Nov 19, 2009

Rav Steinman on "abusive" education

Rav Steinman was approached by a longtime educator with a serious question whether perhaps he had been mistaken in his style of education in which he used the old fashioned methods that nowadays we would call being abusive. he hit kids, he spoke down to them, he shamed them into action, etc.

The educator received a call from a former student. He was threatened that he would be paid back for all the abuse...

Rav Steinman's response is that everything he did was ok, as that was the accepted method back then. He said that today's children are different and those methods can no longer be used. Nowadays, shaming a child does not spur him into action or into improving his behavior, rather it throws him into depression. However, he should not regret the methods he used to use, as at the time they were appropriate, and generally the children of those generations accepted such rebuke and changed.

If some children did not, and now they want revenge, Rav Steinman said he should apologize to them and explain that those methods used to be the way of education, but he had no intention to harm them.

(source: Kikar)


  1. I see this being taken out of context for some good ol' Charedi bashing....

  2. N, the source is kikar shabbos - that IS a Chardei source! Is is not bashing. However, if you read the article and see what that mechanech actually did to his students... I was shocked! Could you ever imagine Rav Yitzchak Dovid Grosman or Rav Aryeh Levin forcing a child to walk around the school wearing a shirt saying "I am a bad kid"! I think Rav Shteinman was too soft on him!

  3. Why ARE THEY so mean and cruel to our children?
    It seems some men are going through identity crises and feel they need to torment and abuse children in order to bolster their own fragile egos.

    When considering the world situation, it feels like we Jews are in the middle of universal storm between the forces of evil and good, and we are being battered by the forces of the storm.

  4. Don't Be So ParanoidNovember 20, 2009 6:09 AM


    Do you know what?

    Sometimes good ol charedi bashing is in place.

    Perhaps the charedim who subscribe to RAYLS's assessment that abusive behavior was good for certain kids will also understand that their own behavior needs to be looked at.

    There are many charedim who "bash" anyone not like them (DL,Chiloni,non-Jews)but then it's ok..right?

    Look how many Charedim speak about gedolim from the non Charedi this not bashing as well?

    I am entrenched in the charedi world here in RBSA and am embarrassed how other Jews are spoken of. My children pick up many anti ähavas yisroel"feelings in school. This type of attitude is what drives us all farther apart.

    Perhaps the time as come to back away from the high horse that whatever charedim do is fine and criticism of their actions is bashing.

  5. He said that today's children are different

    Does he really think that children have changed in a generation or two? I take it this is an educated guy, but here it sounds like he is an uninformed idiot. What he should be doing instead is tracking down every former student he abused and get down on his knees to beg mechila.

    I had a Rabbi like this in 9'th grade that was abusive. Once I tape recorded his class, showed it to my father, and my father took it to the principal of the school. The Rabbi moderated his abuse for the remainder of the year, and didn't teach there anymore the next year.


  6. Corporal PunishmentNovember 20, 2009 3:53 PM

    Corporal punishment was accepted in my (non-Jewish) schools (35 yrs ago..), includng teachers hitting children with a wooden cane, slippers, rulers,even flying (wooden) blackboard cleaners, in the 'appropriate' context (eg not used in anger).

    However, even in such an environment certain behaviour was recognised as abusive and damaging to the children.

    It is not clear from your short article here what the nature of the claims were of the ex-student; just what the teacher has admitted to. What kind of physical, verbal and emotional attacks is the student accusing the teacher of?

    Does anyone know if Rav Steinman interviewed the student who has complained, or other children from those classes, for a more balanced picture of what really went on in/out that classroom?

    Even in the good ol' days of corporal punishment, that teacher might have been guilty of abuse against the children under his care - in which case why is R.Steinman giving him the okay?!

  7. I think Rav Shteinman was too soft on him!

    Of course - that's why he went to Rav Shteinman and not Rav Kanievsky!

    There was a great story I believe told by Rabbi Wein, that there was once a shtetl that got a new melamed and the parents were upset that he wasn't hitting any of the children as part of the discipline. The community Rav checked into it, and told the parents, don't worry he's doing just fine and he's going to be much more than a melamed one day. It was Rav Yaakov Kaminetsky.

    So corporal punishment was not only accepted but expected. I can say the same for my public elementary school in the south c. 1975 - even I (a girl!) got paddled a few times. It was not abusive, and the wilder kids from uneducated families responded to it as a normal deterrent. For me, more clever and bored than rebellious, the stick at school and the hand at home weren't the most constructive method.

  8. Mark and others - It is clear that kids today are different than they were 20 years ago, 50 years ago, 100 years ago, etc. it is natural, as every generation is different. This generation of children clearly responds to and is attentive to authority far less than previous generations.
    Methods of discipline have also changed and what was once accepted as being ok, a "potch" for example, is nowdays not considered acceptable. Even if and when administered, the kids reaction to it is different than it used to be.

    What was once considered acceptable is today considered abusive. Yes, there were methods that even back then were abusive. And in Israel the methods that have been considered acceptable or not are different than those that were in the US or other countries, and Rav Steinman seems to have been discussing a situation that was in Israel..

  9. Rafi - This generation of children clearly responds to and is attentive to authority far less than previous generations.

    I think every single generation has said this (I've even seen some quotes by Socrates, Aristotle, or Plato of the same type). I've said it, and shortly thereafter realized that by saying it ("kids today ...") I moved into the "previous generation". It was a somewhat sad, though completely true, realization :-)

    And I don't care which generation of kids, speaking down to them or shaming them in public are never methods that work, and are almost always sure to backfire.


  10. Kol Hakovad to Mark and his father and the principal.

    There was a time that everybody knew if you acted out of line, you knew you would "get it."

    But to put down a child? Shame him? Since when has an Issur D'Oraissa been mutar?


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