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Eitan Novick

Foundations of Jewish Education, Spring 2014


Final Paper
In his book, All Grown Up and No Place to Go, David Elkind makes the
argument that we are failing to create an environment best suited for the
development and success of adolescents because we ignore their developmental
stages and needs. Both in school and at home, parents, teachers, and the world at
large are pushing adolescents to act like adults, forcing them quickly through a
stage in their lives of much change, which should require time to reflect and build a
sense of what kind of adult they want to be. Only by using knowledge of
developmental psychology as the building blocks for parenting and education,
argues Elkind, can we successfully usher teenagers through this time in their lives
and ensure they develop into successful adults.
Philosophy and Educational Theory
David Elkinds philosophy best fits with the pragmatist school and the
progressive school of educational theory. In Foundations of Education, Ornstein and
Levine (2008) identify pragmatism as emphasizing the need to test ideas by acting
on them (169). According to this school of thought, we learn by taking our
tentative assumptions and testing them by interacting with our environment.
Pragmatists focus on the process of constructing, using, and testing knowledge
rather than with transmission of truths and favor interdisciplinary education as
that mimics how people interact with information and problems in the real world
(Ornstein & Levine, 2008, 171). This notion seems in line with Elkind (1998), who
criticizes postmodern education by claiming that subjects are still taught in
isolation from one another, and students are given no clues as to the application of
the material to their everyday lives (176). He argues further that The modern
departmentalization of the curriculum, for example, makes it difficult for students to
integrate their knowledge and to see relations between what they read in literature
and what they learn, say, in political science (186). Ornstein and Levine (2008) also
point out that as pragmatists are concerned with the applicability of knowledge and
skills, they would raise serious questions about the standards movement,
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especially its heavy reliance on standardized testing (173). This is an issue that
Elkind (1998) highlights as well, lamenting that high school classescontinue to be
taught in a lecture format with students learning only what they need topass a
test (175).
The pragmatic philosophy naturally fits with the progressive theory of
education, which fought against rote memorization and authoritarian classroom
management and focused on learning through doing. Marietta Johnson, the founder
of the Organic School, believed that prolonged childhood is especially needed in a
technological society and children needed to follow their own internal timetables
rather than adults scheduling (Ornstein & Levine, 2008, 187). This sounds in line
with Elkind (1998), who calls for parents and educators to focus on what is natural
developmentally, and to use tailor madestrategies that come from applying
general principles of development to the unique individual child (249). Johnsons
teacher education program also included a knowledge base in child an adolescent
development and psychology, another notion which resonates with Elkind (1998)
as he critiques how modern teacher training often occurs without any training in
child and adolescent development (186).
Althought the connection between Elkind and progressivism is not perfect.
Some sects of progressivism called for larger schools that could house more class
sections and create more curriculum diversity and opposed authoritarian teachers
(Ornstein & Levine, 2008, 187). Elkind (1998) saw bigger schools and class size as
an issue, especially for adolescents, as it weakened the bonds of community and
diminished the connection and support from adults (169). Elkind (1998) would also
not have an issue with an authoritarian approach, as he argued that there were
times when unilateral authority is necessary and other times when mutual
authority is preferable (251).
Main Thesis and Recommendations of All Grown Up and No Place to Go
This philosophical background informs Elkinds main thesis and
recommendations. He posits that post-modern society, family, and education forces
adolescents to grow up too fast, rushing them through a critical stage of
development. Todays society ignores what we know about adolescent
development, namely that it is a somewhat unsettled period of great change and
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self-construction, and views teenagers as mature and sophisticated adults. This


