for help, and the sincere effort to place the talmid in another yeshiva. Without such measures, talmidim are admitted to situations where their security is flimsy, and motivation to learn can be less than optimal. 7. Every talmid must be engaged individually, outside of the classroom. This places an enormous burden on the mechanech. It calls for additional time above and beyond classroom teaching and preparing. It also mandates that even the talmid who appears to be doing well be individually engaged. 8. Every yeshiva must have salaried or consulting staff available to address educational weaknesses. This includes some degree of assessment plus the experience to guide the classroom rebbe in modifying the techniques to adapt. 9. Discipline protocols must be readdressed to absolutely exclude: embarrassment, name calling, inappropriate consequences (punishments that fail to meet the “midoh ki’neged midoh” test), allowing behavioral issues to affect academic scores (grades that are composites of conduct and tests), use of threats, and anger on the part of the rebbe. (I think there were more, but I’ll remember them later.) 10. School administrations and teaching staff must establish partnerships with parents, and regular contact must be maintained. If parents do not call, the school should contact them. The pattern should be set from the beginning of the academic year that such communications are not indications of trouble but are just in place to insure that there is a team approach in raising the child. PTA events are useful formalities. The regular phone calls make the system work better. 11. Schools should provide adequate resources to allow for creative projects that render the taught material “real”, especially for younger talmidim. There are many available resources, and schools should subscribe to utilization of these. If a school does not find existing materials for subject matter, it should develop the materials and share with the rest of the chinuch field. There is enough competition without having schools reinventing wheels to develop similar programs. 12. Yeshivos need to recognize their individual strengths and weaknesses. Some cater to certain types of talmidim, and they should work with other yeshivos as coworking institutions, not as competitors. In such an environment, it becomes easier to move talmidim between mosdos if necessary without the need to place black marks of expulsion or discipline on a child’s record and reputation. 13. Our community needs to establish panels of rabbonim who are knowledgeable about chinuch but unaffiliated with any particular mosdos. These should be consulted when a talmid needs to be “expelled”. This is repetitive of #5, but from the administrative perspective. No Rosh yeshiva, menahel, or menaheles should ever be permitted to consider their opinion about expulsion from their own school “da’as Torah”. This is not because of any flaw in that individual, but because the partiality makes it impossible to be absolutely objective. We must be constantly reminded that the Chazon Ish ZT”L demanded that expulsion from yeshiva is a capital matter and requires a beis din of 23 dayanim. 14. Classroom sizes need to be modified so that adequate attention is given to every talmid. 15. If a talmid misses school, the rebbe should investigate the reasons for the absence. Parental notes or messages are often not accurate. In case of an illness, chas veshalom, the rebbe’s contact to inquire about the talmid is an invaluable message of care and concern. 16. Use of visual tools in class is beyond valuable, since most students learn more by visual input than auditory. This includes the board, handouts, etc. Gemora teaching could easily employ flow charts etc. to assist in rendering the material more organized and readily absorbed. This is also an excellent skill to teach, and goes far in helping a talmid enter the world of gemora learning, a usually difficult transition. 17. With mechanech salaries often at the low end of the spectrum, it would be wise to examine ways to improve the situation. The outrageous tuitions are certainly not the answer. Schools may not all have the same formulas to make this possible, but it is critical. Our bnei kollelim need to know that chinuch is not a way to remain in Torah learning while working. That is often seen as an easy way out. No college or job training, just leave the beis hamedrash and walk into a school classroom. NO! It is hard work with decent pay, and one must qualify to be in it. It is an avodas hakodesh that is tough but rewarding.

I’m sure I could continue, but all good dreams end when waking up. Perhaps I can re-enter the world of reverie and continue the dream. I know it is not finished, and I fell short in detailing many of the classroom management issues. However, we do not always dream what we planned. Tonight is another night, and tomorrow is another day, BE”H.


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45. Extreme & Radical?     10/7/07 - 8:39 PM
Anonymous

Regarding comment #44, the most shocking thing is that the author needed to introduce these common sense ideas as "extreme and radical". The largest hurdle, IMHO, is getting cooperation for implementing change in a system that thrives on being unimpeachable.


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46. Yasher Koach to B.Twerski (#44) from an Educator and College Prof     10/7/07 - 11:50 PM
Anonymous

Your ideas are excellent.These methods are used in outstanding schools but some of them require funding that yeshivos do not have.Our people need to stop spending their money on nonsense.Investing in high quality teachers and educational materials is a necessity.Our most valuable asset as a nation is our children.We are destroying our nation when we don't give our children the best Jewish and secular(vocational) education.


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47. Yes, extreme and radical     10/8/07 - 10:38 AM
Benzion Twerski

Just a brief word of defense. My suggestions are considered extreme and radical, though not by my definition. I have discussed some of these ideas and such generalities with many who are in chinuch. Their understandable resistance to change prompts their characteristic response to me - "You can't can't change a system so drastically." I then hear other retorts such as, "So many talmidim succeed. How can you propose to change the system so greatly?" I enjoyed my dream inasmuch as it would yield far mmore successful results, and I am convinced it would greatly improve the lot of every talmid.


