JedLAB: Why Kids Care More about Achievement Than Helping Others Reply

Peter Eckstein

Peter EcksteinA recent discussion in the cloud based JEDLAB community was in response to a posted article entitled: “Why Kids Care More about Achievement Than Helping Others”. The point of the article was that research indicates that while parents may want to raise empathetic children, the actual message they transmit is to be high achievers. The ensuing conversation focused on how we as Jewish educators can change this apparent trend.

There were those who expressed no surprise at these findings – citing that in our educational system we seem to always teach about high Jewish achievers: Nobel laureates, sports figures, intellectuals and actors. While our goal might be to instill Jewish pride, the unwritten curriculum seems to be more achievement oriented. Others mentioned how we should try of foster a sense of ownership when it comes to tzedakkah or philanthropic projects, on the part of our students. Some folks commented that our educational institutions promote themselves based on how well students do on standardized tests, not on how caring they are. This whole conversation was fascinating because it forces us, the readers, to look at our own programs, to see what our “written” and “unwritten” curriculum really are.

The role of Hebrew in Jewish education was a topic of a wide ranging conversation. The question posed was very straightforward: “Why Teach Hebrew”? The conversation shifted quickly from from focusing on how Hebrew connects us to our heritage to the question of motivation. If a student doesn’t care about learning Hebrew, what’s the point? What can we, as educators do, to encourage our students to want to learn the language? Is learning Hebrew just for prayer enough? There were those who said, emphatically, no. If Hebrew can be used in authentic settings (such as in conversation), then there may be more of desire to learn. On the other hand, if learning Hebrew enables the student to understand the words of t’fillah, isn’t his invaluable? The conversation shifted to a discussion about Yiddish and how this language is also crucial in building Jewish identity. The whole discussion can help us take a refreshing look at our Hebrew program and it’s goals. What do we want our students to come out with, as they learn Hebrew. Is decoding enough? What is the role of transliteration (if any)?

Another article that was posted: “Parents Who Promote Less Rigid Lifestyles for Children Prove More Effective” explored research that indicated that parents who don’t over schedule their kids actually create a climate of self-exploration for their children. The discussion revolved around how we can encourage or school parents to “loosen up” on their children. One idea was to create opportunities that foster deeper engagement in community and “Jewish time”. What do you think?

A recent discussion in the cloud based JEDLAB community was in response to a posted article entitled: “Why Kids Care More about Achievement Than Helping Others”. The point of the article was that research indicates that while parents may want to raise empathetic children, the actual message they transmit is to be high achievers. The ensuing conversation focused on how we as Jewish educators can change this apparent trend. There were those who expressed no surprise at these findings – citing that in our educational system we seem to always teach about high Jewish achievers: Nobel laureates, sports figures, intellectuals and actors. While our goal might be to instill Jewish pride, the unwritten curriculum seems to be more achievement oriented. Others mentioned how we should try of foster a sense of ownership when it comes to tzedakkah or philanthropic projects, on the part of our students. Some folks commented that our educational institutions promote themselves based on how well students do on standardized tests, not on how caring they are. This whole conversation was fascinating because it forces us, the readers, to look at our own programs, to see what our “written” and “unwritten” curriculum really are.

 

The role of Hebrew in Jewish education was a topic of a wide ranging conversation. The question posed was very straightforward: “Why Teach Hebrew”? The conversation shifted quickly from from focusing on how Hebrew connects us to our heritage to the question of motivation. If a student doesn’t care about learning Hebrew, what’s the point? What can we, as educators do, to encourage our students to want to learn the language? Is learning Hebrew just for prayer enough? There were those who said, emphatically, no. If Hebrew can be used in authentic settings (such as in conversation), then there may be more of desire to learn. On the other hand, if learning Hebrew enables the student to understand the words of t’fillah, isn’t his invaluable? The conversation shifted to a discussion about Yiddish and how this language is also crucial in building Jewish identity. The whole discussion can help us take a refreshing look at our Hebrew program and it’s goals. What do we want our students to come out with, as they learn Hebrew. Is decoding enough? What is the role of transliteration (if any)?

Another article that was posted: “Parents Who Promote Less Rigid Lifestyles for Children Prove More Effective” explored research that indicated that parents who don’t over schedule their kids actually create a climate of self-exploration for their children. The discussion revolved around how we can encourage or school parents to “loosen up” on their children. One idea was to create opportunities that foster deeper engagement in community and “Jewish time”. What do you think?

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