Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Why do at-risk kids behave so badly?

Why do at-risk kids behave so badly? Why are they (almost as a rule) promiscuous? Why do they develop drug habits? Why do they commit crimes? Why can't they just abandon observances without also acting out?

An interesting explanation appears in "Are Our Children too Wordly?", an essay by Aharon Hersh Fried scheduled to appear in the next edition of Hakira: The Flatbush Journal of Jewish Law and Thought (Basicly, he argues that kids who are taught to hate the outside world, never learn the difference between what is good, and what is bad about the outside world. As a result, once they decide to leave the Torah world, they behave like low-class trash. And why do they leave in the first place? Any number of reasons, though the article argues, succefully in my opinion, that curious kids leave because the Torah world refuses to acknowledge their questions while treating them with disrespect for having questions in the first place.) Money quote:

It would seem that our efforts to close the “tzu offene oigen” of our youth have been only half successful. Unfortunately we are reaping the wrong half. Many of our youth today have little understanding of the global context, the nature, and the values that drive secular thinking and of the worlds of business, politics, interpersonal relations, culture, and the like. This knowledge would be helpful to them in navigating that world. [Unfortunately, the yeshivot generally do a poor job teaching history, english and science -DB]

Yet many of them are unfortunately, quite familiar with the crassest forms of entertainment and enticements of that world, and that, in a most naïve and simplistic fashion. When we fence out the non-Jewish world completely, we fail to give our children some of the basic knowledge, values, and criteria used in general society to discern between what is refined and what is crass, between what is esthetically pleasing and what is just flashy, and between what is acceptable and what is abhorrent. In their ignorance, and in the throes of their passions, our “unprotected” youth, once they have dared to open the gates that have kept them penned inside our world (and have earned the appellation “Children at Risk”), make a mad dash for the lowest forms of culture and entertainment in the secular world, and in their ignorant minds rationalize, justify, and validate their behaviors by telling themselves that they are doing what is done and approved of by all those “smart, intelligent goyim who, by dint of their intelligence and wisdom, make things happen, invent things, and run the world.”

Little do they realize that the goyim whose technological prowess they’ve come to admire wouldn’t want to be caught dead in the cheap and crass environment that some of our disenchanted youth habituate. Our youth think that once they have freed themselves from the strictures of their own world, they have entered a world free of strictures of even basic human ethics, or at least of pretensions to them. And why shouldn’t they think so? Have we not taught them that the whole world is decadent? Is it not only natural that when finding themselves wanting to join and engage with that larger world, they should seek out the decadent?

Our children should be made aware of the existence of “low” and “high” culture in the world “out there.” They should be made aware that there are normative rules of propriety, of derech eretz, that no upstanding Gentile would violate. And they should be given enough self-respect to, at the very least want to keep from sinking lower than the normative values of the general society.

The rest of the essay is every bit as good, and includes direct quotes from noted Gedolim which seem to argue/suggest that all of the yeshivos everywhere are doing things contrary to how the cited Gedolim would have wanted. Really explosive stuff.

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