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Answer to Barry Chazan: The philosophy of informal Jewish education

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Joseph Reimer presents some necessary questions about Barry Chazan's essential informal Jewish education analysis.

Contents: Introduction · Back to Dewey: Expertise and Education · Conclusion · How to mention this text

Barry Chazan has taken the lead prior to now decade defining a unified definition of the informal Jewish education sector. He have to be recommended for this endeavor; too few researchers have joined this effort. However we ought to be conscious of what Chazan is and doesn’t attempt. As said in the title of his work, Chazan expresses the philosophy of informal education for Jews. He does not listing this subject in all its numerous manifestations. Nor does he draw any boundaries between this and different fields of education. He answers an important query: What must be described as coaching activities, which we call informal Jewish education?

I consider that the proposed “defining characteristics of informal Jewish education” are on the heart of his argument. Chazan writes that these "make up the features of informal Jewish education". I consider that he does not make an empirical assertion, however a normative: this might be the case with informal Jewish education. He’s truly speaking about "best practices" relatively than common follow. Truly, empirical analysis on basic apply has just begun.

I was first tempted to take a look at all eight defining qualities and raise questions about Chazan's decisions and design. I consider that the analysis has to be accomplished. However I have chosen to give attention to a narrower path to a single attribute – "centrality of experience" – and explore its deeper significance. I strongly agree that it belongs on this listing. However I additionally consider that its definition is rather more difficult than Chazan can cover in this brief ebook. I dig deeper into what we mean by saying that "experience" is a key part of the informal apply of Jewish education.

Again to Dewey: Experience and Training

As Chazan does not acknowledge a up to date thinker concerning the position of expertise in education can begin without John Dewey. Dewey gave us the primary vocabulary for this analysis. For the sake of simplicity, I do not quote Dewey, however do a quantity of factors, mainly due to his work. These points take a look at what we mean by saying that “experience” varieties the idea for Jewish learning within the context of informal Jewish instructional packages

1. Not the whole lot that occurs to us is "experience." So much of what occurs to us is hardly registered. That is as true in Jewish contexts as elsewhere. How typically can we virtually sleep via this prayer service or this class. There are additionally informal training packages the place the participant will hardly keep in mind every week later. Simply because this system requires its members to walk via the forest and take the sights into consideration, it does not mean that they’ve executed so. "Experience" – within the sense that Dewey and Chazan mean – is a really special moment during which an individual takes an lively and aware of what occurs and stores it in reminiscence.

2. Expertise is minimal without narration and interpretation . I can actively witness the breathtaking sundown and respect its putting beauty. But if I’m going house, say anything about what I noticed and turn on your TV, I’ll in all probability go to my experience. What retains the expertise alive is our disappointing attempt to gather this expertise in some stories. We turn to our partners and share what we noticed. We're talking about it to someone who wasn't there. We reserve it in a magazine or letter. Something that has happened has to be reworked into a story (although it was stated to you from the thought) to stay with us. Otherwise, the sunset will blend in with many other points of interest and lose a particular place in my reminiscence.

Every narration can also be an interpretation. If I inform you my pal, that this is simply probably the most lovely sunset, I added the "most beautiful" to the outline of what I saw. But this addition is a component of my expertise. My expertise shouldn’t be what I noticed, but how do I interpret what I did. If I tell my pal that I solely learn probably the most contagious novel, I hope he will ask me a novel. If he does, I will more probably describe the novel studying experience and not a extra objective assessment of the novel. For we love to share our expertise of all interpretive earnings. This interpretation makes this occasion a personal expertise. With out this interpretation, expertise just isn’t ours.

three. Not all experiences are educated. I am an avid Celtics fan. Throughout this period, when Celtics gained for the first time in a decade, I observed that I was watching the video games with interest. I examine video games both earlier than and after their occasions. I talked about games with my associates. I was praised for Celtics' victories and sad for his or her remaining elimination. I had an lively and attentive experience as a Celtics fan; but I discovered nothing from my experience? Was this participation a instructor expertise?

This question might be dealt with, but I feel we’ve to admit that each experience we transmit isn’t instructional. Dewey strongly believes that experience could be deceptive. They will lead anyplace; or worse, leads in the mistaken course. Take the company leaders who discovered that their enterprise might surpass their revenue and get away from the shortage of fact. This experience made them repeat this sample till the amount of abuse elevated to $ 1 billion. Dewey would argue that the sample isn’t limited to a number of leaders, however it’s about most of us once we wander about what we know is true, however the expertise of getting out of it. We discovered from these experiences, however from false classes.

The post-Celtics expertise can lead to anything and be still pleasant and enjoyable. Perhaps what makes sports enjoyable is that we don't have to study from experience. It’s simply. However Dewey separates rest from coaching. So as to get coaching, expertise have to be considerably constructive. We should study from it and comply with it with other experiences that broaden our horizons. In case you take a look at Celtics to make me extra interested in what makes good teamwork and how gamers have improved their teamwork, I may be the best way to an academic experience.

four. Not all experiences are straightforward to interpret. I walk down the street and instantly a stranger collides with me. As an alternative of apologizing, she curses me and tells me to look the place I'm going. He's a coloured man. This expertise stops and stays with me. What do I do with this experience? How do I interpret what occurred? What should I study from it?

