From the Anash.org Inbox: It shouldn’t matter who has the “right” or clout to set our school policy. We need to make sure that it’s being by those who are most qualified.
By Moshe Gold
A recent article on Anash.org reported on the current crisis of finding teachers and the reasons behind it. Interviewing teachers from community schools, the article found that, in some schools, the chinuch decisions are made by financial advisors instead of by the mechanchim.
The article inspired heated conversations everywhere, and it certainly did a lot to raise awareness on this important topic. Virtually everyone I spoke to agreed with the article. Only one argument was made against it: those who bring the money get to decide how the school runs.
I would like to address this point since it is fundamental and is relevant to more than just schools.
Not so long ago, people who supported a holy endeavor didn’t insist on directing the way it was done. Individuals who came forward to assist the financial standing of our chinuch enterprise had no illusion that they were chinuch experts. They considered it a zechus to have a share in the Torah study of tinokos shel beis rabban. While they may have sometime tried to use their protektzia to their benefit, they basically left the chinuch up to those who understand teaching and chinuch.
In recent years, however, some of the mosdos assistants and financial supporters got it into their heads that they are chinuch experts! They wish to decide on all matters from schedule, to which staff are qualified, and even subjects of learning.
[This is reflective of a general trend where people think they are worthy of an opinion in all kinds of areas in which they don’t have experience. Since the proliferation of online information and the ability for everyone and anyone to pontificate on a subject of choice, the appreciation for expertise has declined.]
While a school board or supporter can certainly exercise physical and financial prowess to force things to go their way, that doesn’t mean that it’s sound or good for our children. In fact, we are already paying the price for chinuch decisions made by people who understand business better than neshamos.
Although every parent has chinuch experience with raising their own children, that doesn’t make them into a Mechanech. Even if were to assume that they were successful at imbuing their children with Torah values and middos tovos, there is a major difference between interacting with a child in a home setting to directing an entire class of similar aged children with guided tasks for many hours straight.
Those who think that it’s not much different than parenting should try and teach for a week. Parents who come into school to substitute for their child’s class (a wonderful practice in smaller schools out of town) inevitably leave with a new appreciation for their child’s teacher.
As a community, we need to appreciate the skill and talent that chinuch requires. If we want to attract skilled teachers, we need to show that we appreciate their skill.
But there’s more than that. A chassidishe melamed or mechaneches is not just a “skilled worker,” they are part of community leadership. They set the tone of the community, alongside rabbonim and mashpiim.
If we value ruchnius leadership, then we ought to give our mechanchim their rightful respect. That will give them the leverage they need to make an impression upon our children and our community as a whole.
It’s not just the right choice, it’s the smart one too.