Sunday, June 7, 2009

School Control

This post is dedicated to "remy," a commenter on my "Why I'm going to homeschool" post.
***

Here is one full letter from the Yated (Feb 20. issue-I'm behind), and a description and quote from another, followed by my humble POV. :-D:

Dear Editor,

As a longtime reader of the Yated who has always enjoyed your paper, I hope that perhaps my letter here will spurn some change in the way our children's schools give vacation. Our daughter is a preschool student in a Brooklyn girls' yeshiva and the amount of vacation that he school gives has baffled us.

You see, not more than six weeks removed from a long Chanukah vacation, it appears to be necessary to give off almost an entire week for mid-winter vacation. Two weeks later, President's Day is a mandatory holiday that we all must celebrate because the school gives off. Finally, three weeks after that, there is a three-day vacation to celebrate the Yom Tov of Purim which, the last time I checked, is only a one-day Yom Tov in Brooklyn. Of course, four weeks after that is the two-week Pesach vacation.

In today's environment, where for many children both sets of parents are working to make ends meet, the amount of vacation that our children's schools are giving is broering on inconsiderate. Asking aprents to make arrangements every few weeks for thier children so that they can go out and make a parnassah or to ask the same parents to stay home instead of going to work should be reconsidered.

I beleive the time has come to reasses whether it is beneficial for our children to be out of school as often as they are. We must find a good medium that works for students, parents and teachers.
Thank you.

L.B.
---

The second letter is about a guy whose son came back from a camp reunion, excited about going to camp the following summer. The father on the other hand was having financial difficulties. He had no clue how to tell his son that he wouldn't be able to go to camp, so he decided to speak to the kid's Rebbe in hopes of getting advice. The Rebbe said the following:

"camp is no longer a luxury, but more of a necessity in developing within them a cheshek for Torah and Yiddishkeit...the wonderful blend of ruchniyos and gashmiyus of Camp (fill in name here), and especially the experience of Shabbos Kodesh spent b'kedusha and in the presence of gedolim and bnei Torah, could not and should not be so easily discounted."

blah blah, the guy called the financial office of the camp and agreed on a payment plan for his kid.
***

So now, here are my opinions of the disturbing letters above:

While I see the point of parents being annoyed by the constant vacations, and the constant need to find babysitters, I find it truly disturbing how parents lack in creativity skills and lack in respect towards their children.

Finding a babysitter on the days that most schools are closed should not be so hard- find a neighbor who has older children who also have off, and work out a deal. Maybe have them watch your kids for free, and in exchange drive them to school. or drive them to weddings or set up some kind of an arrangement.

There is also the concept of getting a grandparent to watch the kids, or a retired aunt or uncle. That's what my parents did. Sometimes they had the babysitter do it. Schools have CALENDERS for a reason. It's not like they call the Friday before Presidents' Day to inform parents of school closing!

The truly disturbing part, is the last paragraph:
"I believe the time has come to reassess whether it is beneficial for our children to be out of school as often as they are. We must find a good medium that works for students, parents and teachers."

Parents seem to be expecting the school to be their kid's babysitter, not their kid's educator. Parents also seem to not care too much about the student's, because students, young and old, seem to LOVE the days off (at least I remember loving them,and I know my sister loves them, too).

In comparing this with the second letter on how camps are mandatory, we can logically conclude that schools expect camps to teach. Especially since there was a part in the letter that mentioned that the Rebbe the parent spoke to happened to also be a sleep-away camp Rebbe (not the same camp this letter was talking about), which only goes to show that school, pretty much is year round instotution in the frum community. Which brings me to the reason for dedicating this post to "remy":

Dear remy,

Many frum people lack in the creativity and maturity skills to be decent parents. They have children and expect society to be their babysitter. The few days, weeks & months off once in a while should not be a problem for any parent with an ounce of creativity.

1- kids can be sent to a relative to be watched
2- a babysitter can be hired.
3- parents can take turns taking days off w/ aunts & uncles, and just watch cousins and have "play-dates" on those days off.

