The Box Child – Part 2

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rabbi-dovid-abensonBy Rabbi Dovid Abenson

I have received many emails, comments and positive feedback, regarding my previous article here on Matzav on “The Box Child.” I am propelled to make a sequel and embellish on this theme. Many parents wrote to me how pained they are with the jewish educational school system and how they feel let down.

Many parents questioned why their child needs to fit a box at all, if their child is not a box candidate?

These questions are valid and I would like to elaborate more on “the box child”. The box child really has no source in Judaism. Chazal teach us that everyone is obligated to say

‘b’shvili nivre haolam” – for my sake the world was created.  If we look around, we can see that Hashem has created each and every person to bring out his own unique potential, to achieve greatness in Olam HaZeh.

If this is the case, why do institutions believe that the box child does and should exist? This belief runs contrary to our mesorah. Where then, does the ” perfect child ” ideology, defined as not deviating from any policy and rules, come from?

(As a caveat I would like to emphasize that schools need rules in order to have order in the school system, however, the rules should be laid down according to Torah perspective and not western ideology.)

The Rambam writes that a person’s environment influences him through it’s philosophy and culture. His surroundings can mold his way of thinking. The concept of the box child has its roots in Greek culture. Let me explain. Our mesorah teaches us the well known chazal that Klal Yisroel will need to

experience four exiles before Moshiach comes. I would like to elaborate on the 3rdexile which is Yavan, – Greece.

As we know, the Greeks conquered Eretz Yisroel, ruling during the period of the second beis hamikdash for 180 years. This golus was unique from the others, in that the enemy did not want to kill Klal Yisroel but their intentions were to get Klal Yisroel to assimilate into their culture and philosophy. As we know, many Yidden unfortunately succumbed to Hellinism.  From the Yavanim, we have to thank the Olympic games philosophy, which created competition against one another, to see who could be the “best” and the elitist.

Unfortunately, this Greek philosophy of aspiring to be the “perfect” athletic

has seeped into our own culture creating the “perfect” child aka “the box child”.

However, as mentioned, realistically the box child concept is a fantasy dream amongst institutions. But we do find the box concept in a different “society”. The animal kingdom. Each animal species adhere to a specific “policy” which Hashem created for each one of them. Each animal in their species bears similar resemblance to each other. Their facial features are similar, their instinct is the same and they don’t deviate from their intrinsic makeup. If they do, there is a large chance they will be in danger. Their “policy” for survival is to hunt, eat and sleep.

On the other hand, Chazal teach us that every human is different.

Everyone’s personality has differences. Everyone has different tastes, facial features and even voice is different. And of course, everyone has a different path to traverse. Why?

The reason is that Hashem has created each individual for his specific purpose and tachlis. Every child uses a different mold.

Each individual is a maalei olam and each child has potential to succeed in his learning and to become great within, in his own way, with the attributes Hashem has assigned to him.

Are we truly teaching our children according to what Chazal have taught us?

I received many replies from parents telling me that their children are being medicated in order to keep them “in the box”.

Other parents complained that their children have no down time due to  an excess of tests and homework responsibilities. Just to digress for a moment, I would like to quote my Rebbe Rav Mattisyahu Salamon shlita, who advocates a no homework policy ……” that school should be a place to learn and home should be a place of refuge and time with the family “(With hearts full of love pages 79-83 published by Artscroll).

Yet other pained parents lamented to me that their children who have thrown off the yoke of yiddishkeit, confided in them when asked why they had left the derech, they answered that they felt they had been pushed out by the school system.

If we were truly teaching according to Chazal, many of the issues children are experiencing in school today would not be occurring.

Institutions need to continue to look for ways to create an environment  for each child to feel accepted without having to fit a “box”  and that he can succeed in his way, fulfilling his potential.

Chazal state that “whoever destroys a single life from Israel is considered as if he destroyed the entire world”. Let’s focus on building “whoever preserves a single life from Israel is considered by the Torah as if he had preserved an entire world”.

Rabbi Abenson is the founder and director, author and lecturer at Shaar Hatalmud, a unique yeshiva based online program, featuring evaluations and upgrading of skills in Hebrew reading, Gemara studies, consulting school principals world wide to improve their ability to discover students who possess under-developed skills. He can be reached at abenson@shaarhatalmud.com or 1-877-HATALMUD (428 2568).

