Thursday, May 05, 2005

On Averting Potential Disasters

My oldest son loves animals. Ever since he was a little boy, he's always been intensly interested. The zoo has always been a particularly favorite place of his. I'm willing to bet that he knows more now (at age 11) about animals than most adults do.

So, it was quite interesting when I came home today and he told me that he was speaking to a friend of his and mentioned The Camel, The Hare & The Hyrax. He asked me if he could bring my copy to school to show his friend.

While I've discussed some of the concept of the book with him (what exactly is a ma'aleh geirah? What animals might qualify as a shafan or arneves? ), he's never actually read the book. He is also completely and utterly oblivious to the controversy surrounding the book.

I said no to his request. :)

The Wolf

14 comments:

Avi said...

Dont you think that instead of saying NO to him, you should have giveb him an explanation of why it might not be a good idea to bring Slifkins books into a yeshiva ?

yeshivaguy said...

Why didn't you let him bring it? B/c of the controversy? I don't think most frum people know or care much about the matter.

BrooklynWolf said...

Although my son is quite bright, he is also quite naive and might not understand the full details of the controversy.

As to why I said no to his bringing the book to school - I had several reasons:

1. I don't want to lose my book - not that my son would lose it, but one of the Rabbeim/administration who might be aware of it might confiscate it.

2. I don't need for him to be "borrowing trouble" where it's not necessary. If I walk around the NYC subways reading it, at least I'm making an informed decision about what I'm doing. He, having no idea about the controversy, would be walking blindly into it.

3. He has one member of the administration who has it in for him. When he was four (yes, seven years ago) in a bit of a tantrum, he kicked a member of the administration in a sensative spot. Of course, we made him apologize for it and saw to it that he was punished for it. But the administration member hasn't forgotten (even though my son has!). Also, this administration member is just the type to be informed about this and be a "kanoi." The last thing I need to do is provide any opening for him to further punish him for his misdeed of a shmitah ago.

I don't mind if he reads the book at home (heck, he'd probably enjoy it greatly and finish it in a day), but I don't want it going to school. There's too little to gain and too much potential for harm.

The Wolf

daat y said...

I hope the two wonderful rebaim you talked about would not take away the book or they may not be that wonderful.

PsychoToddler said...

I think you should go over the issues in the book with your kids, and let them know about the controversy (and how you feel about it). I wouldn't let my kids bring it to school either.

Still Wonderin' said...

You did the right thing. Kids don't need to inadvertantly get sucked into someone else's pointless controversy. Yours certainly doesn't need a rebbe grabbing the book and berate him for being a kofer, or an apikores, or worse--labeling his father as such.

By enabling him to avoid such a trauma, you're probably preserving his emuna. however, you will constantly have conflicts like this because it sounds like you don't think the way mainstream yeshiva educators do.

You kid will go through life feeling like he's different, or missing something, or better than everyone, or worse than everyone. Whichever one, he won't feel comfortable with his yiddishkeit.

I know because this is what happened to me.

tmeishar said...

Excuse my presumptuousness, but why is your son in a Yeshiva that seems so out of sync with what you believe in? Don't you think that might hurt him in the long run?

BrooklynWolf said...

daat y,
It's not only those two rabbeim that I'm worried about. :)

Psychotoddler,
I was actually considering that last night (explaining to my oldest about the controversy). But I'm not certain that I want to bring him into it yet.

In the meantime, he's OK. He routinely reads scientific books about dinosaurs living millions of years ago and about the formation of the solar system (did I mention that he has an interest in the planets too?). He hasn't yet addressed me with "the" question, so I figure that he's dealing with it in his own manner at this point and time. Somehow, I suspect that even if I take no further step, he'll figure things out on his own. He's a really bright kid.

Still Wonderin',
It's not a matter of a internal conflict per-se, but a matter of avoiding an unnecessary (at this time) external one. As I said, I'd probably let him read the book if he wanted (and we have discussed some of the issues contained therein).

It's true that he may go on feeling "different" than his classmates do in school (I did - I went to a very fundamentalist high school and had a *much* different outlook on life and hashkafah than my classmates did), and may at some point need addressing. While no one likes being different, sometimes there is value in being an independent thinker and not going along with the groupthink.

tmeishar,

No problem asking. There were several factors that went into the decision. Locality, tuition, recommendations and the quality of education (both in limudei kodesh and limudei chol). Does it have *everything* I would like in a school for my kids? No. But sometimes tradeoffs have to be made to get most of what you want. Besides, I think that in terms of hashkafa, his high school years will be far more important than his elementary school years.

The Wolf

The Wolf

Still Wonderin' said...

"his high school years will be far more important than his elementary school years."

I just don't believe that. Who knows?

BrooklynWolf said...

Can I tell you, Still Wonderin' with 100% certainty that I'm right? No. But my guess would be that for most people the opinions and attitudes that they form in high school far more affect their outlook on life than those they develop earlier on.

Or it could have just been me.

The Wolf

PsychoToddler said...

Still wonderin is right about the kids picking up on your dissention from the "mainstream". Unless you're very good at keeping it to yourself, they will. I've seen it with mine. I have to be more careful at the dinner table. I'm trying to avoid criticizing the school or the rav in front of them.

The truth is I could stand to be more positive in general. It feels good to whine and let off steam when you come home, but there are dangers.

With regards to dinosaurs: I remember being incredibly ticked off by a Chassidishe Baal tshuva friend who came over once and made some offhand remark about some Jurassic park dinosaurs my kid was playing with, about how they put so much effort into a toy of an animal that never existed. I suppose I would have been less ticked off if he had been born chassidish, and not a well-educated baal tshuva.

The Hedyot said...

For me, high school was way more formative then elementary.

momof4 said...

I agree with you. I don't think there is any way to explain the ban to your son in a way that he would either
a)understand, or
b)understand all to well, and lose faith in UO authority. Not a good place to be, if you're in an UO school.

tmeishar said...

In regards to whether Elementary might affect them. I was really thinking about it because I personally had a VERY diverse education. In some ways it made me more open-minded and well-rounded, but it sure as heck confused me for a very long time. In fact, I still feel confused sometimes. Despite being and avid Zionist, for example, I still balk at times when I see a book on Mo'adim that has Pesach and Yom Ha'atzmaut together in the Table of Contents. Then I remember all the reasons that I am a Zionist (quickly, mind you) and I'm fine, but it still hurts me when I think that way and I would never share that with anyone. Just something to think about...