Opinion: In business, success is quantified by the aggregate performance of the entire portfolio as a whole. What would happen if we ran our schools that way? Full Story
By Rabbi Boruch Wolf
A father asks his son, “Yankele, how do you like going to school?” To which the child replies, “the going bit is fine, as is the coming home bit, but I’m not too keen on the time in-between!”
This joke would be funny if it wasn’t a tragic reality of too many of our children. If schools were governed by values transmitted by the Torah and Chazal, then the school would be a most warm home to all of our children.
In investing to build material wealth, one key is diversification. Once you have a diverse portfolio, you can’t get caught up in the performance of a single equity within, for success is quantified by the aggregate performance of the entire portfolio as a whole. If someone is too greedy and stuck on each single equity being a success, this is ill serving for one’s financial goals in the long run.
If a school is run in such a manner, then there are Neshamos falling through the cracks, or worse yet, sacrificed in a molech [sacrifice] manner to serve the halo of the institution’s perceived greatness. The only way to institutionally be Mechanech our Neshamos is to be greedy and play for keeps for each “equity” in the “portfolio.”
Imagine a hospital that in striving for excellence only accepts clientele in near mint condition. A mild injury is acceptable in being admitted into our emergency room, but a heart attack?! That will ruin our reputation! What would people think if in a few years, months or weeks, some of our patients are no longer living?! We can’t accept that! We are building an institution of excellence. Only patients with problems that don’t exceed scraped knees will be afforded admission into our hospital.
The above would be laughable, but that is exactly the model that is often used in crafting the mission of some of our schools. We wish to take a group of our most resilient “autopilot” children, and claim as a success of the institution the alumnus’ enduring stability, accomplishment and growth.
Torah education’s supreme aspiration is nurturing Neshamos; not about transmitting information, although that is of course integral as well to a child’s development. But woe upon us if we sacrifice our core mission of nurturing souls in favor of embarking in a purge of Neshamos, Hashem’s children, for the aspiration of building an institution that will grant us [perceived] bragging rights.
The true education is the Mechanech’s learning. “Umitalmidai Yoser Mikulom.” The educator that learns how to nurture and reach every child, especially the child that unskilled institutions cast away, is the gold standard in education. The institution that can nurture and reach the most diverse spectrum of children, that is the model for educators and institutions to emulate.
To take a group of children not averse to traditional learning and teach them is no koontz (feat). The accomplishment is in taking a body of children, including students struggling deeply in finding their value, and igniting their flames. True learning takes place when in the midst of adversity.
Children that are educated in exclusive settings in which only “good children” are afforded admission receive a supreme lesson in Gaavah, elitism, selfishness and rejecting. The best way to teach refinement is when the child bears witness to a teacher’s gentle catering to his struggling peers.
Does the time the teacher invests in his struggling students inhibit the growth of the Metzuyonim (most excelling students)? I’d like to answer that by concluding with a well-known story.
Passing his time in the Soviet gulags, Reb Mendel Futerfas would listen to the banter of the inmates, and try to learn from it lessons in his Avodas Hashem.
This one day he heard an inmate describing the selection process of the elite cossack horse. They’d put a large group of horses on a grueling journey galloping endlessly. The depleted animals along this journey were disqualified as candidates.
The end of the long journey was a river. The horses that made it across the water bank and kept striving forward were rejected. The horse that made it across and then jumped back into the water to assist the horses struggling in the water were crowned as “the Cossack Horse.”
Post script: I pray that all of our Choshuveh educators see my words as an aspiration, not as judgment. I merely share my observations as a layman, not in the field [professionally] of education.
I also wish to share how refreshing it is that as a whole, the Mechanchim today are exceedingly more and more stellar, and that all is going in the right direction. That’s indeed a testament to their Mesiras Nefesh in educating our children, and their humility to never rest in contentment, but rather strive to constantly refine their skills.
Read More: What If Our Schools Were Run Like a Business