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Chaim Cohen Reaction Paper #2

Educational Psychology

One psychological principle which would help a teacher be more effective at facilitating students development in their relationship to Halacha and Torah, is Kohlbergs stages of moral reasoning. While there is some difference of opinion whether, theologically, there is a difference between Halacha and morality, nonetheless, halachik-observance development would continue along the same stages as Kohlbergs moral reasoning stages. A teacher could develop a perspective on Halachik observance for each grade of students, based on their level of moral development. Younger students, who are operating at the Preconventional Level, view obedience from an egocentric point of view (Slavin 2012). Whether they are in stage one, where it is more focused on negative consequences or stage two, where it is focused on positive gain, the focus is on the self (Slavin 2012). Therefore, the perspective on mitzvah observance must also be driven by this idea of personal consequences. We should try to manipulate the childs perspective on Torah learning and mitzvah observance by offering candy and rewards for positive actions, and punishments and consequences for negative actions. Additionally, a teacher could emphasize that those who do aveiros are punished, in the long run, which works at this age because [c]hildren simply obey authority figures to avoid being punished (Slavin p. 60 2012). The next level that a student would progress to, according to Kohlberg, would be the Conventional Level (Slavin 2012). At this level, the student would be able to view his issue or struggle in a larger context beyond just the direct effects on him or herself. Rather, children can begin to consider the ramifications of ones actions on other people, as well as pursue approval of others. At stage four, a substage of this level, children begin to understand duty and responsibility towards society. They understand the idea of doing the right thing for the sake of the whole. 1

Chaim Cohen Reaction Paper #2

Educational Psychology

These first two levels reminded of a comment of the Rambam, in his Introduction to Perek Chelek. He explained the concept of learning shelo lishmah and lishmah, by tracing the development of student. Initially, a teacher may say, Learn and I will give you nuts and figs! or I will give you a piece of candy! Then the student will learn and strive not for the learning itself, whose value he doesnt know, but in order to attain that piece of food.When the child grows and his intellect is strengthened, and that thing which he used to value becomes less important in his eyes and he goes go on to value other things, we motivate him with that thing which is even more important in his eyes. The teacher will say to him, Learn and I will buy these fancy shoes for you or an article of clothing with such-and-such an appearance. When he becomes more realistic and this thing [he once valued] becomes less important in his eyes and he knows that it is a thing of inferior worth, we motivate him with something that is more important to him. We say to him, Learn in order to become a rabbi and a judge. People will honor you; they will stand up in your presence; your words will be established and your reputation will grow during your lifetime and after your death, like so-and-so. Then he will learn and strive in order to achieve that level of distinction, and that people should honor him, exalt him, and praise him. All of this is despicable. However, it is necessary for us, due to the deficiency of the mind of man, who makes the purpose of learning something other than the learning, saying, Why should I learn this? in order to achieve something which, in truth, is but a fantasy.Th[e] [high level of lishmah] is the 2

Chaim Cohen Reaction Paper #2

Educational Psychology

level of Avraham Avinu, who was oved meahavah, and this is the path which we are obligated to strive for (Rambam: On Learning Lishmah 2013). This seems to refer to the first two levels of moral development, the Preconventional and Conventional, and seem to dovetail together. While Kohlberg discusses the Postconventional Level as segueing into an autonomous system of morals, initially as a social contract orientation and then into a Universal Ethical Principle Orientation (Slavin p. 59 2012), Rambam disagrees. Kohlberg believes that this stage is represented by a sense of understanding that laws are totally arbitrary and only obeyed because of a social contract or because of justification against ones own ethicial principles (Slavin 2012). However, Rambam believes that at the higher levels ones obedience becomes more ingrained because of a love of the Authority which promulgates them. While it appears that Rambams highest level is just a reformulation of the Preconventional Level, Kohlberg and Rambam would converge in Stage 6, if ones self-chosen ethical principles (Slavin p. 60 2012) are informed and developed from the Halachik system, because of that love of Hashem. Then, a person would achieve the pinnacle of both moral, according to Kohlberg, and Torah, according to Rambam, observance. A teacher, therefore, could initially teach students that their relationship with Hashem, as a youngster is based on reward and punishmentwhether from Hashem or a teacher. Then, progress to teach about the rewards accrued to the Jewish people as a whole, from individuals observance, as well as create an environment which values mitzvah observance. Finally, once students are old enough to relate to Hashem, they can begin to do mitzvoth because Hashem desires it, or because the student accepts the inherent truth of mitzvoth.

Chaim Cohen Reaction Paper #2 References

Educational Psychology

Rambam: On Learning Lishmah. In Kankan Ne'lam. Retrieved July 20, 2013, from http://kankannelam.blogspot.com/2013/06/rambam-on-learning-lishmah.html Slavin, R.E. (2012). Educational psychology: Theory and practice (10th ed.). Boston: Pearson