Did you ever have an idea or concept that you thought was either progressive or forward-thinking with significant positive implications, only to be told by a colleague or an observer that “it’s an excellent idea – but, practically unrealistic”.
At first blush, an initial reaction to this response may be one of disappointment (depending upon the relationship). It can even be somewhat deflating. But, once you place this feeling of disappointment into perspective, it is imperative that we seek to understand and appreciate why the person’s response of “practically unrealistic” was posited, its context, purpose and even motivation.
More often than not, folks will reject an idea or concept right out of the gate – without even giving the idea serious reflection, thought or contemplation. Trying to determine why this is the case is a bit of a rabbit hole. Then of course there are those who reject an idea based upon past experience, expertise, knowledge and/or disposition.
Irrespective of the reason or rational, there is no right or wrong response; and, it is important to view divergent and disparate responses and perspectives in an open, respectful, objective and non-defensive manner – no matter how committed you are to your idea, concept, suggestion or recommendation.
My motivation for writing this blog is based in part upon a email I recently received from a senior educator colleague regarding a proposal I presented on my podcast, Chinuch Horizons. The topic for the podcast episode was The Derech Eretz Conundrum: Challenges and Solutions.
On the podcast, I proposed a somewhat radical approach for our day schools and yeshivot to consider, when responding to the growing lack of student derech eretz , middot and character.
Essentially, the proposal called for our day schools and yeshivot to adopt a policy requiring parents to participate in a series of specially designed mandatory parenting and parent education workshops, seminars and consultations. These mandatory requirements would be offered throughout the year in order to accommodate the hectic and time-starved schedules of parents. For those parents who are unable to participate on site, zoom transmissions would be offered.
As envisioned, these sessions would include parenting best practices, the use of appropriate speech and language in the home, effective communication with children, shmirat halashon and shmirat haDibbur, as well as boundaries and discipline enveloped and guided through empathy, love and respect, to name a few. In addition, family counselors would be available and accessible to parents in order to help guide them through the myriad of effective parenting practices and processes, with strong emphasis on teaching their children about the centrality of derech eretz and middot.
All of these mandatory sessions would be offered in addition to the school’s responsibility in offering an extensive integrated derech eretz curriculum, as well as teacher training and leadership development for principals, heads of school and administrators with significant emphasis on modeling for their students.
In my podcast I refereed to this proposed initiative as Project Torah Im Derech Eretz. or the acronym “TIDE”.
The Challenge: Unrealistic vs Attainable
When making this recommendation via the podcast, I knew well in advance that the very idea or concept would be difficult for people to accept or embrace, let alone implement. This is especially the case given the mandatory nature of my recommendation. If there is one aspect of this proposal which folks may feel is “unrealistic” it would be the mandatory requirements inherent in the model. This is particularly the case given today’s realities.
When a person indicates (such as the case at hand) that the recommendation which I posited is “practically unrealistic” I assume that the individual is referring to “doability” in the here and now. It may also represent a reflection on the individuals personal or professional experience in this arena. These are all very fair, understandable and acceptable.
Having said that, I firmly believe that the challenge my proposal does present, may motivate us as an educational community to begin considering how we can stretch our desires, passion, imagination creativity and understanding in order to help transform or covert what appears to be practically unrealistic to one which can in fact become realistic.
I make this point with specific reference to my proposal, or to other bold proposals which may be viewed, at first blush as being practically unrealistic.
I would also like to suggested that our rule of thumb as a Jewish educational community must be one that pushes and stretches the envelop to its limits. To be sure, we should never shy away from proposed initiatives which challenge the status quo or which appear to be difficult or insurmountable to develop or implement. Complacency, fear of change and uncertainty are indeed the enemies of progress. This is especially true when trying desperately to improve the condition of our Jewish educational community and the families it impact and its institutions.
At the end of the day, our goals and aspirations should never be limited by a mindset which promotes or supports excuses such as “practically unrealistic”. A true desire and willingness to make the unrealistic real and doable takes courage, risk and a sense of urgency – all of the essential ingredients for progress, advancement and eventual success . .
The future of our Jewish educational community is way too important for us not to take informed chances and bold risks. Our starting point should be that everything is possible, feasible and practical — until proven otherwise.
Together, we can do it!