Destroying Students’ Potential and Destroying Their Lives

We have all read about the incredible tragedy of Malky Klein. While there is always going to be unknown information about these and other similar cases, such that people will claim that we lack the full story, this and other alike occurrences should set off the loudest of alarms.

Judge Ruchie Freier wrote a must-read essay on the subject, and I have little to add. What more can be said?

All I can contribute to this heartrending discussion is that the issue of yeshiva and day school exclusion should perhaps be addressed on a broader scale. When children are boxed in (or out) and conspicuously labeled due to their abilities, they can get badly bruised and also unfairly pigeonholed and sidelined for life.

When a yeshiva or day school refers to the more rigorous or high-level Torah learning or secular studies track as the “masmidim shiur” or “honors program”, how are those not enrolled in these more advanced programs to view themselves? What message do these yeshivos and day schools send to these students? That they are not masmidim or honors material; they are lower; they are lesser in achievement and academic quality. And that is how many such students will hence view themselves and act upon the de facto labels that these schools have conferred upon them.

I am all in favor of more advanced Torah learning and secular studies tracks, but there is a sensitive and sensible way to market them.

When a child legitimately needs to be expelled from a yeshiva or day school, such as when as the child is a really damaging force there, or the child’s presence at the specific yeshiva or day school is very much not for the child’s benefit, the expulsion needs to be done in a manner that is sensitive to the child’s long-term needs, coordinated so that the child has the opportunity to transition into the yeshiva or day school that is best for him.

A true story:

Aharon was acting out in yeshiva, and was the most frequent occupant of the principal’s office other than the principal himself. Aharon was not doing anything “bad” in the acute sense (nothing criminal, lewd, etc.), but he was all too often calling out in class and was involved with some disruptive pranks. A few weeks before the close of the school year, Aharon’s parents, who had already registered him for the coming year, suddenly found out that Aharon was not being “invited back” for next year.

Aharon’s parents frantically appealed to the yeshiva, arguing that it was not fair that they were given no advance notice of the expulsion, and that unless another yeshiva would somehow agree to accept their child so extremely late in the year, he would end up having to stay home or “on the street” next year. These appeals were rejected.

With Hashem’s help, including the intervention of a loving rebbe and great exertion by Aharon’s parents, he was accepted into a different yeshiva, where he was shown warmth and was given more personal attention, and where he matured and flourished. He is now at the top of his rosh yeshiva’s shiur and has established excellent academic credentials.

How many boys and girls are subject to expulsion that is executed with insensitivity and capriciousness, whereupon their parents are sent scrambling without ample opportunity to arrange for transition into another yeshiva or day school? How many children feel shamed that they are not labeled as masmidim or honors students, with their view toward their role in Torah learning and school achievement thus substantially narrowed and lowered? How many students like Malky will suffer at the hands of unloving and uncaring principals, who are slaves of elitism and who sacrifice children in its service?

There obviously must be standards, accountability and a drive for excellence, but there is way to do it and a way not to do it. Furthermore, sensitivity and love for each student, with his welfare and success being the priority, must be the goal; external factors of reputation and social standing are irrelevant.

Please read Judge Freier’s essay and think about what was, what could be and what is at the many yeshivos and day schools that are led and governed with compassion and true wisdom, and consider what we can all do to harness the good and bring about urgently needed change.

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76 Responses

  1. David F says:

    While everyone is so quick to point fingers are the educators and “the system,” they neglect to point fingers in the direction that they truly belong; We the people.
    Educators are generally wonderful, kind, sincere, and dedicated folks who are looking to make a positive impact on their students. They are not generally cruel, insensitive, uncaring and elitist types.
    Instead, what they face is an inordinate amount of pressure from none other than the very folks who look to condemn them. The fact is that most of the people who are so upset about the school’s unwillingness to accept their sub-standard academic child, will be first to send their academic stars elsewhere. You can absolutely certain that they will not send their child to a school that caters to weaker students.
    How do I know? Because I worked in such a school for years. We had a very understanding admissions policy. We tried our hardest to give every student a chance. Parents loved us! They didn’t stop praising us. They also sent their more academically gifted children elsewhere while they sheepishly explained that “This child is different – he needs a place where he can thrive!”

    The attitude I’m describing is not one that is unfamiliar to anyone in education. I can’t begin to list the number of times I sat with fellow educators and heard them lament this harsh reality. Their hearts broke for the children they couldn’t afford to take, but the same parents who insisted they take this child also sent all their children elsewhere. The same Rosh Yeshiva and Rav who called to advocate for this child, all sent their children elsewhere.
    The school I worked in finally adopted a policy – no advocacy calls were given credence unless they came from folks invested in our system – i.e. they had to have their own children in the school. Sadly, it was too little too late. The school no longer exists in its current form and all those parents and children have only themselves to blame – not the amazing educators who tried so hard to service them.

