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Monday, February 28, 2011

Policies that Foster a Lack of Yashrut

In the past I noted that other private schools offer a financial aid package before parents sign a tuition contract. These schools also tend to collect tuition for the school year up front, or in 2-3 deposits, rather than monthly. Parents know what is expected and the business office likely doesn't expect to play a monthly cat and mouse game because tuition payments are mostly in the bank.

The general practice in our own day schools and yeshivot is to enroll students before the details of price are worked out, then work out a price, and after that engage in a monthly collections process. A friend of mine was encouraged to enroll her child in a school on the statement of a board member that they would very possibly be eligible for a tuition reduction (final decisions to be made in June, never mind that early enrollment took place mid-February). But without a guarantee, they weren't comfortable.

Another friend pointed out to me that their school asks all parents to sign a regular--i.e. full price--tuition contract prior to the financial aid decisions. The school has a reputation of being "flexible" but I find such a process incredibly problematic.

Pardon me for not being fully inculcated into the day school/yeshiva world, but the idea of working out the details **after** signing a contract is simply incomprehensible to me. More incomprehensible to me is why a school would ask parents to sign something knowing that a good 50-75% of parents are not going to pay that rate. The contract isn't worth the paper it is written on in such a case. If you want parents to take their obligation seriously, you have to have a serious process, one that fosters seriousness and yirat shomayim. I simply don't understand this method of operating. And I probably never will.


Zach Kessin said...

I simply don't understand this method of operating. And I probably never will.

I think calling it a method is being overly kind! What I don't understand is how have things stood up this long

rachel q said...

This is simply because the schools don't view themselves as a business, therefore they have no way of doing a good cashflow, let alone an estimate of how much money they will collect

EP said...

If the contract is a farce, I don't see why anyone should take it seriously. Simply delete any clauses you find objectionable, then sign the contract on your terms. If the school objects, you can negotiate from there. Start negotiations in mid-February, not in June. Take the negotiation process in your own hands. Don't expect the school to be "kind". Timing is all, and if the school wants your registration, they will have to move up the timetable for negotiation on reasonable terms. This is done in the business world all the time.

EP said...

By the way, a contract that leaves key term missing or vague, such as price, is unenforceable.

JS said...

It's a mystery to me why these yeshivas (even supposedly well-managed ones) can't provide tuition prices to parents at the same time that registration is requested. The yeshivas will argue that they can't set prices until they see what response they get to the registration request. That is just indicative of poor planning and a lack of understanding of the dynamics of their business. A yeshiva that's been in business for several years should have a very good understanding of how many children to expect based on last year's numbers, how many new children to expect, what percentage of parents pay what is asked, etc.

The fact is that they either don't understand their basic cash flow or they're just lazy and rely on the fact that this is just the ways things are done.

After all, have you ever seen a yeshiva say that registration was higher than expected so tuition will not go up or, at the very least, will go up less than projected? I have never seen the annual increase related to anything other than how much they think they can reasonably extract from parents' wallets. If the expectation is off, they go begging donors for the difference. That's yeshiva finances.

Mike S. said...

JS--almost all businesses set prices based on "how much they think they can reasonably extract from the [customers'] wallet." The term economists use for this is "what the market will bear." What frustrates you is that so many of your fellow customers are pretty price inelastic--i.e. they will send their kids regardless of the price. This limits the incentive the yeshivah has to control costs.

My kids' schools have always announced the tuition before asking for registration. They don't announce financial aid awards then in part because they do the registration in January or early Feb. and you can't even ask for aid until you have filed your 1040.

tesyaa said...

You know the old expression "you can't get blood from a stone"? The fact is that no family's children will be denied a yeshiva education because of inability to pay - schools may posture here and there, but in the end, if the family really doesn't have money, the kids will not be thrown out. So it doesn't foster a lack of yashrus so much as it's an elaborate dance in which the school tries to extract as much as possible, knowing that a lesser amount is probably forthcoming.

Anonymous said...

Perfect example from Rabbi Shaya Cohen who runs multiple institutions (and is WELL know for lack of payment to employees and vendors):

"An incident that took place over 25 years ago, also points out this concept. I once gave a Yeshiva bookkeeper a sign for her office, “Yeshuas Hashem K’heref Ayin.” The salvation from Hashem comes in a blink of an eye.

She once asked me, “Why is it that He only blinks at the very last minute?”

I answered that if He would blink a few days before the deadline or payroll, we might not realize that it is only from Him, and not because we are capable or competent. When, however, the salvation comes with a blink of the eye, at the last minute, we recognize clearly that it is only He that does it, and not ourselves or anything else."

Zach Kessin said...

I answered that if He would blink a few days before the deadline or payroll, we might not realize that it is only from Him, and not because we are capable or competent. When, however, the salvation comes with a blink of the eye, at the last minute, we recognize clearly that it is only He that does it, and not ourselves or anything else."

I'm sorry, but this sounds like an excuse for sloppy book keeping
more than anything else. I personally don't want to do business with anyone who operates on this basis! Because lets face it, this means that one hickup and the guy is insolvent.

