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Why Do We Send Our Children to School?

Why Do We Send Our Children to School?

Don’t they have the right to know?


Why do we send our kids to school? Well, we parents all know the truth: as soon as the school bus pulls away, we ditch the business suits for bathing suits and head for the water park, careful to return home in time to change clothes before the kids return.

But why do the kids have go to school? Is it just to memorize facts and figures, in hopes of giving them a chance for success in this dog-eat-dog world?

Kids have a right to know the objective of the hours they spend in school. Sadly, often the message they get is misleading.

You may recognize the scene. A well-meaning pedagogue, complete with elbow-patched tweed jacket (pipes are no longer “politically correct”), ascends the podium and, in his best attempt to be inspirational, encourages the students to dream bigger dreams, reach for the stars, picture where you want to be in ten years from now and then chart the course to arrive there. Exotic travel metaphors and occasional swashbuckler similes are common; dramatic gesturing is optional.

Dutifully, students begin to envision where they want to be. (Truth be told, most students envision when recess begins, but play along with me.) Mental pictures of vacation homes and fancy cars, the trappings of “success,” dance in their mind. They get the message: if you want to get what you want, crack open the books and get down to business.

Herein lies the problem. The message boils down to this: determine what your heart wants, and then apply your mind to chart the course to get it.

Bad news. This is backwards. Education must teach children how to make basic moral choices in life. The foundational three R’s should empower them to be Righteous, Responsible and Reverent, as well as competitive in the marketplace.

A basic tenet of chassidic thought is that the mind can—and must—direct one’s passions, first to understand what is virtuous, and then to compel, or (preferably) convince, the emotional side to get excited about it too.

In his Tanya (chapter 9), Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi describes the battle between the instinctual “animal soul” and the transcendent “G‑dly soul.” They each claim a home base: the animal soul is most comfortably positioned in the reactive heart, easily persuaded by fad and attraction, willing to follow the next whim that appears. The G‑dly soul is based in the rational mind, finding purpose through rational process.

Not content to “live and let live,” they each seek to conquer the body—and so the battle is on. They are so single-minded they even attempt to infiltrate the opponent’s home base. The animal soul is eager to commandeer the mind’s cleverness to help realize its desires, while the G‑dly soul seeks to harness the heart’s passion for more enthusiastic service of G‑d and the betterment of humanity.

So how is one who’s caught in the crossfire of these two combatants to determine if his impulse is G‑dly or self-serving? Look to the source. If it originates in the intellect, that’s a clue that it’s a G‑dly soul impulse; if the return address reads “heart,” it’s probably from the animal soul.

We must teach schoolchildren to pursue their studies in order to form a moral and ethical code, enabling them to make a genuine difference in the world, not just the next “best mousetrap.” Sharpen your mind in hopes of making it more resilient against the wiles of the animal soul.

When the administration recommends searching the heart for “what you want” and then engaging the mind to “figure out how to get it,” they send the message that desire is king and intelligence its servant. G‑d created humans with their head above their hearts, reminding us that we must develop our emotional capacity under the tutelage of the mind to be of greater service to G‑d and mankind.

The school bell will ring for the final time in every student’s career, and the task of translating education into living will be thrust upon them. School must equip its charges with the tools to defend against the bombardment of temptation through mind-over-heart G‑dliness.

Now go out there and do some real good!

And parents, hurry up and get toweled off; the kids will be home any minute . . .

Rabbi Baruch Epstein is a Chabad-Lubavitch emissary to Illinois, and serves as the rabbi of Congregation Bais Menachem. He and his wife Chaya are the proud parents of three daughters.
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Discussion (41)
November 26, 2015
The sad truth is that we have to go to school to go anywhere in society today its tough because your only way to have a good future is if you follow there way sometimes I feel like just a part of the system which bothers me. I'm 16 by the way.
November 24, 2015
school is but a word
October 23, 2015
School is too complicated
October 19, 2015
Doomguy's comments
You can go to college even if you parents won't pay. Lots of students borrow the money to pay for college. Some students get the college or the government to pay.

Why don't you "actually want to succeed"?
Camarillo, CA, USA
October 8, 2015
This is stupid
To me school is not important. Most of the stuff I need to learn is the basic stuff, math and ela. science and social studies are really not important. It is only for people who actually want to succeed. I just want to finish high school. It's not like my parents would actually pay for college.
May 24, 2015
Most children who are complaining about school in the comments can't spell .-. I mean, I'm eleven I go to a school where everything is in a different language to English other than English lessons yet my spelling is better than most 12-14 year olds xD I think it's quite sad actually.
April 27, 2015
I don't want school are teacher is mean and never gives us breakers and it put so mush stresse on me
April 27, 2015
I hate school because I get bullyed all the time I pound them they will not stop I fill like I am in jail
blake boyet
April 1, 2015
I'm iin school from 7:23 to 2:45 if we feel the need we would not like to attend school and wonder around the streets the police sends us right back to school like we have no rights like we are trapped. I feel like I am trapped! And cannot leave until i turn a certian age, or over a certain amount of time. Until they say so. This isnot agood feeling. i understand we have to get an "education" but not like this. Imean they even have to tell us what we have to wear.Tell us when to leave class . Terll us when to go to class. Tell us how long were going to stay in class and once you hear the bell you can leave. Why?
A worried chlild
March 25, 2015
A prison-like building for children and teens to lose their personality and dreams to hopefully grow up to be used money and time wise.Freedom will be out of reach for the rest of their lives from then. They will teach you being useful is more important than you life or family.
Collage: Learn the exact same things from school but with more pressure so you are more likely to commit suicide. This will take your money and time from your life. And once you realize it's over, you must get the same job with the same pay, even if you didn't sell your years away to collage.