    • Avrohom Gordimer says:

      You are correct; the administrators are so often, if not always, acting upon the directive of parents or communal leaders.

      I also made sure not to mention teachers in the article, as teachers seem to be manipulated far less in these cases and appear to be more independent and often able to assist.

    • Bob Miller says:

      Actually, all participants in this situation are “the people” – among them the students, the parents, the teachers, and the administrators in all Orthodox subgroups. All have human characteristics, sometimes deployed in a good way and sometimes not.

      In 1976, I was complaining to my boss about the candidates for President that year. He asked, “Bob, do you know what the problem is with politicians?…The problem with politicians is that they’re just like us!”

      Many things distinguish our Jewish schools as a group from public schools as a group. Today, one structural difference is that nearly always we have no entity of our own with formal, legal responsibility for all our local students as a public school board does for the broader student population. That is, we have very few kehillos of the traditional Old World type that had legal standing and even some power to tax and police. What we typically have is a collection of essentially private institutions, each serving some portion of our public. Each school tries to define its own mini-public and each mini-public its own school. While this fragmentation is just a new manifestation of our long exile, it leaves some kids and families out in the cold, which is unconscionable. We don’t need to try to place blame on categories of people (we find ways to blame the categories we’re not in). We do need leaders and followers able to work as a team, a virtual kehilla at least, to coordinate our activities for the common good.

  2. Shmuel Golden says:

    1. In every education milieu – Jewish, secular, whatever – where groups of children are taught together, there is always a small group students doing exceptionally well, a larger average ones and hopefully a small group of very poor ones. Whether you call the best ones masmidim or honor roll or nothing at all, everyone knows who they are and lives with it. And everyone knows who the lousy ones are. Try and rearrange groups so that the elite end up in one track and the poor group in “remedial” track (it’s been done before) – before too long all these newly formed tracks will in turn to stratify into new gradations of better, average, worst. Apparently that’s the way the world works. We better learn to live with it.

    2. About Aaron (I am aware it’s not his real name). I have no doubts that his parents knew that he was doing lousy. Worst yet, if they are like many other parents today, they very likely defended the boy whenever the rebbes or administrators dared to point out his behaviour to his parents. So when at the end of that year they played “shocked”… I am not mkabel that.

    • micha berger says:

      1. If we were emphasizing ve’ahavta lerei’akha kamokha and yir’as Shamayim instead of academic success, such striations would matter less to the students’ self-worth. But then, I’m convinced that nearly all our social ills, the many things we overreact and label “crises”, are due to the shift from the pursuit of ehrlachkeit to a religiosity based on ritualistic frumkeit. (Although finding a connection to the tuition “crisis” would be a bit of a stretch.)

      2- Speaking as someone who had a number of sons go OTD…. It is quite common for a parent to get no reports from school until after the child is well into crisis. It would be nice if parents thought of such silence as an invitation to start the conversation. But my experience leads me to find that particular part of “Aaron”‘s story quite believable.

      And if they knew there was some problem, but underestimated it, perhaps in denial… Remember “Aaron” was already registered and accepted for the next year when the school changed their mind. Of course they’re shocked to learn the school administration reneged.

    • mycroft says:

      In any field people know who has the most ability but there is no reason why schools have to emphasize differences.
      Thus, IMO there is no reason if more students than one per grade, that gym classmates must be the same as Talmud classmates, the same as History classmates, the same as Art classmates. There is no reason why separation should be for all classes rather than subject by subject.

      • Steve Brizel says:

        If the same students have the same grades-why shouldn’t students who are on AP level be separated in their classes ? Why should their progress be sacrificed for the sake of the majority? Are you suggesting that their grades be dumbed down for the sake of the majority? That strikes me as yet another example of a tyranny of the majority at the expense of a meritorious minority- or what Von Hayek called the march to servitude in practice?

      • Mycroft says:

        Precisely the reverse. To the extent one has different abilities in each subject one could have it by subject. BTW in the Yeshiva HS I went to every subject was placed independently. I remember at least one year no one else in my class, IIiRC around 120-130 boys had the same schedule as I did. Thus, one can teach to different levels.
        In fact I have advocated that Yeshiva HS essentially divide limudei kodesh into three groups, the top third receive essentially the same education as they currently receive. The middle third learn a little Gemarrah but much more study in Halacha, Tfilah and Tanach, tThe lowest third – talking North America should have most of their time learning tfilah and learning to read it a pace to enable them to attend a minyan and keep and follow it. Probably, the most essential skill that must be taught. Remainder of time basic Halacha and hashkafa in English. My discussion assumes English as child’s native language .
        Here again theirs is no reason why for other subjects children should be divided in that manner. Phys Ed being a classic children should be divided differently and other subjects to the extent practical.

