It appears beyond doubt that more affordable day school tuition leads to more enrolment in the schools (see last week’s update). Now it is imperative for community leaders, teachers, students, parents, grandparents, education enthusiasts and everyone else who recognize the connection between Jewish literacy and Jewish peoplehood, to boost the excellence and importance of a day school education.
Lucky for us, three weeks ago, Dr. Erica Brown, one of the world’s pre-eminent Jewish studies educators. wrote “The case for day schools”. The article is both paean and plea. She pays tribute to a day school education and urges parents to consider day schools for their children. And she uses her own experience as the basis of her argument.
Dr. Brown tells her readers that she entered day school at 16. “I could barely write my name in Hebrew.” By the end of her day school education however, Dr. Brown’s ability with Hebrew and with related Hebrew study were well established.
Her praise for day school education is on pragmatic and substantive grounds. The following is excerpted from her article.
“We have research from Brandeis University’s Cohen Center that day school graduates achieve among the highest levels of academic success. Central to that is the confidence these schools instil in their students to handle a serious workload. We talk a lot about resilience in education. Look at the stamina of day school students. They come early, leave late, balance a dual curriculum, and heap on extra-curricular activities.
“Day school exposed me to a Jewish life that was sophisticated, embracing and challenging.
“Day school also gave me a treasured group of friends, decent human beings who cared about each other and now care about the world.
“The Cohen Center study above demonstrated that day school graduates in college were less likely to engage in risky behaviour, and after college were more likely to volunteer, to find careers that helped people, and to devote themselves in and outside of work to making a difference in society.
“Day schools offer living wisdom and a soul-stretching education I couldn’t find where I was. Prep school prepared me well for individual achievement. But day school gave me my first-ever community. It taught me to live responsibly in an I-Thou space. It’s no surprise that research done by the Avi Chai Foundation showed an over-representation of day school graduates in leadership positions. When Jewish organizations need leaders, chances are they’ll be filling slots with day school graduates.
“Discerning parents realize that day school deserves a fair hearing. You might find, as I did, that no single decision has done more to craft a life of meaning for a family. The best case for day school is not what it delivers short-term. It’s the life it delivers long after graduation.”
Dr. Brown is immensely qualified to state the case for Jewish Day Schools. The author of 11 books and frequent contributor to journals and newspapers, she is an award-winning educator, associate professor at George Washington University and the director of its Mayberg Center for Jewish Education and Leadership.
Dr. Brown is the most recent high-profile, experienced, knowledgeable, caring educator to advocate on behalf of a day school education. Its benefits and its promise are eternal. Now the community must do its utmost, leaving no stone––through philanthropy and advocacy––to make day school education affordable.