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Faces on Faith: Education and socialization

By Staff | Jan 25, 2013

Rabbi Selwyn Geller

Education draws out the unique talents of children. It enables them, their parents and teachers to relate their talents to their places and times. It differs from socialization.

Socialization is more concerned with communal needs and values than with children’s talents. It adapts and relates children to the structures of their communities and values of their times. Obviously, the differences between education and socialization are difficult to determine and balance well.

Education is risky. Teachers and educators do not know how children will relate their talents to their communities. Will they react conservatively and help the status quo, liberally and evolve, develop and change it, or radically and revolutionize it? Socialization is securer. Its goal is to maintain the structures of communities and the needs and values of their times. It adapts the unique talents of children to them.

Evidently, our schools attempt to balance education and socialization. They teach children natural and social sciences that draw out their talents and relate them to the needs and values of their communities and times. Technology and the times are changing rapidly, however, and challenge parents, teachers and educators to weigh the balance between education and socialization with care. It makes the balance contentious than it has ever been.

The need to balance education and socialization was brought home to me at the German film, Habermann, in which Habermann, a German sawmill owner whose family has lived in the Sudetenland of Czechoslovakia for four generations, faces the German occupation of his family’s home and community in World War II. He has loved and married a Czech Jewess who did not know that her father was Jewish, and was brought up in a nunnery after he died. Habermann and his wife, Jana, have a daughter, Melissa, who does not know that her grandfather and mother were Jewish under German law. Her parents raised her in their Catholic faith.

Nor does Habermann know that his wife’s father was Jewish. He also does not know the political and moral dilemmas of being of German ancestry in a Czech village. These dilemmas become deadly and are portrayed with profound anti-nationalism in the film. Whether nationalism was German and Czech during World War II, or Czech, German and Russian after the war, everyone faced the political and moral dilemmas caused by the imbalance between education and socialization.

We do not, however, have to go to the movies to appreciate the political and moral problems in charter, faith-based and public school standards, dropouts and worse school killings in elementary and high schools, colleges and universities. We can appreciate it at home where the means of communication have revolutionized education in brick and mortar schools and the taxes needed to support them, but parents, teachers and administrators insist on keeping education in community schools despite their children’s unique talents.

What effects will this have on child development in our faiths, communities and nations in the future?