There is a practice I have seen where a risky behavior is repeated again and again (often with more risk each time) until the entire thing comes crashing down like a house of cards. I honestly think much of the yeshiva system in the US is on the edge of bankruptcy, and will be in bankruptcy as soon as it gets the smallest nudge.

Anonymous said...

That's part of his problem Zach,

He is perpetually behind in payment to both employees and vendors, because he doesn't plan in his budget.

He believes the money will magically appear. Worse yet, the actions HE takes have no bearing on his making...or not making payroll. It is all a decision from G-d.

Miami Al said...

Let's see, to enroll their children in Yeshiva, so the children will learn to be good Yidden, our Frum Yidden parents:

1. Sign a contract for a sum that they cannot pay
2. Sign post dated checks in violation of current United States Law
3. Provide financial data that may or may not be accurate

To facillitate this process, the school will

1. Sign contracts with teachers that it probably will not be able to fulfill (the paid late phenomenon)
2. Knowingly have parents sign contracts for a sum that they can't afford
3. Require payment via those illegal post dated check

Cynical take: I'm glad the children are learning to be Frum Yidden, since neither the parents, nor those running the Yeshiva, appear to be.

But I'm sure those running the Yeshiva would NEVER eat something certified with Triangle K.

Anonymous said...

I am the father of the ADHD son who posted a few weeks ago. The public school psychologist found that my supposedly retarded son has an IQ of 125 and that his reading problems are due to "developmenal dyslexia." My son's current principal happended to call today regarding my son's overdue contract," and I had the pleasure of letting him know that Ben-Zion would not be returning. He stated that the I should not trust the public school because all they want is state tax money and now it is certain that my son will "go off the derech" and "become a drug addict."

tdr said...

Anonymous 11:19

It must be very gratifying for you to get some clarity on your son. What a relief for your whole family! Thanks for following up and letting us know the outcome.

Miami Al said...

Anon 11:19,

I'm so glad that you got some clarity and help, and have your child out of such a terrible environment.

I have a friend that went to RW Yeshivot here. Nice guy, bright guy, has minor dyslexia that wasn't caught until late and the RW high school couldn't do much. He doesn't realize that anything was wrong with the approach, but he's a bright guy that has technical certifications instead of a college degree and really struggles finding good paying work because of it... it's all hustling to find small jobs for small businesses to make enough to cover the bills. It's sad, because if he were in the field with a college degree, he could work a basic 9-5 job and make the same or more.

Most people don't have learning disabilities, but for the small percentage that does, the Yeshiva world's refusal to deal with them is truly tragic.

The gifted and special needs cases really suffer in the Yeshiva system. They used to also suffer in the public system, but a number of years ago, they have made accommodations for them. The middle 80% does fine in the Yeshiva system, but the long tails have it rough.

Zach Kessin said...

I have a problem with the idea of sending my kids to a school that makes theft of services a normal practice!

Maybe i'm crazy but if the people running a school can't figure out how to pay their bills on time and solve it by stealing from the teachers and vendors (and others) I don't want them educating my kids that this is normal and OK.

Anonymous said...


It is QUITE clear from the context of the story that the Rabbi finds the idea of having money when it is due as completely foreign. He argues that such a reality would work against Bitachon.

The abnormal, illegal, immoral and Assur has become G-d's will and his way of teaching the Rabbi Bitachon.

And it’s worse than sending your kids to his school. His specialty is working with Youth At Risk!

Anonymous said...

I am a teacher and I would strongly encourage the father of the ADHD child to keep him where he is now. Not to be mean, but how do you know that the school psychologist isn't just looking to increase the number of kids going to the local public school by telling you what you want to here. A lot of kids just need more discipline, and to be honest with you it's unlikely that a kid with an IQ of 125 would have the problems you suggest. I do, however, feel that you are justified in feeling isulted by the principal's poor choice of words to describe your son.
Malka Ruben

Anonymous said...


Are you REALLY challenging the opinion of an expert regarding a child you have NEVER met based on your own speculation and bias?

How much "extra money" do you think the Public School would get for servicing one more child? That's especially true in the high stakes test era, where an LD student can be a deficit for school performance

Anonymous said...

Let me tell you that I have been a teacher for over 8 years and have 5children of my own. IMO this whole ADD and dyslexia thing is really just an excuss that parents use when their kids can't keep up or when parents let their kids run wild instead of doing their homework. I would also tend to trust a principal who knows my child over a public school psychologist who migth be looking at the bottom line or who might have negative feelings about the frum community. Sorry but these are my feelings, and if this was the father of one of my students I would tell him to avoid the public school at any cost.
Malka Ruben

Shira said...

Malka Ruben-
That is one of the most appalling comments I have ever heard from a principal. And that a teacher would think that is a school that should be teaching kids is equally appalling. I am not saying that it is a must to place this child in public school, but you can get public services for your kid and place them in a different yeshiva, or get them services and privately tutored until they catch up. YOu don't sacrifice your child's future which you will do if you keep them in a school that thinks that dyslexia = retarded drug addict.

Anonymous said...

Right Malka.

The psychologist is an anti-Semite who thinks poorly of Frum Jews at the same time he wants to recruit as many of them as possible into his school.