To shamelessly write letters to the Yated complaining about too-many CALENDER days off, is pathetic. It shows that my "misinterpretation" of your schools "discussion" was not far off.

Remy,

Take a look at the facts. Frum people see no problem ridding their kids, and administrators are power-hungry. You think that camp is more necessary now than it was before? How so? Did our parents generation forget less when they were younger? Did they study more?

I do find this rather humorous. School is already year round, parents are open to financially sound options of preventing their kids from forgetting how to learn. And Remy is denying the intentions of the school.

Having parent-friendly schedules is one thing. But children aren't parents. They need more time off to be a kid and to learn about themselves.

16 comments:

inkstainedhands said...

I agree with you on this one... And this will be a long comment.

The author of the letter wrote, "We must find a good medium that works for students, parents and teachers." I'm sorry, but it does not seem to me that this person is trying to find something that works for the students. He/she is only thinking about himself/herself, but not at all about the kids. Do people really forget so quickly what it feels like to be a student?

You're focusing more on the issue of parents expecting schools and camps to raise their children, and I agree with you that parents should spend more time raising their own children, but what really struck me about that letter (more than the fact that the parents want the school to do everything for them) was the insensitivity of the parents.

I understand that it is difficult when one have to work and one's kids have all those vacation days, but (as you said) it is not so difficult to make arrangements. I'm not trying to be insensitive to the parents, but speaking as a high school student, I really think that they should reconsider their stand on vacation days.

One of the things that angered me most was that this person doesn't seem to get how much kids need time off. I am so overwhelmed by assignments and homework and exams, and I count the days down to Sukkot, Chanuka, mid-winter vacation, Pesach, etc. When I'm running on an average of five hours of sleep a night, those vacations are necessary for me. Even one day off here and there, just to breathe, is appreciated.

I realize that this parent was not talking about high school students, but rather little kids who would need babysitters, so I have no reason to be so ruffled by it, but for some reason I am.

And just out of curiosity -- do you read the Yated just for the letters or is there something else there that interests you?

Jessica said...

Why are so many of your posts about Jewish day schools lately? Planning a family already? :-P

Moshe said...

My comment is in no way an agreement with remy. His comments on the previous post sounds like childish whining of parents not understanding the administraion's humorous attempt at generating a discussion. I have a suggestion for next time:

All students will be required to attend a work camp in the summer. Those failing to, will not be accepted back into school in the fall.
Sig Hail!


I'm sure this will generate a lot of discussions.


While I agree about High School and Junior High, I don't agree with you about the kids that can't be left home alone. Finding a babysitter is not always so easy and neighbors also work. Not everyone has grandparents who are retired and are able to handle kids for the whole day. Babysitter also means paying more money because while the school is closed, parents are still getting charged for those days. Parents are being charged an obnoxious amount of money for a poor excuse of an education and then have to pay even more money because the school is closed.


Day care where Shlomik goes has a tendency to close for a day or two without warning and on holidays, is closed half a week before and half a week after.

The second letter, I do believe you missed a few interesting points.

"but more of a necessity in developing within them a cheshek for Torah and Yiddishkeit"
Yep, the only thing working parents can developer in their kids is going OTD.

"Shabbos Kodesh spent b'kedusha..."
Because at home, parents have a TV on a timer, right?

"...in the presence of gedolim and bnei Torah"
Is this rebbe referring to himself?

frumskeptic said...

inkstained hands- it is very insensitive the schools dont actually think about the students. I never paid attention in HS so it hardly bothered me. I just didn't show up or do my HW if I didnt feel like it (I had a pretty good average too! lol). but I see what is happening with my sister, and I can't help but feel bad for her.


I read the Yated for the letters- cheap entertainment.

Jessica- well...eventually. Just that everyone seems to be discussing school around me. and I really despise frum education. Its disappointing.

