Who’s Smart?

Regarding the editorial “Recalculating the Road to Shidduchim” there appeared a letter from “a concerned high-school teacher in Brooklyn” in regard to mothers of bachurim seeking information about her students. She wrote:

“Finally, and most importantly, so many parents fail to realize that what really counts in marriage isn’t how ‘book-smart’ a girl is, but how ‘people-smart’ she is.”

And she goes on to say, “I have seen many girls who may have average intelligence or knowledge, but when it comes to being a wife, mother, or even engaging conversationalist, they prove to be more life-smart than their classmates with a perfect average.”

Is she right? Of course.

But are our students taught to be “book-smart” or “people-smart,” “book-smart” or “life smart?” What makes one school superior to another in our community if not the level of “book-smart” and related things?

Imagine having a subject called “people-smart” or “life smart.” In fact, “book-smart” isn’t a subject in our schools. It is the subject of all subjects!

And even “book-smart” isn’t tolerated in our elite schools; only in a very limited way. If a girl knows the subject, but has a limitation in writing it on paper, reading it fluently, knowing it in Hebrew, etc. she fails. She can know the whole book by heart. Doesn’t matter. She will be dragged to tutors and OT’s and so forth, to have her confidence shattered and be kept back. You have to be book-smart the way it says in the book.

Being people-smart isn’t something that’s recognized in school at all; not a single mark or grade is dependent on that. Many special and good-natured girls are having a hard time each day in school just because they have a hard time being “book-smart.” No one has ever gotten recognition for being people-smart, for being the generation’s future good wives and mothers.

None of our elite high schools offers teaching the “book-smart” students [among all students] to be “life-smart” and “people-smart,” thoroughly, and with vigorous testing, to excel “when it comes to being a wife, mother, or even engaging conversationalist,” as the teacher rightly wrote in her letter.

So, going back to what this teacher is saying that “so many parents fail to realize that what really counts in marriage isn’t how ‘book-smart’ a girl is, but how people-smart she is,” who is really the one failing to realize what really counts?

When a mother calls a teacher, wanting the book-smart, above-average girl, of course it is ridiculous, but when this mother was your or your friend’s student, unfortunately, she learned in our schools what is looked-up to and what matters!

And the girl she is inquiring about — the potential kallah — who is not book-smart but people-smart, what was she herself taught, to feel good about herself being people-smart or to admire and crave being book-smart?

This not to say we need to change book-smart for people-smart, but an honest and balanced system is begging to be implemented.

I know well there are many special teachers in our schools, and they try their best in many areas, but for the most part their hands are tied. They are part of a system.

So, what did the boy’s mother ask for?

A Concerned Parent in Brooklyn