It also scares me to death that you are a teacher and you discount the very real existence of learning disabilities. How would the principal who is (likely) not trained in any form of secular knowledge know the child better than a professional conducting an official assessment?

Anonymous said...

I already said that the father was right to be upset by the language the principal used. I have just heard many horror stories about the public schools. IMO, as a teacher, perhaps the student in question would do better in the long run at his current school.
Malka Ruben

Shira said...

Malka Ruben- what school do you go to so that i can make sure my kids do not go there?
ADD and dyslexia are real. Most public schools try very hard NOT to give special services to private school children since it costs them so much. If they were just watching their bottom line, they would underplay the severity of the disorder.
Not only is what you are saying completely illogical, it is frightening and damaging misinformation.
Please go back to sticking your head in the sand.

Anonymous said...

I changed the contract my kids' school sent me, and the executive director called and accused me of playing games. I refused to sign the one they sent because I don't if I'll have to pay $14,000 or $24,000 next year. A big difference to me but apprently not to the executive director.

JS said...

A personal anecdote about yeshivas, public schools and children with "special needs."

My wife's cousin was a child in a yeshiva and was deemed "slow" and "problematic" - a kid with "behavioral problems" who just couldn't keep up with the material. The yeshiva's solution was to put him in the back of the room and let him sit and play with his toys while the other kids learned - better that he play quietly than disturb the other students.

Thankfully, his parents (one of whom was a rabbi and was very reluctant to go against the yeshiva) had him independently evaluated. Turned out he had dyslexia and was actually quite brilliant - he simply wasn't being taught in a way he could understand, he wasn't being given the skills he needed to thrive given his learning disability. His parents pulled him out, put him in public school and got him the help he needed.

I am very proud to say that he now has a PhD from a prestigious university in teaching children with dyslexia and other learning disabilities.

Unfortunately, his experience with his rabbis and the yeshiva were so negative that, although he still married a Jewish girl, he is otherwise "off the derech." I'd stress that this had nothing to do with going to public school and everything to do with his rabbis and the yeshiva labeling him an imbecile who was unteachable.

conservative scifi said...

I hesitate to comment because while I think Malka is way off base, my personal experience would lead me to have some concerns about an ADHD diagnosis (though I think dyslexia is pretty easily diagnosed and I would council the father of the dyslexic/ADHD child to move to public school pronto).

When my middle child was being evaluated for Day school 1st grade, they refused to accept him (this is a "community" jewish day school, not a yeshiva) because of his behavior (which was clearly problematic to us at the time). We had him evaluated and the psychiatrist labeled him ADHD and suggested that we medicate him with ritalin.

We worked with him over the summer, as an "explosive" child and met with the principal of our local public school (which is widely seen as terrific) that a difficult child was coming. She put our son into a regular class with an outstanding teacher and special behavior sheets. After a few weeks, the teacher contacted us and said she didn't need them, because he was fine. (Really, she was just able to control his behavior with her excellent technique and strong personality). But his excellent first grade experience set him up for success. He is now in public high school, 3 years advanced in Math, taking an AP course in 9th grade, while quite knowledgeable about Judaism not only due to our home life, but also due to the fact that we send him to two different Talmud Torah programs.

We could have switched him back to Jewish education in 3rd grade (he was accepted that time), but his wonderful success in public school led us to keep him there.

So I would hesitate (though not forever) on medicating your child, but I would not hesitate for a minute on moving the child to the public school system, particularly if you can work with them to get excellent teachers. If you can afford to hire an excellent limudei kodesh teacher who can deal with your son, that would be gravy.

Orthonomics said...

Malka, you can't possibly be serious that the father should keep his child is THIS school when the child is in 2nd grade and cannot read. So you don't like public school? Ok, I hear you. What about exploring other yeshiva or day school programs. I know people who have benefitted from public school and I find the principal's accusation that the school is only looking for money to be, uh, rather strange.

Anonymous said...

Ortho, more likely the Principal is only looking for money... How else can you explain such behavior?

Anonymous said...

Miami Al said...
2. Sign post dated checks in violation of current United States Law


It is not illegal.

See here:

The Myths and Reality of Post Dated Checks
By Michael C. Dennis, MBA, CBF

One of the myths that somehow refuses to go away is the myth that post-dated checks are "illegal." They are not. There is nothing illegal, inappropriate, unlawful, unethical, unprofessional, or unconscionable about a creditor asking a customer to issue a post dated check, nor is there any reason a customer cannot issue one or a series of post dated checks to clear a past due balance.

Jay said...

Miami Al -
Can you provide a source for this "law" that post-dated checks are illegal in the USA?

tesyaa said...

I was interested to find out more about postdating checks, so I simply googled "Are postdated checks legal" which took me to I have no idea about the credibility of the site, but no reason to doubt the advice, either:

There is no law that prohibits the issuance of a post-dated check; however, there are laws against issuing checks when you know that you don't have funds to cover them. Whether a particular state's bad-check law would make an allowance for the fact that a check was postdated is something you need to check in your own state.

