Apropos my essay on the topic of Pinocchio as a paradigm of Jewish Education (see http://aishdas.org/rygb/pinny.htm), I have been asked to address the fundamental statement made by Chazal (Koheles Rabbah 4:15) that is a core issue in the education of high school age students – viz., that while one is born with his or her yetzer ho'ra, the yetzer ha'tov only begins its development at the age of bar or bas mitzvah.
The person who asked me to address the question commented that: "This assumption has implications for educational practice all across the board, including before, during and after bar mitzvah age. It works within a much larger view of moral and religious development that needs to be worked through, but has the promise of linking in with a much larger vision of Jewish education. In the world of educational psychology, the views that have been offered about moral and religious development have turned out to be insufficiently complex and easily undermined by empirical research."
He proceeded to challenge me to achieve a systematic articulation of this principle. The specific questions he suggested for a more intensive examination were:
1. What was the deeper basis for the assumption made in Koheles Rabbah?
2. Do Chazal address this issue in greater detail anywhere else?
3. Is there consensus regarding the age of thirteen?
4. Were Abraham's theological musings as a child as reported in the Midrashic literature detached from his moral development or did they occur after he was thirteen years old?
5. Is it the same for girls?
6. What happens at thirteen that makes the yetzer ha'tov come to life? Is it biological? Is it related to sexual development? Is it social?
7. Does it happen all at once?
8. Are there references or works in the tradition that focus in depth on the developmental aspects of moral consciousness?
9. Are there references or works in the tradition that explicate the educational implications of this view?
Any conversation on these questions would be very helpful. Thanks!