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48. Disappointing dream - no paradigm shift     10/9/07 - 1:39 AM
AK

R' Twerski, Your letter reflects educational policy in regular schools. A policy statement that academics should be the vehicle to raise a Torah lifestyle is meaningless when you don't discuss the ' environment ' learning should take place. Is a working with the child approach or ' doing to' , what type of relationship is there with kids , are kids to be ' managed' or are they partners in their own education, are there plenty of rules and consequences for behavior or are there expectations and an attitude that we are dealing with the whole child, his attitude and values amd through problem solving we falling can be a window for opportunity to learn a better way as we say ' 7 times a Tzadik falls and gets up , that failure is not getting up , for eg do we ask ' what do we do to a kid who does not get up to Tefilah in Yeshiva or do we ask how can we help a kid get up. How does a kid feels that his educational needs are precious to all when he is not consulted, not a partner , everything is top-down. Is the environment one of cooperative learning or competitive and each person by himself , for himself, are their group projects , are their chavrusos and chaburos ,is it an environment that encourages the love of learning and understanding , encouraging kids to access their own thinking and personalities. Is the school and classroom viewed as a community where kids focus and reflect not only on what type of people they want to become ( and certainly not what's in it for me , what will be done to me , or what will I get ) but also what type of classroom do we want , what type of school. Is it a community where kids have a voice or a community where kids are managed in a top- down , us vs them , and all the warmth and love in the world justs is sugar coating. If one does not know that America exists one cannot dream about going to America. If one has not read Alfie Kohn and Deci , you cannot dream of a new /old way of schooling, of what kinds of schools our kids deserve , to move from compliance to community. As I said earlier the fundamental questions we should be asking is what we are doing helping us reach our goals. IMHO R' Twerski's post barely touches on these issues.


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49. Links - comments= R Twerski post     10/9/07 - 3:35 AM
AK

Hi,

Academic training - most people need to unlearn what they have learned. Self esteem is one example , I prefer teachers to appreciate the difference between a fixed mindset and a growth mindset

interview "Mindset: The New Psychology of Success" http://www.itconversations.com/shows/detail1011.html

http://www.alfiekohn.org/teaching/tase.htm - the truth about self esteem

Schools http://explosivekids.org/ask/index.html interview - how to relate to challenging kids in school

caregivers handout http://explosivekids.org/pdf/caregiverhandout.pdf

http://thinkkids.org

Alfie Kohn site - see articles, books http://alfiekohn.org


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50. Training for Teachers     10/9/07 - 6:09 PM
Nechama

Dr Twerski writes an excellent list for schools. My first response is OMEIN.

One of the criteria is that all teachers should have training. I agree with this in principle but not fully, in practice.

Think back to your youth. Were your favorite teachers those that had Education training?

Mine weren't.

Perhaps the kind of people who can sit through years of learning teaching theory are also those who don't really take these things to heart.

In other words, many really good teachers would not be able to financially afford or are emotionally bored sitting through the requisite classes on Chinuch. Does this mean they should not be teaching our kids' Neshamas?

As well as teachers having some sort of qualification, teachers also need to have a Chush (a certain set of natures) for reaching and teaching. Many such wonderful yet unqualified people are already working wonders with our kids. Do we really want to replace them with qualified people who are not necessarily Tocho Kebaro (their discipline and lesson plans seem good, but they are not mature enough internally to be teaching)?


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51. Reply to replies     10/9/07 - 9:38 PM
Benzion Twerski

I’m continuing to enjoy the discussion. My lengthy post is actually Utopia. I have been blessed with experiences of meeting some rebbeim that actually do some of the described approaches, etc. However, these are the rare exceptions. For the most part, the hardy talmidim adapt, and way too many get lost – even the average ones. I must say that the description I posted is “not” educational policy in regular schools. In our mainstream yeshivos, it is not even considered an option.

I do agree with the comment that the formal training does not necessarily qualify a rebbe for the job. Today’s exceptional ones generally have no formal training. It is accurate that it is the “chush” that renders one a good rebbe. A rebbe with a chush will do well with training, broaden the knowledge base about education, and gain additional techniques.

AK – many of your comments are well expressed, and I agree mostly with all. Many of them assume that questions were not addressed. However, if you re-read the post, most of the perceived omissions are actually there. We clearly have different backgrounds and vocabulary. I will also add that I had not finished the dream, and needed a few more opportunities for some zzzzzzz’s. I appreciate the links.


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52. R Twerski - Alfie Kohn Paradigm shift     10/10/07 - 3:03 AM
Ak

Hi, I think it will be easier for our discussion if I let Alfie Kohn talk for himself through his site and books. I appreciate you welcoming the links and look for to discussion . IMHO Alfie Kohn really focuses our attention on ' chinuch' - what type of people do we want to become and what type of community do we want. Getting there , means giving kids a voice , that teachers give guidance and facilitate learning where - from my pupils I learned the most , also in informal learning. It is a partnership to help individuals and the community , I doubt whether school staff are ready for this paradigm shift


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53. I'm not ready     10/10/07 - 6:32 AM
Nechama

AK

I'm not ready for a paradigm shift in learning, according to Alfie Kohn. I only read one of his articles, the one about self esteem, and I did not like it.

The schools he is referring to are not Beis Yaakov schools, nor Yeshivas. I have never seen a child with his table moved away from the rest, in order to humiliate him, nor have I ever heard of kids chanting "I'm special because". In all the schools I ever went to or sent to, there were at least two kids per table.

Yes, there are teachers teaching in Frum schools lacking skills and/or awareness, and perhaps they make cutting remarks, or send kids out instead of dealing with problems more effectively. But they are not the kind of problems described by Mr Kohn. In general, Jewish teachers are very dedicated, and want their students to succeed.

As a parent, I use a lot of Discussions with my children. If they are having a hard time accepting what I say, I try to imagine what they are thinking, which aspect bothers them, and we deal with it. Boruch Hashem very well, so may it continue.

But schools can't operate on these principles. They have lots of kids to consider at once. Also, schools need to have a certain structure so that gradual gaining of knowledge can take place. I know of a school that sort of gave kids more of a voice and taught them exactly in a way they could understand, but the school had to close down. There was little progress or feelings of satisfaction.