      • Steve Brizel says:

        Your proposal is exactly what is called tyranny of the majority in practice. What role do you see for yeshivos in developing further talmidei chachamim?

      • Steve Brizel says:

        YU has had that set up for decades wth dubious results. IBC which was known as EMC, had wonderful teachers but ( sorry Nachum Lamm) students who were known to eat meat and cheesee. JSS was then known as a school for willing BTS who wanted to become textuallly literate and possibly be a RIETS talmid. RIETS ir YP was always considered the repository of Torah Lishmah.

      • Mycroft says:

        One of the biggest problems in the US is the frequent use of the word Yeshiva for elementary and HS education. In Europe that term was used by elite institutions that their peak had an enrollment of less than 4000 in a population base of 11,000,000.
        Then people try and say that American mass institutions should follow elite institutions curriculum. It is disastorous. The place of mass education is not to sacrifice 10,000 neshamas to make one talmid chacham. Those who have potential to become Talmeidei chachamim will not lose much at all by my curriculum a Yeshva Gedola is the place to consider what responsibilities are in that area.

      • Steve Brizel says:

        Yeshivos in the US serve different roles than in Europe, where they admittedly served the elite as opposed to the masses.. R Hutner Zl pointed out that yeshivos in the US serve as a Teivah in providing a safe haven from a morally decadent world and as a Mishkan for being a place of Hashras HaShecinah for imparting and transmitting what it means to live a Torah observant life . Being exposed to Kedusha should never be viewed as a less than optimum educational purpose together with gaining an appreciation for and basic textual literacy in classical Jewish texts. How a community goes about in reaching this goal depends in no small part on a community views its interaction with the secular world.

  3. Tali Posner says:

    Schools also have to consider their reputations or they may end up closing down…that happened to a local school that accepted too many “problem kids”….nobody wanted to send there….so they were forced to close.
    I don’t have a solution here. I thought it was curious that the parents seemed to say they never took Malky for a professional evaluation for learning disabilities….isn’t there a school in Brooklyn that accepts kids at risk, those with LD etc? We need a public Jewish high school in every community that takes anyone who registers….

    • Mycroft says:

      Making. School strictly for children at risk almost guarantees that children going there will no longer be at risk by have failed at task of becoming normal adults.

      • Alex says:

        That comment is so mean-spirited and outrageous I’m amazed it wasn’t censored. Besides, it is totally untrue. Would you say people who go to public school “fail” as normal adults? (hardly, I work with many of them) Or those mentally challenged who are in special schools are “failures”?
        Children should be given what they need appropriate to their personal situation, to maximize their potential. Sometimes this means going to a “modern” school with different tracks and alternatives for appropriate to a child’s individuality (sports, music, vocational training). But this also means parents need to be flexible and hareidi communities more accepting. And K-8 yeshiva hanhalas need to stop worrying about their “reputations” when the best high school for certain graduates isn’t on their “normal” list.

      • Mycroft says:

        I agree with Chanoch Lenaar al pi Dario. I believe that the vast majority of students who go to public schools are much better off both secularly and religiously than if they went to special schools that masquerade as serving those who are troubled. Belief is based on observation in my community over decades there is a much higher ratio of frum thirty year olds who went to public school when a normal Yeshiva was not for them compared to those who went to special schools who market them as saving on public school. Public schools are often much better suited for the non superior. Than Yeshivas are.

      • David F says:

        Probably safe to assume the community you’ve been observing is a Modern Orthodox community. You may be right – I have no idea, but I don’t believe the same is true for the communities I’ve lived in which are more to the right. There are some wonderful mosdos that cater specifically to children who do not thrive in standard schools and many of those children have done beautifully and grown into upstanding Jews by every standard.

      • Steve Brizel says:

        Mycroft wrote in relevant part:

        “I believe that the vast majority of students who go to public schools are much better off both secularly and religiously than if they went to special schools that masquerade as serving those who are troubled.”

        What about their Neshamos?

      • Steve Brizel says:

        Mycroft wrote:
        ” the vast majority of students who go to public schools are much better off both secularly and religiously than if they went to special schools that masquerade as serving those who are trouble”

        I think that anyone would tell you that a student who belongs in a yeshiva but has to go public school is at immense risk for not remaining observant. WADR, your comment about special ed programs which are geared at inclusion, mainstreaming or providing vocational training and continuously skeptical POV on this thread which almost borders on hostility to day school education is fairly obvious. The real question is whether you have anything positive to say or comment about yeshiva education today and its goals or whether your posts on the issue reflect an innate hostility to the same for reasons best known to you. I write as someone who knows the reality of economic ups and downs-and I never ever thought RL about sending my children to the spiritual death that is and has always been the moral atmosphere in public schools, and especially since the 1960s.

