Posted by Rabbi Jonathan Sacks | Feb 26, 2019 |
Rabbi Jonathan Sacks published an article last month about faith schools in The Times that was subsequently republished on the site of Jeducation.com.
Entitled If Faith Schools are so Bad, Why do Parents Love Them? the article makes key statements about the nature of the education offered in faith schools. Though he bases his observations on the experience in England, Rabbi Sacks, mines for us essential broader truths about life from the narrower vein of faith education.
Why are more and more parents – even those not particularly faith-oriented – seeking faith-based education for their children? Rabbi Sacks asks.
And he provides an answer: “The simple answer is that faith schools tend to have academic success above the average…My tentative suggestion is that faith schools tend to have a strong ethos that emphasizes respect for authority, the virtues of hard work, discipline and a sense of duty, a commitment to high ideals, a willingness to learn, a sense of social responsibility, a preference for earned self-respect rather than unearned self-esteem, and the idea of an objective moral order that transcends subjective personal preference.”
But he stretches his answer even further. He extends it farther meaning to touch the notion that was observed in 2015 by the Supreme Court of Canada in relation to a case involving the exercise of an individual’s religious rights and freedoms and educational instruction. The Court stated that the exercise of an individual’s religious rights could only truly be fulfilled through his or her community since the education about that religion is itself a communal activity.
“But just as – in the words of the African saying – it takes a village to raise a child, so it takes a community to sustain a school, and communities are hard to find these days,” Rabbi Sacks writes. “A community is held together by shared beliefs, traditions, rituals, stories, conventions and codes: the regular enactments of a sense of shared belonging. Communities last longer than any individual, so they preserve a respect for the past and responsibility toward the future. Nowadays it’s hard to find a genuine community outside the world of faith. Lifestyle enclaves, fanclubs, and virtual networks linked by Twitter and Facebook, yes; face-to-face communitas no.
“So it may not be the faith in faith schools that makes them different, so much as the communities that build, support and sustain them. But this fact too should give us pause for thought. For is this not one of the great functions of faith, that it preserves values and institutions that would otherwise be swept away by the tide of time?”
Rabbi Sacks has thus articulated the heart of the argument for ensuring that Jewish education is affordable for all families that seek it for their children.
And may it soon be for the children of our community.