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Why Are We Not Following Daas Torah? | Meir Bergman

There’s an old pet peeve of mine that gnaws at me almost every day.

Well, every school day. After a long day of work – getting up early and toiling away until late afternoon to feed my family, I stagger back home looking forward to spending time with my wife and children. But that almost never happens.

Instead of spending quality time with my children, they are simply too busy for me. They are on the phone with friends trying to figure out the answers to a homework quiz they have to do. Or they’re scratching their heads over a worksheet given to them despite them not having learned the material in class. And sometimes they’re given assignments to do that they have no way of doing without help from their parents. So instead of bonding with their parents and siblings, my children are stuck gritting our teeth over the endless piles of homework thrown at them.

I was recently venting to a colleague of mine about this insanity, who pointed me towards a book called Hearts Full of Love, which was written based on the shmuessen of Rav Mattisyahu Solomon, the revered Lakewood mashgiach. Upon reading the section where he speaks about homework, I was absolutely stunned. Rav Mattisyahu says very clearly that the very type of homework that is frustrating me to no end subjects the children to “undue pressure and tension” and, furthermore, can be “unwelcome intrusions into the home.”

We are actively ignoring daas torah, dismissing it by saying “well, we know better.” Let me give you a quote from the book.

“How are parents with six children supposed to get anything done at home if they must spend hours and hours every evening doing homework with their children? And what if the parents simply cannot manage it? What happens then? They need to hire tutors to take their places, and the costs can be prohibitive. It is enough for many families to pay their tuition. They do not need this added financial burden.” Later in the chapter, Rav Mattisyahu says, “The schools should do all their teaching in school. The home should be a place of refuge for the children, a place to relax and unwind after a long and exhausting day in school… children should be allowed to be children at home. Anything that interferes with this interferes with the chances of their gaining a love for Torah, and that is not chinuch at all.”

Stunning, right? The mashgiach states, in the clearest of terms, that the intense mental gymnastics our children, and us as parents, are put through is completely wrong. This isn’t something new that he said – the book was written years ago! And nothing, absolutely zero, has changed.

You want to know why we have so many children going off the derech? Listen to what Rav Matisyahu said: children forced to do this amount of homework turns them off. Want to know why divorces in our community are going up? See again what Rav Matisyahu said: the amount of homework given to children creates tremendous stress in the home.

Honestly, I am flabbergasted. The vast majority of us take pride in following our rabbanim and manhigim. The vast majority of us listen to someone to guide us in our lives. And there is a good chance that the people we listen to learned how to guide people from none other than the mashgiach. So who are we, or more accurately, who are the schools and teachers, to say that he is wrong? Why is this still going on and why are we as a community completely ignoring daas torah?

I am at a loss.

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There are 30 Comments to "Why Are We Not Following Daas Torah? | Meir Bergman"

  • Israel says:

    I could not agree more. For heavens’ sake (literally) stop the madness !

  • Joe Kay says:

    I agree with you 110 percent! It’s insane that I come home each night to endless homework and it’s insane that from the minute the kids come home until they go to bed it’s homework,homework,homework! It’s time to end this madness! For our sake and our children sake!

  • Rina says:

    For the same reason that we dont follow the Torah learning schedule laid out in pirkei avos… we’ve adopted an academia style learning that focuses entirely on the amount of material taught.

  • Compotition says:

    The schools are competing with each other. Each school wants to be known as the best academically, so this is the result. You need to get together a group of parents and a few rabonim who will start a school with this reduced homework. However you have to have a commitment of parents that want to send to such a school. Otherwise you may be fighting a uphill battle. The schools think they know better. I have been through all of this thought process over the years.It is a political football as well. you may contact me through the scoop of u want my 2 cents.

  • Annon says:

    My youngest being in elementary school and having some married kids as well as most being girls i couldnt agree more. Besides not listening to R’ Mattisyahu what about what R’ Shteinman advised on girls chinuch? The answer was the basics. Thats not what I’ve seen

  • Simcha says:

    Not sure if the author is talking aboutt Limudei Kodesh homework, secular studies homework or both.

