How to Choose a School

Mama o’ the Matrices has been school-shopping:

Too many indifferent teachers, too many classrooms with glossy posters instead of the kids’ work. And when the kids’ stuff was hung up, it was way too uniform.

And the biggest strike? teachers mixing interpretive narrative (midrash) with the biblical text, and making no distinction. Never mind that while I was in the classroom, boys were called on twice as often as girls. Never mind that ‘wiggly kid’ to the principal means ‘ADHD/ADD,’ or that when asked what their goals are, the administration showed nothing beyong ‘Keeping Up With the Kerrys.’ Their communication skills lag, yes, but above all this is a school that is purporting to teach Orthodox Judaism, and they are being sloppy about it. Phaugh.

Our son is going to Kitah Aleph next year, and we just came back from a meeting as well. When I was younger, I used to ask the staff what happened with kids who were bored in class. I stopped because they always said the learning was individualistic and it never was, unless the teacher was exceptional. Now I ask for examples of how they handle behavior problems. Among other things, tonight the principal mentioned that they might ask a child to copy a relevant section of the Shulchan Aruch as a punishment for some infraction. One of my own children once had to do this. Do they really think that a child talks back to a teacher because he doesn’t know the halacha?

I’ll tell you how we are going to choose the school for our son. Forget about bored kids, lack of creativity, sex discrimination (although we don’t have the option of coeducational classes, which is fine with me), and sloppy religious teaching. We will examine our options, see what combination of hashkafic (ideological), sociological, economic, and pedagogical garbage we are best able to stomach, and choose the one that allows us to sleep best at night. It won’t be an easy choice.


  1. Hmm. Your post reflects what I’ve heard from other families: whatever you choose, you’ll be unhappy in some way.

    What I don’t get is this: the liberal Orthodox are sending their kids to the pluralist school, and they are ALL HAPPY.

    What on earth is in their KoolAid?

  2. mother in israel says

    When parents choose a snotty private school, or some other unconventional choice, they have to convince themselves that everything is just dandy. And if they realize it’s not they can’t admit it.

  3. Jerusalem Joe says

    i’m sure this isn’t the first time you are doing this – haven’t you settled on a school you like after all these years? why not?

  4. mother in israel says

    JJ–The youngest already in school is in 5th grade, and we aren’t so happy with his school now. The school that the older children went to kind of disintegrated and has been reopened in a different form. So it’s all up in the air, although we have pretty much decided.

  5. Oh, m.i.i., the only option around here with a Judaic curriculum *is* private, and therefore somewhat snotty.


  6. mother in israel says


    I realized that later, although a relative told me the same thing happened when a new day school opened up in their neighborhood threatening the existing, established community school.