Wednesday, August 11, 2010

My (Current) Educational Philosophy

i tried to formulate my educational philosophy. it came out more as a series of somewhat disjointed premises. so i wrote them down. i believe there is a unifying theory behind it, but for now i'm satisfied enough. i realized also that my homeschool teaching, my classroom teaching, and my public lectures all have slightly different approaches and premises, so i wrote the homeschooling ones separately. (#1 is not actually a goal, but i wanted to put it down). as i've mentioned before, it's useful to have your goals set out explicitly before (or in the course of) homeschooling, because that clarification helps make decisions much easier. if you know your goals, it is easier to decide what to focus on and what to let go of. because there is never enough time to do everything!

My Premises

1. Every human being is a tzelem elokim, capable of abstract thought [1]. Thus it follows that every student, no matter how uninterested, has the ability to think and the natural tendency to have curiosity and ask questions, find questions interesting, and seek answers. It is my job to activate this ability and interest.

2. Torah is designed in a way that asking questions opens the door to its knowledge. With only a small amount of guidance or presentation, students can be led to the question and to discover the joy and excitement of questions.

3. It is preferable to start where the student is at (emotionally, intellectually, and regarding skill and ability) and to build incrementally and expand on that.

4. Torah is relevant, extremely practical, and useful. It is a gift from Hashem and it is l’tov lanu, for our own good [2]. My job is to show this to the students.

5. The Jews are the gatekeepers of the knowledge of Torah, preserving its philosophy via the halachic system, so that they can be an Ohr L’goyim, a light unto the Nations [3].

6. Torah functions to refine the individual and the world [4].

[1] As Ramban says on Bereshis 1:27, “And Gd created Man in His image, in the image of Gd He created him, male and female He created them,” the ‘image of Gd’ refers to wisdom, knowledge, and excellence of deed.

[2] Devarim 6:20-25. When your child asks you about the commandments, you answer they are for our good, and it is a tzedaka for us.

[3] Haftorah of Bereshis, Yishaya 42:6-7

[4] Ramban on Devarim 22:6. “The benefit is to Man himself to prevent him from harm or a false belief or a degrading character trait, or to remember the miracles and wonders of the Creator, Blessed, and to know Hashem, and this is what it means “to refine by them,” that they will be like refined silver, because the refiner of silver’s actions are not without reason, but to remove from it all dross, and so too the mitzvos are to remove from our hearts all false beliefs and to inform us of the truth and to remember it always.”

My homeschool goals and objectives:

1. If I am pushing something that the child is resistant to, it should have a reasonable purpose.

2. For the child to be capable of making a living. This covers skills necessary or the capacity/motivation to acquire those skills. And the emotional/psychological capacity i.e. work ethic, sense of responsibility, ability to work with others and have a boss, etc.

3. For the child to feel that the Torah is a useful gift from Hashem.

4. For the child to be able to function in healthy and satisfying emotional relationships and friendships.

5. For the child to view the Torah as a source of objectively discernible wisdom [1], rather than have an idolatrous or superstitious view of the world.

6. For the child to find learning interesting.

7. For the child to have the skills to pursue advanced learning.

[1] Devarim 4:6: It is your wisdom and discernment in the eyes of the nations, who will hear all these statutes and say, ‘This is only a wise and discerning nation, this great people!’

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