Delivering postdated checks is not wise, however. That's because it's legal for your bank to pay a check even when it's postdated, unless you've taken the extra step to contact the bank and put it on notice about the postdated check, and requested the bank not to pay it until its date. From an operational point of view, this creates almost exactly the same work for the bank as a true stop payment order. For that reason, you may find that your bank will charge a fee -- often the same as its fee for a stop payment -- for handling a watch for a postdated check.

Anonymous said...

You remind me of my old yehiva teacher. She made me hate school so much that I couldn't wait to graduate and get as far away from the community as possible. I definitely went off the derech, as they saym which intestingly led to my success, but at times I soemtimes miss the support I found in my former life.

Anonymous in Teaneck said...

Re the subject of the post: I recently received the re-enrollment contract for my youngest child's senior year in high school - my 8th year of receiving financial aid at this school. As in every year past, the contract comes with the financial aid package, a complete list of all tuition and fees, and the all forms necessary to re-enroll - in his independent school. The award letter is dated February 18th.

To the poster who says you can't apply for aid until you've filed your taxes: the application form for the National Association for Independent Schools allows you to file based on an estimated tax return. You just need to send your actual tax returns by April 15 to confirm.

My children have attended Jewish day schools and independent schools and there is no question in my mind that day schools/yeshivas have a long way to go in terms of the application/financial aid/budgeting process.

Miami Al said...


There is Florida statues and case law about it. Writing the check isn't per se illegal, but requiring or requesting it absolutely is and other issues, since they are requiring to write a check that isn't good yet.

Ariella said...

From my experience, most schools do operate that way. You have to first apply and register, and only after that will they talk about scholarships. In fact, as it is usually based on the current tax returns, you likely will only have that information available in April, 2 or 3 months after they want the registration in. The schools we're in now really don't try to suck blood out of stones, but I have dealt with a school that is infamous for its lack of generosity. And its base tuition is on the high side, as well.

Anonymous said...

I think our Day school system has become an immense embarrassment, and Malla's comments in particular reinforce my opinion. After 7 years of searching in New York (3 different day schools for our 2 kids), we have lost our faith in Jewish Day Schools due to the pervasive lack of standards - professional, administrative, and academic. Our children, b"H, have no learning issues. However, we found that there are so few teachers who set high standards and so many administrators who bend rules and policies for special families that we could no longer stomach the hypocrisy and poor results. Perhaps we, as a community, have no one to blame but ourselves for accepting these conditions.

Our children are now in public school and thriving. They are stimulated by the material, asking very sharp questions, and they are even more engaged in their Torah/Hebrew studies as we are home schooling these.

Full disclosure - we are blessed that one of us is at home and can take the time for our home-school Talmud Torah.

Anonymous said...

Malka: You say you have been a teacher for over 8 years. Could you share with us what your credentials are. Are you state certified? Do you have a masters in special education? What is your experience and training with working with special needs children?

Anonymous said...

Dear Mrs. Ruben:
I know that I might catch some heat for saying this, but I agree with you. I have taught at a Modern Orthodox Yeshiva for over 20years, and you should hear some of the excusses that parents come up with for their children's lack of respect and learning difficulties. We had a so-called specialist come to talk with us about ADD last year. Let me tell you it was a waste of time. They should have parenting classes for parents instead. Also, a big new trend is parents who think their children are "gifted" when in fact they're just average but parents looking for a socially acceptable excuss for their behavior problems. Many of my students just need a firm hand and more discipline.
Mrs. Kaufman

JS said...

Mrs. Kaufman,

I wish you would say what yeshiva you teach at so I can make sure there isn't even the most remote possibility that I would ever send my kids to this school. A firm hand? Why don't you just come out and say that some kids would behave better and learn better if their parents smacked them around a bit? Maybe you wish you could smack them around a bit as well?

You make yourself look like a fool with such comments and your expose both yourself and the school you work at as being woefully behind the times in understanding how to educate children and modern pedagogy.

I second Anon 7:32's comments, yeshivas have absolutely no academic, professional, or administrative standards. Which is ironic given the high (and excessive) number of administrators, low student-to-teach ratios, teaching assistants, counselors, etc. at the schools. Unfortunately, in most cases, the parents either blindly believe whatever the yeshivas tell them and won't consider any alternatives or, as the product of yeshivas themselves, are completely clueless as to how a school should be run or how a child should be taught - they don't even realize that yeshivas are decades behind the times.

I didn't have behavioral problems in yeshiva, but I was bored out of my head for about 80%+ of my yeshiva education. It simply was taught at too basic a level and didn't capture my attention. It was mostly rote memorization of what rashi said or who said what to whom. Being moved up in Hebrew subjects was of no use either. I only had a small handful of rabbis that taught the "top track" Hebrew subjects in a rigorous way that demanded real thought and attention and required more than just sitting back, taking notes, and committing those notes to memory. There's something pedagogically wrong when a "top track" Judaics class is distinguished in the fact that they happen to learn an extra commentary or a few extra pages of gemara than the bottom track. You wouldn't expect a top track math class to be doing the same work as a bottom track math class - just more of it. As for administration - if your family were big donors or friends with the faculty, you could get away with murder. Enough said.

It all comes down to no standards.

EP said...

