Friday, 1 March 2013
Weighing the Value of Jewish Day School
Once we got serious, Mr. CL made it clear that he had no intention of "depriving" his kids of the Day School experience. And I made it clear that I don't love camping. So, I guess we're even. In any case, for Mr. CL, a strong Jewish identity is something he intently wants to impart on our children, and, he feels that Jewish Day School is one of the best vehicles with which to do this. (That I left Jewish Day School practically antisemitic for a couple of years, and refusing to acknowledge that I was Jewish lest I be associated with the kids I went to school with there, doesn't sway him.) He argues that just because we had bad experiences, doesn't mean that our kids will, and he's probably right.
In any case, I'm not entirely against the idea of Jewish Day School for two main reasons:
#1. I think the academic standards are generally higher in private schools. I'm very skeptical about the quality of public education in Toronto. I'll admit that the skepticism is largely based on personal experience rather than research. As an elementary student I found that the public school system here had far lower expectations of students than the public schools in South Africa, and the local private schools. As a professional in the public system, I'm constantly watching educational services get cut. The recent teacher's strikes also have not done very much to inspire my confidence. And, though I'm sure I'll offend numerous in saying this, to be honest, I think the standards for becoming a teacher are far too low in the Toronto universities. (Having said that, the quality of the training of the teachers in the private system is by no means guaranteed to be inherently better.)
#2. I'm willing to pay for my children to be fluent in a second language. Now, I'm not entirely sure that Hebrew is necessarily the language I would want to invest in. I think the kids will get more bang for our buck if they learn French, Spanish or Mandarin. However, Hebrew does have personal significance for our family . . and man do I wish I could speak it! So, I'd be happy if they came out with a good Hebrew foundation, and hopefully they can pick up another language later on.
The Jewish Day School that looks good on paper for our family is Bialik. Mr. CL likes the level of religious education - i.e. children who graduate from this school will not be lost at a seder table, or a shabbat service. For me, I like that the school has more of a cultural/Israeli bent than a religious one. Children are not required to be halachically Jewish (an automatic deal-breaker for me about Associated Hebrew Day Schools). Though they learn about Judaism, religious practice isn't forced on the kids - they aren't made to wear kippas, they don't have to bring kosher lunches unless there is a class-wide event, and they aren't asked to daven.
Nevertheless, I do have some reservations.
#1. The expense. It's not just the tuition. Bialik is nowhere near us.(Let's leave the discussion of moving out of Toronto in the burbs for the North campus for another post. Right now moving North of the city is not something we want to consider). The South campus is in a very expensive area. Our options: a) stay where we are and be able to afford the school, but have major problems getting there - and back to work - especially in the winter, or b) move a reasonable distance from the school, but then not be able to afford the tuition.
#2. If we're paying that much $$, is it worth limiting ourselves to Jewish school? For Mr. CL - it's a resounding yes. He doesn't have the issues with academic levels, or the strong desire for second language acquisition that I do. The Jewish part is the part he wants to pay for. While for Mr. CL, the motivation for sending our kids to a Jewish school comes in part (IMO) for our lack of religious observance at home (i.e. to make up for what we're not modeling), for me, it is precisely our secularness* that makes me question whether a Jewish education is worth paying for. I get if you're frum, why you would want to pay for a Jewish education . . . there are so many details involved in maintaining an Orthodox lifestyle etc. etc,. . but for us . . . why?? Is it worth forking over basically my entire pay cheque so that Mini CL can be Abba Shabbat? In other words, while I think we shouldn't pay for a Jewish school because we don't live in a Jewish world, my husband thinks we should pay for a Jewish school precisely because we don't live in a Jewish world. Your thoughts???
*Although, I should point out that Mr. CL does not consider himself secular as he observes Rosh Hashana, Pesach, and Yom Kippur. We also put up a Sukkah, and our kids dress up for Purim.