negatively affects the way we parent and teach them and inhibits their natural
development into successful adults. Elkind (1998) states his argument succinctly in
the beginning of his book, claiming that adolescents need time and adult support
and supervision to adapt to the remarkable transformation their bodies, their
minds, and their emotions are undergoing. (5) By forcing adulthood prematurely
upon teenagers, young people are now required to confront life and its challenges
with the maturity once expected of the fully grown, but without any time for
preparation and with little adult guidance (Elkind, 1998, 7). We dont allow for
mistakes as they experiment with their new reality and changes and dont allow for
relaxed, unpressured time to deal with these changes and put them together in
some meaningful way (Elkind, 1998, 9). Elkinds principle argument is therefore
that we need to treat adolescents as they are developmentally and give them room
to be young, make mistakes, and discover themselves with guidance from parents
and teachers.
Support for All Grown Up and No Place to Go
Elkinds approach is supported by findings in the field of developmental
psychology, such as the work of Jean Piaget and Erik Erikson. Piaget identifies the
adolescent period (roughly between ages 11 and 15) as the formal operational
period, in which thought becomes truly logical, abstract and hypothetical (Miller,
2010, 56). It is a time of dramatic change in which children can begin to think not
only about what is, but about what is possible. This is necessary to think about the
future and what kind of person they might want to be as they develop their own
sense of self. They experiment with different roles and personalities just as they
experiment with hypothesis about physical events (Miller, 2010, 56).
Erik Erikson also highlights the changes during the adolescent period and the
focus on identify and self-definition. He identifies the primary struggle of
adolescence as that of identity and repudiation versus identity diffusion. In this
stage youths consider a variety of roles and integrate the various identifications
they bring from childhood into a complete identity (Miller, 2010, 155). According
to both Piaget and Erickson, adolescence is in fact a time of great change in which a
youth is defining himself. It is a stage that should be distinct from adulthood, in
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which time and space is allowed for this development. Elkind (1998) points to
Eriksons own idea as the basis for his own, in which he suggested that teenagers
need a moratorium, a period of relatively unencumbered time for themselves
during which they can engage in the process of identify formation (16). The basis
of Elkinds arguments in All Grown Up and No Place to Go is a recognition of the
difference between the reality todays adolescents face and what developmental
psychologists like Piaget and Erikson recommended. Elkind (1998) highlights this
point, stating that in todays world young people cannot postpone identity
formation until adolescence partially because of the early exposure to the most
sordid facets of lifes continuum and partly because of societys view of adolescents
as sophisticated and adult (17).
Challenges to for All Grown Up and No Place to Go
David Elkind himself, however, points to a potential contradiction of his
argument that todays youth are forced to grow up too quickly. He writes that
todays adolescents are actually different than in the past because of their exposure
to things like sexuality and the dangers of the world. In addition, the changes in
family, from a nuclear family to a permeable family have opened young children
to any and all social influences (Elkind, 1998, 13). Maybe youth actually are
developing faster, and therefore society is not rushing them into adulthood, but
merely recognizing that developmentally they are getting there quicker.
But is there something innate about the development of a teenager that
remains the same regardless of some advancement in the sophistication of the
average adolescent today? It seems based on Elkinds book that certain
fundamental elements of a childs development cannot be changed regardless of
what environment he is exposed to or the changing societal realities. Piaget and
Erikson certainly did not seem to base their principals on what was occurring in the
world around them. In fact, according to Piaget and Erikson, the mental ability which
is the basis for this stage of life is only developing during adolescence, so regardless
of what youth are exposed to, if that brain function is not there, they cannot begin
that stage of development.
Personal Analysis and Reaction to for All Grown Up and No Place to Go

David Elkinds approach resonates with me, and I would recommend it to


colleagues and teachers. It seems to me that we are setting students up to fail if we
are not accounting for what they are developmentally capable of. We would never
push a kindergartener to read Shakespeare or a middle school student to
understand advanced calculus, so why do we do so in the realm of behavior and
self-development? When we build expectations towards something that teenagers
should not be able to accomplish yet, it is going to make them feel unnecessarily
stressed and helpless. The adolescent stage of life seems to be a crucial one on the
way towards adulthood. If young people are not given the chance to experiment and
grapple with the issues of adolescence, that would seem to be a dangerous thing for
their future success as developed and self-defined adults.
Challenges and Difficulties of Adolescence
Elkind highlights some of the challenges which adolescents face both at
home and in school. Teenagers are going through a time of rapid changes at exactly
the time in their life when they can really think deeply about what is happening. So
these changes affect them not just physically, but intellectually and emotionally as
well. As Elkind (1998) writes, the changes in mental ability that accompany
adolescence are as emotionally troubling, or even more so, than the physical and
physiological transformation (25). For example, before this developmental stage,
children are unable to think about what others are thinking. But in adolescence, with
the acquisition of formal operational thinking, teenagers can now understand this
concept. So if a teenage boy notices a pimple on his nose, not only does this bother
him in the sense of an unwanted physical change to his body, but it creates anxiety
because he realizes that other people will notice it as well. This coupling of sudden
and daily physical and emotional changes with the anxiety of others noticing it, is a
tremendous difficulty for adolescents.
But this change in mental ability, while the cause of much teenage angst, is
also a necessary component of the primary challenge of adolescence, that of
identity formation. In addressing this challenge, Elkind (1998) paraphrases from
Erikson, stating that the mission of adolescence is to bring together all of the
various, and sometimes conflicting, facets of self into a working whole that at once
provides continuity with the past and a focus and direction for the future (15). This
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is a task that is undertaken through experimentation and requires relaxed and


