Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Disturbing view of child abuse


I understand that we are dealing with people who are terrified of the consequences of misbehavior with their children, since they see prison or death as realistic outcomes. They want to do what it takes to change that.

What I don't understand or accept is the methods used. What evidence is there that beating your child, putting him down and basically torturing him will turn him into a good kid and strong student? Absolutely none. They'd be better off using their energy to say, "what works for other groups?" and "what factors are not working for us?".

Yes, I know that all children are different and come with their own challenges. At the same time - I'm a lawyer, my husband is a doctor, his brothers are both doctors, and we went to school with tons of professionals and very few criminals, so I think we've seen what works. Our parents weren't doctors or lawyers, and my in-laws were immigrants with English as their 3rd language and just high school education. We also have kids who do well in school and get great conduct marks. We don't use corporal punishment, foul language or put-downs, and treat our kids with respect.

Aside from dealing with institutional racism, some tried and true methods for success include:

1. Strong role models of decency and success.
2. For boys in particular, strong male role models with positive morals.
3. Raising kids with the constant message that you EXPECT them to do good, and do well. It's not just semantics - there is a real difference between hearing "when you go to university, are you going to study law or medicine?" vs. "if you keep this up (at age 7), you'll land your ass in prison and may end up dead". From personal experience, I can tell you that law schools and med schools are filled with students who were told from birth that they were destined to become professionals.
4. Parents need to be the sort of people that they want their children to become.
5. Parents need to have a rock-solid relationship with their children, so that their children will WANT to follow in their footsteps.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Interesting study on distinctiveness of Jewish attitudes in America


The study's findings, for the most part, weren't exactly a huge surprise for me. Seeing it organized in this way, however, prompted an "Aha!" moment.

It's becoming common in Orthodox Jewish circles to dismiss liberal values (such as equality and commitment to civil rights) held by non-Orthodox Jews as simply another symptom of their assimilation into the outside secular society. The image used is one of poor lost Jewish souls, adrift from their spiritual heritage, who didn't know any better and got led astray by the non-Jewish world.

I could give lots of examples of this thinking, but this blog post is a good illustration.

What the data shows, however, is that embracing liberal values is NOT something that American Jews do in order to assimilate into the mainstream. To the contrary, these values - while they may not be the current values of right-wing Orthodoxy - are actually a distinctive feature of the Jewish community in general. Ironically, the social values of right-wing Orthodoxy are actually a step closer to those of non-Jewish Americans.