Mrs. Kaufman, I agree with you and I am only a close observer of parents and children. I observe closely because their interactions interest me. I am fascinated by the 5 year old who refuses to listen to his mother and will not hold his mother's hand while crossing the windswept highway until I give his mother permission: I say to the mother - watch your child, hold his hand, he could be run over! The next time I see his mother, when the boy is again refusing to put on his coat, I see she insists he do so, it is no longer an issue. She has learned by gentle means that she has permission to insist on safe behavior by her son, and her son has learned that he is to listen to what she says. I do intervene, am frequently cursed out for my trouble, but more often, I have the inner satisfaction of being able to teach a clueless young mother that she has a right to guide her preschool child to the behavior that will give her and the school an easier time of it. No ADD, no doctors needed, no Ritalin.

I sat beside a disruptive three year old who was yelling in a store. The mother was unable to stop him from yelling, and no doubt there was a specialist on call and a regimen of ADD medications in the medicine cabinet. I said quietly and gently to the boy the third time he burst out, "Be quiet." Without the slightest protest, he changed into a quiet boy. The atmosphere was transformed. He was calm and reassured that someone cared about his behavior in a public place.

Then the mother let lose with her fury! She was the one who was out of control. She was vocally indignant with me for what she called "yelling at a 3 year old" - Get a life! she called, leaving with her mink, her pram, and her princeling in high dudgeon.

I smiled with quiet pleasure, as did the Chinese lady behind the counter who had witnessed and heard all. I can be abused by mothers - I am all the time - it gives me great satisfaction to know that I have threatened an out of control mother and given her something new to think about. That a new idea has penetrated, if not now, then later it will.

When she sees how a gentle, "be quiet" can be more effective than a panoply of drugs and a panel of specialists, she may figure out something's wrong with her tactics.

Before you all chastize me and tell me to "get a life" - let me tell you - I love being castigated! I relish the chance to absorb your "mind your own businesses" and worse, to say calmly, "I see what you mean." and then to quietly refute whatever points you have made.

I have prevented a child from being run over by a car. I have gently indicated to a new mother that a newborn should wear a warm hat. I have created a calm atmosphere in a store where chaos reigned because of a mother's lack of insight. I am an interferer, you bet I am. What are my qualifications?

I was very average in my kindergarten, though I played Queen Esther. In the third grade I was rejected for the dance group. I stuttered terribly in grade school, and was often treated with contempt by my classmates as an obvious misfit.

You may all chastize me and reject me as a misfit as well you might. I am certainly a square peg in a round hole because I agree with Mrs. Kaufman and no one else does. Happens she is right and you are wrong. Now go at me!

Anonymous said...

EP, leaving aside your comment, but what does your stuttering as a child have to do with the topic at hand? It appears to be a non sequitur.

JS said...

Go at you? There's no need. Nothing I say will stop your behavior anyways. I'll just point out there's a world of difference between an inattentive or careless or rude parent who raises a child with behavioral problems and a child who has a genuine issue that requires medical or other intervention. The fact that you and Mrs. Kaufman don't see the distinction and feel that every child can be reached with a simple "be quiet" or a "firm hand" is what makes me shake my head in confusion.

I've seen plenty of kids at shul who run around like vilde chayas (wild animals) as the parents watch idly or helplessly not realizing that if they enforced rules and boundaries and demanded proper behavior they children would give it to them. However, what this has to do with ADHD, dyslexia, or other genuine learning disabilities is beyond me.

EP said...

It has exactly the same thing to do with my qualifications as my playing Queen Esther in kindergarten. Thank you for your comment.

Anonymous said...

I knOw that my point of view is unpopular with most of the "touchy feely" parents out there today, but I have noticed both a decline in classroom behavior and an incease in the diagnosis of ADD in the past 20 years. In my opinion, as an experienced teacher, this is due to a lack of, dare I say it, appropriate consequences (ie. punishment) for misbehavior. Once again, I know this is unpopular, but I think there's whole industry of psychiatrists out there trying to make money off giving parents excusses. I personally did give my kids that much needed posh on the tuch when needed and believe it or not it did make a big difference.
Mrs. Kaufman

Anonymous said...

EP=Malka=Mrs. Kaufman. Slow day today?

EP said...

Anonymous 12:55 pm - Actually, I'm really busy today but I multi-task. Thanks for your inquiry. JS, I gave a lot of thought about your point while weighing and measuring chemical liquids for my doctoral experiment, you often make excellent points though you are limited by lack of imagination. That is not a criticism, intellectually you are strong and that makes up for it. But you need that imaginative leap to make progress on a problem.

Your point is that there is a key difference between a kid who acts up and needs a potch once in a while (or maybe a word of gentle reproof) "and a child who has a genuine issue that requires medical or other intervention." Therein lies the difference between our views. I feel there are far fewer medically necessary interventions than you believe, and you feel medical intervention is necessary where called for. But where is it called for? What differentiates ADD from a child who has never been taught to behave in shul? There has to be a real clinical description that fits the ADD child that does not apply to the merely misbehaving child.

And I feel the narcisstic culture has created incentives for increasing diagnoses (sought by parents) of specialness. If you have ADD, if you have dislexia, you are special - and if you overcome these disabilities - you are superspecial!

