Jewish Education & Thinking

On a Prof. K post about Jewish schools, a Prof. K Offspring wrote this comment:

Personally, I think the most important educational component that anyone can give a child is the ability to think for his or herself. Without that, I wouldn’t be close friends today with people from a myriad of Jewish backgrounds, ranging from very modern to very Chassidish. And, nowadays, I think if parents don’t do that, than nobody will. Yeshivas certainly don’t do it. They teach group-think.

My school was relatively normal when I arrived, but began to assur a lot of things mindlessly as I progressed; my parents told me why they continued to allow them. They told me why I had been sent to my particular school even though they disagreed with a bunch of school policies and would not force me to obey things they thought had absolutely nothing to do with halacha. (I laugh about the Florida thing…my mother will attest that a visit to my grandmother there was far more regimented than life at home–not my idea of a freedom-filled Spring Break). My mother, if she so chose, could certainly write a blog on the price of defiance…and how sickeningly against halacha it was.

But I nevertheless thought my parents far wiser and more practical than my teachers. I’m frum, shomer shabbos, and can formulate a thought that’s original and hasn’t been force-fed to me by someone else. I’m the child of my mother and my father, not the product of my school. And I’m a better person and a better Bas Yisroel for it.

I found this thought-provoking. In my Jewish day school in Brookline, MA, I learned from one angle in my gemarrah (eeks! girls learned gemarrah! How dare they! Well, the Rav let us), chumash, dinim, and navi classes. Then my Hebrew teachers, who were Israeli, gave us a different perspective on the world. Finally, and in some ways most importantly, my 11th grade social studies teacher taught us about bias. Everyone has a bias. Everyone has a different view of reality.

It’s been almost thirty years since high school, and I’m still trying to sort through it all.

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3 thoughts on “Jewish Education & Thinking

  • Larry, I would be curious to hear more about how you react/deal with the group-think phenomenon of Jewish schools. Or generally in the Jewish community.

  • Depends on who and where I am with. In general I am not an evangelistic free thinker – as soon as someone informs me I am not arguing with them but with Chazal/Hashem (and for these people there is no difference) I stop talking.

    I want to be right, I have no strong need to be acknowledged to be right. This results in many fewer arguments than those who need validation from other people.

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