My previous post generated a number of comments where people chimed in on their views about learning gemara and how yeshivas fail so miserably in that department. But the point of the rant wasn't to get on a soapbox and tell everyone why I think yeshivas suck. I can do that, and one day I probably will, but for now, it was just meant to be about why I didn't like shavuos. Plain and simple. (And actually it was meant to lead into how I had a nice chag this year, but for now it seems that discussion will have to wait.)
One of the commenters who claimed to be a long-time rebbe in a yeshiva wrote about how troubled he was by what I wrote and said he was interested in discussing the matter further. Well, I hate to disappoint him, but I'm not. Maybe ten, fifteen years ago when I was suffering through all that, I could have cared to discuss it with someone who supposedly wanted to improve the situation. Maybe five years ago when I still cared a bit about getting the respect of that society. But now I'm so past it (the post was entitled "Shavuos In My Past"), that I have very little inclination to get into a debate about the matter. And I'm especially not interested in anyone talking to me because they feel they can "help me" in this regard. Although I still see the issues as problems in a society, the afflicted society is no longer one I care to be a part of, and one which I have thankfully managed to extricate myself from (for the most part).
But he does claim to be concerned about the issue. I'm sure there are many more people like him who are supposedly concerned about young people in situations like I described. So, I figured I'd share a few thoughts that were triggered by his comments:
> although much of what you say is true and right on the mark, it is quite easy to point blame, and lash out at every Yeshiva and the entire Yeshiva world
I don't think I spoke about all yeshivas. Or even the whole yeshiva world. I only mentioned my own individual experience. You want to extrapolate, be my guest. And yes, it is quite easy to place blame. The blame falls squarely on those charged with my education. Who would you blame?
> though there are hundreds and hundreds of outstanding, sincere, dedicated and intelligent mechanchim who are also trying their best.
I'm not surprised you think so. Isn't that what everyone who supports the system believes? Look, I never did a survey, so I don't claim that my ideas are 100% valid across the entire spectrum of yeshivish institutions. Everything I say is based on my own experiences and those of the many friends I had who were in similar situations. But explain to me, how it is possible for a person to go through his entire high school, through multiple yeshivas, endless chavrusos, countless tutors, and still not have a single person point out that he doesn't know alef bais? Maybe there are "hundreds of outstanding, sincere, dedicated and intelligent mechanchim", but are they competent? Are they qualified? You say they're out there, but I never came across them throughout my high school years. The truth is, I wonder on what basis you even make that claim. How many gemara rebbe's have degrees in education? How many mechanchim got into chinuch because they had no other options? How many schools have systems that hold their mechanchim accountable in any way for their success or failure with the students? I don't know the general answers to those questions, but in the yeshivas that I was in, I know that the blame for a failing student invariably fell on the students own shoulders.
Furthermore, even if your numbers are accurate ("hundreds of mechanchim"), but which I suspect are based more on a cursory survey of the landscape rather than a proper inquiry, what percentage of the overall mechanech population is that? Hundreds out of how many?
>It's not that we need to shut down the entire system...
Although the idea appeals to me greatly, I never suggested it.
> many Rebbeim are very aware of the problems with the educational, communal and social structure that you describe. I am personally close with a number of Gedolei Yisrael who are also very concerned.
Wow. I'm touched. You're all so wonderful. But I've been there before. When I was in yeshiva, my rabbeim weren't indifferent to my difficulties. They also expressed sympathy for my challenging situation. But they didn't deal with the problem properly! They just told me to try harder. To daven for hatzlacha. To get a tutor. To switch chavrusos. To take notes better. To pay more attention. Your (and the "gedolim's") concern means diddly to me. It's no different than the heartfelt concern my dedicated (yet misguided) rabbeim had for me those years ago. They professed concern, and I believe they really did feel bad, but they were so dedicated to the system, to the concept that "everyone can be a learner" (nay, everyone must be a learner!), that they kept me chained to my hardship rather than offer me the simple and self-evident remedy to my suffering: to tell me that I didn't have to be a learner!
> Unfortunately, the solutions are not very easy to achieve.
That doesn't absolve them of the situation one bit. The community as a whole is contributing to the problem, but the yeshivas and the rabbeim are probably the most culpable offenders for the screwed up situation that the society finds itself in. Like a negligent surgeon who drinks before an operation and then botches the surgery, you claim, "Well, now it's a complicated situation! There's no easy fix!" It's your carelessness that caused the problem in the first place!
But you know something? You're not just the incompetent surgeon. You're also the inattentive hospital that repeatedly allows such a situation to occur. And you're the substandard medical school that has never does anything about the fact that so many of your graduates perform that way. (Ok, you do actually do something: You talk a lot about how "there's a problem", and how "the situation is complicated", and how "so many people are bothered by the problem". You organize lectures to hear "experts in the field" analyze the issue, and you make roundtables at your conventions to discuss it, and you write sycophantic articles about it in your periodicals, but you never actually address the core issue!!!)
You say that the solutions aren't easy to achieve. Why not? Of course they are! All that's needed is for the schools to stop pushing everyone to be learners! Everyone knows that this is all that needs to be done. However, it is true, that's not an easy thing to achieve. But you know why not? Because the yeshivas have already created a society where everyone thinks that's the only way to be a proper Jew! And they're still doing it! They're still pushing the view that the ideal Jew is the learner. The kollel guy. The rebbe. The rosh yeshiva. The mechaber sefer. Whatever. That a proper Jew is supposed to be learning 24/7. That nothing in life is worth doing except limud torah. That any person that tries to be anything else is throwing his life away. That any departure from being a learner has to be excused and justified and explained with a trillion and one rationalizations. You'll claim that such things aren't explicitly spelled out (they definitely are in some places), but even if not, the message comes through loud and clear and every good yeshiva kid knows that if he wants to do right in that world, to the learners he must go. Anything else is just a very distant second.
So please don't tell me that you and the gedolei yisroel and all the hundreds of dedicated mechanchim are really concerned about the problem. You created it. And you continue to foster it. It's preposterous that you can claim to be troubled by it, when you persist in promoting it incessantly! And until this underlying outlook is changed, the problem is never going to really go away.
Sorry if the tone is a bit angry. I don't deny that I'm upset. But it's not the past that bothers me. My past is behind me. It's the hypocritical pronouncements of people who claim to be concerned about a problem and who really are the very cause of that problem that upsets me so much. All they really care about is putting a band-aid on the symptoms, not truly addressing the fundamental issues.
Actually I think I should apologize to the commenter. I don't know him. It was his writing that led me to believe that he falls into the camp of those who I feel are responsible for these problems. But I don't really know anything about him to believe as such. If his manner of chinuch truly is devoid of those reprehensible ideas and approaches, I sincerely apologize.