Even at home, the backbone is that I am the parent and G-d has given me the authority Although I try to explain (often) I am still the last word. Obedience is still a very important value.

The reason I talk things through with my kids, and often allow them to make choices, is to develop their cognitive intelligence, their Middos and understanding - but NOT to give me permission to proceed.

That's why what Mr Kohn seemed to be advocating does not seem to be a good idea. Although children have 100% legitimate feelings, they do not have a tenth as much knowledge as adults. They are naturally very narrow minded and do not even notice the presence of the others in the class let alone the feelings. They should be the ones setting the tone? They have to learn to respect and appreciate adults not just have their learning skills facilitated.

Not only do they need to learn respect for wiser people (even if they do not recognize the extra wisdom) they also need to have respect for people who have done more Mitzvos with their lives. Older people. These people - especially if religious Jews - have gotten closer to G-d. Children must learn to follow this blindly, to trust their parents and teachers.

Also, we have to transmit confidence in kids' ability to deal with difficult situations. They have the resources within them to listen through a boring lesson, etc. Setting up a utopia in classroom teacing does not give them the skills to deal with adversity.

I apologize if I have misundertood Mr Kohn.


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54.     10/10/07 - 9:51 AM
M

I think you've made some excellent points Nechama, namely:

1) Our most successful teachers were not professionally trained.

2) Although A. Kohn has some important ideas which could be useful to us, he is not the one we turn to for thoughts on chinuch. Chinuch is not his subject. Chinuch is not about cooperative learning, about giving a voice, though those things can be helpful and important. Chinuch is about raising G-d fearing children. It's about kabbolas ol which A. Kohn wouldn't begin to relate to. It's about Kibud Av V'Eim. About Mesorah and knowing that "if the earlier generation was like angels, we are like men, and if they were like men, we are like donkeys, and not the donkey of R' Pinchas Ben Yair." It's about V'Hodarta Pnei Zaken.

Unfortunately, more and more of our Bais Yaakov schools and yeshivos are learning from secular models and are incorporating their ideas. Our kids might not chant "I am special," but frum preschoolers definitely make booklets "All About Me" with pages of what "I like to eat," etc. which pays homage to the self-esteem mania while doing nothing for frum kids.

I don't agree with B.T.'s point #2 if it entails training mechanchim and menahlim in the latest psychobabble. I'd like them given courses by master mechanchim who are not tainted by secular ideology.

I think the supervised teaching idea is excellent.

I think the fingerprinting idea is pointless and degrading. Names can be run through the system to see if there is a criminal record.

And if you think mechanchim should be fingerprinted, then let's see you say the same thing for camp counselors and all camp staff members (sleepaway and day camp), all rabbis, all psychologists, all Pirchei and Bnos leaders and explain how this would be useful.

And what does being registered entail?

7. Every talmid must be engaged individually, outside of the classroom.

What does this mean?

This places an enormous burden on the mechanech. It calls for additional time above and beyond classroom teaching and preparing.

And how are you compensating him or her when their salaries as of now are too low?

8. Every yeshiva must have salaried or consulting staff available to address educational weaknesses.

That should be part of the job description of the principal. A principal like Mrs. Stein a'h of B.Y. or Brooklyn, is a perfect example and she had no secular professional credentials and was a mechaneches par excellence. I think those two points (no secular credentials and being a master mechaneches) are related.

And if you're going to quote the Chazon Ish - how about quoting him on what he thinks our educational objective should be (to produce gedolim) which is what most people on this blog think is wrong. 14. Classroom sizes need to be modified so that adequate attention is given to every talmid.

Modified? You mean reduced? Where's the money coming from?

Parental notes or messages are often not accurate.

Huh? Or did you mean "adequate"?

16. Use of visual tools in class is beyond valuable, since most students learn more by visual input than auditory. This includes the board, handouts, etc.

Yes, but not if it includes computers. Get a kid used to fun, interactive computer programs and see how interested he/she is in the printed page of the Gemara that doesn't talk back, sing, or jump up and down.

The outrageous tuitions are certainly not the answer.

What is?

No college or job training, just leave the beis hamedrash and walk into a school classroom. NO! It is hard work with decent pay, and one must qualify to be in it.

Implying that a rebbi and morah with college training are desirable and indeed, some schools pay them more. Is that what we want for our mechanchim - secular training? I hope not. And what do you consider decent pay?


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55. R; Shimon Skop - on Kedusha     10/10/07 - 2:05 PM
Ak

Hi, In his introduction to his Sha'arei Yoshor , R' Shimon Skop defines Kedusha as a person having in mind the benefit of others and the community. Rav Dessler speaks about a person being self directed , using his be'chirah and understanding in his service of Hashem , so his mitzvot are not rote.

The end of the article on self esteem by Alfie Kohn IMHO reflects on these issues .

So how can we help students to learn? If there is reason to be skeptical about what we hear from both boosters and bashers of self-esteem, where does that leave us?

The answer, once again, depends on our objectives. If we are genuinely concerned with students' intellectual development (as opposed to their scores on standardized tests), then it makes sense to do all we can to help them focus on effort rather than ability, to become absorbed with the learning itself rather than being preoccupied with their performance. This, in turn, can be facilitated by what I have elsewhere called the "three C's of motivation": collaboration, choice, and content (of the curriculum).(60)

Collaboration involves more than occasional cooperative learning activities; it means that students feel connected to their peers and that they experience the classroom as a safe, supportive community -- not a place of isolation and certainly not a place where they must compete against each other. Choice means that students are brought into the process of making decisions about what (and how and why) they are learning -- as well as other issues of classroom life. Finally, to raise the question of content is to challenge the assumption that students are indifferent about their schoolwork because they are not sufficiently "motivated" (or, from another point of view, because they simply have low self-esteem). The real problem may be that the work itself is not meaningful, engaging, or relevant.

