Monday, August 24, 2009

A Small Note on Mandatory Minimum Tuitions

If you read my blog, you'll find that every now and again, I go back to my high school days and complain about it.

The fact of the matter is that I was miserable in high school. My hashkafah was entirely different than that of the yeshiva I went to. I did not believe, as my high school did, that there was value only in learning Torah and nothing else. I actually had interests that did not fall squarely in the Beis HaMidrash. I knew that many of the myths that the rabbeim spouted about non-Jews (or non-frum Jews) were downright silly and false. I did not fit the mold of a typical student. I was not the best learner -- in fact, it could be safely said that I was a rotten learner -- and not one rebbi in high school made an effort to try and help. And yes, in the end, my rosh yeshiva acted dishonorably in trying to renege on a deal that he made with me to allow me to graduate on time.

But despite all that, there is one thing that needs to be said -- I went to that high school for four years for free. My mother spent the majority of those four years in the hospital either having or recovering from numerous back surgeries. She had no income to speak of during those years. I still don't know how she managed to pay the rent* or put food on the table during those years - but she somehow found a way. And yet, no matter how much "trouble" I was at the school (I was only troublesome because I didn't fit the mold, not because I was truly troublesome), they never (to my knowledge) sent a letter asking my mother for money or threatening to not allow me back because she did not (and could not) pay tuition.

I'm often left to wonder what would have happened to me if I were forced to go to public school becuase my mother could not pay tuition. Would I still be observant today? Would I have an interest in learning Torah today? Truth to tell, I can't say. In some respects, my high school nearly destroyed my faith in Judaism - and the conflict between the more fundamentalist attitude in the school and my more "modern" attitudes is a conflict that has greatly shaped who I am today. I don't think this blog would exist, for example, if I went to a school like YU which would have been more in-line with my hashkafah. In addition, I could safely say that most of the four years that I spent there were wasted as far as Torah learning goes. I did not really begin learning until I went to yeshiva after high school. In that respect, my high school experience was a vast negative influence on my life.

And yet, would I have gone to yeshiva post-high-school had I not been in a yeshiva during high school? Would I have maintained my level of observence if I were in a public high school with a tutor (I don't know how it would have been paid for) after school? I don't know and, in truth, I don't know if I ever can know.

So, what is the point of all of this remeniscing about the past?

There is a lot of talk around the blogosphere about the fact that minimum tuitions are needed to keep our yeshivos afloat. There has to be the idea that every parent has to commit to a certain financial obligation if yeshivos are going to be able to continue operating. On an intellectual level, I understand the need for this. And yet, even though I understand the need, I cannot, in good conciense, support the idea, simply because I was allowed a free ride for four years in high school (and, I should point out, in a small high school with fewer than fifty students). How could I be a hypocrite and demand that parents pay a minimum amount *regardless of circumstances* when such a policy did not apply to me?

The Wolf


* It should be pointed out that my mother's landlords were the nicest, kindest people you could hope to meet. For the nearly twenty five years that she lived in their house, they did not raise the rent on her -- even though they knew they could have gotten a much higher paying customer.

16 comments:

G*3 said...

So many people seem to have had bad expiriences in right-wing highschools. I've heard it said that the American yeshiva system was designed to crank out talmidei chachamim after the Holocaust, whatever the cost in bochurim who weren't cut out to be gedolim.

I don't think the financial crisis in the yeshivos are caused by the few families which really can't pay due to circumstances beyond their control. Its caused by people who's way of life is to use the system. People who have large families whether or not they can afford them, and then expect the system to bail them out.

SuperRaizy said...

I think that the financial situation of most yeshivas is different today than it was when you were in school. Expenses are higher (due to increased salaries, higher rent,etc.)and outside sources of income have dried up. Except in the most desperate of cases, it is probably unrealistic to expect yeshivas to take kids in tuition-free.

Lion of Zion said...

i don't think my mother-in-law (a single mother and new immigrant) paid much (if any) tuition for my wife, her sister and her brother. no real attempt was made to absorb the vast majority of russian immigrants into the jewish community, and it's nice that my wife and her siblings were luckier.

but on the other hand, as a current tuition payer, i don't think even mandatory minimum is enough.

Child אִישׁ Behavior said...

The community as a whole values the Yeshiva education of all its students. Everyone to one degree or another would like their children to get a Jewish education. People pay money to get a seat on Yom Kippur, they can afford to contribute money to a fund for people who can not afford education. Individual institutions should not be forced to shoulder the full financial burden of doing a chessed that everyone in the community feels is important. What we need isn't mandatory minimums in the form of price fixing, we need the klal to put it's money where it's mouth is.

While it is great that you got a free education from your Yeshiva, you shouldn't have had to.

Freelance Kiruv Maniac said...

"In some respects, my high school nearly destroyed my faith in Judaism - and the conflict between the more fundamentalist attitude in the school and my more "modern" attitudes is a conflict that has greatly shaped who I am today. I don't think this blog would exist, for example, if I went to a school like YU which would have been more in-line with my hashkafah."

Ah, the truth comes out.
Now it all makes sense.
I think full disclosure should be mandatory for all anti-establishment blogs.