I have observed the culture spreading these disincentives to health with a skeptical eye, JS. We are too ready to look for medical reasons for misbehavior rather than go to the huge inconvenience of changing our own behavior as parents. Better blame the hapless stranger who dares to correct your child than blame your own desire for specialness, which can conveniently be projected upon your 3 year old - he's special. He has a diagnosis. It's being treated. We have a wonderful specialist, all the best people use him.

I do not see ADD as a diagnosis so much as a cultural signifier, meaning something that makes parents feel better, much as carrying a bag with LV initials makes certain shallow people feel special.

Grow up, and we won't need so many initials.

Any ADAD specialists out there who can convince me of what this syndrome is, how it is different from misbehavior? Much as psychiatrists now can tell you exactly how clinical depression is different from mere sadness? Similarly, we have been culturally attuned (convinced) to use the word "depressed" to describe our feelings when we really mean "grief stricken" or even merely "sad". To be depressed means to take medicine. To be sad means you may have done something that is within your power to change from within without medication. Something in your life is causing sadness. But if you call it "depression", you will never, never change your behavior. You will not need to.

I hope someone understands my analogy. Have to get back to the bunsen burner.

Miami Al said...


Your points are made politely, but I don't think that you read what JS wrote. I'm sure I could make a joke about checking for leaks in the vent hood, but that wouldn't go over well in an online setting.

You attack over diagnosis.

JS suggests that for children that actually have the condition, they need treatment.

Even if things are over-diagnoses 4x or 5x, there are still children that need treatment.

And the suggestions that the children be left uneducated because they don't want to treat them and other nonsense is simply disgusting and ignorant behavior.

America has a public school crisis.

The idea that the Yeshivot seem decades behind the public schools in addressing many of these things should be downright terrifying.

EP said...

Who has the condition? You beg the question. How do you determine who has the condition? Who makes the decision? The fact that yeshivas are behind the public schools may be terrifying to you, but it is vastly reassuring to me!

JS said...

Who makes the decision? Seriously? I don't believe you're so naive that you don't know this.

From the government's NIH page:

The site even says: "Too often, difficult children are incorrectly labeled with ADHD. On the other hand, many children who do have ADHD remain undiagnosed."

It says a doctor should make the evaluation using guidelines from the AAP and that the diagnosis should be periodically reconfirmed to make sure it's not something else.

Here's an article on depression which you seem to believe is just a case of being being sad:

They're both defined in DSM-IV-TR.

Why not just say Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is another behavioral problem and if parents just told kids to "stop it" or gave them a "potch" they wouldn't engage in such maladaptive behaviors? Surely OCD is also terribly over-diagnosed and over-medicated. These people could clearly stop these behaviors if they really wanted to.

EP said...

The choreographer George Balanchine twitched his nose obsessively his entire life and look what became of him!

EP said...

I don't believe clinical depression is "just a case of being sad". I believe it's a dangerous disease because a number of people I know of have died of it. They committed suicide. What I wrote is that clinical depression is too often confused with mere sadness, and when it is actually sadness, that is hopeful because the sufferer can do something to help change his life and contribute to a positive outcome without medication. That is what I said.

I do believe in psychotropic drugs, especially in OCD. I have seen they work. I am not in any way educated on this as you seem to be but I would not take a government manual as a reliable source. I would examine the best thinking of the best researchers who differ with one another - from different institutions and study the abstracts of their articles.

I do believe ADD is overdiagnosed for reasons that have to do with fashion and narcissism on the part of parents who are reluctant to inflict any negative feedback upon their children. This is bad for the children, bad for the parents, bad for the rest of us, and I've got to get back to my researches.

Paying Parent said...

"I believe it's a dangerous disease because a number of people I know of have died of it."
That is one of the stupider things I have ever seen stated in print. Do you not believe Malaria is real because noone you know has ever died of it?
There is a vast amount of MEDICAL research on ADD, Dyslexia and ADHD. I find it silly to argue the existence of a medical issue with someone who is admittedly "not educated on this." Are these sometimes misdiagnosed or overdiagnosed? Yes. Are there bad parents out there who do not set limits for their children? Yes. This is different than saying that kids with ADHD just need to be told to "Be Quiet".
I would be surprised if you are a mother. So let me clue you in on something. The reason the 3 year old quieted down when YOU told them to "Be Quiet" is because they were shocked out of their tantrum by the surprise of a STRANGER addressing them. I would certainly not jump to the conclusion that the mother is a bad mother or that the kid is on meds. Sometimes kids don't listen whether or not parents tell them to stop. They are not soldiers. Doesn't mean the parent should stop trying, but doesn't mean you can get up on your high horse about it either.

Anonymous said...

I was a psychologist for 4 years at an well regarded MO Yeshiva, and I was shocked by the the staff's lack of education when it comes not just to ADD but also general child development. It was pretty common for teachers to yell at and threaten the kids. Several of the teachers felt justified in calling a youngt boy stupid to his face because their reading skills were weak because they thought that ridicule would motivate him. I was also personally terminated and threatened with a poor recommendation by the Rosh Yeshiva for suggesting that the child needed to go to a different school because our school just didn't have the resources to service him.

