Elie's Expositions

A bereaved father blogging for catharsis... and for distraction. Accordingly, you'll see a diverse set of topics and posts here, from the affecting to the analytical to the absurd. Something for everyone, but all, at the core, meeting a personal need.


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Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Bans and Turn-Offs

Miriam of Bloghead commented this morning on the Lakewood internet ban, which made the front page of our local paper today. Miriam wonders what the level of compliance will be. What caught my eye in the article was an observation by the writer that six boys in "traditional Jewish clothing" were seen surfing the Web at the Lakewood public library on late Friday afternoon. So based on this early anecdotal evidence at least, there are rumblings of rebellion already, despite warnings of harsh penalties for violation of the ban.

I am viscerally opposed to all-or-nothing solutions to this kind of issue. If there's no internet access at home, students will find it at the library (where they'll pretty much have to be allowed to go, since they can't do research for papers over the internet anymore!) or elsewhere. Internet access is becoming more and more ubiquitous over an ever-widening variety of devices and locales. Unless the Lakewood poskim want to retreat into an Amish-like technophobic existence, it seems to me that they'll have to address their concerns in a more granular, hands-on fashion. There are no short cuts around nuanced parent-child communication, developing trust in your children, setting detailed guidelines, and, especially, parental supervision.

Though the yeshiva day school my kids attend(ed) is a step or two below Lakewood on the "chumra" scale, I have an analogous issue with their annual "TV Turn-off" program. For six weeks, between the end of Pesach vacation and Shavous, the children are to watch no TV at all. Those that comply are taken on a special trip to a fun-park after Shavous.

I have two issues with this approach. Firstly, the ban applies to television but not to Nintendo, Gameboy, etc. For my kids at least, video games are much more addictive and time-wasting than television. Additionally, the "short-term zero tolerance" approach feels like it accomplishes nothing. I would rather have them reward students for limiting their TV watching, in duration and/or content, all year long. But of course this would force the school to acknowledge that TV exists and isn't always evil, a position that they refuse to take for political reasons.

Meanwhile, along with Miriam, I'll be watching the fallout from the Lakewood ban with great interest.

14 Comments:

At 11/22/05, 12:59 PM, Blogger Mirty said...

There are no short cuts around nuanced parent-child communication, developing trust in your children, setting detailed guidelines, and, especially, parental supervision.


Exactly. And banning stuff only makes it more appealing to teens anyway.(I'm trying to ban vegetables in my house...)

 
At 11/22/05, 1:05 PM, Blogger Elie said...

Yeah, I tried that old "reverse psychology" bit ("...you'd better keep on punching your sister, or you're in big trouble!") but my kids are onto it.

 
At 11/22/05, 1:43 PM, Blogger Jack's Shack said...

Some of these bans sound like kneejerk reactions.

 
At 11/22/05, 2:24 PM, Blogger Elder of Ziyon said...

I'm ready to open an Internet cafe in Lakewood. Can't go wrong with 6500 families as potential customers!

 
At 11/22/05, 4:06 PM, Blogger Emes said...

Boruch Hashem there are still some places where people can bring up their children in a pure environment. Hooray for the Rabbonim who are not afraid to do what is right. May they have continued success in combating what is unpure and evil. And, yes internet is still allowed in Lakewood with proper controls.

 
At 11/22/05, 4:25 PM, Blogger Mississippi Fred MacDowell said...

>If there's no internet access at home, students will find it at the library (where they'll pretty much have to be allowed to go, since they can't do research for papers over the internet anymore!) or elsewhere.

Actually, there are probably few, if any, papers assigned to yeshiva high school students in Lakewood would require a library to research.

 
At 11/22/05, 4:33 PM, Blogger Elie said...

Elder: Sign me up as a silent partner!

Emes: If it were really possible to close children off from the world so completely, you would have a point - though I personally don't believe that the Jewish mission in the world can be accomplished that way. But in practice I don't believe it's possible to hide, and this attempted ban will fail at best, and backfire at worst.

Mississippi Fred: I was thinking the same thing but was giving them the benefit of the doubt!

 
At 11/22/05, 4:44 PM, Blogger Elder of Ziyon said...

Have you seen the "frum" literature textbooks? I've seen one from Mosdos Press, and it wasn't bad. Artscroll has entered the market too with TextWord Press. it looks like they are targeting the Christian market as well - check out http://www.acsi.org/web2003/default.aspx?ID=4165ၕ

 
At 11/22/05, 4:50 PM, Blogger Elie said...

Never saw them before. Do these books contain some approved subset of actual classic literary works, or are they new stories written by "frum" authors?

 
At 11/22/05, 5:00 PM, Blogger Elder of Ziyon said...

All classics, and presumably vetted (no Scarlet Letter there!) As I said, the Mosdos one I glanced at was actually pretty good, but the cover of the Artscroll ones look just like the graphics of every Artscroll book and turns me off.

 
At 11/22/05, 5:02 PM, Blogger Mississippi Fred MacDowell said...

>Mississippi Fred: I was thinking the same thing but was giving them the benefit of the doubt!

I went to what we could call a yeshivishe yeshiva (name brand one, in fact) to the left of any yeshiva high school in Lakewood. We had things like a bio& chem lab and a computer lab, but I can't think of a single paper in four years of high school that I was unable to do without our assigned texts.

 
At 11/23/05, 9:21 AM, Blogger Jack's Shack said...

Emes,

Isolated and sheltered sounds like a good idea but in principle it makes it far harder for our children to function and interact in the real world and that is a serious issue.

 
At 11/23/05, 10:25 AM, Anonymous Esther said...

As far as the Internet cafe, I've heard that Lakewood plans to create public (free, sans coffee) kiosks where folks can use the internet in public with the assumption that noone would use the internet in public for illicit purposes. So there goes your idea for an internet cafe.... The Public Library is also... public... which might mean that yeshiva students using the internet at the public library are also choosing their sites with some amount of discretion.

I am really bothered by this issue. The internet is not television and cannot be dismissed and banned as an entertainment vehicle. On the other hand, it is certainly a venue into "kol dovur ossur".

I keep hoping that someone smart puts together an ISP with the kind of firewall implemented in most corporate environments which would raise the level of internet content available to subscribers from XXX rated to something like PG 13. While it might not receive a hashgacha from Hareidi rabbanim, it is a tremendous improvement over what is available out there today, and may even appeal to a wide audience of subscribers - outside the Orthodox Jewish community completely



esther

 
At 11/24/05, 2:21 AM, Anonymous yaakov menken said...

Elie,

It seems like public access is indeed what they want. The boys in the public library were observing the policy, not rebelling, by using the Net in a place where others could see what they were doing.

There is a lot of support for the policy. Although the press initially mocked the idea, people in Israel are trading in their cell phones for Internet-free models -- in such numbers that most carriers now offer Internet-free versions.

Esther, they've been trying since thekosher.net. The strongest filter is yeshivanet.com, which whitelists each web site on a case-by-case basis. At some point a middle ground will be found, but it's a challenge.

 

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