Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Things that Matter

The new head of the National Institutes of Health, Francis Collins, rides a Harley. He also believes in God.

What in the world does this have to do with Jewish education?

Here's what I thought when I began to read about him: Here's a fellow who believes in God, considers himself religious, and sees no conflict between his theology and his science. I like him already.

But then I went on to read about how he dresses, and how the previous two heads of the NIH dressed, and how their appearance and demeanor have affected the way their policies were viewed by the public.

Again, what does this have to do with Jewish education?

I think the big idea here is that while it may be that what's inside is what really counts, the real world often says otherwise. We tend to feel comfortable with people we can identify with. And one of the ways in which we decide if we can identify is through commonalities. We can better get to important ideas if we can start with shared experience and realities.

Do you know what TV programs your students watch? Have you ever watched them? What about music? Movies? Fashions?

I'm not saying we ought to be acting like teenagers or like kids. And I'm not suggesting that we emulate their taste in popular culture! Far from it!!

But I do think that we should be familiar with the culture they are immersed in.

Do you know what the current most downloaded song is?
Do you know what movie opened this past weekend that most if not all of your students saw?
Do you know what they watched last night on television?

These are ways to open conversations.
Take advantage.

And then get to the important stuff.

Like, how do we teach B'riyat Ha'olam to kids who know the Big Bang Theory?

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