      • Steve Brizel says:

        I think that your views on yes give education and Jewish education are perilously close to those of Dan do Weingarten as summarized in a recent WSJ editorial.

      • Mycroft says:

        David F
        I am observing a MO community and what I call pseudo Chareidi. Schools that make children wear hats for davening but tolerate a situation where implicitly career is more important to parents than being a ehrlicher Jew.
        Depending on issue there may be mosdos catering to children, but reality numbers are largest for those who would fit in perfectly well in public schools but are often destroyed by Yeshivas-those with a verbal subsection IQxof roughly 90-110 , would be perfectly normal public school students but Yeahivas don’t want them. These are children who do not have underlying problems besides academic requirements demanded by Yeshivas.

      • Mycroft says:

        you ask what about neshamos tomy point that most students would be better off both secularly and religiously if they had gone to a public school rather than to so called special schools? IMO religious behavior includes everything dealing with neshamot. If you can explain to me the difference and show how neshamas get improved wo religious behavior I will reconsider.

      • Steve Brizel says:

        Not for their neshamos or their shemiras hamitzvos

  4. dr. bill says:

    high academic standards as a criteria for separate schooling has never been questioned until some uber-liberals took equality to unprecedented levels.

    that said universal education standards must be maintained and except for exceptional students in other categories, a mixed environment has much to recommend it.

    however, the need for hashkafah intense segregation based on level of “frumkeit” has reached disastrous proportions in many so-called ultra-orthodox communities. treating a working father, a sephardi, a technologically equipped home, etc. as a reason for refusing a child’s admission requires strong local opposition, not just a u-tube from a rather elderly gadol.

    • Mycroft says:

      The question is what is our goal in day school education. It is it to challenge those who will be top student of their class in Talmud or is it to ensure as many as possible Children will be ehrlicher/frum Jews throughout their lifetimes. One will develop different education systems depending on ones goals.

      • Steve Brizel says:

        Insuring that a child will be “ehrlicher/frum Jews throughout their lifetimes” requires at the minimum a working knowledge and textual literacy. Reliance on the mimetic tradition worked in Europe pre Emancipation-it won’t work today-you have to have to have the tripod of family school and community that work together in developing a Yiddishe Neshama who is a Shomer Torah Umitzvos.

      • lacosta says:

        depends what you consider a ‘working knowledge’ , especially since yeshiva education is not textual literacy education , it’s basically gmara , gmara, and for desert some gmara. there was a time where people could learn mishna, chumash ,halacha etc and not be embarrassed. now , if there is no hi level gmara success, the balabos may not learn anything…

      • Mycroft says:

        I remember in my lifetime going to shiurim before schul Shabbos morning on Tehillim where about thirty people attended for close to an hour before schul,Can’t find it anymore it’s Gemarrah all the time. There are people ” doing” the daf who do not review the Parshat hashavua.
        IMO the most essential knowledge in Modern North America is for a Baal bas to Daven at a pace in which he can essentially keep up with minyanim. Unfortunately if he can’t read Hebrew that well, the odds of attending schul are minimal and even worse than not davening it is very likely that will lead to him and his family leaving Traditional Judaism and even a decent chance in a couple generations Yahadus completely.
        To make an avoda. Zara out of textual literacy of being able to make a laining is sadly sentencing much of Klal Israel Chutz lemachene.

      • Steve Brizel says:

        See my post from this morning on what I think “textual literacy” means.

      • Mycroft says:

        You overemphasize textual literacy as a requirement to be an ehrlicher/.frum Jew. Many have commented and given chiddushim on the Rambams Perush Hamishnayas or Moreh Nevuchim without being able to read the original.essentially the Art Scroll caters to the idea that one need not master the original. Certainly IMO a scholar must have textual literacy but to make an extra barrier o being a frum Jew is unfair and IMO immoral, pushing away people.

      • Steve Brizel says:

        How do you know that many have commented and written Chiddushim without being textually literate in the Perush HaMishna or the MN? ArtScroll opens the door to learning, but in no way discourages looking into a Ksav Yad of any Rishon.

      • Steve Brizel says:

        Define frum and or ehrlicher

      • Mycroft says:

        Of course we all know that many have commented on Perush hamishnayas and MN wo being able to read the original. How many people have read both in the original Arabic? There are few gedolim who could read the Arabic that they are written in.

