Sunday, December 04, 2005

School Censorship-Part 2

In Seminary, one of my teachers asked, "How many of you heard of Yehuda and Tamar?" I looked at my friend blankly. "Does she mean Amnon and Tamar?" I muttered, confused. I remember one kid for sure who raised her hand, but there may have been a few more. The teacher was not surprised and said something to effect of, "Here we go again..." and she proceeded to explain the whole scenario.

That got our class going in a discussion about how the schools are censoring the Torah. I mean, should they have mentioned it in 4th grade? Obviously not! However, as the year progressed, our teacher revealed so many other "hidden" concepts in the Torah.

How does this differ from Part 1? There, it was secular sexual content, but here, it's in the Torah HaKedosha, and is there to teach us a lesson. One minor example-later, when my teacher was teaching us about the Simanim between Rochel and Leah, she asked if any of us knew what they were. Most of us did not. She said, "They don't teach it to you in school because one of them is Taharat HaMishpacha." She went on to explain that the Simanim were the three Mitzvot of the woman--Challah, Neirot (lighting candles), and Taharat HaMishpacha.

This sparked a discussion about our schools hiding things from us that are in the Torah. The teacher reminisced that years ago, she taught this in 9th grade, and had a mixed reaction. Some parents congratulated her for her openness, and that their children were hearing about important things in life. (She barely elaborated on Taharat HaMishpacha in the 9th grade class) She remembered one mother who called her angrily and wanted to know why her 9th grade daughter had to know about this at such a young age.

Again, this can be debated endlessly. But I think some things are beneficial for young women to learn from the Torah perspective,because this may help them learn about relationships between men and women in the proper way. Otherwise, their only source of information of these things is TV and movies where women are bodies to be taken advantage of, and sex is something that's fun and pleasurable, and sexy, rather than L'Havdil--a sacred and spiritual Mitzvah.

27 Comments:

At 12/04/2005 7:48 AM, Blogger Y.Y. said...

right on
better to learn the sexual stuff from the torah rather from tv and magazines

 
At 12/04/2005 7:50 AM, Blogger Y.Y. said...

you wouldnt believe that the talmud is loaded up with how a healthy sexual and loving relationship is supposed to work to bad teachers censor all of it so we need to turn to tv and movies

 
At 12/04/2005 7:17 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Okay, Michelle, for the second post in a row you fail to give a solution. What do you expect them to do? As you pointed out, if they're too open about it, parents complain. If they're not, that's no good, either. So they're in a situation where they can't win.

 
At 12/04/2005 7:27 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think Michelle's solution is quite clear in both pieces:

in part 1: just give it up! High schools girls know what "incest" is.

and in this piece, I think Michelle's point is, to heck with the complaining parents; these kids oughta be taught this stuff: it's important.

And this is coming from one of the commenters who gave it to Michelle in the library porno piece for having no solution. I think it's fair to say she's got an approach here.

 
At 12/04/2005 8:27 PM, Blogger Semgirl said...

I totally agree with you , Michelle. We are not in the shtetl anymore. Girls can either learn what the Torah HaKedosha says about Intimacy and Love or they will learn on the street and in chat rooms about Lust..

 
At 12/05/2005 8:42 AM, Blogger Air Time said...

My wife teaches fourth grade in a modern orthodox yeshiva. She doesn't shy away from teaching Yehudah and Tamar, Yosef and Potifar's wife, or the spies and Rachav.

She says most of the kids know what she is talking about, and the ones that don't are told to talk to their parents.

 
At 12/05/2005 9:46 AM, Blogger Michelle said...

Thanks for defending me! Your summaries of my solutions are mostly accurate, although I do see both sides of the argument.

As for those who yell at me for not having a solution. If I don't have one, why don't you suggest one? I know I can't save the world, and even if I did offer solutions, nothing would come of them, so I am simply airing my frustrations and ideas, and asking you guys for your input. Thanks for contributing--whether you agree or disagree with my arguments.

 
At 12/05/2005 9:52 AM, Blogger Michelle said...

Thanks for defending me! Your summaries of my solutions are mostly accurate, although I do see both sides of the argument.

As for those who yell at me for not having a solution. If I don't have one, why don't you suggest one? I know I can't save the world, and even if I did offer solutions, nothing would come of them, so I am simply airing my frustrations and ideas, and asking you guys for your input. Thanks for contributing--whether you agree or disagree with my arguments.

 
At 12/05/2005 8:24 PM, Blogger Lost said...

Interesting.

 
At 12/06/2005 6:56 AM, Blogger Elster said...

It is an interesting question and the answer is probably balance. Kids need to know certain things but obviously there is danger in them knowing too much. For instance, I would argure that 4th grade is too early for kids to be learning about Yehuda and tamar. But I would argure that certainly they should have learned it by 9th grade.

 
At 12/06/2005 11:05 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is something for the gedolim to decide.

 
At 12/06/2005 1:05 PM, Blogger David_on_the_Lake said...

Michelle,
Our rebbeim always taught these stories..but we were taught that Yehuda married Tomor..etc..the same with the other sordid tales
We weren't taught that they had sexual relations.

D

 
At 12/06/2005 9:20 PM, Blogger nuboy21 said...

