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KD MAGAZINE! 
Posted: September 6, 2006 -
יום רביעי י"ג אלול, תשס"ו

 
 
 
   
 

"Whose Responsibility are the Children Anyway?"
Rabbi Shea Hecht
About the Author

Last week in an Indiana school, classrooms were a little less crowded on opening day. 128 students were sent home for wearing the wrong clothes. Fed up with inappropriate outfits, the principal at Morton High School suspended the students, minutes after doors opened at the school. On average, Morton High cites 20 students a day for dress code violations. Principal Theresa Mayerik said: "This was the worst year I've seen in a long time. It's gotten out of control, and we needed to send a message that we're not messing around."

Thinking about this episode and its quick resolution, brought me to think about educational system in general. While the system is great and doing better every year, we still face some fundamental problems within it - problems that also need a quick resolution, albeit with an entirely new approach. I realized that the solutions to problems such as these lies in the answer to one question: Whose responsibility are the children anyway?

The Torah teaches that parents are obligated to teach their children. Commentaries say that students are referred to as oneís children. It seems to me that the responsibility to educate our children therefore falls not only on parents, but also on mentors, teachers and by extension the schools that they teach in. They too have a halachic, moral and legal obligation to make sure that all children are educated properly.

Sadly, it seems that the educational institutions of today have abandoned that obligation and donít feel any responsibility to the individual child they are supposed to be educating. Iíve met with parents that canít afford to send their child to the school that is right for their needs, and even worse, parents who canít send their child to any school at all because of the financial hardship caused by indecent tuition charges.

Families that want to educate their children in religious schools so their children can learn the subject matter and behavior that they believe in and in a religious environment, find the cost of religious education prohibitive. Education of children is the biggest expense in every household - and the burden is weighing our families down.

Additionally, children feel the pressure that schools put on their parents and many are turned off from the educational system. Iíve had teenagers ask me, ďHow could a school that is breaking my parentís back for money and causing tension in our home, claim that they are interested in my growth? If their priority was me and my learning, they wouldnít be pressuring my parents like this for money they simply donít have.Ē

The old system was one of ďopen registration,Ē where first the child was accepted and then the tuition was worked out. Today, schoolís focus is on money as a priority of acceptance into their hallowed halls. Administrators hide behind a tuition committee, and before they tell parents that their child is accepted they want to see where, when and how the money will be given to them.

Though schools have incredible expenses - especially religious schools with a double curriculum and a longer school day - and they need money to exist, there must be sensitivity to children of the have- nots. Itís terribly wrong for those families to feel that their children are less worthy of the religious education that they need. Donít our schools have a responsibility to teach all our children?

A second educational issue is that of educating all our children. Energetic and creative children, who would make great youth leaders or teachers themselves, are not even given a chance because school administrations do not necessarily have the focus on the important thing - which is the education of ALL our children.

Educators should not expect perfect children in their classrooms in the beginning of the year. Administrators and teachers have to accept that some of the students will need a real education - starting with their behavior.

Unfortunately, many of our schools donít deal with children they teach as students, but as issues. Children with any learning challenge or behavioral issue are given the boot - and many of them end up on the streets. If we donít feel a responsibility to our own children who will?

Iím not saying there is an easy solution to these two problems that face parents wanting to send their children to our worthy and necessary institutions of learning, but the answer to ďWhose Responsibility are the Children Anyway?Ē is not only the parentsí but schools, too. And like the principal in Indiana, we must face that there is a problem and go beyond the call of duty to actively work on a solution.

We must find ways to alleviate the prohibitive financial burden placed on parents for religious education. Maybe the schools can go back to hiring fund-raisers bringing in the bulk of the money that they need to run properly so that the burden of tuition does not fall completely on the parents.

Additionally, schools should reassess the meaning of successful education. Itís not taking in the perfect child and graduating a perfect child eight years later that means success, itís educating the challenging child and seeing him graduate a success thatís true successful education. 


Read more articles by Rabbi Hecht 

Rabbi Hecht's Website:  www.sheahecht.com  

 

 
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