Revisiting Education – Machon Shmuel 

What is this?

Chinuch today is more complex than ever with never-before-seen challenges facing our youth. Parents and educators struggle to find way to inspire our children with the same fire and passion that has long sustained Chassidishe Chinuch through the generations.

As the greater Chabad community questions and debates how to reinvigorate our Chinuch system, it is imperative to find answers to the core issues we are facing. The Menachem Education Foundation felt the need to bring clarity to this ongoing community conversation and root it in Torah-true sources. To that end, MEF commissioned JLI’s Machon Shmuel, the Sami Rohr Research Institute division, to study a few of the most pressing Chinuch questions educators face today and draw up a comprehensive report of its findings.

Some of these questions include:
1. What is Chinuch? What are we trying to teach our children?
2. Should educators emphasize Torah content in their lessons or teach students how to master the process and skills of learning?
3. What is the role of schools in taking responsibility for each and every student in our community?
4. What is the Rebbe’s position on pedagogic methodology and teacher training?
5. Is there a place for pedagogy that stems from secular, non-Torah sources in Chabad Chinuch?
The Machon Shmuel team, led by Rabbi Avrohom Bergstein, delved into these, and many other related Chinuch issues. The result is Revisiting Education, an extensive report which explores many of the critical and timely issues related to Chinuch from the perspective of Torah luminaries across the spectrum of Torah scholarship, with an emphasis on the views of the Lubavitcher Rebbeim.
MEF is proud to present these findings as a resource to the general public so that mechanchim and parents alike can participate in the critical conversation about the aspirations we have for the Chinuch of our children. The document is supported by strong Haskamos from Chabad Rabbanim and is intended to help guide schools and mechanchim in their own decision-making process as they grapple with these important questions.
Summary of Document:

1. A child’s path to maturity and competence in learning is unique to his personality and cognitive abilities. This fact makes it necessary to work with each child individually and tailor—to the degree possible—learning opportunities that will both stimulate and challenge his mind (pp. 8-17).

2. The dominant attitude to introducing the study of Gemara in the elementary grades is that one must attempt to train all students to learn Gemara, in the belief that every child can succeed at some level (pp. 17-25).

3. Every child must be granted the opportunity to pursue the study of Torah (pp. 25-28).

4. Effective teachers succeed at training all their students in how to learn (p. 32).

5. When a child appears to be failing, the educator must examine his approach and reorient his instruction (pp. 29-41).

a. Every subject is comprised of concrete, absolute information as well as abstract ideas. To absorb the abstract, one must first master the concrete.

b. Students may fail to grasp abstract ideas when a teacher neglects to first fortify their mastery over the absolute and concrete.

6. It is imperative to train a student to analyze, compare sources, resolve contradictions, and propose solutions to questions (pp. 42-45).

7. The emphasis of learning must be to achieve mastery over the process and skills of learning, so that a student can be empowered to learn independently (pp. 45-57).

8. One extremely conservative interpretation of the mesorah rejects the use of any new technology, methodology, pedagogy, psychology, etc. in the process of Torah education, if they originate in non-Torah sources (pp. 59-62).

9. Teacher training programs were offered by Merkos L’Inyonei Chinuch and the United Lubavitcher Yeshivos, that were based, at least in part, in non-Torah sources (pp. 69-73).

10. The Lubavitcher Rebbe was committed to ensuring that Chabad educators be trained in pedagogic methodology. The particular parameters of the programs endorsed by the Rebbe are explored at length below (pp. 63-84).