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?
* 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.