I've been reading the novel "The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P." by Adelle Waldman, and I find just about every character to be unlikable. They are either smug snobs, whiny fools, or obnoxious snobbish fools. I do enjoy the dialogue and situations to some extent, so I will finish the book. But I am grappling with a story that has people I would not want to be around. And some of the characters are Jewish. Honestly, I know there are Jews who are snobs, fools and obnoxious. And at least the non-Jewish characters are also quite faulty.

But I notice how these characters, in their 20s and 30s, look down their noses at people who did not attend "the right schools." The main character went to private schools all his life, and he (as well as nearly everyone else in this book) judges people in a withering fashion, about their "second-tier" public schools and lack of a private school or even an elite school education.

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I have never liked this kind of behavior, and have told off people for their comments about this. Some are apologetic, but too often they roll their eyes. And this brings to mind a few Jewish people I have known who seemed quite proud of their snooty evaluations.

One was an ex-boyfriend of mine. When we were already starting to grow apart, he once made a snippy comment about my being a "PSK." I had not heard that term and asked him what it meant. Eventually he 'fessed up: it stood for "public school kid." He had attended private Jewish schools whereas I had attended public schools, and even though I graduated from a prestigious college, I was still in his eyes a "PSK." Well, I glommed onto that and turned it on its tuches: I am proud to be a PSK, and most of the people in this country are indeed PSKs.

Years later I met an educator at my synagogue, while a group of us decorated a shul sukkah. The woman was speaking with a boy there, and asked which school he attended. It was a private secular school. She then mentioned that the school was so much better than the public schools in the neighborhood... which is not correct and certainly is very rude. I have never forgotten this comment, although I will assume that the boy did (he seemed barely interested in her response). And I was bothered then, and now, by the attitude some people hold that private schools are better than public schools, merely because private versus public is a given.

Finally, over a year ago I told an Orthodox man I know (a former neighbor) that my older daughter was attending my alma mater, a well-regarded public high school. He scoffed at that and stressed that I should not send her there, that I should put her in a Jewish all-girls school. Although I respect this man's opinions on certain topics, I told him off on this one. I emphasized that this public school offered quality education and extra-curricular opportunities. I even pointed out that I knew of teenaged girls at a local girls' yeshiva who complained bout how little social studies, science and math they were learning...unlike my daughter's coursework. The Orthodox man shrugged his shoulders.

So I sound like I've got quite a chip on my shoulder. I do. And I know that there are times when I have been a snob about certain things. But as I get older, I've been less of a snob and more understanding about the income discrepancies all around us, as well as the misconceptions some hold about the second-class status of a public school education. Yes, there are bad public schools. But there are also bad parochial and secular private schools. And ultimately, snobbishness really does not befit a Jewish person. I will take the high road here, and hope you think carefully about my messages.


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