Many experiences are emotionally awakening, however cognitive and moral complicated. Crashing and curseing an alien for me is something that occurred to me. But I move it to my experience by holding it and deciphering it. Inform my wife, I might say something unusual and disturbing, and depart it to it. But I might say that this colored man beat me. Then I might group this event into a gaggle of experiences that I tell her group and skate with prejudices.

Mother and father typically find that when a younger youngster falls, there’s a moment of silence earlier than he reacts. Psychologists tell us that a baby can look around to learn recommendations on how they react. Involved parental mentions a toddler crying. So with the occasions that occur to us. We anticipate others to understand the occasion and help us construct its interpretation. These others are collectively to create our expertise via a shared interpretation framework. Parental concern confirms to the child that he / she is going to endure.

A method to practice is to talk about these direct and oblique experiences. Such informal coaching alternatives – indeed typically demanding – permit such discussions. Typically we name these alternatives “teaching moments.” If the experience isn’t just what happened, but what we do about what happened, then who helps in developing narrative interpretation. This activity just isn’t educating and even modeling. It’s a primary coaching that helps to provide an interpretive lens that looks on the social world.

5. Academics practice by designing contacts where members can have particular experiences. Once I walk on a fantastic path, I say two thanksgiving prayers. The first is the Creator of the pure world and the second is the anonymous informal instructor who has arrange this path. I don't know any text for an additional prayer. Nevertheless, it appears clear that if these path creators had not achieved a superb job, I could not get this top quality experience.

I feel that a lot of the work of informal education is like setting paths for mountaineering. If the route is correctly set up, hikers can safely reach locations and see the sights they’ll never come alone. They achieve this in an inexpensive time and with out tiring or endangering themselves. They document sights with their cameras and share their tales about their hikers. They could even experience the brand new closeness to the Creator. On the finish of the hike, they congratulate themselves on their efforts and are unlikely to respect all the educating work that has been created to create the context for these experiences. But rather a lot of good educating work is invisible.

I give attention to the founders of the trail to emphasize that academics don’t give individuals experiences; they supply connections the place members can have some experience. If we keep in mind that from the point of view of Dewey, experience is what the individual, the social context, builds on himself, then experiences can’t be handed instantly from the instructor to the individuals. Nevertheless, a gifted instructor may be, and however, an awesome showcase of the packages, particular person individuals build a multiple expertise of any educating occasion. Coaching efforts have not been instantly translated into individual experience.

But by focusing on the position of the Setter of the trail, I don’t need to ignore the position of the Nature Conservator, who follows the group in their trek. This informal coach merely doesn’t plan a hike, but in addition interacts with the group and helps to interpret what they’re experiencing along the best way. He might have a extra direct effect than a setter with a path. Definitely, what we talked about deciphering events helps this chance. Good informal education rigorously creates the context and interacts with the members earlier than, throughout and after the occasion.

Nevertheless, I would really like to emphasize that the instructor does not often give an interpretation of these experiences. The trainer often presents an interpretation, a thread, or two comments about which the story of these experiences can be constructed. Interpretation of experiences is usually a dynamic process that collects many perspectives and weaves these tales that may be reviewed many occasions after events.

6. Experience might not end when an occasion or program is over. When evaluating whether the experience is instructional, Dewey asks the following query: Has this expertise led to the learner's different experiences that broaden his information and understanding of this domain? If I had an exquisite hike, would this experience get me into natural research, understanding the pure world, appreciating the sweetness of the cosmos, and / or additional motion with such coaching packages? In the Jewish context, a wonderful hike deepens my relationship with the Creator and raises my willingness to seek different deep connections between my Jewish roots and my personal experience?

Within the query, Dewey doesn’t see human experiences as particular person occasions, but it’s a potential network of combined learning opportunities. He does not recognize the individual's experience of the instructor's program, so Dewey recollects that the expertise does not have to be and shouldn’t finish with the unique occasion. Ideally, what I experience from this hike will encourage me to maintain this expertise alive in my thoughts and heart and to search different experiences associated to this.

Informal Jewish academics can focus too much on one program they are planning. Regardless of how wealthy a program could be and what number of nice experiences a participant can have in this context, crucial educating challenge is monitoring. What's subsequent? How do these experiences construct on the subsequent Jewish experience?


All these factors could be summarized in these easy statements of unofficial Jewish academics

. Do not confuse this system with expertise.

2. Your main process is to set a challenging but protected route.

three. But hold a significant dialog.


How to mention this article : Reimer, J. (2003) “Answer to Barry Chazan: The Philosophy of Unofficial Jewish Education”, Informatics Education,

Introduced by permission of the Jewish Workplace of the Analysis and Improvement Unit, Jewish Zionist Education Division. [Unit Web site –]

© ​​Joseph Reimer 2003

See: Chazan, B. (2003), “Informal Jewish Education Philosophy”, an encyclopedia of informal education. This text was initially delivered at a seminar on 29 December 2002. Repeated with permission of the Jewish Workplace of the Research and Improvement Unit, the Jewish Zionist Education Division. [Unit Website –]

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