Dec 13, 2013

Is it Hot in Here? Nah

One of the explanations given as to why Chushim the son of Dan took action and killed Eisav at Yaakov's funeral is that since he was deaf, he did not become immersed in the negotiations over the burial as did the rest of the children and grandchildren of Yaakov.  It happened slowly.  Eisav made a claim, the brothers made a counter-claim, Eisav responded, and it was decided that Naftali would go back to Egypt to get the document.  Chushim missed all this.  All he knew was that his grandfather's burial was delayed and this was disrespectful.

This idea, of slowly getting used to an untenable situation is referred to as the "boiling frog syndrome." Supposedly, if a frog is placed in boiling water it will jump out, but if it is placed in cold water that is slowly heated, it will not perceive the danger and will be cooked to death.

I am reminded of all this in connection with an article that I read by Sudy Rosengarten in which she provides the history of early education.  When she was a little girl, nearly eighty years ago, children started school at age six.  That is when they learned the ABC's and numbers.  A little googling shows that twenty of 34 European countries have a starting age of six and another eight wait until seven.

Then kindergartens were started for five year olds where they heard stories, played, and painted.  What followed was America's Head Start program for poor, disadvantaged children, ages 3-4.  The age has been lowered even further with playgroups for two year olds and younger in the US and Israel.  This is not for an hour or two.  Some of these programs are until three in the afternoon.  Of course, babysitters may keep them even longer.

If a mother wants to keep her child home because she doesn't believe that sending babies out to school is beneficial to them, there will be no playmates during school hours.

Mrs. Rosengarten covers some of the problems inherent in this new system which is now considered the norm ("boiling frog syndrome).  Most importantly, very young children need their mother.  There are years to come of schooling and these early years cannot be replaced.  It's a time when they are forming their first and most significant emotional attachment which will stand by them forever.

She also refers to those children who don't do well in group settings at the age of two and how "accelerating the natural timetable just isn't good for them" and how early academics are not a good idea.

All this may be irrelevant given that today's parents are "boiled frogs" and cannot imagine keeping a child home past the age of three, never mind four and five.  More often than not, these days, mothers are working so that even Rabbi Mandel a"h of Yeshiva of Brooklyn, who held that little children belong with their mothers, was "forced" by circumstances to open a preschool.  Mothers told him that they would be sending their children out of the home regardless so could he please open a class for them. 

The water has been boiling for so long now, that I don't think even a modern-day Chushim can save the day.

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