College Students Not Learning Much

This is the headline on CBSNews.com, describing a study published in a new book “Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses.” Given that students are going to courses and acquiring lots of new information, how can it be claimed that they are “not learning much?” Because, says the study, they are not learning to think.

A study of more than 2,300 undergraduates found 45 percent of students show no significant improvement in the key measures of critical thinking, complex reasoning and writing by the end of their sophomore years.

The study determined that the subject area is less important than methodology when it comes to learning to think critically. “Students who studied alone, read and wrote more, attended more selective schools and majored in traditional arts and sciences majors posted greater learning gains.”

I have pointed out a few times that while yeshiva studies are devoted to what might be called classic literature, without immediate relevance to the modern day workforce, they excel in teaching students to think. This has been borne out by various studies in Israel, and now a contrasting study emphasizes that this is an area where today’s colleges are finding limited success.

The study also says that “social engagement generally does not help student performance,” and that those who studied with their friends actually hampered their own intellectual growth. The study did not address one-on-one studies, in which each partner is forced to defend his or her position against the partner’s critique — because this is a form of study essentially absent from modern academia. In that respect, it’s possible that I learned more on the debate panel than I ever did in my coursework…

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30 comments to College Students Not Learning Much

  • Bob Miller

    Critical thinking skills should be learned in elementary school and high school, too.

    In our own circles, critical thinking should not be confined to learning b’chavrusa or to Gemara study in general. Secular studies should also be done at a level that builds these skills. The student should be able to detect ridiculous claims made anywhere in the media, in advertising, by politicians, etc.

  • Aaron

    I’m not so convinced that critical thought is taught so well in yeshivas… if we measure clarity of thought by the level of written communication.

    Count me among those who believe that the inability to write a coherent essay or business report in one’s mother tongue as indicative of muddled thinking. If you can’t write well, you’re more than a few standard deviations away from earning the right to be called “scholarly”.

  • rtw

    “This has been borne out by various studies in Israel…”
    I’m very interested in these studies. Who are the authors?

    [rtw is so very, very interested by these studies, that he has forgotten that he twice asked the same question the last time I mentioned them, and he got an answer at that time. Considering the number of times rtw has questioned my own memory, I find this amusing, probably more amusing than I should. — YM]

  • Aharon

    I agree with Aaron and not because we share the same name (see thats critical thinking – correlation does not imply causation).

    While yeshiva learning may excercise the mind (still waiting to see this study), I think it also reinforces faulty critical thinking – not to use the scientific method, to accept things because of who says them instead of independant thought, etc. “vort”im accepted as legitamate divrei torah even though they are based on word games, etc. Use of analogies that do not pass simple logical sniff tests. I argue this damaage outweighs whatever benefit accrued from the mind workout.

    Annecdotally my wife who went to a good law school and had yeshiva students in her class never saw the yeshiva-excellent lawyer correlation

    It took me a long time to finally accept what my rational brain told me through all those years of yeshiva learning – as much as i did enjoy the learning and benefited spiritually from it.

  • Dr. E

    I too have witnessed firsthand a decline in thinking and writing skills of today’s college students. However, I hope that this post will not be taken as fodder for those in the Yeshiva world to be cynical as to the value of secular education as a whole. Many in that triumphalist camp hear about these studies and make the mistake of claiming that the resulting degrees and academic experience are irrelevant to life success (so therefore, continue to accept the Yeshiva and online degrees as being wholly equivalent). At the same time, they overrate the value of critical or analytical thinking as a conduit for occupational and life success, highlighting the few exceptions and ignoring the rule. Colleges are certainly not perfect and are fraught with challenges, certainly spiritual ones. But, they are more than just tests and degrees, inasmuch as they do provide a context for collaborative project work which is important for life and occupational success in the job market of 2011. Also, very often, college students are working their way through school and accruing some level of work experience which will complement their degree upon graduation. Anyone who is intellectually honest can observe that the lack of entrance screening and accountability in Yeshivos in the past 2 decades had created a generation of guys, who with or without their “advanced critical thinking skills” are quite mediocre and will be subsequently disadvantaged occupationally.

  • david

    I don’t quite understand the purpose of pointing this out. The only possibilites I can think of don’t seem right:

    1) You’re saying that a yeshiva education is good enough for a successful career without college, because it teaches one how to think and college doesn’t. I don’t think you really believe that, and if you do, you need to present a much more compelling argument.

    2) You’re saying that yeshiva learning is more valuable and more important than college learning. This is something that pretty much all serious Orthodox Jews – including the staunchest Torah Umadda advocates – believe, even before they found out that colleges don’t teach students how to think. I am certain that you didn’t find it necessary to point this out.

    3) You’re saying that yeshiva graduates should enter academia because they are able to think, and colleges need to do a better job to teach its students how to think. Somehow, I don’t think this is what you’re saying.