    Having put many kids through the system especially boys. I know why they are scratching their heads over secular homework. It’s because to a large extent the whole endeavor is mocked, the teachers are mocked. There is no kovod given. Notwithstanding the chilul HaShem created, but it creates an environment where a child cannot learn.

    I have experienced times where the head ringleader of the misbehavior in the afternoon is the star pupil during kodesh in the morning. In other words, there is often no accountability.

    Though the author above is describing a larger problem, what I decry here is certainly part of that problem.

  • Dina says:

    I agree with you 100 per cent. In my opinion the fact that so many students need private tutors reflects on the teacher’s incompetency.
    .

    A student should be able to understand what is taught in school and not have to put the burden on the parent or hiring a tutor, which most parents can’t afford.

    Furthermore, after a long day at school a student needs some down time and yes by needing the extra help from a parent or tutor the child feels inferior and lacks confidence. In essence this could lead that the child will hate school or refuse to go.

    Yes chazora is one thing but spending hours doing homework is
    another thing.

    Kol Hakovod for speaking up!

  • CMG says:

    I can’t agree more .. it’s heart breaking to watch 6,7 year old precious kids doing hours of homework instead of playing with their siblings, talking to their parents or playing with friends. The stress it causes is outrageous and unacceptable.
    Brings back awful memories of school.. sickening

  • Negel Vasser says:

    Parents should address this concern to the administration of their children’s school. Perhaps some children should be allowed to spend a number of minutes doing HW, as opposed to completion of a certain number of pages…
    Additionally, in our heterogenous classes, teachers are not necessarily the cause of students needing tutors. Parents, and in general our community, is averse to grouping students according to ability. This leaves the teacher to teach to the middle of the group. They cannot reteach the lesson as many times as may be necessary for all learners, as there are those who learn quickly- and should they be left to boredom- which quickly leads to disinterest in learning, and pranks?
    Schools, together with parents should work together to find solutions for all students. Hatzlacha!

  • Alte lkwd says:

    The mashgiach also said no internet, so how do you choose when to listen to Das torah and when not to?

  • Under Estimated says:

    For some illogical reason The Daas Torah of Rav Solomon is highly under-rated. He is a Gadol of the highest order.

  • Mordy says:

    Why don’t parents discuss this with teachers during conferences?

  • Chesky says:

    While you are totally right compotition already stressed that the problem starts with parents only wanting to send to a top school, the problem goes on much further making sure everyone that also sends to your kids school fits your ideology. We the parents want the school to be a certain way. The outcome is 1 thing sedom! where you have a special bed making sure everyone fits in it.
    Of course the list goes on its not just homework, in the class there is those kids that need a shadow r”l,
    And then there is those kids that don’t deserve to go to school at all there is plenty of families left without a school including me.
    Who is to blame is it just those heartless bosses from schools that don’t think you belong in their society? or is it the parents that made sure their schools Parent body fits thier style.

    I think we could all stop this nonsense every parent that has a shtikal gafeel should call up thier school and share a piece of their mind in sure if everyone will be on the same page we could change this

  • bizarre says:

    Homework is ur problem??
    Ha Ha. Very funny.
    What about R’ Aron Leib saying we must take in every student?
    What about Gedolim bemoaning the slow pace of boys 1st seder, learning only 8-10 Blatt a whole winter zman.
    The answer is, simply, some fedolim say this some say farkert.
    Same with Homework.

  • David says:

    This is all common sense …parents have to know that they are in charge of their children’s wellbeing and the parents of the class should get together and tell the Teacher and principal these are our children and our home and we do not want homework or this amount of homework coming home and we will not do it

  • Tony Tomson says:

    The author makes a valid point. Rav Matisyahu does indeed say that homework is not good. Is it the authors conjecture that this is what causes children to go off the derech? I have been under the impression that internet usage is what he feels most strongly about.
    You think he’s a gadol when he agrees with you, otherwise….
    And if you think that homework causes anywhere near as much damage as internet usage, you have your head buried somewhere and are blinded by your own biases.

