My New American Hero

Several weeks ago my mother invited my husband and me for dinner.  Also present were my dad, my sister, my uncle and his wife.  My uncle and his wife have seven-year-old twin grandchildren.  The grandchildren started out in a Jewish kindergarten, but then my cousin pulled them from it.  It was a Jewish American kind of private school, and my cousin’s main complains were ridiculously high fees, kids who were spoiled rotten and administration and teachers who seemed more preoccupied with keeping everyone content then actually teaching.

I hear similar complains about Jewish schools from other sources.  Everyone knows a Jewish school can be up to $30,000 a year, although this might change if the Jewish community in the US decides to switch to more pro-natal policies. Even then there are other rather disturbing factors.  A co-worker’s granddaughter is in Hebrew Hillel in San Francisco.  Apparently Hebrew Hillel teaches math way below the level of a good public school.  Russian Jews are all into good math and science classes, so some Russian parents are trying to demand better education.  I doubt their efforts will result in anything.   I have a feeling that the curriculum is not developed to challenge kids, but rather to avoid intimidating parents.  Kids might actually like a good challenge.  Parents like to feel good about themselves.  And so the girl who attends Hebrew Hillel came back home one afternoon and declared that if she will ever have a lot of money, she will give it to the homeless.  Russian parents screamed “Brainwashing!” 

Then there is Hebrew Academy of San Francisco.  It’s a small Orthodox school that sends about a half of its graduating class to Ivy League and UCs, often on fancy scholarships.  Most of the student body is Russian, many of them FOBs who attend for free.  Apparently several years ago they instituted a “no Russian” policy at school.  I’m not sure if it was legal, but I really respect the fact that they went against the grain, i.e. the received wisdom of multiculturalism.  After all, it’s a Hebrew school, not Russian school.  Moreover a kid who arrives to the US at the critical age of 15 or 16 needs to be in a 24/7 all English environment.  Language is not something that kids, especially older kids magically acquire.  Language is learned, and we already have some very menacing experiences with people born and raised in the United States and not speaking fluent English.  And what about the paying customers, American kids?  And what about the teachers majority of whom don’t speak Russian.    

Nevertheless, Hebrew Hillel recently fired a math teacher who would spill into Russian in his classroom.  Who will replace him?  Another Russian teacher?

We hear public schools in our area are excellent.  Then I spoke to a neighbor who happen to be an elementary school teacher at a local public school.  She said that the school is great, and that more then half of the students speak a language other then English.  Uh-oh!  I hope this means that many kids come from Far Eastern families and are well behaved and studious.  There is a rumor that a Chinese math teacher at a local school gives the whole class extra assignment when one student errs.  It sounds a bit Communist, but I have to admit, it’s a bit refreshing to hear about a teacher who doesn’t coddle his students.

***

Anyhow, my mom called me the other day.  My cousin’s twins had MLK day at their elementary school.  So they learned all about MLK.  But then teacher divided her students into two teams, blacks and whites, and told the “whites” to mistreat “blacks”.  My nephew refused to play this game. 

I can’t even count the ways this little game is wrong.  A) Children understand evil.  They don’t need to be explained what evil is from the scratch; b) Periods of sanctioned sadism in school send children a wrong message; c) this is not the right way to teach history.  History is about particulars, not about generalized mistreatment.  Tell students about separate drinking fountains and burning churches, and they will understand; d) Teaching kids that “all blacks are like this” and “all whites are like that” is wrong; e) Is that how you spend precious school time?

My mom’s mission, I guess, was to warn me about public schools.  I’m not sure they don’t do any role-playing in private schools.  I suppose, if my kids will have pretend to be a Muslim month in their public school, we will have to pull them for home schooling out for that month.  Other then that, a good public school in our area is probably still better then a private sector has to offer.

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January 21, 2007. Breedosaurus, Random thoughts.

One Comment

  1. Thinking Waaay Ahead « Breedosaurus REX replied:

    […] his daughter’s kids go to a public school here in California. It’s a model public school, meaning, among other things, it’s uber […]

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