Sunday, December 3, 2006

Educating for Minutiae

Am I wrong, or are our schools missing the point in their pastoral care of our children?

I was recently informed that at a parents' evening in a prominent Israeli school, the principal discussed his new initiative on how the school and parents would work together to create an environment of mutual respect within the school. A noble and important task, I thought, and so I listened intently to what the principal had suggested.

To my disappointment, the whole proposal was the principal’s desire to introduce a dress code for parents (aka mothers) when they came to pick up their children from school.

Who was this principal trying to kid? Were his students so respectful to the teachers, fellow students and the environment, that this should be his priority? The contrary appeared to be true: a visible number of students often spoke disrespectfully to their teachers, students also regularly treated each other discourteously, recess incidents were noticeable, the restrooms seemed unsanitary while their walls were painted with graffiti and broken pieces of school property were noticeable on the school grounds.

From what I understand, this phenomenon is quite common in dati leumi schools in Israel.

While it is obvious that an initiative to rectify the above issues would be far more appropriate, by insisting on a dress codes of the mothers, isn’t the school really saying that “it’s not important how you behave (we say its important, but we don’t really mean it), but how you dress” or even worse “how other people dress”. The students will learn one of two messages: either s/he can do what s/he likes, but as long as they’re dressed appropriately they’re fine, or that their schools are hypocritical institutions that just don’t get it.

And isn’t that what is happening to our kids today?!! We have many who dress the part but lack the required middot and many who just drop out.

I don’t really want to knock Israeli schools. To begin with this information is all anecdotal and secondly, my kids know a lot more than I ever did at their age. Furthermore, from the discussions I’ve seen recently on Lookjed makes feel that this issue is universal.

Maybe, I’m misinformed, and please tell me if I am, but when implementing pastoral policies, are our schools focusing on the minutiae and not on the big picture?

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