Each of these considerations shows up again in slightly different form if our goals for children extend beyond academics to issues of psychological health. Given that many of the programs billed as self-esteem enhancers fail to have any appreciable effect on how children feel about themselves, what does make a difference? Edward Deci and Richard Ryan of the University of Rochester, drawing on the work of other psychologists before them, have proposed that human beings have three fundamental needs: first, to feel autonomous or self-determining – "to experience one's actions as emanating from the self"; second, to have a sense of oneself as competent and effective; and third, to be related to others and to be part of a social world.(61)

It is not enough to meet these needs only when school is in session. But to the extent we as educators want to help children feel good about themselves, we would do better to treat them with respect than to shower them with praise. We should embrace affective education, but in the context of building community rather than attending to each individual separately. We ought to work with students rather than doing things (Old School things or New Age things) to them. Contrary to what some in the self-esteem movement seem to hold, students do not come to believe they are important, valued, and capable just because they are told that this is so, or made to recite it. On the other hand, they are even less likely to feel that way when they are compelled to follow directions all day. Students acquire a sense of significance from doing significant things, from being active participants in their own education.

In short, it is time we challenged the false dichotomy that has defined the debate about self-esteem. Whether our objective is to help children become good (that is, creative, self-directed, lifelong) learners or good (that is, secure, responsible, caring) people -- or both -- we can do better than to concentrate our efforts on self-esteem. But let us be careful that in criticizing that approach we do not end up doing even more harm to students in the long run.


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56.     10/10/07 - 2:36 PM
M

The answer, once again, depends on our objectives. If we are genuinely concerned with students' intellectual development (as opposed to their scores on standardized tests)

In chinuch, we are concerned with intellectual development, mastering and proving mastery of subject matter, middos, yiras shomayim, ahavas Hashem, ahavas Yisrael, ahavas ha'Torah. Which of these does A.Kohn discuss?

Choice means that students are brought into the process of making decisions about what (and how and why) they are learning

Would you like to learn Chumash? How about Mishnayos? Halacha anyone? How would you like to learn Gemara - covering very little ground, covering lots of ground? just Rashi? just Rashi and Tosfos? other meforshim too? Let's discuss the pros and cons of learning Nach, children.

The real problem may be that the work itself is not meaningful, engaging, or relevant.

And sometimes, that's just too bad. Washing dishes and pots for the umpteenth time, sweeping, mopping, food shopping and again, are not particularly fascinating jobs, but they need to get done, and better they get done with a positive attitude than with sighs and moans. Some classroom learning entails drudgery, otherwise known as yegia. Yegia can be interesting as well as hard, but sometimes it's not interesting yet it has to be done anyway.

On a different note, when speaking of Torah, the word of G-d, if we were inculcated to believe how incredible it is that Torah (Tanach, Mishyanos, Gemara) are the word of G-d, then our reverence for it would preclude (at least to some extent) the need to "make it" relevant. Relevant?! Meaningful?! The word of G-d???

Whether our objective is to help children become good (that is, creative, self-directed, lifelong) learners or good (that is, secure, responsible, caring) people -- or both -- we can do better than to concentrate our efforts on self-esteem.

I agree. I also agree with A.Kohn's critique on the bribing method of education which frum parents and teachers do way too much. I've read some of his work and he raises some important issues, yet, as I wrote earlier, it's not about chinuch.


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57.     10/10/07 - 5:28 PM
AK

M, 1 AK , (we share the same initials ) talks not only intellectual development, but moral and ethical, helping a kid becoming reflective and integrating the values his being taught into his everyday life , seeing the community as a value in itself etc etc 2 Choice is not simply asking what kids want to learn , but exploring with them why we learn a subject and how we learn , making them active participants in their own education. The Chovos Hatalmidim says that Chinuch is helping a kid be his own mechaneich. This is part of the big picture that chinuch occurs when kids act through be'chirah or in Deci's words 'to experience one's actions as emanating from the self '. I have a friend , principle of a girl's highschool - the most successful shiur he gives , is at the request of kids , who come a half an hour each day before school to learn something of their choosing. 3 Content - It depends on the quality of teaching that can make the learning relevant, meaningful and engaging and sometimes even a good teacher cannot make subject matter which is not suitable relevant etc. The important thing about learning , is the process , the love of learning , not the grade.


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58. The importance of the grade     10/10/07 - 5:44 PM
Nechama

When one is learning irrelevant things, the most important thing is the effort not the grade. But what about if you could invent a computer program that could mine diamonds from under the North Pole - and your chances of success are proportional to the cleverness of your program. Which would then be more important, the effort, or the one who does the best? And what if it were happiness that one could mine, instead of diamonds?

Torah is said to be "more desirable than gold - even multitudes of fine gold, and more sweet than honey". ALthough effort counts, achievement has its own value too.

With regard to your point about the favorite class being the optional one - it is obvious that the compulsory classes of the previous years were so successful that it set up in the girls a desire for this optional class. Kudoes to a wonderful principal!

AK, were you ever a kid? Would you not have prefered to sit in a clubhouse in a tree all day rather than study? Children see the immediate pleasures, they do not see or understand the long term ramifications of their decisions. So what is the point of involving them in these things?

Developing cognitive awareness is best done ONE ON ONE. One adult to one child, giving the child pieces of time when you follow their lead, challenge them, discuss, etc. It is not suitable for classtime where by definintion the ratio is more than one to one. It would be wonderful if the children were taken out one at a time for twenty minutes each day, to learn and do things on their own terms. Sort of like play therapy, but focused on helping the child develop their abilities, not just to release pent up anger.


