Academic journal article Shofar

The Educational Pedagogy of the Four Sons

Academic journal article Shofar

The Educational Pedagogy of the Four Sons

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT. The Passover Haggadah speaks about the four sons -- the wise, simple, etc. Using a method of biblical exegesis suggested by Rabbi Joseph Baer Soloveitchik, it is shown that these four sons implicitly define a two-dimensional learning model in which learners are classified in the dimensions of knowledge [details-simple] and respect [apathy-wickedness]. This biblical multidimensional learning model is compared to traditional contemporary learning models including the models of Kolb, Myers-Briggs, and Canfield. A recent comprehensive study of Gredler then shows that the biblical multi-dimensional learning model focuses more on global issues while contemporary learning models are narrower in focus. The learning models are analyzed and compared with respect to the attributes of consistency, utility, and learning style inventories.

I: Introduction

This article was motivated by the following comment of the Rav -- Rabbi Dr. Joseph Baer Soloveitchik.(1)

The Passover Haggadah speaks about the four sons. These four sons are normally translated into English as follows: The wise son, the simple son, the wicked son and the son who can't ask.

I, however, would suggest the following translation: The wise, simple, wicked and apathetic son.

The suggested translation of apathetic vs. who can't ask reflects the position that the four sons are really four typologies. That is, the four sons are not four real people but rather four extremes or four ideals. In the real world no particular child is ever exactly like one of these four sons. Rather, each child is a mixture of these four extremes; the individuality of the child lies in his/her unique mixture of the four typologies.

If we accept this assumption -- that the four sons are four ideals -- then it follows that the traditional translation would render two of the sons -- the simple and the who-can't-ask -- as the same ideal. But these sons are distinct Biblical paragraphs and therefore should represent two different extremes of behavior. It follows that it would be preferable to select a translation where these four sons represent four distinct extremes.

My suggested translation -- apathetic -- is also consistent with the Hebrew. In fact, the Hebrew root Yud-Dalet-Ayin can mean care as well as know.(2) Thus the Hebrew phrase sheayo yodaya lishol could be translated as "Who doesn't care to ask" vs. "Who doesn't know how to ask."

Pedagogues involved in educational theory can immediately recognize that the Ray developed his remarks using concepts from the theory of multidimensional learning style models. Accordingly, in Section 2 of this paper, we briefly review the theory of multidimensional learning models. Using this background we present, in Section Three, the multidimensional model implicit in the Rav's remarks. However, to further develop the Rav's multidimensional model we require specific methods of biblical exegesis, implicit in the Passover Haggadah, as modified by the Ray. These exegetical methods will also be made explicit in Section 3. Finally in Section 4 we will explore the differences in emphasis between the multidimensional model of the Ray vs. several current multidimensional models. We conclude, in Section 5, with applications of the findings and methods used in this paper to areas of Jewish pedagogy.

2. A Review of Multidimensional Models

The purpose of this section is to review the traditional issues, terminology, and approach involved in multidimensional learning style models. Such an exposure will enable us to formulate and review the Rav's multidimensional model against a firm background.

The fundamental assumption of learning-style theory is that the seemingly random variation in learning behavior between different individuals is due to basic differences in the ways these individuals learn. A good history of the development of learning style theory may be found in Tamaoka,(3) who presents three classical multidimensional learning style models. …

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