Anonymous said...

Freelance: I don't consider Wolf to be anti-establishment. He remained frum and wants to make improvements. The type of respectful, constructive criticism that Wolf provides is very pro-establishment. An how dare anyone criticize attitude is highly anti-establishment in the end because an establishment that can't grow and improve and tolerates no dissent or deviation from the party line is doomed to failure like the old USSR.

LazerA said...

G*3 said...
"So many people seem to have had bad expiriences in right-wing highschools."

Oh, please.

Having a "bad experience" in high school is so common that it is virtually the norm, in every community. The teen years are difficult. Adults, even caring adults and talented educators, frequently struggle to find the right way to deal with each individual (what works wonderfully for one young person can completely backfire with another). So many teens walk away with feelings of angst and resentment, and not all of them grow out of it.

What would have happened if "Wolf" would have gone to a less right-wing yeshiva? Would he have been happy there? Honestly, that is unlikely. While "Wolf" claims that his "troublesomeness" was rooted purely in not fitting his yeshiva's "mold", my observation is that, more often than not, teens tend to have similar problems in every school they attend - and tend to have the same excuses regardless.

Who knows, maybe attending a less right-wing yeshiva would have pushed "Wolf" in a more right-wing direction? One good friend of mine came from a very nice MO home. He went to a prominent MO high school (with all the trappings, Camp Moshava, etc.) and was turned off and became Chareidi. Happens all the time. (BTW, he still has a very close relationship with his parents.)

Anonymous said...

Wolf: I don't think anyone is saying that mandatory minimum tuitions shouldn't have exceptions for people who cannot work because of health reasons, or a temporary reprieve for someone who is laid off. The benefit of mandatory minimums is that young couples will know that will have to step up to the plate and help fund their children's educations so they better get the job skills and education to do so and get decent jobs. Scholarship money is drying up and its not healthy to rely on fulls scholarships.

BrooklynWolf said...

Ah, the truth comes out.
Now it all makes sense.
I think full disclosure should be mandatory for all anti-establishment blogs.


FKM,

Firstly, I wasn't hiding anything. I've posted in the past about my high school experience. Heck, my first post on the subject was about three years ago IIRC. Just because you missed it doesn't mean that I didn't put "the truth" out there a long time ago.

Secondly, while you and I certainly have our disagreements, I don't think I qualify as "anti-establishment." I've made it clear (although perhaps, like my school experience, you may have missed it) that I am observant and that I encourage observance of the mitzvos. Yes, I am sometimes critical of certain elements within our community, but, on the whole, I value Judaism, mitzvah observance and Torah learning. Compared to what's out there in the blogosphere out there, I'd hardly say that I'm "anti-establishment."

The Wolf

SephardiLady said...

I advocate minimum tuitions, but that doesn't mean that there could not be a different organization that raises money for students who can't even meet minimum tuitions.

I will try to link later.

G*3 said...

LazerA, sure, lots of people have bad expiriences in high school, regardless of background. But right-wing high schools seem to breed particularly religious problems for those who don't fit the learn-gemara-all-day-everything-outside-the-yeshiva-is-nonsense-thinking-about-hashkafic-issues-is-bad mold.

Freelance Kiruv Maniac said...

"I've posted in the past about my high school experience."

But not that this blog was a negative by-product of it.

"I don't think I qualify as "anti-establishment." I've made it clear that I am observant and that I encourage observance of the mitzvos."

Sorry, I wasn't referring to "Orthodox Judaism" as the establishment.
I was referring to the particular establishment that was represented to you by the high-school you attended--the ultra-Orthodox community.
Namely it's social structures and institutions that you consistently criticize.

BrooklynWolf said...

FKM,

My life is a by-product of it -- as well as of all my other experiences. If I didn't have the high-school experience I had, if my parents had not divorced, if I had not married my wife, if I had not made any one of a thousand decisions my life would have been totally different. To say that this blog is solely as a result of my high school experiences (especially when you don't know me at all) is silly. Yes, this blog might not exist if I went to a YU school, but it also might not have existed for a dozen other reasons.

I was referring to the particular establishment that was represented to you by the high-school you attended--the ultra-Orthodox community.

Why? Is that the only valid establishment?

The Wolf

Freelance Kiruv Maniac said...

No. But it's the only establishment that is relevant to your revelation in this post (and your blog in general).
It seems logical to me that if it qualifies an an establishment (and you don't seem to be denying that), then your blog can be rightfully characterized as anti-establishment.

Orthoprax said...

What's all this about minimum tuitions? While there may be the highly unusual case where the parents cannot afford to contribute anything towards their children's yeshivah education there are far more who can well pay a good portion of regular tuition but do their best to claim financial hardship.

The fact is simply that the wealthier parents, as they pay "full" tuition, are in fact paying more than per capita costs and serve to subsidize the education of the less privileged children.

Y. N. said...

The fact is simply that the wealthier parents, as they pay "full" tuition, are in fact paying more than per capita costs and serve to subsidize the education of the less privileged children.

Which has been the Jewish way from Mount Sinai to now.