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59. success     10/10/07 - 6:08 PM
M

"Greater is the one who is commanded and does, than one who is not commanded and does."

Optional things, that which we volunteer for, are not as great as those things which we must do, in mitzva observance, because just by virtue of being commanded, we don't feel like doing it.

Not sure that children attending an optional class of their own choosing being the most successful, proves anything (and how is he defining success?). What if he gave the identical class as part of the mandatory curriculum?


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60. Be'chirah and internal struggle     10/11/07 - 1:35 AM
AK

M, If you refer to the opening thread ' coercision is not chinuch ' and check the sources - Rav Dessler , the existance of the internal struggle or being self directed, putting something of yourself into your actions is a precondition of acting out of be'chirah. When people are coerced , manipulated even by money they lose interest in the actual thing they are doing when they feel they are being controlled and feel that their actions don't express their be'chirah , intrinsic satisfaction suffers. Kohn examines how people develop a love of learning and how they learn. The 3 c's collaboration, choice and content help achieve these goals.


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61. Paradigm shift     10/11/07 - 3:03 AM
AK

Nechama, I apologize for not responding directly to you, it would take reading some of AK's books and artcles and interviews etc on his site http://alfiekohn.org

1 Collaborative problem solving is not a clever way for parents or teachers to get compliance but allows everyone to reflect on the issues , address ones and others concerns, perspective taking, empathy , explore and come up with mutually satisfying solutions. Kids when encouraged and given the chance can be creative and come up with prosocial solutions. The saying .. and from my pupils , I learned the most , IMHO applies to parent-child relationship , we are often in learning situations and a view of children as being lacking in intelligence, self centered , interested only in fun, will impede one learning from them and their learning. Kids who feel that they don't always have to comply or defy , but their teachers and parents use reason and involve them , feel that they are understood , are more likely to trust a parent in situations that a kid is unwilling , yet compliance is a must. We live in a different world as R' Wolbe says where obedience is not ingrained and rebellion is in the atmosphere. What we can do is have a relationship with kids so they develop a trust in us , that they see us as help and seek our guidance. This cannot be done through coercision. When chinuch involves promoting midos, kids refecting and making planned choices, their actions are prosocial reflecting that they value peers , teachers etc the value in community, family, classroom, school , you can move away as Kohn says ' beyond discipline - moving from compliance to community. 2 Grades - Kohn has shown how learning , interest in the subject suffers when kids are soley motivated to get the good grade. A lot of the learning I did , was forgotten as soon as i finished writing the exam paper. Learning is a life time process , when we become interested only in the end product, and not in effort and real learning, learning suffers. CheckKoh's site on this. Boys really develop their love of Gemoroh after they leave school , the compulsion , the tests and exams and enter Yeshiva gedolah. 3 Children's attitude to school reflects more on the learning environment rather on their natures and characters. Kohn works with schools that see themselves as a community, that encourage cooperative learning , so what he says is not unrealistic but needs a paradigm shift. 4 When we look at learning in a beis Medrash , Pirkei Avos on learning together, the concept of chaburas and chavrusos, what Kohn is proposing is nothing new.


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62.     10/11/07 - 9:33 AM
M

Boys really develop their love of Gemoroh after they leave school , the compulsion , the tests and exams and enter Yeshiva gedolah

Why would a bachur exert himself if he is not going to be tested? I read and learn for my enjoyment but don't do any any hard work since I left school and no longer have to master material for tests. There are bachurim in yeshivos who turn into men in kollelim who spend years learning and some enjoy it. Without having to produce, they learn nowhere near what they are capable of. There's minimal yegia except for those who are very driven either by nature or because they are aiming to be the best in the yeshiva or want to achieve a certain position.


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63. A passion for learning     10/11/07 - 12:24 PM
Ak

Boys really develop their love of Gemoroh after they leave school , the compulsion , the tests and exams and enter Yeshiva gedolah - These are the words of a Rosh Yeshivah

M, I assume that you are a woman, so your lack of understanding of the intrinsic motivation of Bachurim to toil in Torah, that their yegia according to you is a function of a natural drive , ambition or some other extrinsic factor is excusable.

I apologize for being so frank with you. Your pesonal experience shows that you are not ( because circumstances ) are not passionate about your learning , not professional about it. There are many women who take responsibility and give shiurim and there is plenty of yegia without coercision.

I recommend all to reread the opeming thread and the Michtav Me'eliyahu.


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64.     10/11/07 - 1:04 PM
M

I am disappointed in your response. Rather than address the points, you make personal remarks.

Try a survey. Ask people you know who learn why they learn. Try to elicit real answers, not the answers they know they are supposed to give. Then ask them what they consider yegia in learning and then, whether they apply yegia to their learning and if so, how often.

I'd love to hear the results.


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65.     10/15/07 - 10:39 PM
Yehoshua

For Anonymous 9/24/07 1:20PM

I read over what R. Dessler says in Chelek 4 pg 322 and it does not completely say what R. Rosenblum quotes. Yes R"D does mention how one's training results in actions which are automatic, not requiring choices. But he does NOT say there is NO REWARD. In fact, in parenthesis he writes "Certainly Hashem does not dismiss the reward of any creation, even to an animal and the like. But this is in a completely different manner." Clearly there IS reward, but somehow it is different.

He also says at the end of the next paragraph "But through joining the 'service of the heart'...through this a person certainly will merit." I take this to mean if a person has any thought (in his heart) during the performance of the mitzva, he does get reward although the mitzva is automatic.

So the reward situation is not as dire as R. Rosenblum claims.