  • C.T. says:

    WHOA! I’m not sure which schools you all send your kids to – but I don’t have this problem at all! My kids go to amazing schools and at any point when I felt that the H.W. was over the top, I discussed this with the teacher at the time, and we worked it out.
    In general I feel that limited amount of HW is very beneficial –
    I’m talking about not more than 10 minutes for Primary and 1st graders, half hour for kids under 5th grade, and not more than an hour for upper Elementary.
    Some of the reasons why I’m for it:
    A. It gives the kids a chance to review what they learned that day.
    B. It gives the teacher a chance to see where the child is holding.
    C. It gives them something constructive to do – most kids have at least 4 hours before bedtime from when they come home from school.
    D. It actually gives me a chance to bond with each child and show interest in their learning, and appreciate all their efforts.
    Let’s try to be appreciative to our Morahs, Rabbeim and schools. If we have an issue let’s talk to them and try to resolve it rather than kvetch and complain publicly.

  • C.T. says:

    I just wanted to add – that yes, there are many days that H.W. becomes a burden and is very difficult to be on top of. Yet, so is cooking cleaning and laundry!
    Also, for upper elementary and HS girls – H.W. is a chance for them to get together with friends and connect…
    and BH my Bochrim don’t have any homework – my son comes home at 8.30 and has plenty of time to unwind. Good luck everyone!

  • Busy Mom says:

    To C.T.

    Wait till your dtr is in High School and come back. Lets see how you deal with your dtrs bed time after 12 each night due to the enormous amount of Homework they have. Its preposterous!! Its a crime to our girls. Shame on the schools who put our girls thru this day in day out, or rather, night in, night out.

  • Busy says:

    I have seven kids and all in school one graduated. They do not have that much HW ! They like to kvetch and say they do ! Except for November testing ,midterms, and finals the girls are practically bored at night hence the plays and all the other extra curricular activities. The boys have minimal HW in the younger grades the older grades have no HW besides reviewing Gemara. There are a handful of times when they are stressed from the load but overall I think it gives something to do and friends to study with and stuff to hock about and kvetch about (which they love to do) what I consider more of a problem is the pressure put on 8 th grade boys for farhers and getting into mesivta! It’s outrageous and it’s doing a great deal of harm!

  • Allen C says:

    Besides for the Mashgiach, there are many Torah authorities in Eretz Yisroel who hold the same way about HW. Last night I had to run to the dollar store to get supplies for my daughter Indian Day project (that’s after the costumes I ordered from Amazon did not show up on time). The schools need to switch it all up and forget about their curriculum. They should be focusing on the kids emotional well beings. There has never been a time in my life which the kids need a none pressured fun family atmosphere to come home to. Let’s Make The Home Great Again!

  • Ron Benvenisti says:

    Very interesting article from the Mashgiach on “Kosher” music.

    https://web.archive.org/web/20180628155300/http://soundassets.com/MashgiachMusic.pdf

    Drasha on Ahasverous’ Feast. Thoughts to ponder from a genius.

  • I agree says:

    @Busy I have the same experience with my family.
    There are some schools who actually ask their teachers to give minimal homework. We’re blessed to be in such a mosad. However, the 8th grade boys and girls have way too much pressure preparing and getting into mesivta or high school.

  • harv says:

    @everyone that says their kids have too much HW:

    Think of an amount of time that you think is reasonable and after that amount of time is up, just tell the kids that they don’t have to do the rest. You write a nice note to the rebbe or morah and all should be good. They’re not going to give your kids a failing grade.

    Alternatively, just give them the answers. If you don’t think they should do it at all anyways, then what’s the difference if you give them the answers and they can finish in 10 minutes.