unpressured time to sort through and room to make mistakes (Elkind, 1998, 9).
Unfortunately, Elkind argues, this is no longer the reality for adolescents, making
this period of self-development all the more difficult.
Another challenge of adolescence, especially in todays society, is exposure
to sexuality, brutality, the dangers in our society, and drugs and alcohol. As the
family structure shifted and become more porous with the outside world, these
elements have become totally accepted and even celebrated. Elkind (1998) points
to this societal change as part of the basis for the changing view of adolescence,
arguing that with so many sexually active adolescents, with so many young people
experimenting with alcohol and other drugs, the perception of teenage immaturity
had to be abandoned (6). I would argue that it could be more cyclical than the
simple linear cause and effect Elkind portrays. If teenagers are viewed as adults,
parents are less concerned with what they are exposed to. In fact, in todays society
we too often hear, in response to young people being exposed to the horrors of
society, that it will toughen them up, or that they need to learn someday.
This exposure to potentially harmful elements of the world is coupled with the
lessening of parental involvement, support, and overall time, as the economic
realities now necessitate a two income household. This means that it not only
makes it more difficult for parents to control what their children are exposed to, but
there is less parental support to help them understand and contextualize it. As
Elkind (1998) points out, this period of rapid change and self-development requires
not only the time and space, but also adult support and supervision (5).
Additionally, schools, another place where teenagers might receive that adult
support, have grown, which has led to impersonalitydiminished contact between
faculty and students, formalization of relationshipa weakening of the bonds of
community (Elkind, 1998, 169). At this pivotal time in development, adolescents
are left to navigate these changes and work towards self-definition with limited
support from adults. As Elkind (1998) puts it, there has been a loss of what has
been called mentoring (171).
In this period, teenagers naturally drift away from dependence on family as
they move towards adulthood and seek to separate from childhood. As such, peer
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and group acceptance become critical. In asserting their autonomy, teenagers rely
on the support of their peer groups. This is all part of the self-differentiation
process (Elkind, 1998, 85). But as peer acceptance becomes critical, teenagers
also become more susceptible to peer pressure. This can take the form of pressure
to be sexually active, or to use drugs and alcohol. It can also create anxiety, for
example with regards to puberty and the peer expectations of undergoing bodily
changes in the right time.
In addition to being affected by peers, adolescents are manipulated by
media. Because of the teenage desire to fit in, advertisers have identified this
demographic as one that can be influenced in order to motivate them to buy
(Elkind, 1998, 7). When you couple all these external influences (peer, media,
potentially harmful sexual and violent images, etc.) with the loss of adult time and
supervision, navigating this changing and sometimes scary period of time can be a
real challenge.
In addition to the pressure to be socially successful, students at this age are
now able to really think about the future in a way they previously could not, which
can create stress to successful academically. Elkind (1998) writes about how
children at a younger age are being made aware of the dangers in our society, but
students are also made to acknowledge the risks and challenges in their own future
(8), such as how performance in school will affect their future success, or how
standardized test scores might keep them out of a certain colleges.
Teens versus Pre-Teens
The two major differences between teens and pre-teens are physically and
mentally. As mentioned above, adolescents not only begin to go through the
physical changes of puberty but the cognitive changes of formal operations. So not
only do teenagers need to grapple with the changes to their body, but with, as
Elkind (1998) puts it, getting comfortable with new ways of thinking (25).
Adolescents think at a higher, more abstract level than pre-teens.
This new way of thinking leads to certain new realities for teenagers, which
pre-teens do not experience. Because adolescents can now think about thinking
they develop what Elkind (1998) terms, the imaginary audience (40). This notion,
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that all eyes are on them so to speak, is what causes self-consciousness in a way
pre-teens do not experience it. Couple that with their quickly changing bodies and
that leads to much teenage worry.
Similarly, teenagers also begin to form a personal fable, a belief in their
own speciality and invulnerability (Elkind, 1998, 44). This can lead to risks taking,
and can also make them feel lonely and apart from others. But it is also a necessary
component to their development of a defined self.
Teenagers are also now capable of thinking beyond the real and the
immediate to the possible and to the future which allows them to think of an ideal
world and measure it against the realities of the real world (Elkind, 1998, 33). This
can cause some anxiety and lead them to become critical of adults, who they blame
for the faults of the world
Social relationships also change during the teenage years, but in structure,
and in the emotional tone and depth. In childhood, friends come together mostly in
play groups and friendship is determined by arbitrary factors such as who lives
nearby. But teenagers determine friends by qualities of the individual, such as social
status and ethnic background. And with regards to the emotional involvement of
friends, it is initially based on mutual likes and dislikes but in the teenage years it
becomes about trust and loyalty (Elkind, 1998, 82).
Advice to Parents and Teachers
Elikinds advice overlaps to both the realm of parents and teachers. First and
foremost, he seens the notion of adolescents as sophisticated and competent to
deal with the adult world as dangerous and too often leading us to abrogate our
responsibilities to youth (239). First and foremost, Elkind (1998) asserts that adults
need to be adults and not be afraid to assert their adultness, to set limits and
teach manners and morals (242). Too often, he states, parents are afraid to be the
bad guy or create conflict with their children. While this assertion of adultness may
in fact lead to confrontation, adolescents do appreciate the fact that we care
enough about them to risk and angry confrontation (243).

