7/03/2008

Notes on 'Flipping Out'

I haven’t written a review of “Flipping Out” because I haven’t read the book, though I know two of its authors personally. Perhaps I haven’t read it because I’ve already formulated my own opinions about the “Israel Year” and don’t want them disturbed by the research. From what I’ve heard, though, the book doesn’t run counter and to a large degree doesn’t address what I think are the most salient points of any discussion of the “Israel year”:

1) That the heyday of the Israel year is over. It is not as transformative as it once was. I attribute this to the advent of the mobile phone. Before its advent, the Yeshiva/Seminary was a cocoon of sorts. Old friendships and relationships atrophied and new ones formed with peers and teachers. The immersion of the experience was much more complete.

2) The Israel programs have evolved within constraints that largely mitigated the experience of “Flipping Out”. It seems that some places are so concerned about their pupils NOT flipping out that the intensity of the yeshiva experience suffers (this can be, but is not necessarily, a bad thing; it just is). Whereas in the heyday, anti-secular college and even anti-YU sentiment ran rampant, it seems much more toned down today, especially in the places where the MO community sends its kids.

3) You could usually tell at the beginning of the year who was going to flip out.

4) By the time people reach adulthood, they end up pretty close to where their parents were. I believe that an anchored boat is an apt metaphor. The boat can drift in any direction, but it remains anchored to one spot. Granted, sometimes the chains are too short or weak, and the boat can then drift off in any direction. Sometimes the chain is too long, and the boat can drift pretty far before the anchor stops it. You get the picture. The studies done for Flipping Out were not sufficiently longitudinal to bear this out.

5) There was a range of formative experiences undergone by students in Israel programs. Some were things like “Growing Up”, “Getting Serious”, “Learning How to Learn”, and “Getting Shtark”, and there was also “Flipping Out”. This latter term generally referred to someone who had some type of “Conversion Experience”. To the untrained eye, it might all look the same.

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