      • dr. bill says:

        i fall in the middle. there are actually a few artscroll volumes in my house, maybe 5 or so – a miut sheaino matzui. their overall artscroll impact facilitates a religious objective at the expense of creating more capable lomdim. the hashkafa that is imbued throughout their books is obvious. there are even sugyot where the text reflects the view of achronim and the last 100 years of practice versus the views of rishonim and pshat. of course their seder olam based history presents a view geared to create an unnecessary conflict with factual history. a few volumes maintain ludicrous beliefs that are geared to deny obvious influence by the world in which tannaim and amoraim lived. not as bad as aish, but directionally similar.

        otoh, i think it is a bridge too far, to demand literacy in the original language when it is arabic, greek, latin, etc. obviously helpful, but very good (and multiple) translations exists. i have found that even if i know another language, i will not have a translator’s competence in its nuances.

        in terms of steve’s question about frum versus ehrliche – the galach is frum, a yid darf zein ehrliche. “frum” in lita carried a slightly negative connotation, something obvious in RNK’s making of a gadol, that caused him real tzoras. this is not dissimilar to words in the bible are read with the lens of latter hebrew, a much more critical error. I wonder if the Rav ztl’s less than overwhelming view of the religious versus halakhic man reflects the litvishe view of “frum.”

      • Mycroft says:

        Sending a normal child whose “crime” is that he was born with a verbal IQ of less than 110 or so and is otherwise normal to a special school for people wh have deep seated problems is cruel. I have given a solution by changing day school curriculum into roughly thirds. Absent that change which to the best of my knowledge no school has essentially adopted I reiterate it is cruel to the child and he will likely end up less frum than those who have left and gone to public school. BTW that has been my observation in my neighborhood about those whose parents were concerned enough about their children to avoid the pressure of those who advocate at all cost Yeshiva education for all.

      • Steve Brizel says:

        There is no reason why both goals cannot be present in the same school.

      • Steve Brizel says:

        Why can’t a school work towards both goals? i think that it is great that a school recognizes the need to develop future Talmidei Chachamim and erhlicher/frum Yidden, which you have yet to define.

      • Mycroft says:

        Define talmid chacham. I follow Justice Stewart one knows the behavior of a frum/ehrlicher yid when one sees it.

      • Steve Brizel says:

        Please respond query. Your post is an avoidance not a response. Dr Bill is correct one van be textually literate without a command of MN in the original while avoiding being reliant on ArtScroll which is an addictive crutch like Methsdone–once you are on you never get off.That is accomplished only by goof old fashioned Ameilus BaTorah.

      • Mycroft says:

        Why is segregation based n IQ permissible while segregation based on frumkeit forbidden. IQ is basically fixed while frumkeit is a matter of choice.

      • Mycroft says:

        The reason why one demands textual literacy in some works wo demanding textual literacy in other works is probably what we are textual literate in. Obviously mistakes were made in mesorah by those who read. The Rambam in translation see eg Rav Yoseph Kapachs works. Deciding what is needed to know in any field is historical what leaders knew is the canon. Obviously we all can’t be in the level of those who mastered the then canon. Demanding ALL continue to become that level is a recipe for ensuring those who can’t succeed to be turned off by Yahadus.

    • Mycroft says:

      Putting a student in a day school where the administration will make him/ her miserable is DISASTOROUS for their nishamos and their shemiras Hamitzvot. Show me a Yeshiva HS which has tracks for superior students similar to current curriculum and very modified curriculum for the bottom half in verbal abilities, I may agree that it is worthwhile keeping them in a day school. But so long as the goal is to produce next Gdolei hador or Nobel prize winners, very few of which have been produced by American day schools yor approach is unintentionally causing- unintentional by you- many children to leave Yahadus.

      • Steve Brizel says:

        Yeshiva Darcei Torah is well known for a pre vocational track where it is understood that the graduate neither will be a Gadol HaDor nor a Nobel Prize winner.

    • Mycroft says:

      Why is segregation based n IQ permissible while segregation based on frumkeit forbidden. IQ is basically fixed while frumkeit is a matter of choice.

      • dr. bill says:

        IQ or more aptly learning ability based segregation allows different students to learn positively at their pace. frumkeit segregation does not allow children from less frum environments to grow. in my admittedly limited experience, integrating across a broader hashkafic/halakhic spectrum has limited downside for the more observant student, while the student from a less observant home is positively influenced.

      • Mycroft says:

        IQ segregation may allow different students to learn at different paces.however, segregation by IQ immediately brands students as losers not belonging. It may well turn out that due to economic realities those with lower verbal IQs have little chance of staying MO, but I do not feel it is appropriate to formally take branding steps and encourage earlier, the non superior student has the potential of being Orthodox in Israel.
        The superior student will be able to learn anything in almost no time when he is older, it has been done all the time. The non superior student IMO should not be pushed out.