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66. Survey question     10/16/07 - 2:20 AM
AK

Hi, Like all surveys, the questioned asked is important, and in this thread ' coercision is not chinuch 'where R' Dessler talks about acting out of be'chirah , being self directed , the question we need to ask is not what motivates kids to learn, but what helps a kid to become self motivated and develop an intrinsic love of learning. I will take an eg from the work place. Ask people why they work ? The answer is for the money . Can money , incentives etc improve productivity, creativity in the workplace.? The research says - see Kohn's site - Business section- that in the short term you an incentive can make a person produce more or faster , but has a negative effect on the the quality or creativity of the worker. Because when people feel manipulated and controlled , they lose interest in what they are doing, when you are autonomous and your voice is important , you are consulted and you can direct your work , creativity can take place and intrinsic motivation increases. So what about learning? So when kids leave high school and go to Yeshivah and do not feel coerced by exams etc , they feel self directed and they develop a love for learning and become intrinsically motivated to learn. A focus on ' testing' does the opposite , the style of learning changes , because it focuses more on memory, and what becomes important is the end product , the grade and not the process of learning itself and interest in the learning itself diminishes. I am not saying, that there is no place for testing or other extrinsic motivation , but as Deci says a person needs to ' internalize extrinsic motivation' that he wants to be tested as this serves his interests , it's not coercision. Finding ways to manipulate and coerce kids to learn harder is not chinuch , chinuch is not coercion. Learning harder ? , what is ' effort and toil in learning, what does it mean to produce in learning.? Chazal say one will find ' chidush ' in every beis medrash , everday day . You produce in Torah when you are creative , an if in the work place creativity is not a function of manipulation , how much more so in learning. Yegiah and a'mal in learning , is when time stands still, your mind is racing , you never leave the beis medrash , your learning is always with you, the shiur is dynamic and exciting, there is plenty of cooperative learning ,you are me'chadeish and can't wait to share with others. If one is not intrinsically motivated and passionate about learning , to be a professional with yegiah and a'mal to get to the bottom of the sugiah , give something of yourself is unlikely to happen. IMHO , if one has experienced creative learning in a beis medrash or heard others talk about the experience , one can understand that yegiah and a'mal is something intrinsic. Coercion is not chinuch , so the question is how to we promote self direction and intrinsic motivation. Edward Deci and Richard Ryan of the University of Rochester, drawing on the work of other psychologists before them, have proposed that human beings have three fundamental needs: first, to feel autonomous or self-determining – "to experience one's actions as emanating from the self"; second, to have a sense of oneself as competent and effective; and third, to be related to others and to be part of a social world. IMHO using these principles , the 3 C's - collaboration, choice and content we will be more successful.


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67. AK you have convinced me.     10/16/07 - 5:07 AM
Nechama

AK, Thank you for working on convincing me. I think you are correct, because your way does work, at least in families. Let me give an example, and then I will try to explain. I was washing my 1.5 year old son Negel Wasser this morning, and he reached for a glass that was in the sink. I knew he was likely to slam it down again, smashing it, but I did not stop him forcefully yet. I first said as softly as a rosepetal: "It's glass, darling, we have to be very careful with glass, cause glass can break". Now he does not really understand English, but he did realize that I was trusting him with a mission, and he felt honored to be part of this mission. Although I may have to repeat the message again, in order for him to internalize that not just this, but other things are fragile, I think I got much more long term effects than if I would have said; "NO!!! Don't touch that! " I could imagine many a mischevious boy reacting to such talk with fear of the parent - but doing it Dafka. MY son had no wish to do it Dafka, he was intrigued, but honored my wishes.

Respecting the fact that a kid has an awful lot of power at his disposal is not the same as saying that a kid is my equal. He is obviously not my equal in that I hold the keys to money, and food, and I am stronger than hime, and he needs me for family and community structure. All these the child realizes automatically. He is also not my equal in that he has all these limitations that I Boruch Hashem have broken through. This includes his limited knowledge and skills. He is also not my equal in that he can create such a mess in such a short time! He doesn't have my limiting beliefs to stop him!

But forgetting about equals for a bit, we have such a great relationship, boruch Hashem. I help him explore, and I then show him that there are ways of getting the same benefits without the attached detriments.

For example, I let him eat a yoghurt with his fingers. We smiled and giggled (yes, he make a mess). I then washed his hands and face (kept his yoghurt next to him as I did this), told him how nice and clean he is!, returned him his yoghurt, and offered if he wants a spoon. Since he likes to be clean, and to get more with each spoonful that he can with his fingers, he used it, and well. Not only that but he pointed to a tissue to wipe his face with in the middle, and he voluntarily chose to put it in the garbage. So what did I gain from a bit of time and a bit of mess? Long term compliance, an internal appreciation of cleanliness, no added fear.

Contrast this, with, if I would have said: "NO! In our house we use a spoon. We don't eat with our fingers! Here's a spoon. No, let me feed you, it's cleaner that way!" I might get back a defiant, or defeatist attitude, but not such happiness to please me.

So although I used collaboration, it wasn't to get his permission, it was to *get his understanding* and to *maintain the relationship while learning*. With these two things he can be'ezras Hashem go so much further in life.

To explore a little further into why collaboration is so important, I like to suggest: children have a few preconceived notions that need to be gently altered: 1) a need to conform to rules: For example, all the other kids go to school, so the little one hangs onto the door handle, gets hold of a schoolbag and cries. Not becaus he is whiny, not because he is jealous, he just cannot see that the rule of "all kids go out the door with schoolbags" does not apply to very little kids.

2) a need to do things the most direct way possible. For example, kids have a need to feel their food with their fingers, and they can get quite good at eating effectively this way. Yet, there are other values in life, such as cleanliness, Kashrus, social norms, that can be taught to the child, but if we present it as "in addition to your way", instead of "Instead of your way" they can feel safe to drop their way in favor of a better way.

