Tuesday, October 11, 2005

A Jewish Education Revisited and New Thoughts

There is a universal consensus that a good education is of paramount importance. The real question is where can you find the best education for your child. This past June I asked the question Do You Value A Secular Education?

I asked about it because in my interaction with many people who have attended parochial school there seems to be a distressing lack of focus on basic writing skills. Time and time again I read posts by educated and intelligent adult bloggers who seem to be unfamiliar with spelling and grammar rules and that concerns me.

Earlier this week PsychoToddler blogged a bit about paying for a Jewish education. In principle I agree with him that it is a very important piece of maintaining Jewish continuity, but I have a couple of problems with it.

The primary issue is my concern with the secular education that the students receive. I don't have any problem with establishing communities where there is access to Jewish needs (Kosher butcher, restaurants, shuls etc) but I am not a believer in isolating ourselves either.

I don't have hard numbers or data to share with you that provides any conclusive evidence to support my suspicion that some of these schools take the secular world less seriously than the Judaic studies.

What I have is my own experience in reading the blogs of those who went to these schools and the stories that I have been told confirming my beliefs. So it may not be conclusive, but it is enough to warrant concern.

The second piece of this puzzle refers to the cost of sending a student to private school. The problem is that the tuition is far too steep for many families. Just trying to send one child to a private school can be very difficult but sending more than one can for some be downright impossible.

This is not a new issue. I remember hearing my parents and their friends discuss this very thing some 25 or 30 years ago. So what are we going to do about it.

I can tell you what I am working on right now. I am in the middle of preparing a marketing blitz in which we are going to approach people who have the means and ability to support scholarships and ask them for their help. We are going to do everything that we can to drive down the cost so that this option is available to as many children as possible.

And there you have the short version of my thoughts on this. What do you think?


Unknown said...

I think scholarships are the best avenue to make this type of education more affordable to all. I know we simply couldn't swing it at this time...heck, we couldn't even handle camp. In the line of work I am in, we provide vouchers to help with adult education. We ask the schools to pitch in as well in the form of scholarships if they don't qualify for federal aid. It really can help make a dent and make this type of specialized placement a reality for people who otherwise couldn't consider it. Our diocese does much the same...you're a member of a certain parish and you get $X to help send your kid to parochial school. This should be something synagogues explore.

... Is the Window to Our Soul said...

Jack, check out the scene in Seattle. This is only heresy, but supposely, Jewish education has been paid for by different philantropists.

Bkbuds said...

I'm sure sweettooth meant hearsay, not heresy. My oh my. We don't burn people at the stake for either, fortunately.

And, oh dear, the copy editor in me is kicking in again. Parochial schools refer specifically to Catholic schools, who have parishes, and the parishes have schools that belong to them, hence the word "parochial," meaning "of or relating to a parish." We have day schools.

See, I'm living proof that there is such a thing as being OVEReducated...

Jack Steiner said...

I could have referred to day schools and yeshivot to provide the distinction that I was writing about schools that are designed to provide a Judaic and secular education but that made this wordier then I wanted it to be.

Since the term "parochial" has a religious connotation that is not limited to Catholic schools it made sense to use it. But you are correct that going by the letter of the law it would be more accurate to use a different term.

Bkbuds said...

Not trying to bust your chops, Jack. Honest. Just being my usual anal copy editor self.

Good luck with your marketing blitz, and watch out for those Seattle heretics.

Jack Steiner said...


Not a big deal.

Ayelet said...

I am equally distressed by the total mess that so many make of the English language in their writings. I've learned long ago to stop correcting people because they grow to despise you for it. I do believe, however, that grammar and spelling are taught in day schools. Rather, I find that today's children, in day schools and otherwise, don't pay very much attention to the rules. When I taught sixth grade in my alma mater, my students would argue with me that "it sounds better the wrong way". That comes from how they hear the language spoken all around them. The amount of grammatical and spelling errors in society at large is growing steadily, as can be seen from the abundance of misplaced apostrophes, misused quotation marks, missing commas, homophone substitutions, subject-verb disagreements, and the like. Often they are found in print as well (*shudder*). Scary.

Jack Steiner said...


That is kind of disturbing, isn't it.

Eli7 said...

I would agree that this is a definite problem, but do you really think that public schools do a better job? (Not to mention the fact that I think the Jewish environment is essntial to raising well-adjusted Jewish children.)

Jack Steiner said...


If the question is do public schools do a better job of providing a secular education then I think that the answer may be yes.

I haven't been real impressed with a lot of what I have seen from the day scholl world in this area.

PsychoToddler said...

Some day schools put more of an emphasis on secular education than others. You have to shop around for one that fits your hashkafa, or outlook.

Having sent my kids to a somewhat right-wing yeshiva, I sometimes grumble that their secular education may not be up to par with the left wing day school (but it is still way above the level of the public school across the street). But when I listen to what my employees' kids and my patients' kids are into, all of them in public schools, I thank G-d that my kids are being taught in a Jewish, Torah themed environment.