Motti Wilhelm

How we can fix education

When we are addressing antisemitism in Kindergarten, we need to rethink our strategy.  Image by on Freepik.
When we are addressing antisemitism in Kindergarten, we need to rethink our strategy. Image by on Freepik.

Every responsible citizen must be concerned with the state of education in the United States.

Not only on our university campuses but even the state of primary schools is so concerning that our local federation hosted a webinar addressing “Antisemitism and Curriculum Concerns in K-12 Educational Settings.”

When webinars are being held about antisemitism in Kindergarten, it’s time to rethink our strategy.

Perhaps our system is too focused on what not to teach instead of considering the true purpose of education. Rather than approaching education as a holistic system meant to provide children with a sense of purpose, identity, morality, and tools for self-sufficiency, the focus has been on ensuring children are not taught about a creator, not given a moral compass or sense of objective truth, and provided no sense of identity.

Essentially we are teaching children how to make a living, without providing guidance on how to live. Thus the system is broken.

The solution begins when we “start with why”. By supporting our youth in connecting with their inner purpose, personal mission and moral compass.  Creative solutions like the regents’ prayer, release time, moment of silence, and school vouchers can be used to honor our constitution while creating a  respectful and diverse society which nurtures the notion of higher purpose and foundational compasses.

When President Carter established the Department of Education, the Rebbe wrote the following in letters to the President and Vice President.

“Education, in general, should not be limited to the acquisition of knowledge and preparation for a career, or in common parlance, ‘to make a better living!’ We must think in terms of a ‘better life,’ not only for the individual, but also for society as a whole. The educational system must, therefore, pay more attention, indeed, the main attention, to the building of character, with emphasis on moral and ethical values.”

The Declaration of Independence states: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.”

We need to nurture these “self-evident” truths. We can do that by reframing the purpose of education from simply “making a better living” to ensuring it is about making a “better life” for society as a whole.

If we did that, we would likely not need to deal with antisemitism in Kindergarten.


For further reading:
The Moment of Silence Movement 
The Start of Education Day USA
Letters to President Carter & Vice-President Mondale
The Rebbe and President Ronald Reagan
Non-Denominational Prayer in Public Schools
Prayer in Public Schools and Separation of Church and State

About the Author
Rabbi Motti Wilhelm received his diploma of Talmudic Studies from the Rabbinical College of Australia & New Zealand in 2003 and was ordained as a rabbi by the Rabbinical College of America and Israel’s former chief Rabbi Mordecha Eliyahu in 2004. He was the editor of Kovetz Ohelei Torah, a respected Journal of Talmudic essays. He lectures on Talmudic Law, Medical Ethics and a wide array of Jewish subjects and has led services in the United States, Canada, Africa and Australia. His video blog Rabbi Motti's Minute is highly popular as are his weekly emails. Rabbi Wilhelm and his wife Mimi lead Chabad SW Portland as Shluchim of the Lubavitcher Rebbe.
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