While i so agree with you that we should learn about these issues in school, i disagree with you on how we should learn about them. I think that our parents are the ones that sould teach us about love and other "risque" issues. Parents should have this on their list of thing to do rather then teachers that arent sure how to procced when it come to this stuff.

Btw, great blog. Check mine out

 
At 12/07/2005 6:08 AM, Anonymous Doniel said...

I agree with elster. Elementary school kids don't need to know the sexual stories. When we went through Vayera in 2nd grade, I never heard about Lot sleeping with his daughters until I was in high school, and I don't feel like I missed out by not hearing it as a little kid.

But high school is a totally different story. Kids are more mature, and it's usually at that time when they learn the facts of life one way or another. And that's the time that schools MUST step in and make sure the kids have a Torah-true approach to these issues.

 
At 12/07/2005 3:43 PM, Blogger Lost said...

Hey sweets, thanks for your support that day.. it worked out in the end, thank g-d, ill let you knwo how it goes! aaaand yup. you suck, cuz this is the type of thing you write on s/o's wall,but youre not on facebook.. looooser. ;) much love

 
At 12/07/2005 5:47 PM, Blogger Josh said...

Lost - but can you write insightful thoughts about current issues on Facebook?

Michelle - Nice juxtaposition between two extremes. Unfortunately, the exposure/censorship question is not easy in our world. When parents and schools unite to educate children properly, kids know right from wrong before they encounter challenging issues. But I don't know if we can count on that nowadays...

 
At 12/07/2005 10:56 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Of course Orthodox schools use censorship, that's their bread and butter. I'm sure you've heard just about nothing about higher Biblical criticism, for example. The only practical way to enforce a dogma is to keep sets of undermining information taboo.

 
At 12/08/2005 3:24 AM, Blogger Pragmatician said...

It's ridiculous as some stuff is censored, in my old school Tanach was almost non existent because of the prevalent "questionable (!) material.
I remember the Rebbi skipping Rashis here an there, it just sparked our curiosity and we looked for more in the Beis Yehudah Chumash'(in Yiddish)

 
At 12/08/2005 7:33 AM, Anonymous Essie said...

There is no reason why 9th graders cannot know about Taharat Hamishpacha. They all get their periods. A simple explanation like "When a woman has her period she may not have relations with her husband until she goes to the mikvah." They don't need the nitty gritty halachot but they should know that such a concept exists.

 
At 12/08/2005 10:18 AM, Blogger nuboy21 said...

A fellow jewish blogger on facebook,what a small world!

 
At 12/08/2005 6:37 PM, Blogger Michelle said...

You can also say that whatever you tell them, they'll want to know more.

But I think it's so much better to learn about these things from a Jewish perspective, no matter what.

Even if they see in the movies later,at least they'll know the real thing first, rather than the other way around.

Definitely not b4 HS.

 
At 12/08/2005 7:30 PM, Blogger Josh said...

I don't think anything should be censored in Judaism (I'm not referring to exposure to outside things). If the Torah mentions something, there is a way to teach it, even if that just means saying that Tamar and Yehuda did "something bad". As you mention, skipping things only makes people long for it more, and, worse, it bypasses an educational opportunity.

 
At 12/09/2005 12:21 PM, Blogger Orthoprax said...

Talking about censorship, what do you guys make of the Slifkin ban

(see here: http://zootorah.com/controversy/controversy.html )

or the internet ban in lakewood?

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/chicago/chi-0512020271dec02,1,1022030.story?coll=chi-newslocalchicago-hed

 
At 12/12/2005 4:19 PM, Blogger Me said...

I read your story about censorship of the story of Yehudah and Tamar and can totally relate.

At the school I went to, the Rabbi or Rebbetzin would occasionally say "Ok, we're skipping perek 12 (or whatever)" and we would be pleased because it would bring our class that much closer to a siyyum.

It was only when I was about 16 and reading the parsha in shule one week when I came across that story. I was so shocked - because of the actual content and the fact I hadn't known about it before!

 
At 12/21/2005 6:41 PM, Blogger yeshivaguy said...

Your argument is undermined by the fact that you were familiar with the story of Amnon and Tamar, which is also sexually oriented.

 
At 12/25/2005 8:40 PM, Blogger Yael said...

I was studying for a Chumash test with a friend when I was in eighth grade, and at one point she said, "Oh, we didn't do this Rashi because it was a really dirty one." When teachers censor Torah, students get the message: This part of Torah is dirty. It is no different that the TV shows, movies, or novels that deal with sexual situations. I agree with many people here that students don't need ALL the details in early elementary school, but at that point they're generally too young to realize that something is being censored. I consider myself very lucky that I went to Prospect HS, because we were a frum school that didn't shy away from sexual information in the Torah. I was always taught that sexuality was something holy and beautiful when used properly, and it had a place in Torah, just like Shabbos in Kashrus.

 
At 8/08/2006 1:32 PM, Anonymous Yossi said...

Hi Michelle,
I don’t know if you are ever going to read my comment (Being that this post is from Dec. 2005), but I thought you brought up some valid points about what Yeshivos decide to teach children with regards to censoring things.

I had a couple of points I wanted to make (if you ever read this : -)….if you want you can e-mail me at yossi8734@gmail.com

Thanks

 

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