Friday, July 01, 2005

On Dealing With the Problem of non-Learners, by Da'as Hedyot--concerning a difficult situation that could be avoided, if people cared

What happens to the male who doesn't have a natural aptitude for Talmud studies and/or who has a learning disability in a right-wing Orthodox community that values nothing other than learning for its boys and men? Here's a guy who might have become a fine, upstanding member of the Orthodox community if his teachers hadn't tried to force him into a mold that he didn't fit. Maybe I'm being extreme in my reaction, but I think this kind of treatment borders on child neglect: Some right-wingers are giving their children an education that's not appropriate for every child, and they don't seem to care.

See this Wednesday, June 22, 2005 post at

"explain to me, how it is possible for a person to go through his entire high school, through multiple yeshivas, endless chavrusos, countless tutors, and still not have a single person point out that he doesn't know alef bais?

"in the yeshivas that I was in, I know that the blame for a failing student invariably fell on the students own shoulders.

"When I was in yeshiva, my rabbeim weren't indifferent to my difficulties. They also expressed sympathy for my challenging situation. But they didn't deal with the problem properly! They just told me to try harder. To daven for hatzlacha. To get a tutor. To switch chavrusos. To take notes better. To pay more attention. Your (and the "gedolim's") concern means diddly to me. It's no different than the heartfelt concern my dedicated (yet misguided) rabbeim had for me those years ago. They professed concern, and I believe they really did feel bad, but they were so dedicated to the system, to the concept that "everyone can be a learner" (nay, everyone must be a learner!), that they kept me chained to my hardship rather than offer me the simple and self-evident remedy to my suffering: to tell me that I didn't have to be a learner!

All that's needed is for the schools to stop pushing everyone to be learners! Everyone knows that this is all that needs to be done. However, it is true, that's not an easy thing to achieve. But you know why not? Because the yeshivas have already created a society where everyone thinks that's the only way to be a proper Jew! And they're still doing it! They're still pushing the view that the ideal Jew is the learner. The kollel guy. The rebbe. The rosh yeshiva. The mechaber sefer. Whatever. That a proper Jew is supposed to be learning 24/7. That nothing in life is worth doing except limud torah. That any person that tries to be anything else is throwing his life away. That any departure from being a learner has to be excused and justified and explained with a trillion and one rationalizations. You'll claim that such things aren't explicitly spelled out (they definitely are in some places), but even if not, the message comes through loud and clear and every good yeshiva kid knows that if he wants to do right in that world, to the learners he must go. Anything else is just a very distant second.

"what I want is that they should admit that they care more about perpetuating the system than about the well being of their constituents. They can't have it both ways. If, as they claim, they truly cared about the damage being done to their students (and society), they have to admit that a sea change is neccessary in their educational system. And if they don't want to do that, then they should stop lying to their students about caring about what's best for them and just come out and say that they're interested in producing gedolim and anyone who gets burned in the process, too bad on them."


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