One long-standing stereotype of Jews is that we love to complain. One only need log in to any kosher restaurant group on Facebook to confirm this categorization. However, while this may be the most accurate stereotype of Jews as a whole, if there is one thing that social media has taught us, it’s that this is not an exclusive trait to members of The Tribe. When boiled down to its essence, Twitter is just a bunch of people complaining, and then responding to the complaints with more complaints.
Leaving all this aside, one of the chief complaints we in the Orthodox community tend to complain about the most and the longest is the cost of being Jewish, and the focus of this expense is often how much we pay in tuition. It’s no question that tuition costs are extremely burdensome to frum families, and anyone who has gone through the yeshiva education system as a parent has at some point at least thought about sending a child to public school. The majority of those reading this probably never went through with it and ended up pushing their way through the financial strains of a yeshiva education for their children. Many are still pushing through now, and still others are only at the beginning stages of the twelve-year-per-child trek.
But that question of sending to public school always looms large over our heads. Yeshiva education can cost $10,000-$35,000 per year. Just imagine what each family could do with that added money on hand! Inevitably, parents will ask themselves if the financial investment in a Jewish education is worth it. I am not the exception. I have asked this question many times. But inevitably, a story will come out reaffirms that yes. The price we pay for a yeshiva education is not only worth the cost, but pays for itself in droves.
The most recent story comes to us from investigative reporter Christopher Rufo, who brought to light the story of a Cupertino, California, third grade teacher who thought that it would be a good idea to introduce the children to critical race theory. According to Rufo, “the teacher asked all students to create an ‘identity map,’ listing their race, class, gender, religion, family structure, and other characteristics. The teacher explained that the students live in a ‘dominant culture’ of ‘white, middle class, cisgender, educated, able-bodied, Christian, English speaker[s],’ who, according to the lesson, ‘created and maintained’ this culture in order ‘to hold power and stay in power.’ The lesson then shifted into a reading from the ironically titled This Book Is Antiracist.
Further insane details of the lesson emerged. This was all conducted as part of a math lesson, not social studies. There is no word how this information ended up translating to third grade math, but then again, I am not up to date on the Common Core curriculum, so I may be speaking out of turn. However, the fact that this was a math lesson was later cleared up by the principal, who explained that the discussion was not a part of the “formal curricula, but the process of daily learning facilitated by a certified teacher.” In other words, a teacher was given carte blanche to introduce and indoctrinate his or her students in a highly controversial topic.
So how did we find out about this? If the school didn’t have this as part of their official curriculum, there was obviously no oversight. It came from a whistleblower - more accurately a parent. And I know what you’re probably thinking. You are thinking that it was some fragile white parent afraid of their children finding out the truth about their dominance in the culture. Well no. Despite the median annual household income in Cupertino being $172,000, Meyerholz Elementary School is 94% nonwhite and considered one of the most privileged schools in the country. The parent in question was Asian-American, and another reported that the critical race theory being taught was akin to the Chinese Cultural Revolution. In other words, a classroom made up mostly of minorities were being told that they owe their privilege primarily to the fact that they were white, and that they or their parents seek to hold nonwhites down “to hold power and stay in power.”
This story was only made public due to the parents of the students making it so. Just know that this is almost certainly not the only instance of a teacher indoctrinating students in public schools. What makes this so egregious is the age of the students, not that this would have been appropriate for high school students either, but at least high schoolers have some kind of ability to challenge teachers. Third graders lack any ability to dispute whatever the teacher tells them. They kind of just have to accept it. Assuming the principal is telling the truth, this teacher assumed that what he or she was teaching was so normal that there would be no reason to run it by the school’s administrators before creating a series of lessons around it.
Now, some may say that teachers are better when they aren’t bogged down by administrators and allowed to teach without inhibition. I do understand that contention, but I would argue that the lack of oversight leads to the type of behavior that outrages parents. And this is something that parents do not have to worry about in yeshivas, day schools, or really any private schools. Administration has much more say over what happens in classrooms. Teachers do not have the power of unions to protect them when they act inconsistent with the values of the schools. And for the sheer peace of mind that something like this would never happen in a yeshiva or day school shows that the price we pay for the education we want our children to have is not only worth the cost, but validates it.
Izzo Zwiren is the host of The Jewish Living Podcast, where he and his guests delve into any and all areas of Orthodox Judaism.