JS said...


Not surprised.

Here's what happened in first grade at my yeshiva (and I'd note that many kids have a rough transition from kindergarten to first grade): Our English teacher at least 1-2 times per week would force us to put our heads down on our desks and be quiet for 5 minutes when we got rowdy, if a particular child misbehaved too often, that child had to stand in front of the whole class in the corner facing the wall, our Hebrew teacher would discipline children by taking away recess and forcing them to sit, while watching everyone else play, and write over and over again in Hebrew "I will be a good boy/girl."

How's that for not understanding child development?

Then again, I suppose malka, Mrs. Kaufman, and EP are beaming.

EP said...

JS, you said two true things. EP is beaming! And EP is not a mother, EP is a highly skilled and experienced aunt to 37 nieces and nephews, all incorrigible.

In fourth grade at Bais Yaakov we were made to go home and write in our notebooks "I will not talk after the bell rings." I wrote that 100 times. After that traumatic experience, I never again talked after the bell rang. One girl tried to waffle out of the assignment by writing 100 times "I will not talk". Her assignment was soundly rejected and she was made to go home and redo the punishment work correctly. I would like to report that as a result she suffered lifetime trauma, took to the streets, drugs, and whatnot. But no, she grew up to lead a quite normal and average life. Of course, in the 1960's, none of our parents protested at this shocking abuse either, but were quietly pleased to see that the school took its responsibilities toward us seriously. I was questioned at home as to whether I was a ringleader or merely a follower of this juvenile delinquency; then the subject was dropped, dinner ensued, and I got on with 100 lines of tedious punishment work. I am the better for it today, I blush to admit!

I do not abuse my 37 nieces and nephews unduly I think. They do not fear me too much, I wish they had a bit more spit and polish where their Aunt EP is concerned. They could use with a bit more aunt and a little less friend. I try to be a distant, disapproving aunt, but it is difficult because when I try to be stern I crack up and start laughing!

EP said...

Seriously now, I do want to add that in the first grade in Chattanooga, a small city in Tennessee where we were exiled, the only Orthodox Jews in town, I spent first grade in public school. As a six year old I was shocked to witness the Christian teacher publicly humiliate a boy who was unintelligent and could not master the reading material. She actually tied a ribbon around his head to humiliate him. I know the difference between punishment homework and child abuse, and I knew it at 6 years old. To think that I was appalled by this treatment as a first grader, that I possessed even at that young age a sense of innate decency that this teacher deeply offended.

Never at Bais Yaakov was any child humiliated in this manner in my 11 in the school.

EP said...

I meant to write "Never at Bais Yaakov was any child humiliated in this manner in my 11 years in the school."

Anonymous said...

EP, what happened in Tennessee 60 years ago is not relevant.

Dave said...

You know, by describing DSM IV as a "government manual", you don't need to tell us you don't know much about this.

EP said...

It is relevant because it goes to demonstrate that I understand what is abuse and punishment work is not abuse. It is punishment, but does not cross the line. My sense of proportion is not impaired, as that of many anonymous commenters seems to be. Imagine getting your back out of whack because children are made to sit quietly with their heads on the table when they are getting too rowdy. Aw, come on, where's your sense of proportion here?

I think the hostility I am feeling comes from the fact that I am too persuasive, that my ideas are too supported by common sense, and hence threatening to the group. You emphasize the "sixty years ago" to point out to your comrades that my ideas are out of date. When any idea is considered out of date, I immediately understand that it is an idea that is threatening to those who espouse a new idea, one that is untested, untried, and has been shown only to fail.

I understand these feelings. I will drop posting today until you all have a chance to cool off. Put your heads down on the desk for five minutes, you'll be better for it. Meanwhile I will badger my helpless nieces and nephews.

Anonymous said...

People who say "the only reason you are arguing with me is because you know I'm right" - well, there's not much one can say. All I can say is don't feed the troll, even if the troll doesn't know she's a troll.

Anonymous said...

No appologies for the work I've done over the past 20 years. I simply have an old world view of education. My students actually seem to like me and I have had few complaints over the years.
Mrs. Kaufman

EP said...

I like you, Mrs. Kaufman and I wish you had been my teacher. Head back on desk.

Anonymous said...

Mrs. Kaufman: You say that "I know that my point of view is unpopular with most of the "touchy feely" parents out there today, but I have noticed both a decline in classroom behavior and an incease in the diagnosis of ADD in the past 20 years." There have been many diseases that have had an increase in diagnosis in the past 20 years -- diabetes and asthma to name just two. Does that mean they aren't real. Maybe some of the same environmental factors (i.e. pollutants, chemicals in food, plastics, etc.) that are causing an increase in those diseases (yes, an inevironmental link to diabetes and not just to obesity is emerging) are also affecting the developing brains and neurological systems of fetuses and children.

Anonymous said...

