Ear­li­er this week, Cliff Graubart wrote about his father and Pat Con­roy. He will be blog­ging here for Jew­ish Book Coun­cil and MyJew­ish­Learn­ing all week.

I know Jew­ish doc­tors and lawyers who are send­ing their chil­dren to state uni­ver­si­ties and tell me they are great’ schools. I remem­ber the same gen­tle­men telling me that the pub­lic high school their chil­dren went to was also great.’ I had a tough time buy­ing this argu­ment and was able to con­firm my beliefs when my own daugh­ter decid­ed, after her school­ing at a Jew­ish day school since kinder­garten, she want­ed a pub­lic school expe­ri­ence. My wife and I acqui­esced and our daugh­ter entered with enthu­si­asm and, being the very bright girl she is, soon insist­ed that she need­ed a nose pierc­ing. I need an edge,” she insist­ed, and we under­stood. She was in a tough envi­ron­ment and read the signs accu­rate­ly. Then I thought of the three Jew­ish lawyers who had or in the past had their kids at the school and said it was great.’ Final­ly I fig­ured it out. It was­n’t great. It was free. 

My daugh­ter want­ed this expe­ri­ence because the high school was a mag­net school and offered a good dance pro­gram. It was­n’t, and she soon out­grew the pro­gram spend­ing her hours after school seek­ing more pro­fes­sion­al train­ing at the bal­let stu­dio she had recent­ly joined.

My wife and I make a mod­est liv­ing, but are on the same page when it comes to edu­ca­tion. She was raised in the pub­lic school sys­tem in sev­er­al states grow­ing up. I was raised in pub­lic school in Man­hat­tan, where many of my teach­ers were Jews and the prod­uct of the 30s social­ist peri­od, com­mit­ted to edu­ca­tion. Although I had a sol­id edu­ca­tion, the teach­ers weren’t trained as they are today to pick up on learn­ing dis­abil­i­ties. If they had, I might have start­ed writ­ing soon­er, and per­haps would have attend­ed a bet­ter col­lege. We both want­ed more for our own children. 

The local state school here in Geor­gia has an excel­lent rep­u­ta­tion, espe­cial­ly the Hon­ors Pro­gram. Although my son was accept­ed there, he chose to go to NYU. You get more bang for your buck by going to the state school I was told. It could be argued that if you want to be a teacher, and work for those low salaries, it sim­ply does­n’t make sense to spend the huge amount of mon­ey it takes to go to a school such as NYU

I dis­agree. My son’s first full year was spent in Paris in an apart­ment house for stu­dents where they had to cook for them­selves. He spoke not a word of French when he land­ed, and upon his return to New York the next year, he minored in French. The expe­ri­ence changed his life. 

So why do I write of this? Because my first incli­na­tion was to believe I want­ed the best in edu­ca­tion for my kids because of my Judaism. But my wife was raised a Bap­tist. And what of those Jew­ish lawyers and doc­tors I spoke of ear­li­er? Judaism does I think, instill in us the zeal for edu­ca­tion, but it comes in all kinds and degrees. 

Cliff Graubart is the author of The Curi­ous Vision of Sam­my Levitt and Oth­er Sto­ries (Mer­cer Uni­ver­si­ty Press, 2012). Vis­it him online at www​.clif​f​graubart​.com.

Cliff Graubart was born and raised in NYC. He has boxed in the Tole­do Gold­en Gloves, sold furs in New York, and once para­chut­ed out of a per­fect­ly good air­plane in cel­e­bra­tion of his 40th birth­day — all mate­r­i­al for his short sto­ries, which have appeared in mag­a­zines. Atlanta-based Graubart owns the Old New York Book Shop.