    • Steve Brizel says:

      Dr Bill -you are correct if “success” means BMG or bust or Kollel wife or bust. I think that there is a crying need to underscore the importance of the learner-earner as an optimal goal regardless of one’s Hashkafic POV.

  5. Dr. E says:

    As the frum community has grown in numbers, so has the number of schools. If someone wants to open a new school, all he needs is a couple of key Rabbinic haskamos and it opens its doors. Beyond that, there is no real oversight or checks and balances. In many cases, it is about reputation and outdoing the other schools in some way. Many are essentially family enterprises with some pretty obvious nepotism that parents just tolerate (with a wink) in exchange for their child being accepted into what is perceived to be an elite Yeshiva or BY (that will lead to the best post-HS yeshiva, shidduch, etc.). The concept of a more inclusive community school, founded by the community, overseen by the community, and accountable to the community is rare in larger frum areas today. As we know, exclusivity comes from being exclusionary.

    This phenomenon manifests itself in many ways, including the quality of both the Limudei Kodesh and Limudei Chol (if that actually exists or is a value) curricula as well as the professionalism/qualifications of the staff. There might be some nominal connection to an organization like Torah Umesorah, but no real oversight. The result often takes the form of underachievement for students who are not the obvious “metzuyanim” in learning, frumkeit, or tzniyus. But, as we have seen, the outcomes are sometimes much worse.

  6. micha berger says:

    We also have to remember that schools have responsibilities to their other students.

    If a school has a charismatic, even good and giving teenager, but one who is unobservant in bein adam laMaqom, what are they supposed to do? Keep the student on, and risk the yir’as Shamayim of his classmates?

    Unfortunately, schools have to do triage.

    The thing is, chamira saqanta mei’isura — halakhah calls on us to be more stringent in our avoiding physical danger than in avoiding prohibitions. Triage in religiosity has to be accomplished in a manner that isn’t so ego-destroying and so decimating to peace of mind that we aren’t risking actual lives. For that I have no solution. But I cannot blame a school that is also at a loss.

  7. Tali Posner says:

    Kicking kids out of school is a HUGE thing.
    And having inside knowledge of schools, please know that often schools do want to kick kids out but don’t….
    A principal told me this year that rather than kick a child out, he told the parents they must get counselling….he undertook to meet with the child weekly…he met with parents of other kids to reassure them that help was on the way. That’s the best for that kid….but to be honest, the child in question was a bad influence on other kids. Not because he ate pizza in the wrong place, but because of the topics he discussed with other kids (literally ruined their yiras shamayim). Did the principal for sure do the right thing?

  8. Tal Benschar says:

    There is one factor that seems to exacerbate the problem, at least in certain locales.

    In some places, the schools are under the auspices of the local community, run by the local rabbi (or rabbis) or by a community board. In other places, however, each school has its own management and is independent of other communal institutions.

    The latter situation, especially where there are many potential students and other schools, leads to a situation of competition for the “best” students, and fear that accepting someone with issues or less-than-ideal will lead to a lowering of the schools competitive position. I.e., “we cannot accept that student, because then parents will think we are inferior and send their best and brightest to our competitor(s).”

    My impression is that this is less of an issue in more community controlled schools, who view their mission as serving the community as a whole. This does not mean that they do not have standards or that it is sometimes appropriate to ask someone to leave or not accept them in the first place. But there is less of a concern about maintaining an image.

    This is just my impression, but based on what I have heard from many people, it seems this problem is manifest much more in certain communities than others.

  9. Steve Brizel says:

    Excellent article and li is especially to Nudge Freiers article which is a must read

  10. Bob Miller says:

    Jews should value a whole set of personal qualities, and we surely give much lip service to that. But, when push comes to shove, are we unbalanced in favor of one or two qualities for each gender? How do we achieve a healthy society if merit is too narrowly defined in practice and those at the lower end get no respect?

  11. Steve Brizel says:

    Mycroft-who says that anyone can’t and shouldn’t be textually literate in the Parsha, Tehilim and Gemara?

    • Mycroft says:

      I wish that everyone would be textually literate in Gemara, but we send children even those who are not forced out, encouraged to leave to day schools K-12 and about one third are not even really literate in a siddur and your making a demand for all, clearly unattainable material. Tafasta meruba lo Tafasta. Clearly, BTW there are many who are textually literate in Talmud who never went to a day school. They are among people who I admire a lot. Not everyone sadly has their ability.

