Chapter 17. Educational Philosophy

When I look back, I find that my educational philosophy was formed in the classrooms of Mountaindale.

The Faculty of the Mountaindale schools

Mr. KaufmanHSJM
Miss RosnerHSJ
Miss GraubardHSJR
Miss Kanzler7 8JM
Mrs. (Goldstein) Morris5 6JM
Mrs. Cauthers3 4W
Miss Armstrong1 2

J indicates that the faculty member was Jewish.

M indicates that the faculty member was from Mountaindale.

R indicates that the faculty member rented in Mountaindale

W indicates that the faculty member was from Woodridge.

The above chart lists the faculty who instructed me as I progressed through school in Mountaindale. The chart shows that there were six Jewish faculty members of the nine in the school. Why did the Mountaindale School Board hire so many Jewish teachers? Three of them grew up and lived in the town and one teacher came to live in town and married her husband from Mountaindale. One non-Jewish teacher lived in the next town. The School Board hired theses teachers because of their proximity to the school. Transportation was poor and few people owned cars. Other reasons why these teachers were hired were good role models; they grew up in town and had the same ideas, virtues and beliefs as their parents.

Most of the teachers had Jewish immigrant parents from Eastern Europe so they understood the students, having come from a similar background. At home the students' parents spoke Yiddish. The students themselves spoke perfect English and their parents spoke in rudimentary English. The student vocabulary was very poor. The school picked local teachers because they wanted to show that the teachers were real people. For example: those of us who now live in cities and suburbs have mail delivered to our homes. We see our mailmen all the time but we don't know anything about them by their occupation. Teachers who lived in town were seen on the street and we know their families in the school. The classes were small there were seldom more than twenty children in a class. There were two grades in the same classroom, and all students received individual help from the teacher.

I graduated from Mountaindale high school in 1945. It wasn't until years later that I found out that there were two sets of curricula. There was one set published by the New York City Board of Education. The other set was published by the New York State Department of Education in Albany. The New York City Curriculum was more demanding and had a different purpose from that of the states. The New York City curriculum's purpose was to prepare the student for college and to help them pass the college entrance exam. New York City provided free college for all students that could pass the entrance exams. In effect, the high schools were prep schools for colleges. The Academic courses were better, possessing higher quality, more variety and greater quantity than the courses in rural areas. The state curriculum had a different purpose. It was meant to be for people who would not be going to college. The children of farmers and local merchants generally did not go to school beyond high school. Therefore the curriculum was not as demanding as in New York City.

In high school the boys took academic courses and the girls took commercial courses. Boys were expected to get a better education than the girls. The aspirations of the Jewish Russian immigrant parents can best be summed up in the following statement by a proud mother of two grown children: "I'm proud of my children. My son is a doctor and my daughter married a doctor."

Mountaindale was different from the other rural areas. More boys went to college and became professionals and left Mountaindale to move back to New York City. Most parents warned their children that they would not be inheriting any money, so they'd better go to school. For most Eastern European Jewish immigrant families, education would be the way out of poverty.