Similarly, with regards to rules setting, Elkind highlights the desire in the
post-modern world to allow children and students choice and a say over everything.
He encourages parents and teachers to see the difference between unilateral
authority and mutual authority and understand that each have a place. When
we set rules and limits, when we teach manners and morals, we are exercising
unilateral authority, Elkind (1998) writes, and this is an important part of being an
adult to young people (251). Mutual authority, on the other hand, should be
exercised in matters of taste, style, and interest (251).
Both in the classroom and at home, rules should be set and governed based
on principles, not personal preference. This can be difficult, especially if a teenager
says or does something that can actually be hurtful. Elkind (1998) gives the
example of a mother who overheard her teenage daughter say something not
flattering about her behind her back. Instead of confronting her angrily, she avoided
making it personal and relied on a principle instead, telling her daughter that it is
not fair to talk about people behind their backs because it does not give them a
chance to defend themselves (247). Teenagers are quick to see rules as a challenge,
but by setting rules based on principle and not personal preference, we can avoid
that form of confrontation.
Elkind warns against learning and implementing specific techniques of
parenting, and instead encourages that all parenting start with knowledge of
developmental stage. That knowledge can then be tailored and applied to the
specific needs of the child and situation. Similarly in the realm of teaching, Elkind
encourages all teacher learning and professional development to include as a
building block, knowledge of the developmental stages.
Finally, one piece of advice that Elkind (1998) echoed a number of times in
his book is that even though we cant do everything, we can do something. As he
writes in reference to asserting adultness, just because we do not have total
control does not mean we have no control (244).
Application of Elkinds Advice to Limmudei Kodesh
Elkinds basis for all his advice is that understanding developmental stages
and ability needs to be the foundation for parenting and teaching. If that notion was
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to be applied to limmudei kodesh it would require an analysis of what type of


learning students are capable of at different stages and tailoring our curriculum to
meet that ability. For example, a real understanding of gemara would seem to me to
require formal operational thinking, as it is dependent on trying to understand the
thought processes of others, the formation and testing of hypothesis, being able to
think abstractly, etc. Most Jewish day schools begin to teach gemara in elementary
school, a few years before these modes of thinking are really developing.
Elkind also shows his disappointment in how the post-modern school focuses
on academics and ignores the social component. There is already a push to
integrate social learning (especially with the focus on bully prevention in todays
schools) into the curriculum. It would seem to me that limmudei kodesh is
particularly ripe for this injection of social learning, as we know this learning is not
just academic, but a blueprint for how we should live our lives.
Another critique Elkind (1998) raises against todays schools is the forgotten
half, the 50% of high school students who do not go on to college (170). He argues
that we are so focused on these academic measurements that we do not value or
cater to this forgotten half. I would argue that in limmudei kodesh we take a
similar approach, teaching as if everyone will become at the very least a baal habat,
someone who will continue learning, spefically gemara, on his own throughout life.
But what about those who are just not going to be capable of doing that? Do we
ignore their needs? Do we celebrate what value and skills they have? Or do we
focus less attention on students who are not going to go spend a year (or more)
learning in Israel after high school?
Elkind in the Context of Kanarfogel and Frenkel
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Kanarfogel (1992) highlights a book written translated as Centuries of


