The letters of our thoughts are the ideas present in our mind before they come to realization . . . Thoughts that are, yet not felt . . . The words of the subconscious . . . of the soul . . .


Thursday, March 19, 2009

Honey, You'll Frighten the Kids!

Note: I only have respect for the individuals described in the post below . . . their well meaning actions have been recounted only to prove a point - not to criticize their persona or abilities. 

Children have many inalienable rights, and though I may sound as a sadist, the right to be afraid is one of them.

Now don't get me wrong, I'm not in favor of scaring the living daylights out small children . . .

During the course of the Exodus portion of the Model Matzah Bakery, we make sure to keep the lights on for small children, tone down the excitement, and the volume, and over all make an effort to keep things on the warm and fuzzy side.
Pharaoh isn't wicked, he's silly.

I get that. Scaring kids isn't cool.

But some pedagogues, influenced by modern, new-age, PC chleb need to take a chill.


Case in point:

A teacher from a prominent pre-school came today with her pre-school of 30 some odd three and four year-olds.

  "Make it kid friendly." She requested.
We happily obliged.

Lights, camera . . . Action!

I was on.

   "Look there's Moses," the prerecorded intro chimed in.

I waved to the kids.
The teacher stopped me.

   "Is that Moses?" She asked them.

'What?' I wondered, 'didn't she hear the voice-over? Duh I'm Moses!

   "Yes," I said hesitantly - my voice booming on the mike, "I'm Moses . . . Hi there kinderlach!"
   "Hi! Moses." reply the cute kids.
   "No!" says the teacher. "That isn't Moses! That's a pretend Moses - he's just a Rabbi wearing funny clothes pretending to be Moses for pretend. Because everything here is just pretend."
The kids look at me like some deranged incarnation of It or Bozo the clown. 
Gee, Lady. Thanks

  "Moses," booms the voice of 'Hashem' from the recording. "This is Hashem, your G-d!"
   "Kids!" says the teacher, "Is that Hashem? No! It's pretend. It's a rabbi on a record pretending to speak like Hashem, because this is all pretend."

  "Welcome to Egypt," I say.
  "Kids," asks my favorite teacher. "Are we in Egypt? No. This pretend Egypt in a pretend place, with a pretend Moses, who is really-just-a-rabbi dressed up, pretending to speak to a pretend Hashem for pretend . . . because this is all pretend."

The children stare at the ply-wood Pyramids spray-painted gold, like the Allied Forces upon first reaching Bergen-Belsen.

The children follow me into the palace.
 . . . It's time for the first plague -Blood!

Pharaoh sits on his throne, a martini glass full of water tinted red with food-coloring is grasped in his hand.
  "Children!" The teacher shouts out, interrupting Pharaoh's line about drinking a Bloody Marry, "Is that blood real? No! They're just pretending to drink pretend blood, for pretend. But we know it's not really a mean Pharaoh - it's just a Rabbi dressed-up-in-funny-clothes pretending to be a pretend pharaoh - pretending to be in a pretend Egypt, that isn't real, in a pretend palace - that isn't scary at all! Right?" 
 . . .

The kids are about to leave [Pretend] Egypt, now onto the real Matzah Bakery - right?


"The children need to process," she tells me. 'For pretend?' I think snidely.

  "Children. Let's process what we've just experienced!" She says.
Process? Experience? I don't think I knew words with that many syllables when I was 3. I don't think I wanted to.

 "Breath in, Breath out."
She exhorts them.
  "We're processing now! Who's processing with me? We all need to process!!
  "Who was afraid she asks?"

Two lone hands are timidly raised?
   "Is that it?" She asks. "I was afraid. Let's see again who was afraid!"

More hands come up.
   "That pretend Pharaoh in the pretend Egypt that was pretending to be in the pretend palace was scary -wasn't he!"

Finally most of the children have their hands raised to express their fear. Some in the back begin to whimper . . .
Pretend Pretend Pretend.

