Educating ourselves

Educating ourselves

The school year is winding down. Students are preparing themselves for finals; some also are looking toward graduation ceremonies.

We have no effective way of monitoring how the year went in one school or another. We do know that tuitions are high and about to get higher. We do know that not every school has the wherewithal to provide students with the most up-to-date learning technology.

We also know that every school stretches itself to the limit and perhaps even beyond to do the best job possible for its students.

What we do not know is why, as a community, we are not more active in the education of our children. There is no board of Jewish education in northern New Jersey to help guide learning and enrich teachers with new skills.

Lack of funds has forced the Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey to severely curtail its teacher resource center and continuing education programs for educators. Over the past year, under the able and capable direction of Lisa Harris Glass, the federation has been studying how best to serve our teachers and students with the resources available. It has been a daunting task, but one carried out with a sense of mission.

All the planning in the world, however, will not succeed without a serious commitment from all of us as well. As the school year winds down, we must re-examine our priorities. We have to support the federation’s efforts with dollars, not just with talk. Those of us who have the time have to use the summer to explore volunteer opportunities at area schools. Synagogue boards have to give serious consideration to upgrading their after-school programs, so that they are not mere b’nei mitzvah mills but learning centers for Jewish children whose parents cannot afford day schools, or prefer not to send their children to one.

And parents must take a long, hard look at the year gone by. They must ask themselves whether their children received all the education they should have received. Not just what were their test scores, but what were the tests like? How many free periods did their children have on any given day, and what purpose did those serve? What tools were available to the students this year, and what is on tap for next year?

There are so many questions for all of us to ask – of the schools, of our communal institutions, and especially of ourselves.

As the school year winds down, the planning for the next year takes on a greater sense of urgency. This is the time to ask the questions.