      • Steve Brizel says:

        You missed my point-Textual literarcy merely means being able to read a text understand the basic pshat and understand a shiur geared to their level. Don’t confuse that with writing and saying Chiddushim.

      • Mycroft says:

        Textual literacy is important to Daven. One does not need textual literacy to follow Rabbi Forsta books on brachis, taharas hamishpacha etc. The first goal IMO of any day school is to ensure textual ability in siddur, if that hasn’t been mastered than one is wasting ones time teaching Shas,
        One must know Halacha but there are plenty of good basic texts n English converting various halachot. One will not be a talmid chacham but could be a frum Jew.

      • Steve Brizel says:

        True but why settle for such a bdieved goal?

      • Mycroft says:

        What you call a briefed goal is simply Chanoch Lenaar al pi Darcho. One does not make a requirement to learn swimming to swim like Michael Phelps, does not teach elementary school students Quantuum mechanics, do not teach Greek mythology in original Ancient Greek as part of standard HS education, similarly should not continue to insist as a requirement that standard HS education must teach ALL what you say are requirements to learn to be a yodea Sefer.
        Unfortunately, those who by ninth grade who have attended day schools and are not fluent in kriya will be very unlikely to ever become a talmid chacham. It is far more important to be realistic and try to ensure that they receive the tools to be able to act as a shomer mitzvot

  12. Steve Brizel says:

    Mycroft-I think that there is good reason for developing how to make a leining or at least understanding a shiur because the covenant between HaShem Yisborach and Klal Yisrael after the Maaseh HaEgel is rooted in TSBP. When one learns Gemara, one emulates none other than Moshe Rabbeinu in trying to decipher Toras HaShem.

  13. Steve Brizel says:

    Mycroft wrote:

    “IMO religious behavior includes everything dealing with neshamot”

    Where and what role does Shemiras Hamitzvos pay in what you call “religious behavior”?

    • Mycroft says:

      She iras Hamitzvot is a necessary component of religious behavior.

      • Steve Brizel says:

        If you think that someone be a Shomer Torah Umitzvos and survive in the morally decadent and PC atmosphere of today’s public schools, you are IMO sadly mistaken.

      • Mycroft says:

        IMO you are sadly mistaken in your prejudice against anything that competes aganst your ideals. Plain and simply it is sad but true, a teenager who is a mediocre student will be encouraged to leave by many. When a student knows that aren’t wanted one does not force them to be there, they will correctly revel against Yiddishkeit. The models of Yiddishkeit are the school ha gala. If they are hated by administration better to leave than be treated as a pariah. Sophisticated administrators know how to accomplish their goals.

      • Steve Brizel says:

        I stand by prior post. The morally decadent pc environment of public school today is not conducive to becoming and remaing a Shomer Torah UMitzvos.

      • Mycroft says:

        The issue is not whether in general for students who are made to feel welcome in a day school is it better to be in a day school rather than in public school,I believe we both feel it would be better. The issue is in the cases where the teenager is being harassed ,,by sophisticated adults is it better to leave the day school and hope the child will not be to scarred by the day school experience and hope for the best. IMO what we should look for is results not repeat talking points.

  14. Chaim says:

    I sorry but I do not agree with the premise that parents or schools would send a girl out based on academic performance. Yidden are Rachmonim B’ney Rachmonim & would never send a child to the street due to low academic achievement. They might not accept the child for this reason & I don’t know if every child belongs in a mainstreamed class. Maybe, as a society, there should be no stigma attached to being in a special ed class where the child can thrive. Ultimately, the choice to ingest deathly opioids is being made by individuals whom the Torah holds responsible for their actions. We need to let them know how dangerous their decisions are before they experiment with drugs & stop blaming society for the poor choices they make. Afterall, they are Balei B’chirah.

    • Bob Miller says:

      “Yidden are Rachmonim B’ney Rachmonim”
      Yes, in our neshamos that’s what we are. However, cultural conditioning and other factors, including personal ones, can get in the way. So it’s entirely possible that Jews with bechirah and influence can put other Jews into horrible situations, weakening the ability of these other Jews to choose properly. The Neviim could have simply said that all the sinners in ancient Israel had made bad individual choices, but instead they emphasized the corrosive impact of pervasive moral corruption in high places.

  15. Mycroft says:

    Usually it is much more sophisticated than merely sending child out for academic performance. Usually tell parents it would be better for the child, if that doesn’t work schools can be very efficient in making a child not want to continue at the day school. They for example will pick on any violation no matter how slight which are not being challenged by the better academic students. They have their means and everyone knows how they can do it. It has been done for almost as long as day schools exist.
    I agree that there should be no stigma to a child for attending a non average class, but what ought to be need have no correlation with what is.
    I wish Yidden were Rachmanim Bnei Rachmanim, but not when it conflicts with what they perceive their values, maximizing prestige of school etc.

