Thursday, July 14, 2005

On Jewish day schooling

So a random discussion on the always exciting LookJed list led me to a post about Jewish Education on a site called Jewlicious.

Knowing absolutely nothing about this site, I found the discussion really interesting. "themiddle" (the poster) writes:

It ain’t easy to provide Jewish education to your child because there are so many compromises involved.

The problems involve cost, quality and the general benefit.

No one in Toronto is unfamiliar with the excessive costs of providing your child with a Jewish education. I think my brain's probably got a good $150,000 in it (including York and Lindenbaum). USDS is being forced to consolidate its campuses. Eitz Chaim boys is bringing in Thornhill Talmud Torah. In Toronto, we are slowly realizing that we can't sustain as many schools as we currently have.

Other schools have found donors to subsidize education, coming up with programs to make it cheaper for parents to afford/choose Jewish day school for their kids.

But fascinatingly enough, the writer of the above piece doesn't think cost is the only problem.

Under "benefit", he argues that the quantity and quality of Jewish experience that one gets is not sufficient to make it worthwhile to send your kids to Jewish day school; forgive me for thinking that if you're sending your kid somewhere for 6-8 hours a day, the kind of place it is really matters. They going to remember the calculus? Not bloody likely. But the way their classmates dress, act and what they do on Christmas and Holloween is going to become the way your kid acts, dresses and sees the world. So if you accept society's social and moral mores, then send your kids to public school. But for parents who don't believe in today's society of moral relativity, a good Jewish day school can help protect fundamental human morality and the Jewish values we espouse.

Let's not even get started on the "quality" argument - there are bad teachers and teachers who don't challenge students everywhere. Especially in public schools, where teachers' unions discourage performance and encourage mediocrity.

But it is sad, knowing that in generations where the trips to Cancun get more frequent and the pools get bigger and the necklines plunge lower, the one thing parents can't be bothered to invest in is their child's soul.


At 4:48 a.m., Blogger TM (Jewlicious) said...

Hi Aliza,

I'm afraid that people's values can be just fine in some public schools. They also dress nicely and in certain neighborhoods might have educated parents who offer their children strong values, even if those values do not stem from Judaism.

I grew up in a Jewish day school system, as did my wife. We are trying desperately to find a way to justify sending our son to a local Jewish day school next year, but have found the quality of both the secular and Judaic education available in the two schools we would consider to be mediocre.

In one of those schools, by the way, the cost has made it into an exclusive school heavily populated by children from wealthy homes. This is where the community is pushing Jewish education. If you're wealthy, you can afford it. If you're poor you'll be subsidized, and can afford it. If you're in the middle, you're screwed because the hit is too severe.

Also, unlike Canada where you subsidize university education, the US has a very expensive system in place for which you have to save. How do you save while spending $20,000 - $25,000 per year (after taxes) on schooling? Even if you can stretch and afford it, how do you decide that this investment is more important than a college education? How do you decide that it's more important than saving for retirement? How do you choose?

Would a child who is sent to Jewish camp in the summer, and travels to Israel with his family that can now afford it because they're not sending him to Jewish day school, turn out to be a less committed Jew than one who attended Jewish day school all of his life?

Anyway, thanks for reading our blog. Sorry about that discussion, we had a hiccup and lost over 60 comments, many of which were valuable. We have had a couple of follow up discussions and you should be able to find them with our search function.


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