Jewish learning styles embrace challenge, debate and confrontation.
In the same moment that non-Jewish CPE supervisors (or peers) may perceive Jewish students as disrespectful, resistant, and challenging of authority, these same Jewish students may simultaneously perceive themselves as respectful and engaged in the learning process.
principle of “pilpul” - seeking to
better understand an issue or a question by gathering more information, and
perhaps in the process, by questioning, challenging and clarifying what are
presented as set assumptions is a culturally-learned Jewish trait. Jews often
engage in learning through debate. We look at this side and then, at that side.
We learn through what
roots of this learning style trace back to biblical times.Consider the famous
dialogue between Abraham and God concerning the cities of
These roots have been nurtured through our talmudic and midrashic40 literature. In fact, one of the true wonders of our Talmud is that it preserves both the agreements and the disagreements of our ancient sages – often as they dialogued with each other across the centuries. This learning style is so ingrained in Jewish culture that even the most secular of Jews - those who have never studied or even seen a page of Talmud - have integrated this learning style into their repertoire.
students utilizing this inquisitive learning style are often labeled resistant
and feel put on the defensive. Experientially then, Jewish students often carry
the added burden of being labeled “resistant” because of differing learning
styles and “defensive” because of differing theological perspectives. This
often has the effect of making their CPE journey feel emotionally and
spiritually perilous. We encourage non-Jewish supervisors to consider that a
supervisor and a student can discern whether resistance and defensiveness
emanate from the student’s psyche or whether it is a misinterpretation of
behavior that emanates from the student’s culture. Our personal experiences
combined with the personal experiences of the hundreds of CPE supervisees that
we have spoken to leads us to conclude that more often than not, the more Jews
respond with: Yeah – but…
– and …, the more engaged they are in learning and the more respectful
and admiring they are of their supervisor and peers.
© 2004 , Bonita E Taylor & David J. Zucker
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