Childhood: A Social History of Family Life, which details childhood development in
medieval society. The book states that once the child reached the post-enfances
stage and did not need to be cared for as much as before, he immediately became
part of the adult world and therefore medieval education was not geared to
children but to little adults (34). There was no understanding of the different
stages of development and no attempt made to separate students of different ages
and abilities (34). Students were also taken from their families to go and study and
ties to family were loosened. Interestingly enough, this hurrying into adulthood
almost sounds like what Elkind is protesting against in post-modern times. His
warning in All Grown Up and No Place to Go would ring just as true to medieval
society.
Frankel highlights how halachically adolescence was a sort of in between,
quasi-adult period. Teenagers, post bar mitzvah, were beginning to take on roles in
the community but still had restrictions as to what they could and could not do. Like
Elkind, Fankel shows that there was clearly an understanding that teenagers were
not quite adults. At the same time, adolescence was viewed as a period of potential
spiritual danger which requires strict rules to keep adolescents on a spiritually pure
path and to integrate the person as early and efficiently as possible into the world
of adults (Frankel, 2001, 278). While Elkind also calls for sometimes strict rules to
govern adolescents, he would be opposed to the notion of rushing them through
this period of time because it was dangerous, arguing instead that teenagers need
this time to experiment, make mistakes, and define themselves.
Personal Religion and its Application to Jewish Day Schools

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David Elkinds advice on religious training is not easy to institute in orthodox


Jewish day schools because of the expectations. Parents want their children to be
davening in school and to be learning about and performing formal Jewish rituals. To
apply Elkinds notions requires a great deal of trust that students, given a
moratorium, will later in life return to formal practice of Judaism. But if we are
truly going to embrace Elkinds ideas and use an understanding of developmental
psychology as the basis for our decisions, then it follows that in this arena as well
adolescents need space to explore and define themselves under adult supervision.
Since it would be difficult for an Orthodox Jewish day school to cut out tefilah
from the daily program, I would integrate discussion and learning into the time for
tefilah (before, after, during). I would offer different options for tefillah, such as a
social track (discussions would focus around linking tefilah to social needs and
issues), a historical track (discussions would focus around learning the history and
construction of tefilah), and philosophical track (discussion would focus on different
philosophical viewpoints on prayer and religion), etc. Participation in actual tefilah
will not be graded but participation in discussion will. These discussions would be an
open and safe space where students could voice their opinions, questions, doubts,
etc. without fear of repercussions, but they will also be directed by teachers who are
experts in that given area. I would also make sure those teachers who ran the
discussions would have office hours where students could come and talk privately
about anything they are thinking and feeling.
David Elkinds entire premise is that everything we do in the realm of
parenting and education needs to be informed by developmental psychology. How
we treat adolescents, teach them, direct them, all most start with an understanding
of their development, realities, and capabilities. When this version of All Grown Up
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and No Place to Go was published in 1998, the issues of what adolescents are
exposed to and how they are viewed are almost laughable compared to how much
more extreme the issues are today. Elkind tells a story of a mother who is having
trouble keeping her son from watching pornographic material that is on TV late at
night. Today, that material is accessible in the palm of teenagers hands. Technology
is shaping our society and its doing so at an every quickening pace. We cannot
reverse that. But as Elkind writes, just because we cant do everything does not
mean we can do nothing.

Works Cited
Frankel, M. (2002). Adolescence in Jewish medieval society under Islam. Continutiy
and Change, 16, 263-281.
Kanarfogel, E. (1992). Jewish Education and Society in the High middle Ages.
Detroit: Wayne State University Press.
Miller, P. H. (2010). Theories of developmental psychology. New York: Worth
Publishers.

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Ornstein, A. C., & Levine. D. U. (2008). Foundations of Education. Boston: Houghton


Mifflin Company.
Elkind, D. (1998). All Grown Up and No Place to Go: Teenagers in crisis. New York:
HarperCollins.

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