Say what you want about the schools, I have no question that parenting skills have taken a nosedive. 8 year olds with cell phone? iphones? ipods? what good can come of it? In my son's yeshiva one of the grades (BH not his) there is a whole "fight" going on between the "haves" and "have nots" and not because the "have nots" are poor, they just have parents that understand that giving your child the latest gadget because you can afford it is bad parenting.
Actual conversation between 2 11 year olds
"You parents don't love you, because they haven't bought you a (insert name of latest very expensive gadget here)"

"oh really, I think your parents don't love you because they are buying you things to keep you occupied so that they can avoid spending time with you. My parents actually talk to me."

I also teach HS and I see very clearly which parents are afraid to set limits on their kids. There is no reason a child in school needs to have a blackberry (I would estimate 20% of the students have one, with over 90% having some sort of cellphone). There is no reason a child needs to spend $250 on a pair of shoes. I can go on, but I think you get the point. The schools have their problems and I would be the first one on line to list the ones in the school I teach it, but the parents are clueless.

Avi said...

EP, we're arguing with you because you're a pushy know-it-all who is speaking out of her [place that gets the potch], not because we're threatened by your mastery of common sense.

ADD/ADHD is real. Poor parenting is real. One does not negate the existence of the other. But your casual interaction with other people's children does not qualify you to issue a diagnosis. Issuing a diagnosis anyway reveals that you are, in fact, a narcissist. Also a bit sad that you don't know what you don't know. What other subjects are you an expert in without any background or training? Aircraft repair? Bankruptcy law? Marriage counseling?

Anonymous said...

So basically, EP, you did something so incredibly socially inappropriate that even a 3 year old child realized that he better be scared of the weird person…

Eileen said...

Thanks, Avi and Anonymous. I always appreciate feedback, even when it's not positive. Too busy today getting my article out to respond, anyway this subject is getting old.

Orthonomics said...

Stepping in with a bit of crowd control. Thank you to the Parent who continues to give us updates on what is happening with his child. I hope he will be in a better place and starting to increase his reading skills soon!

I am quite conservative and don't buy into the notion that every kid has a notion. But you would have to be living under a rock to realize that some kids are simply wired different. I've read plenty about child development from some fairly controversial/old-fashioned doctors and psychologists, all of whom believe ADHD is overdiagnosed and over-drugged, yet they all recognize that it does exist.

As for ineffective and generally bad parenting, I might point out that I have many posts on the "Parenting Crisis."

Anonymous said...

Speaking as a someone who was diagnosed at age 9 as PDD-NOS (autism spectrum) and who was one of those horrible, badly behaved children AND who was regular punished with spankings/ slaps/ having my mouth out with soap/ missing meals/etc.... if the kid's head is just wired wrong, no amount of potches is going to do the trick.

Avi said...

Sorry SL if I got carried away. I'm not suggesting that even every kid with a clinical ADD/ADHD diagnosis needs drugs - I know first hand of cases where behavioral therapy or even learning compensatory skills/activities without a trained professional can lead to a normal - or extraordinary - life. But denying it exists and suggesting simple discipline is not only cruel, it is ineffective.

Anonymous said...

I teach third grade at a Yeshiva and have never heard of PDD-NOS. There are so many diagnoses out there. How is a teacher to know what is real and what isn't. I don't do this but many of my colleagues scream at the kids with problems and routinely have them sit in the hall for the remainder of the class period. My principal has also asked permission to span one of the first graders with behavior problems, but I'm not sure if his parents gave permission or not. Sometimes I feel that my school is like a zoo with the kids running wild and no one seeming to care.

tesyaa said...

How is a teacher to know what is real and what isn't.

Um, maybe by doing a little reading about child development. Working with children is your field of work, right? Most people have to do some continuing education to keep up with their professions.

Anonymous said...

One solution would be for the Yeshiva to have a mandatory in-service day for teachers. Unfortunately, I am certain they cannot affort one.

Anonymous said...

How are you supposed to know what PDD-NOS is? Are you kidding me? First of all, I would expect a teacher to have some working knowledge of learning and communication disorders. Second-you get a kid in with X diagnosis--you google it.

My point, however, was that anyone seeing my behavior as a child might have assumed that my parents were too forgiving/ lenient etc. That was absolutely not the case. I was (and am) autism spectrum and that is neither my fault nor that of my parents.

Anonymous said...

To anonymous parent with very bright child-Does your child have friends at this Yeshiva? Does he fit in? I do believe that this issue should be considered...
Having said that, I want you to know that my daughter was also tested by the public school, and truthfully, her IQ was similar to what I expected- the psychologists are supposed to be Professionals and therefore should not lie in their assessment. I would take their assessments to be rather accurate, unless your gut tells you otherwise.
We put our daughter into public high school because it was the right choice for her. We never regretted it. Because my daughter could not handle more after school courses, she actually had no religious courses, during her three years of Public High school. But we always made an extra effort to send her to religious summer programs and an NCSY weekly program near our house ( Yes, I drove her practically every week). No, she is not a drug addict or irreligious- she is actually spending her post HS year in a religious girl's seminary in Israel. The only thing I resented was all her religious friends telling her how wrong it was to go to public school because she would not stay religious!!! And yes, my parents wouldn't tell their friends that their granddaughter was in public school!!! I on the other hand was very open about it.
My advice- do what you think is best for your child and don't worry about what everyone else thinks.
Good luck!