Reply To: Chinuch. Parents Vs Schools

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The little I know

From of the discussion here, it seems that there is confusion over the definition of “chutzpah”. It would be dangerous to say that chutzpah is whatever the rebbi says it is. Yes, I said it would be dangerous. With the limited training and experience that too many rebbeim have, they are more apt to take a challenging question as chutzpah, and respond to the situation emotionally, rather than academically. The answer to the Avimelech – Elimelech situation should have NEVER included the retort the rebbi gave, regardless of whether he was right or wrong about the truth. A rebbi has no privilege to bring his emotional state into the classroom, other than that which is needed to love every talmid, and have personal investment in seeing that talmid succeed. Here, it seems clear that this rebbi allowed his ego into the room, and his response came from that part of him – a real no-no in chinuch.

So what is chutzpah? I won’t propose a standard definition here. What I will say is that chutzpah is not a form of rebellion, but a symptom that the child is unhappy. It could be a poor relationship between the child and that rebbi, maybe with friends, other faculty members, maybe outside issues that the child brings into the room. The talmid can bring these issues into class with him – because he is a kid. Part of chinuch is to help the talmid push aside the other distractions, and focus on the studies. The rebbi that is clueless about this is simply untrained, and simply incompetent. That is his job. And if he lacks the skills to perform the needed tasks, then he should change careers.

What the average rebbi calls chutzpah is the child’s cry for attention. Hey, Rebbi, Rebbi, do your job. These opportunities to invoke discipline are teaching moments. Use them.