There are probably others, but I wanted to make a different point. One can smother a child with rules, if one doesn't take into account what the child is thinking/feeling. Collaboration just means that you take into account the things your child can't necessarily verbalize, but whcih are excessively important to him.

Collaboration also means not to stretch the relationship to force through your point of view.

So if you ask me "where does obedience come in?", I'll answer: It is automatic, where the relationship is good. If obedience doesn't come, it is likely that you can fix the relationship and the child will obey.

And if I ask myself "why is all the responsibility on the parent, I must answer, firstly, it isn't, and secondly, only do as much for Chinuch as I want to get happiness from and s'char for. But also, it's because we adults are sometimes a bit mixed up, and it is we who have damaged the relationship by giving over the impression: It is the rituals that are important, but the people who keep the rituals, and their thoughts, are not. This is surely not the message of the Torah. We just want to get out of having patience with the kids, like no-one had patience for us. Also, we are not very good at reading non-verbal cues from our children/spouses nowadays.


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68. Rewards- Competition article     10/17/07 - 3:21 AM
Ak

Hi, I am looking forward to the article as these issues have been discussed in this thread.

Nechama, Thanks for sharing your learning with your family. Thomas Gordon , author of PET says , when we use ' power ' to get what we want , we have lost an opportunity for learning with our kids. I don't want my kids to obey me , but to trust me when I ask them something that they would not like to do or don't understand.

About schools - here is a short audio interview with Alfie Kohn , Beyond discipline from compliance to community- scroll down

http://www.ascd.org/portal/site/ascd/menuitem.0f78fd8115519c054144aa33e3108a0c/ - ascd talks to the author


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69. No, obedience is not only trust     10/17/07 - 6:13 AM
Nechama

My 4 year old had a hard time yesterday obeying my husband. When he told him to come indoors, he ran away, and when he told him to get into pyjamas, he said NO.

I sat down next to him on the floor, and I said, do you know, when Daddy was a little boy, he was once playing with his lego, and Grandma said to him "Reuvy, put away your lego, it's supper time". Do you think he listened?

My son, was fascinated, and said nothing. I continued. He didn't listen becasue he liked playing with lego. Do you like playing with lego? He nodded. I said. Then Grandma told Daddy, who was a little boy, you have to listen to me because I am your Mummy. Children have to listen to their Mummies and Daddies. My son thought about that one for a moment. Then I asked him: "did you grow on a tree?" "NO!" He shouted. Then where did you grow? I asked. Hmmm. He was stumped. You grew in my tummy! I said. Oh! he said. Yes! He continued, And boys grow in the Daddy's tummies and Girls in the Mummy's tummys!

No, I said, boys and girls all grow in their Mummies tummies. Well, he said, what about you? Where did YOU grow? In MY Mummy's tummy? And where did she grow? In HER Mummy's tummy - you know that the Chocolate Grandma is Grandma's Mummy?

And it says in the Torah, I continued, that children, who didn't grow on trees, but in their Mummies tummies, have to obey their Daddy and Mummy. If the child is in the middle of playing and the Daddy says: "Bring me a drink!" they have to listen. And if the Daddy says "Get in pyjamas" They have to listen. That's the Mitzvoh of the Torah.

And the reason I have reproduced this story, AK, is to explain why, contrary to Goyim, or people who live a non-Torah lifestyle, we believe that Hashem Who created us, gave us the Torah. Our ancestors pledged to fulfill that Torah, and pledged to try to effectively teach all their children and generations to fulfill it too. So my children don't have to listen because they trust me to have their good in mind. They have to listen to their parents because that is a condition made on their behalf, before they were allowed to be born.


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70. Obey me- because of Kibud Av     10/17/07 - 7:21 AM
Ak

Hi,

When kids get older , they don't buy into this 'power play' , they see it as a sign of weakness and an inability to engage a them using love and reason


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71. Honoring parents – why?     10/17/07 - 10:33 AM
Benzion Twerski

The last few posts addressed the teaching about kibud av v’em. The techniques are as important as the approach. Regardless, the intended outcome is that our children will recognize the obligation to obey and respect and want to fulfill this obligation. I know it has been mentioned earlier, but it bears repetition.

There is an old discussion (Minchas Chinuch) which examines whether kibud av v’em is a mitzvah that is bein odom laMakom or whether it is also bein odom lachaveiro. The halachic difference would be whether one needs to ask mechilah from parents prior to Yom Kippur. The Sefer Hachinuch clearly acknowledges the latter when he provides a reason for the mitzvah – hakoras hatov, appreciation for having brought the child into this world and giving him/her the sustenance and care that allowed for survival. This can make for great pilpul, but it also is highly relevant to raising children.

There may be different phases in a child’s development when the time is riper for the hakoras hatov message, and probably other times when it is better to focus on the bein odom laMakom angle.


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72. Obedience / providing service to Parents     10/18/07 - 3:25 AM
AK