Moshe- I agree that days off w/o warning are totally messed up. But CALENDAR days are in advance. If schools closed because of pathetic excuses like swine flu...come on, really, its a flu! I'd see why parents complain. But if parents had a one month notice that there is going to be a day off, it cant be that hard to find a babysitter.

Call your local HS student friend, and make an arrangment with them. Frum girls are very good at babysitting especially since they probably already have to do so for their younger siblings and wouldn't mind adding on a couple of neighbors/friends kids.

inkstainedhands said...

I happen to be a very diligent student, so when we have school I DO pay attention (besides for 2 or 3 out of 14 classes), and homework and studying at home takes me hours, so the only way I get a break is if the school actually gives me one. (I have not missed a single day of school this year.)

And my school remained open through the whole swine flu threat.

Mikeinmidwood said...

Someone writing to the yated about school off days has got a problem, you think the schools want the kids to have off? no, so the reason they are doing it is for obvious reasons.

SubWife said...

Moshe, I agree with you re: high school vs. younger grandes.

ISH and OFS, spoken like someone who never had kids. If any of you had to work and also happened to have young children, especially in two different schools, almost guaranteed your views would be very different. unless you home schooled, of course.

mlevin said...

Look, I had two small children once. The only time it was hard, was when the kid got sick and there was an unscheduled day off, in addition to sleepless nights and agonizing over doctor appointments and other such things. So, imagine trying to find emergency babysitter when you have a deadline at work and can't have a dayoff.

But when it's a scheduled school closing there were no problems. We either arranged with someone to babysit or okay'd it with a boss to bring kid(s) into the office.

The only reason people are complaining about too many school days off is because they don't want to care for their own children. They are selfish and self observed and children are just in away.

SubWife said...

MLevin, you are making a rather bold assumption about everybody who complains about too many school days off.

First of all, there could be other reasons for complaining besides inconvenience to working parents, such as quality of education and significant additional costs.

Second of all, how does arranging for babysitting constitute caring for one's children? One is just shifting the caring from school to a babysitter.

And lastly, but most importantly being so judgmental of other parents puts one on a very slippery road. For example I can say that any parent who would dump a sick kid on a babysitter because of some work deadline does not care about her children and "is selfish and self observed and children are just in away."

Second o

mlevin said...

"First of all, there could be other reasons for complaining besides inconvenience to working parents, such as quality of education and significant additional costs."

No we are not discussing other reasons. The reasons given in the letter was about inconveniences to the parents.

"Second of all, how does arranging for babysitting constitute caring for one's children? One is just shifting the caring from school to a babysitter."

Because babysitting is not the school's function. As is, school days are way too long especially for younger children. There is no reason for 7 year olds to be in school from 8 am to 4 pm. They need time to learn about who they are by playing with children outside of the classroom; they need to nap, explore, exercise and etc. Instead they are sitting behind the desk in a highly structured environment. And then we complain about ADHD.

"And lastly, but most importantly being so judgmental of other parents puts one on a very slippery road. For example I can say that any parent who would dump a sick kid on a babysitter because of some work deadline does not care about her children and "is selfish and self observed and children are just in away."

I am not being judgmental, and I was trying to portray the difficulty of having a sick child and wanting to be with her and at the same time needing to be somewhere else. Scheduled day off from school in comparison is nothing. Instead of complaining, parents should welcome these days, because that means that their child will be a child for that day. As a parent should welcome these days as a way to spend more time with their child (the child will go to bed later the night before, or go to work with the parent, the parent may take a day off, more phone time if the parent is at work etc), to bond and to form a relationship. Instead of complaining about too many days off from school, why don't we complain about long days in school and how we don't have enough time to see our children.

SubWife said...

MLevin,

My issue is not only how much time off the children have, but the overall disregard to working parents when schools come up with their calendars. I see no logic in having school on Dec. 25, Jan 1, President's Day, when most parents are home and wouldn't need to use up their time off or look for babysitting arrangements, only to give kids mid-winter break at the end of January. If children need time off, why can't it coincide with the times when parents are off? Also, different schools have different calendars. Why can't there be a more unified system of giving children time off?