  16. lamomma says:

    There was a time when a Jewish day school would consider it a great accomplishment to rescue a child, even a less than perfect student, from public school. There was a time when most communities outside of NYC had one boys yeshiva and one girls school, and the schools felt the responsibility to keep the children in the yeshiva program.
    There also was a time when Jews greeted each other with a “Good Shabbos”, even for a stranger.
    The downside of the ever expanding number of frum Jews is that we don’t value each individual the same way.
    There are many ways to handle differences in scholastic levels, ie the chevrusa system. Assign a learning partner, the process of explaining a problem to another student leads the student to slow down, and think about what they are doing in a clear and organized fashion.
    Focus on strengths instead of weaknesses. Some students who are weak verbally see patterns and numbers more clearly. Other students may learn to draw charts.
    We live in a very competitive world today. As large as schools are today, have any learned a lesson from the better public schools, to assign classes in different subjects according to the individual students’ strengths and capabilities?
    My daughter was above average in intelligence, but in her school days she was not a superstar in a dual-language double English and Hebrew curriculum. Now, many years later, she is smart, capable accomplished and resourceful.
    We expect a lot from our students, but most of all, we have a responsibility to bring out the best in every one of them.

  17. Steve Brizel says:

    Mycroft raised the issue of Rishonim and Ach
    Acharonim being unfamiliar with Arabic originals of Perish HaMishna or MN. That argument is at best retrospective because reliable manuscripts of such may not have been readily available yet no one claims or should claim that we know more than a Rishon or Acharon because such reliable manuscripts exist today. There is a huge difference in having the best ksav yad in front of you when you learn any Rishon as opposed to a Seder Torah Sheksav al yidei min.

  18. Mycroft says:

    Who. Is claiming that we know more than a Rishon in general, but obviously there are limited circumstances where clearly we have knowledge that a Rishon didn’t have. How that impacts on psak and Halacha is beyond my pay grade.
    A related issue is the impact of what lo tasur min hadavar Asher yorucha Yemin us ol. Quickest way read Torah Temimah for the quoting of three different and apparently contradictory approaches.

    • Steve Brizel says:

      We may have more secular knowledge than a Rishon in many secular disciplines, but the facts remain that a Rishon is closer to Matan Torah than we can ever dream of approaching with our secular knowledge. I don’t see what Lo Sasur means in this context since many Mfrashim understand that the Pasuk is the source for adhering to Mitzvos of a rabbinic nature and rabbinic authority in many different contexts.

      • Mycroft says:

        Most mehursim agree that if one is positive a Rabbi IQ wrong one must not listen to him. BTW somewhat similarly one does not say a falsehood to Gd even if it would appear that Chazal mandate saying that.
        Obviously, I agree that in almost all cases being closer to Matan Torah beats anything else, but not everything see eg Chazal believed one can’t eat Fish and Meat together because a Sakhalin. I heard a sour by RHS stating today no Sakarya for meat and fish, worry about smoking that is Sakahna.

  19. Steve Brizel says:

    I admit that textual literacy is a major educational goal that I support. Let me relate a very recent story that illustrates what happens when the absence of textual literacy and substaniation is presented as lomdus.

    We were recently at a chasunah where the chasan distributed for free a pamphlet of notes that he made from shiurim of a major talmid chacham., of whom I have many of his sefarim. I leafed through the notes recognized many of the sugyos, mareh mkomos and shiurim in the sefarim that I have from the talmid chacham in question and noticed an unattributed claim that an Amora could only clarify the words of a Tanna as opposed to asking a question of the position taken by a Tanna.

    The statement at first glance struck me as problematic because Amoraim often cite comments of Tanaim from other Mishnayos, Toseftas and Braisios, to disagree with statements made with Tanaim on almost every daf in Shas.
    I then recalled the view of the Baalei Tosfos in Ksuvos 8b that “Rav Tana UPalig” as explained by REW, HaShem Yimkdam Damo ZL in the name of R Chaim Brisker ZL that an Amora could question the position taken by a Tanna but rarely did so because both Tanaim and Amoraim received and studied TSBP prior to its being sealed by Ravina and Rav Ashi, thus explaining why Rav Tana UPalig. One could not have written such a statement if one was familiar with the above Pshat in the words of the Baalei Tosfos.

  20. Mycroft says:

    I agree that textual literacy is essential for anyone attempting to write chiddushimhiddushim. It is desirable for all, but it must not be the entrance requirement to be accepted as an Orthodox Jew. Shemiras Hamitzvot is one of the essentials.

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