HI, There are different parenting approaches and the ' back in control' , that focuses on compliance and obedience seems to have strong support in the Mitva of kibud Av. I am more inclined to a ' working with' , consensus building approach where a relationship is one of trust and kids seek the guidance, help and advice of parents, than a top-down ' obedience- compliance' approach. There is a classic debate concerning the character and scope of the Mitzva of Kibud Av Vaeim. The Ramban (Yevamot 6a s.v. Mah Lehanach), Rashba (Yevamot 6a s.v. Mah Lehanach) and Ritva (Yevamot 6a s.v. Yachol) define the Mitzva of Kibud Av Vaeim as providing service to one's parents. These Rishonim do not define the Mitzva as obeying the will of a parent. Thus, one is not obligated to obey a parent's demand if the activity does not benefit the parent. see http://www.koltorah.org/RAVJ/Limitations%20on%20Honoring%20Parents%20and%20Honoring%20Minhagim.htm From the article it seems that the majority of the Rishonim follow the view , that the mitva of kibud AV is providing a service and not obeying the will of a parent. I think this throws a different light on the mitzvah. Using Alfie Kohn's principle in schools - beyond discipline -moving from compliance to community , that if we focus on community, addressing the neeeds of parents, being caring, proactively engaging in Kibud AV rather than passively being obedient , a kid is more likely to be responsive and see his response as something 'emanating from himself' and an act of be'chirah. The Sefer Hamakneh sees the mitvah as one of obedience ,does not require obedience in case where it causes a loss to the child. Rav Eliashiv explains that only ignoring a parent's request when no loss is involved constitutes a lack of reverence for the parent. However, ignoring the request because of concern for loss does not constitute a lack of reverence since he is not frivolously ignoring his parent's demand. IMHO since there are those who describe taking away a kid's toy ship as if he took away the ship of an adult , I would take a ' loss' to a child as being something subjective to a child. From the parent's angle , the halacho says we need to be very careful with our demad for kibud AV, try to be mo'chel without undermining our kavod, take into account the child's personality so we have no problems with 'lifnei Iveir'. This article presents the point quite well. http://www.torahlearningcenter.com/jhq/question161.html The point that I am making is that the approach ' I am the parent and you have to listen to me ' undermines the mitvah of kibud AV. How can kids have ha'carat Ha'tov to parents, as R Twerski points out , a rationale for kibud Av , when they feel they don't have a voice, their concerns are never addressed . An emotional climate that supports kibud Av , needs to be in place. Alfie Kohn says that ' Discipline is the problem , not the solution. A parent whose mantra is ' I am the parent and you must listen to me ' , will always see the kid as the problem , never explore other possibilities, or collaborate with a kid , addressing both the parents and kids concerns, never see his role in the problem. I am not saying there is no room for compliance and argue that the schools have an important role to play in helping kids with this difficult mitvah , but often getting compliance relies on coercion and is often very short term , and when kids hit the age of 12+ , the tricks we use to control them don't work anymore so we have to rely on the relationship and trust to influence them. Trust develops when your demands and expectations,are accompanied by a good reason, you take into account the kid's concerns , give him a voice and he feels understood. Rewards and punishments are both sides of the same coin , which in the long run don't buy very much , because coercion is not chinuch


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73. clarify?     10/18/07 - 6:11 AM
Nechama

Are you saying that Kibud Av has to come from a kid choosing to do it, it shouldn't be forced upon them?

A problem with this is, that as young kids, they are unable to appreciate that a schedule that works for a whole family is indirectly useful for them. So let's say, I tell a kid to go to bed at 7:00 because that is when I have time to put them in bed, and it's necessary for the older brother to have some time alone with the parent. Now the kid may justifiably say: But I'm not tired at 7. I want to go to bed at 8. So you say, you don't have to sleep, you just have to lie in your bed. But the kid says, no, I don't want to do that. I'll be quiet. But that is not acceptable to you. So we should let the kid have the final say in this decision? The point being, that there are many cases when parents do things that are not directly for the good of the child - but they are for the INDIRECT good of the child, and the siblings. A parent only has so much energy, time and space. There are times when a child may want something and the answer is NO. It's not up to the child to say, well I want it, it's equally my money to yours, so I don't accept this 'no'. Because it isn't true. Children don't even own their own money. They don't own the house. The parents do. Children don't even own their time - after the age of Chinuch, they have certain Mitzvos, which, although they have the power to DEFY, they have the responsibility to fulfill ,according to the agreement made at Sinai. So although you should discuss things as much as you have time for with kids, you cannot leave them with the impression, that only things that they understand and agree to, they do. Because by the time one has explained it all to them in a palatable way, they may be 22 years old, and chas vesholom chayav a death penalty.


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74. A process     10/18/07 - 12:48 PM
Ak

Hi, For sure there are times when in he moment one has one has to impose your will, but if we are able to proactively collaborate and tackle problems and come up with solutions. When concerns are put on the table , a kid starts to see you as a real person with needs and address them, take your perspective , empathize with you, become caring. If one has a family meeting, or you let your kids paticipate in drawing up a schedule, it is no longer you imposing your will , but your concern to attend to every ones needs , and of course , the schedule says ... , not you. When we need to impose our will, we have to find ways to do it in a gentle way as possible and ask ourseves as Rabbi Horowitz says - is this a Ten, why should I not let him be in his room without having him to lie on his bed. There are often so many power struggles over sleep and the problem may be that the kid's biological clock needs resetting , and giving him some melotanin is what is required. When needs and concerns are addressed in a respectable way , kids start thinking and caring. Your questions will get them to think beyond themselves. Obedience essentially focuses on behavior and not why the kids behaves this way , not considering motives or values. We don't want kibud Av to be mitzvot Anashim melumada. This is a process of getting kids to explore beyond themselves , as Alfie Kohn says, get kids to talk in the plural , we , the family , the class.

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Please visit our Parenting Resource listing to learn about agencies and services that you can make use of. If you know of an agency that can be of assistance to others, kindly drop an email to our site administrator at admin@RabbiHorowitz.com and pass along the information to him.

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Working with Families and Educators on Behalf of our Children

This site is managed by The Center for Jewish Family Life, Inc., 56 Briarcliff Drive, Monsey, NY 10952
Project Y.E.S. was founded by Agudath Israel of America
The Center for Jewish Family Life/Project YES - 56 Briarcliff Drive, Monsey, NY 10952 (845) 352-7100 ext. 114 Fax: (845) 352-9593
email: email@kosherjewishparenting.com


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