As to the length of the school year. While I agree that the school day needs to be shorter, the school year needs to be longer, imo. US has the least amount of school days/yr among developed countries. It's no coincidence that Americans receive the worst education among the first world countries.

As to fatigue being mentioned by other bloggers - my heart bleeds not for you. I went through 10 grades of the Soviet education, where we had 18-20 subjects with a school year much longer than the US school year and with 6 day school week. And I lived to tell the story, and so did all my classmates. In addition, almost all of us participated in extracurricular activities and had a lot of household responsibilities. Guess what? Even those of us who didn't put a lot of effort into our school work received a good education.

i am not saying that the Soviet education model was perfect. What I am trying to show is that one cannot get a good education without spending a certain amount of hours at school (unless one is home schooling). And one cannot complain about the poor quality of education all the while arguing to shorten the school day and keep a school year as is.

While it is hard to argue about the importance of developing relationship with one's kids, having so many days off is not that valuable if one works. Frankly, I see little difference between my child staying with the babysitter or at school. I am not with her/him, and a phone call is still only a phone call. Having more time off from school presents little opportunity for bonding if it does not translate into having more face time with the kid. The examples you gave, such as taking kids to work or putting them to bed later, are not always practical or even possible.

Moshe said...

Closing the school on secular holidays is wrong and sends the wrong message to the kids. Everyone knows that good parents don't work in goyish companies and don't have secular holidays off. By working in a non Jewish company, you send the wrong message to your kids. It's a well documented fact that most OTDs come from these kind of families. This is why good parents who care about their children should only work in heimish companies.

mlevin said...

You do have a point about secular holidays, except on December 25, I think that schools should go out of their way to make sure they are in session on x-mas. But, for the rest of the days schools should be closed, but not because of babysitting. Schools should be closed on secular holidays so there is more bonding between parents and children. But that is precisely why schools are in session on these days. They don’t want you, a parent, to influence the children. They want to be in total control of the children’s lives.

The reason schools have vacations off on different days is to prevent sexes from mingling. They actually have days when girls have off, different from the days when boys have off. If they could figure out a loophole they would make boys and girls celebrate YomTovim at different times, too.

“It's no coincidence that Americans receive the worst education among the first world countries.”

We are not discussing American education here, we are discussing Jewish Day School (aka Yeshivah) education. And for most part, Yeshivah educators are not interested in educating your children, anyway. Otherwise they wouldn’t be so lax with it, and they wouldn’t be talking your children out of going to college.

As far as Soviet education is concerned it was mediocre at best. But you are not comparing it to Yeshivah education, but to American education as a whole. When comparing it to Yeshivah education it was a lot less demanding. Students in SU had no more than 6 subjects per day and that’s upper classmates. Each subject was 45 minutes long with a recess in between. First graders had only 3 periods per day. Second through fourth grade had 4 periods per day and fifth grade was five periods per day. That’s a lot less than even US’s public school. In Yeshivah high school boys have school from 7 am to 7 pm Sunday through Friday. Well, it’s a short day on Fridays and Sundays, but still school hours are horrible. And it is very strongly suggested that boys walk/visit their rabbis on Shabbos and have an after shabbos learning activity in school. Basically, these boys don’t see their parents, except for Shabbos meals twice a week. Girls’ schools are a bit less scheduled, but it is still a lot of hours away from home, especially if that girl needs to travel to school. There is no time to participate in extra-curriculum activities.

Yeshivah education is poor not because of hours or how many days schools are opened, but because students are constantly told that anything that is not Limudey Kodesh is a waste of time and shouldn’t be learned. The only reasons these schools are even teaching these useless subjects (math, English, history, science) is because it is mandated by the state. Many boy schools spend less than two hours per day on “secular” subjects. Is there any wander that they are ignorant?

