Why My Friends and I Had More Wisdom When We Were 12 Than College Students and Faculty Have Today

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The average 12-year-old student at a yeshiva has more wisdom than almost any student at Harvard or most other universities. (A yeshiva is an Orthodox Jewish school with an emphasis on religious studies. About half the school day is devoted to religious studies — taught from the original Hebrew sources.)

This is probably true for many 12-year-olds in traditional Christian schools as well.

College students do have more knowledge than almost any 12-year-old in religious school. But they have much less wisdom.

Here are just three examples of basic insights into life that most 12-year-old yeshiva students know and that few secular students — or, for that matter, secular professors — know.

No. 1: I knew well before the age of 12 that people are not basically good.

No. 2: Precisely because human nature isn’t good, the preoccupation of my religious education was how to work on myself to make me a better person. Every yeshiva student in the world memorizes the Talmudic aphorism, “Who is the strong man? The one who conquers his urge(s).”

The great difference between a religious and secular education can be summarized thus: I was taught that the greatest problem in my life is me. In the secular world, students are taught that the greatest problems in their lives are others.

No. 3: People are to be judged by the standards and behavior of the generation in which they lived.

In the present Age of No Wisdom, the best educated — usually the same people who most lack wisdom — dismiss the unique moral accomplishment of America’s Founders because most of them owned slaves. Fools — the term for people who lack wisdom…

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