Thursday, August 16, 2012

Sending Your Kids to “ The Frummer School”

I have wonderful children. I’m sure that I am not the only parent who feels that way about his kids. But I am often asked by younger parents what my parenting secrets were. (I say “were” – because my children are all grown, out of the house, married; all with children of their own.)  That tells me that others recognize this fact as well.

I generally do not know how to answer that question. But I try. I say something along the lines of being open minded, teaching them good values – and living them, having a happy home environment, not being overly strict with them, and discussing Hashkafa with them a lot. But the truth is that I don’t really know why my children turned out so great – in each case far better than their father.

I suppose that having wonderful children has something to do with nature. Some children are easier to raise than others. One of my daughters has twins who are as different as can be from each other. But nurture is definitely the most important factor in successful parenting.

I found an essay in Beyond BT on this subject to be very interesting. The author asked this question of a “very talented rabbi and educator” who is an “overt” Baal Teshuva. The result is a 15 point list that he calls a “recipe” for raising good kids.

I pretty much agree with most of what he said. Some items more and some less. Young parents trying to raise their kids in today’s world could do a lot worse than following this recipe. But I do have one issue with him where I think he is way off. It is the second part of point number 13. I completely agree with the first part where he says:  
“The frum world may be crazy, but it’s the best society we have – embrace it, but don’t buy into the craziness, maintain your independence.”  
I completely disagree with the second part:
Better a frummer school and we parents are the open minded ones, than a less frum school and we parents are the closed minded ones.
To me that is a recipe for disaster. Sending your children to a “frummer” school almost always creates conflict between the school’s values and those of the home.

Here are some examples of that. If a child is taught that TV is Assur and he comes home to parents who watch it, he is going to get mixed messages. How can his kind and decent parents be doing something that is Assur? On the one hand he knows his parents to be the wonderful people that have raised him thus far, teaching him to love Judaism and teaching him its fundamentals - never having given the TV in his home a second thought. Now he is being told that TV in any shape or form is evil.

He has the internet in his home which is filtered, out in the open and monitored by his parents. His parents use it a lot – all in Kosher ways.  Now he is taught that the internet is even worse than TV and ought not to be used at all.

He is told that wearing a black hat is a must if one is to be a Ben Torah… and not doing so puts one Chutz LaMachaneh! His father doesn’t own a hat.

The child is told that he should seek a life of full time Torah learning and that not doing so takes him out of the perimeter of being a Ben Torah. His father works for a living and has always done so.

He has been taught that secular studies are not important. Even if they are part of his curriculum, that is only because of state law requiring it or because a parent body that consists primarily of Am Haratzim ask for it. It is therefore a necessary evil. Without it the school would close.

He is taught The Frum Jews use only Chalav Yisroel products, He and his parents have  been using non Chalav Yisroel products all their lives.  His parents will continue doing so.

The list goes on.

Ideally the correct choice is a school whose values mimic those of the home. Or as close to it as possible. That should be the goal of every parent. There is no worse scenario for Chinuch than one in which the values of the school contradict the values of the home.

This does not mean that a school can only teach those values of the parent body. Of course Chumros which the parent body does not observe should be taught - and valued. But that should never be the expense of denigrating people like his parents who may not observe those Chumros. Because when that happens, the chances of ruining the relationship between a parent and child increase. As do the chances  of going OTD.  

I see that kind of thing a lot. Parents with good intention send their kids to a school that is a lot “Frummer” than they are - thinking it is a lot easier to make them less Frum the more Frum. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard that phrase. And something along the lines of the above happens. And then I hear that same parent saying, if only they had they known…

Sometimes all the good parenting in the world cannot overcome the damage done by a serious conflict between the home and the school. And that is never a good outcome.