As a working parent you should be taking every opportunity to spend time with your children. Yes, phone conversations are not as good as face to face interface, but it’s still better than having a kid in school with no access to parents. While I understand difficulties in taking children to work all the time, I see no reason why a child can’t go to sleep a few hours later if there is no school. This way you two could play games, talk, or do something else together, like watching lame shows on TV and criticize them. All of that called bonding. There is no school the next day, and kid could sleep it off with a babysitter.

inkstainedhands said...

Moshe -- As FS said, it's wrong that the daycare announces days off last minute. I am not saying that it is okay. What I am saying, however, is that if the school gives you a schedule in September of all the vacation days, you should have enough time to make some sort of plan of what you will do with the kids those days.

SubWife -- You're right; maybe my views would be different if I were a mother. But at the same time, I don't think it is fair to kids to want to reduce their vacation time. I am not trying to be insensitive to the parents, nor do I want to be insensitive to the kids, some of whom might hate school and want nothing more than to stay at home, where they feel safe.

"Why can't there be a more unified system of giving children time off?" -- Because we're Jews, remember? Two Jews, three opinions, that sort of thing. Every Jew follows a different rav, different minhagim, different opinions, and you expect them to agree on the same system of vacation days?

SubWife, I am not complaining about the length of the school day. What bothers me is the amount of work I have to do once I come home, and the fact that you survived school in the Soviet Union does not really make me feel that my situation is any better. I am in school from 8:30 to 5, I come home, do homework, study for tests... we have official examination periods four times a year (October, January, March, June) and other tests in between throughout the year. Just this week I spent over 10 hours studying for a single final. Before another final I got 3.5 hours of sleep because I had to study. I think I deserve a winter break after January finals and a long summer break after June finals. Even though little kids don't feel the same fatigue I do, they too look forward to these vacations as a time to relax and unwind.

mlevin -- I'm not sure whether you are talking about boys' yeshiva or girls' yeshiva or both when you say that the education is lax, but I can assure you that in my school it is far from that. My school values education and encourages girls to earn credits in 12th grade and go to college afterward.

"Yeshivah education is poor not because of hours or how many days schools are opened, but because students are constantly told that anything that is not Limudey Kodesh is a waste of time and shouldn’t be learned." -- This is not the case AT ALL in my school. They take both limudei kodesh and secular subjects very seriously, and want the students to be educated in both.

"The only reasons these schools are even teaching these useless subjects (math, English, history, science) is because it is mandated by the state." -- How would you explain the subjects that are not mandated by the state then? For example, electives such as AP Literature, Psychology, Art, Languages (we don't need another language in high school because we already took the Hebrew Regent), Accounting, etc. We also have a mandatory class in 9th grade on music appreciation. Girls who want a well-rounded education have the opportunity to get it in my school.

I don't know what it's like in other girls' school and boys' yeshivot, but this is how it is where I go.

frumskeptic said...

ish- music, art and gym are mandated by NYS law. I believe one year of art and music is required, as well as 4 years of gym.

about Touro credits- I took "ap" psych (the school didn't encourage taking the AP just going for the Touro credits). they cut out everything about Freud. you can't teach psychology if you censor Freud. he's like father of psyhcology. giving the option of taking the class does not mean the school has the educational foundation to make the class actually worthwhile. allowing the class as an option isjust a way to get smart, planning parents to believe in the education of the school. that doesn't mean the schooldoes its job.

subwife- what ISH said about calender days...

quality education doesn't come due to the extended duration of the school year, but due to the education in and of itself. the US always led in education until about WW1, when they changed curriculums to a more one-size-fits all standard. it used to be smaller classes and individualized lesson plans. NOTHING whatsoever to do with the length of the school year.

inkstainedhands said...

MUSIC is mandated? I never knew that... I do know that gym is mandatory though -- I have frequently been told that if I fail gym I won't get my diploma. As for art, the second year IS an elective. We have art for half a year in eleventh grade, and then it's optional in twelfth.