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13 COMMENTS

  1. as a teacher, I’ve complained of this often. Many students succeed in this system but a small percentage don’t and one unsuccessful student is one too many!!
    Once they leave school their opportunities are so diverse, yet while at school they all have to do the same thing.
    I think at least making teachers aware of it is the first step. If teachers are compassionate to their students who are struggling in the rigid system, that at least is a step towards rectifying the issue.

  2. As a veteran mechanech of many years I must say that I respectfully disagree with your Box Child article. Not with your premise, but your basic assumption that the Torah institutions are not recognizing the potential of our ‘geniuses’ and we are medicating them and throwing them out of our ‘box system’. I understand that the esteemed author also has much experience, so of him I ask the following; WHERE ON EARTH HAVE YOU BEEN A REBBE!!!! Where you were employed, did they really throw out kids that outsmart their rabeim? Did they really say that the child needs psychological help???? Now I don’t think you are making up these stories, I just don’t think these wild stories should speak for the rest of the America. They certainly shouldn’t speak for the wonderful institutions that I have taught in.

    I think your article is making ‘Box Schools’, putting many of the great Yeshivas into one krume group.

  3. I went to school out of town. 20 kids in my class. Half frum .half frie
    3 are roshie yeshiva today
    What’s the percentage of roshie yeshiva coming out of a ffb class of 20 today?
    Chinuch starts at home
    Not in my school’….
    Because were holier than thou today.
    How many of the 20 will be asking.”can you borrow me a dollar?”

  4. As a veteran mechanech of many years I must say that I respectfully disagree with your Box Child article. Not with your premise, but your basic assumption that the Torah institutions are not recognizing the potential of our ‘geniuses’ and we are medicating them and throwing them out of our ‘box system’. I understand that the esteemed author also has much experience, so of him I ask the following; WHERE ON EARTH HAVE YOU BEEN A REBBE!!!! Where you were employed, did they really throw out kids that outsmart their rabeim? Did they really say that the child needs psychological help???? Now I don’t think you are making up these stories, I just don’t think these wild stories should speak for the rest of the America. They certainly shouldn’t speak for the wonderful institutions that I have taught in.

    I think your article is making ‘Box Schools’, putting many of the great Yeshivas into one krume group. It is this black and white outlook that leads to stereotyping, which leaves anyone to just assume what is popular around them, without touching the real issue, whether it is the parent subscribing to the ‘box child’ theory, or the rebbe pointing the finger elsewhere. So let’s all realize that we could be part of the problem, or part of the solution, and the ‘Box Child’ theory, while it might identify a problem that might be prevalent in some places, to lump in on the entire generation as an excuse why we don’t produce Gedolim is definitely not part of the solution.

  5. In response to this and your previous article, I believe you have whitewashed the issue by making it black and white: In the box, or out.

    Many children fit “in the box.” They do well in school. They enjoy their learning and they are successful at it. They have enough recess and enough “down time.” Their family lives are tranquil and there is enough parnassah and shalom bayis.

    Then you have the children you call “out of the box.” They have learning issues, can’t sit still, get bored or distracted in class. They doodle or space out instead of take notes. The rebbe leaves them be, more or less, unless they disturb the whole class. The more unruly ones may be on Ritalin. Some, maybe most of them, have shalom bayis issues at home which may be exacerbated by the kid himself.

    That’s your black and white. But let’s be realistic. How many children fit into either of those two scenarios? Let’s be generous and say 20% each.

    Sixty percent – that is to say a majority – or on neither pole. They are the average kid (or slightly above- or slightly below-average) who listens sometimes, gets distracted sometimes. Some have fathers that review with them at home; some don’t. Some have mothers that make sure they do their homework; some don’t. They are your typical B-student, with an A here and there and a C here and there.

    For them, the system works, more or less. If they have a great rebbe, they have a great year; an okay rebbe, an okay year. They see the best kids in the class and may want to emulate them. If the rebbe calls on them they want to get the right answer, so they are motivated to pay attention. Sometimes they slip up.

    That’s the average kid, which is the majority of kids. And the parents are okay with the system. Some are realistic. Some think that with an extra push here and an extra tutor there, their child will enter the top 20%. And for some that’s undoubtedly true.

    I believe that the stories about the bad rabbeim and the students who, R”L, went off the derech are all “bottom 20%” stories (there’s a bottom 20% of rabbeim, too!). They are not mainstream. Which is why the yeshiva “system” will not change, and probably should not. It simply adjusts here and there where and when it has to. The fact is that, lulei demistafina, the yeshiva system today is far superior to the one I grew up in thirty years ago.

    Furthermore, yeshivos that cater specifically to this twenty percent are available and many flourish – either as independent schools or as part of a larger “mainstream” Yeshiva.