No wonder the kids were afraid!


Children need to pretend. They need to experience wonder and excitement . . . They need to be able to 'process' on their own what is real and fake - to meander to that place in every child's heart where fantasy and reality blur.
They need to know, within safe limits, what is really scary in life, and what isn't really something to be afraid. They need to discover these boundaries themselves.

If we try so hard to convince a group of children that an innocent looking rubber frog isn't scary, then we implant fears in their minds that aren't real.

Generations grew up with Bambi's mother being shot by Man . . . and they turned out none the worse.

It's watered down, P.C. hogwash like this that is scary! It'll produce a generation of children with out a sense of wonder and imagination, emotionally handicapped by false fears and doubts.

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Anonymous said...


And the worst part is that the kids just may associate the whole yetzias Mitzrayim chas vesholom with...pretend.

Was this a frum preschool?

lars shalom said...

"Pyramids spray-painted gold, like the Allied Forces upon first reaching Bergen-Belsen"

do you realise how sick that sentence is??

Leora said...

Teachers tend to be a bit on the rigid side. I don't think that's new. The details (don't scare the children) may be newish, but it's up to the rest of us adults to teach kids it's OK to be who they are (some of them like scary stuff!).

When we visited Lake George a few years back, we went to a scary museum there. I went in with my then eight-year-old son. "Will he be OK?" asked the person at the desk. "He'll be fine," I responded. "It's me who's gonna be scared."

Shabbat Shalom.

redsneakz said...

This is a continuing trend in our society, even in the Yiddische Velt. It seems to be taught, from a young age, that we all have a RIGHT to be comfortable, to not experience any bad feelings at all.

Anonymous said...

I can tell you now, that this kind of stuff is not limited to Jewish schools. Here in the Uk, there is a growing trend of trying to protect children from any kind of stress, danger, upset at all. So, no competition in sport (everyone's a winner!), no marking down in exams for inaccurate spelling, and every child is good enough to be an astro-physicist.



Anonymous said...

That sounds like my kid's preschool. They go a bit overboard on the rhetoric. I think it freaks the kids out more when the teacher feels the need to explain things in that tone. The kids think that maybe there is something scary going on and that is why the teacher is trying to console us!

Chaviva said...

Wow. Talk about hand-holding.

This is the problem with Generation Y, they say, and it will most definitely be the problem with the follow-up generations: hand-holding, coddling, baby-stepping. There's no sense of personal adventure or growth or ... experience.

This was pretty amazing to read. Geez. But a beautifully written narrative. Now, why aren't there any pictures of Moses?

Chaviva said...

*post to follow comments -- sorry!*

Mottel said...

-Itzhak: It was a frum, chabad school - though most of the kids weren't. Good point.
-Lars: I'm well aware of what I said.
-Leora: I loved being scared as a kid . . .
-Redsneakz, Shabuatov, Anon: This is crazy stuff . .
-Chav: Glad you enjoyed the post.

Anonymous said...


Ah - in that case the problem sounds like an overzealous, possibly underexperienced or undertrained, teacher who wanted to make it far too clear that what they were hearing could not possibly be the real thing, especially when it came to Hashem's voice.

The whole episode reeks of over-protection.

Still I think it would backfire.

Sefirah said...



Danny said...


What an awesome post... I really enjoyed reading it!!

e said...

yeah. The teacher is an idiot.

Cheerio said...

the teacher was probably young, fresh out of sem, and chockfull of inexperience and childhood education philosophies that she has no idea how to implement practically.
to repeat so many other commentors: sigh.

Schvach said...

Great post Mottel; I have no experience with kids, but I think you're right. Kids need to learn to think on their own; they need to learn from their mistakes by being permitted to make mistakes, like 'The Blessing of a Skinned Knee'.
The spiel must have been very frustrating for you.

Crawling Axe said...

The soap bubble vulgarity. Wow.

What e said.