A couple of weeks ago, I was speaking to a parent who was considering sending their child to another school. The school under consideration was superior in English studies and likely in Hebrew studies as well. When I mentioned that their child's current school was probably stronger in terms of giving over a frum Jewish Hashkafah, the response was that that was something that could be dealt with later.
That answer left me dissatisfied. One of the reasons for switching out of the current school was the rote memorizing of facts and information--in Parshat HaShavuah and Chumash--facts that seemed to be completely forgotten later. That struck a chord in me because that was one of the reasons I decided to speak to my daughter only in Hebrew: I want Hebrew to be a living language to her--not just a collection of vocabulary words for learning a text.
But doesn't that same approach to Hebrew apply to Hashkafah too? Shouldn't Hashkafah be an integrated part of our children and not just a bunch of memorized rules? Shouldn't it be something that the children understand and are aware of and can articulate?
A few years ago, I was discussing with a Rav in town the topic of Hashkafah. I said that I thought that unlike other communities with a particular Hashkafah--such as Teaneck (YU / Torah U'Maddah) or Breuer's (Torah Im Derech Eretz), the Jewish community in our town did not really have one. He seemed a bit insulted and told me that the Jewish community in town had its own particular Hashkafah, but one that was sophisticated and difficult to describe. To me, if the Hashkafah was so hush-hush and could not be articulated on some level by the members of the community, it did not really exist.
A few days ago my daughter told me that the mother of one of her friends would not allow her daughter to chew gum--because it was not Zenuah (modest). I recalled years ago Nechamah Leibowitz ridiculing the whole idea of chewing gum and told my daughter what I had heard from Nechamah. Later, it turned out that actually what the mother had forbidden to her daughter was having her nails done. I talked to my daughter about that too.
Today, I tackled the Bratz doll and the Bling Bling Barbie. I talked to her that the way those dolls dressed and were made up were not the way we do. I talked to her that we do not wear showy clothes and jewelry and that we are more modest. I talked to her in English and threw in the word 'ostentatious' for good measure to give it a name that I could refer to later.
My daughter's response was to ask why Elmo is naked.
It's going to be a tough road, but I'm glad I made a start.