Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

30 Tishrei 5766 - November 2, 2005 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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Home and Family

Hashgocha for Chinuch
by Zev Sofer

Reuven goes into the store to buy something to eat. The first thing he checks is the hashgocha on the package. Shimon and his wife are planning to eat out tonight. The first thing they check is the hashgocha of the restaurant. Yehuda is planning this year's vacation. Top priority is the hashgocha of the hotel.

Hashgochah is important because kashrus is important. We cannot simply ask a company if their food is kosher because, firstly, we do not know if they know all the laws of kashrus and, secondly, even if they do know them, we do not know if they are keeping to the laws. So, responsible, knowledgeable people set up organizations which take upon themselves three important tasks:

First, they ensure that the food companies know what they have to do.

Second, they ensure that the company is actually set up to produce kosher food.

Third, they continue to inspect the company while it is operating, to ensure that the company maintains the required standard of kashrus.

Chinuch is also important. Perhaps, in some respects, it is more important than kashrus. But there is no hashgochah for chinuch.

Families are growing and the population is increasing rapidly. To serve the educational needs of the increasing numbers of students, more and more new chadorim, yeshiva ketanos and yeshiva gedolos are opening up.

Some educational institutions are set up by the local congregation or Chassidus and those running them are answerable to those above them. But for others, it is an open market.

At present, anyone can open an educational institution and he can hire whomever he wants. There is no guarantee that he is doing his job correctly. And if there are problems with the way the institute is being run, there is no one to turn to.

Many educational institutions purport to be under the guidance of a famous godol. However, the reality is that the godol rarely has time to actually go to the institute from time to time and inspect all the teachers and rebbeim and see them at work and check that they are teaching correctly and that the talmidim are developing the love for Torah and mitzvos. This, of course, is what the parents hope they are attaining — and which is why they are sending them to that particular place.

Furthermore, even if parents have cause for complaint, they rarely feel comfortable going to the godol. Some chadorim and yeshivos ketanos set such a high standard of limudim that a large percentage of the talmidim cannot keep up with the curriculum. What right do they have to overlook the needs of the other talmidim?

But such institutes are privately owned and there is no one to whom to appeal.

Some institutions have such long hours that it is impossible for the talmidim to get sufficient sleep. Some of them come to their lessons tired and irritable and unable to concentrate. Usually, the institute blames the student and puts pressure on him to `shape up' and improve his performance. Sometimes, they send him for psychological testing and then he may be put on medication.

Some say that the institutions must have long hours to keep their talmidim off the streets. However, in my opinion, what the child does when he has left the place of learning is the responsibility of the parents. Why should the institute guarantee failure of any of the talmidim because some parents do not control their children?

The classes of some institutes are so large, the teacher cannot devote his attention to all the students but must ignore some of them. This means that they are accepting talmidim into their institution knowing that they will not be able to accomplish their task.

According to guidelines set down by the Gedolim, throwing a student out of an educational institute is a question of pikuach nefesh (mortal danger) and an educational institute is not allowed to throw out a student unless:

1. he is damaging other students

2. the student has special needs and that institute is not equipped to provide them, but other institutes are available which can supply the student's special needs.

However, the institute must always ensure that the student has somewhere to continue his education.

But it is common practice for an institute to throw out a student for failing to reach a standard, even though he is well-behaved, or for infringing some rule, without ensuring that the student has somewhere to go. There is no one to appeal to.

The principal of the cheder told Reb Dan that they will not be able to accept his child for the next year because he is below standard. This was a surprise to Reb Dan so he took his child to Rabbi Abraham, an expert in education, who found that the child was very intelligent but behind in his reading. Rabbi Abraham phoned the cheder and told the principal that he felt he could bring the child up to standard in a short time. The principal laughed at Rabbi Abraham, "The boy has been doing nothing for three years! His exercise books are empty! It is not possible that you can get him ready for the new class." Rabbi Abraham rang off.

The principal should have taken action three years ago! What could he say to a principal who is admitting that he failed in his job for three years?(*)

The cheder is a private institution. For three years they have been charging Reb Dan full tuition. There is no one to whom Reb Dan can complain.

Some teachers and principals have their own ideas of what constitutes proper education, even though there is no tradition for it and/or it might only be effective for a small sector of the students.

Reb Yehuda's son is having major problems reading. The cheder he attends devotes minimal time to teaching the boys how to read. After only introducing them to the letters and vowels and teaching them perfunctorily how to combine them into words, they commence learning Chumash, devoting time to several different Meforshim. When Reb Yehuda remonstrated with the principal they his son could not yet read well, the principal reassured him that his son would learn to read from reading the Chumash. The principal explained that he had been in chinuch for many years and this was his way.

The cheder is a private institution. There is no one to whom Reb Yehuda can complain.

Some principals hire teachers who have never taught before and who have had no training. They are happy to allow the rebbi to "learn on the job," using the talmidim of their first few years of teaching as their 'training material.'

Yossi was one of the best in his class last year, but this year he has fallen to the bottom. His rebbi is a "cold fish," unemotional and does not give any encouragement. Yossi's mother phoned the rebbi and suggested that he should send a note home when Yossi does something good. The rebbi replied that Yossi never does anything good. Yossi's parents complained to the principal, who agreed that the rebbi was not cut out to be a teacher, but he refused to fire the rebbi or even to speak to him about the problem.

The rebbi will not be teaching there next year because he lives in a nearby town which will not accept rebbeim who do not have any experience teaching. So he is learning to be a rebbi in that cheder and next year he will be able to get a position in his home town. And no one is worried that he is destroying a few children in the process — now and in the future —and there is no one to talk to!

Whole classes become "turned off" from learning Torah and loving Yiddishkeit because they have been subjected to verbally and/or physically abusive teachers.

Mrs. Sarah told me about the rebbi who got so angry with her son that he picked her son up with his chair and threw them both out of the classroom. Her son suffered severe bruising. She complained to the principal but he only shrugged. Obviously, she could not file charges with the police, but she had no one to whom to complain.

Naftali's rebbi did not like Naftali's answer, so he drew a picture of a donkey on the board, turned to the class and said, "You see that donkey?" That donkey is Naftali." Naftali left his religion for a few years but now he is on the way back. He explains that that rebbi was the main cause for him feeling bad about Torah and Mitzvos.

Zevulon told me that he is one of the few from his class who still keep Shabbos and the only one who made it to Yeshiva. The rest were "turned off" from Torah and Mitzvos by abusive rebbeim.

Before a parent decides to which institution he should send his child, he needs to check it out, but many parents, especially new ones, do not know what is required and can be convinced by the principal that his mosad meets the parent's requirements. Also, standards change and an institute which once enjoyed a well-deserved good reputation might now be employing a sub-standard team.

There are many wonderful, reliable rebbeim and principals in our education system. But there also many wonderful, reliable people producing food for the public, yet they are still required to have a kashrus agency overseeing them.

Those parents would not allow themselves to be convinced by the owners of a restaurant that their food is 100% kosher (unless they knew them really well) but they would demand that it be supervised by an accredited kashrus agency who would not only ensure that the restaurant is set up correctly but will also send in supervisors to ensure that the standard is maintained.

Surely, they should be able to expect a similar facility for chinuch.

(*) Reb Dan had no choice but to look for a new cheder for his child. He just told me that there has been an amazing change in his son since he has been going to his new cheder. He comes home happy and goes over his Chumash without any prompting. The Menahel and rebbeim of the new cheder have such a love for children and their work. And now all the poison from the first cheder is coming out — how they were unpleasant to him and how often he was smacked.


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