    The larger issue is the parents who won’t make adjustments in their children’s chinuch. Don’t blame the rabbeim! Many parents refuse to believe their child is not at least in the middle 60%. Either because of pride or fear of stigma, many don’t want to make those adjustments in chinuch that are available and will benefit their children.

    (To be clear: When I said “bottom 20%” I meant on the academic scale, not to ch”v imply that these children are less worthy, less capable, or even less intelligent, than the “top 20%”)

  6. The bottom 20% you are referring to are in the academic realm. How about a child who is in the 60% but has a higher excitability level and needs to somehow be taught in a more exciting environment. Unfortunately, the yeshivos with their emphasis on learning more do not cater to these children and they suffer and look for excitement elsewhere. Many boys who are out of the system have this issue and as much as I have tried, I have not found a school that can cater to these boys.

  7. 100 yrs ago the adhd kids were working with their hands and not sitting in yeshiva. life in those days was a lot kinder to adhd

  8. your 20% bottom… 20% 20% bottom…

    What ever you say…

    Your totally off.

    _________
    Yeshiva #1

    In grade 9, a class of 11… 2 were off & 2 were at risk. 40% of the class.

    Going only 2 years later.. 5 are off of a class now at 10. 50% of the class

    It’s sad to say this but when someone asked as a joke, nu, how many are off? the answer was only 2. ONLY 2??

    These kids were kicked out everyday for not fitting that MOLD. Excessively pushed out since he was not the regular boy.

    Ok… Did I tel you that a kid in that class, another one was on medication since grade 7??

    Today he is almost not here.

    Wait… This is just 1 class in 1 yeshiva…

    Didn’t hear this, the grade above had 4 kids kicked out over the years and 6 off.

    Wait another kid from this class…his parents were called up by…the menahel to get him a psychologist.

    This is sadly…the NORM.

    THE NORM.

    (I am sorry that this message is not so clear, I was writing it out of frustration to the 20% bottom guy.)

    In reality. Yes you are right nothing will change…

    THAT’S THE REASON I ADORE THIS ARTICLE. IT’S SIMPLY STATING THE TRUTH OF OUR CORRUPT SYSTEMS.

    If a rebbe is not teaching properly. get rid of him.

    “OH NO” you can’t he has a family of 10!

    Ok, so let the class of 20 suffer because he has a family. I mean. I understand we are worrying about his life. What about the life of 20 kids who are getting the wrong education.

    OUR SYSTEM IS SILLY. YOU GET THE JOB IF YOU HAVE A NICE BEARD. AND IF YOU TAUGHT FOR 20 YEARS THEY CAN SAQ YOU. IT’S YOUR JOB FOR LIFE EVEN WHEN THE REBBE IS BURNT TO HIS WITZ.

    Enough is Enough.

    We need hundreds more people that speak the truth instead of being afraid that you will lose your job in yeshiva.

    Enough is Enough.

  9. I don’t think you are making up the story from that one yeshiva, but as a person that has seen inside dozens and dozens of yeshivas throughout America, whether it was for consulting, evaluating, or the various institutions that i have been employed by, I was appalled when you write that this is the norm. I have no clue what yeshiva you are referring to but it sure wasn’t one of the mosdos hatorah that i have come in contact with. Either way, I think calling it the norm is a massive exaggeration. You started by showing us, ‘Yeshiva One’, as if it was ‘Exhibit one’ in a case study driving home the ‘box child’ point. But you only spoke of ONE yeshiva. I can show exhibit 2 through at least 150 yeshivas that i came in contact over the years, that do not rush to fit everyone in the box, do not hire on a ‘nice beard basis’, (I don’t even have a beard), yeshivas that have had to let many Rabeim go either because they were burnt out, or the negative effect on the children, (i have even been brought on as a consultant in a few cases to secure and moderate such situations). So I think I am in some place to make the call whether it is the norm and I assure you that it is not. Thank you very much and have a good night.

  10. @response to no no.

    Like I stated, I wrote it a cynical way top the 20% guy.

    I would not tell you that all your 150 mosdos were perfect. Yet even if we lose 1.

    IS LOSING 1 NOT ENOUGH???

    As long as 60% of the shiur is good. That’s all we care about. Cruelty.

  11. response to no no

    well then i hope you are retracting from your premise that this has become the NORM, which is what you said in your original article and is the premise of ‘the Box Child’ theory. Does such a problem exist? Yes. Is it the NORM? no no.

    Have a good shabbas

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