  • C.T. says:

    Hi busy Mom!
    I actually have a few girls out of high school – and BH we all survived it!!
    And, yes, they used to go to sleep after me… but when they don’t have hw are they busy helping you or spending time on the computer? It’s actually great for the girls to learn how to juggle. BH my married are juggling alot and they tell me that hs and Sem were a joke compared to married life and raising children. I see some of these girls managing the hw – and they get to bed at a decent time and do well.. others have a harder time focusing and juggling, and yes when they’re adults they will too!! Lets help our kids get through it, stronger and more capable!! And if we have to run out to $$ store to help them with a project… smile through it! Take that cjild with, enjoy and create memories!!

  • Anonymous says:

    CT, I think the fact that married women are juggling so much is another thing about society that is causing the above mentioned issues and needs to change. Stressed kids, stressed adults — we raise the kids thinking it’s all just normal life, and it’s not. But I guess that’s a topic for another post…

  • concerned parent says:

    whay dont we listen to daas torah? there is no public achdus amoungst the gedolim on this issue/ let them get together like they did regarding the internet. this one goes to r’ Mottisyahu, this one goe the skulener, and the third one goes to the satmerer. Guys in Brisk will only hear from the brisker rav. etc. etc. so what is you question?

  • too much says:

    here is tonight’s homework in our home:

    primary: kriah sheet, math sheet

    first grade: 2 spelling sheets, math sheet, reading book to be read twice and a timed reading sheet, 2 pasukim to be chazzered and a teich fill in sheet-

    third grade: chazzarah pasukim 1-18 and 4 rashis, math sheet, (18 problems) and studying for BOTH a spelling and vocab test

    6th grade: (does most on own) parsha quiz , needed me to test on vocab

    note it is thursday night!! (and for almost all of it they needed my undivided attention and help)
    (it is also important to mention that the toddlers, babies etc. are just shuffled around while the bigger kids need their parents to focus on them!)

  • D.C. says:

    The assumption you base your question on is that we listen to our Gedolim. I wish that were indeed the case, but I don’t think it is.

    When they tell us to tone down our Simchos, do we listen? When they tell us to keep the internet far from our homes, do we listen? When they tell us not to use Zoom etc., do we listen? Are our phones Tahor? Are our vacations B’Derech Yisrael Saba? Is how we spend our money the way we should spend our money? Has excess gashmius and alchohol become the mark of our youth? No, no, no, no, no, no, and Rachmana Litzlan, yes. So exactly when do we listen to them?

    Many of us do listen, but that is as individuals. As a group we ignore them. We proudly cite our Gedolim when they agree with us, but b’chardrei cha’darim (and even sometimes in public or in front of our children) we dismiss the things they say that we don’t agree with.

    Don’t expect your kids or spouse to listen to Gedolim if they hear you say “What does Rabbi X know about medicine”, “They are out of touch with the needs of business today”, etc….

  • D.C. says:

    My children’s elementary school thinks I am crazy, but my children are better off for it. I share a version of the following story with the staff each year and sometimes, although not often, I receive positive responses. Either way, they know that I am the problem, not my children – so my children don’t get the flack when I judge HW to be damaging and stop them from doing it.

    Shevy walked respectfully into her new classroom on the first day of school, presented Mrs. Green with a bright red apple, quietly found her seat, removed a basked of laundry from her backpack, and began to neatly fold clothes.

    When the astounded teacher asked her what she was doing, she replied; “Schoolwork, Mrs. Green. My parents send me to school each day with schoolwork so that my domestic skills do not suffer.”

    Outrageous, is it not? Yet we accept such outrage each day.

    A school strives to provide an environment in which students can thrive. Teachers would be justifiably outraged if parents were to send students to school with tasks that help parents run their home, but disrupt the classroom.

    Similarly, a home strives to provide an environment in which children can thrive. Parents would be justifiably outraged if teachers send children home with tasks that help teachers run their classroom, but disrupt the home.

    Dear Principal/Teacher, we don’t want to disrupt your sacred work, and we beg you to refrain from disrupting ours. We both desire to help our youth flourish and have created environments for that purpose. Let us respect each others roles and not insert outside disruptions into each others environment.