    Please clarify for us.

  • another Nathan

    Dorothy Lee, an anthropologist writing in the 60’s and early 70’s once did an analysis of traditional Jewish education. She pointed to the untrained teachers, the crummy facilities, the often harsh discipline, long hours, all the things that should make traditional Jewish education a failure. She then looked at the value of learning in Jewish culture: the children were brought up in a milieu that treated learning as having primary importance. The father would quiz his son over supper, he would go over material with his children, he would spend time learning himself.
    This according to Lee, was what counted. Everything else played a secondary role to the cultural value of learning.
    Perhaps it’s why, as successive generations of Jews get further removed from this culture, the success rate of Jews in learning, be it traditional or academic, has declined.

  • Steve Ehrlich

    The danger here is that yeshiva types will read this and say “We’re so much smarter then your average college student, we don’t need college!”. That would be an unfortunate, and expensive, mistake…

  • Yosh

    This is purely meant to measure academic skills. It still doesn’t solve the problem of the yeshiva student turned attorney who can’t write or talk to save his life (or, more relevantly, his job). What makes people successful are skills like landing clients.

    I’ve always wondered why more frum schools don’t make students write rigorous English (or whatever native language) essays on Gemara, Chumash, Nach or whatever. There’s no reason you can’t write the same kind of essays that secular students at the better secular schools write on, say, Plato or a history course.

  • mycroft

    “I have pointed out a few times that while yeshiva studies are devoted to what might be called classic literature, without immediate relevance to the modern day workforce, they excel in teaching students to think. ”

    There is a correlation that those who excel in a Yeshiva are more likely to already have the skills to excel in logical thought. Did study Latin provide those skills –clearly not but that was a basic requirement for much of the history of higher education.

  • Yaakov Menken

    The critics universally seem to treat college as a Holy Grail — not merely as a cure-all for financial woes, but as a requirement in order to earn a living. Both are false. While college is necessary in order to become a lawyer, doctor or accountant, in many other fields it is merely one methodology through which to acquire the requisite training, and not necessarily the best one in many of those cases. Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer both dropped out — Gates is described as not having had a definite study plan while he was at Harvard, instead spending all his time messing with the computers.

    While no one could accuse me of undervaluing writing, and I’m all too well aware of the lack of training evident in the writing of yeshiva students, “if we measure clarity of thought by the level of written communication,” then it is we who are engaged in “muddled thinking.” There are any number of intelligent, even educated people who cannot write well at all, nor do they need to. One of the most brilliant senior theses produced at Princeton was a proof to a mathematical theorem. It was 10 lines long. There is value in many cases in being able to express thoughts clearly in English, but not always — and many of those same students write excellent Rabbinic Hebrew.

    Similarly, it is foolish to say that the acceptance of an Halachic ruling from a scholar stifles “independant [sic] thought.” On the contrary, yeshiva students are taught to reject authority when it comes to theoretical discussion. I remember Rav Schwartzmann giving Shiur Klali in Lakewood East, and bringing up a difficult question. One of the students interrupted him, saying, “the Chazon Ish says pshat” (an interpretation, explanation). While the response came in Yiddish, even I understood it at the time: “I’m also a Jew; I can also have a pshat!

    It is all a matter of matching the right person with the right craft, trade, or business. But there’s no area where a person doesn’t benefit from using his or her brain, and no place better to train the brain than a yeshiva.

    Oh — and as far as requiring sources, I’d be happy to learn the basis for “another Nathan’s” claim that “the success rate of Jews in learning, be it traditional or academic, has declined.” There are more yeshiva students than ever, and the elementary student working at a dramatically higher level than even 20 years ago (or so the mechanchim say) — and as far as academics go, I’ve seen no evidence of a Jewish decline.

  • david

    “The critics universally seem to treat college as a Holy Grail”

    Sorry to say this, but that’s a cheap tactic – framing your opponent’s viewpoint in absurd terms. Nobody here said anything of the sort. Our point is that the decline of “thinking” in universities does not necessarily mean that frum Jews are better off just staying in yeshiva rather than going to college, which we naturally assumed to be the point of your post, though admittedly you didn’t say what the point is so we can’t know for sure…

    A gut vach

  • Yaakov Menken

    Quoting David’s last post: “You’re saying that a yeshiva education is good enough for a successful career without college, because it teaches one how to think and college doesn’t.” Echoed by Steve: “‘We’re so much smarter then your average college student, we don’t need college!’ That would be an unfortunate, and expensive, mistake…”

    If David didn’t mean to say that college is a prerequisite for a successful career, “a requirement in order to earn a living,” then I think it’s he who needs to clarify.

    David is free to assume whatever he wants, but the point of my post was rather obvious to anyone familiar with the attacks on the yeshiva system, the claims that it leaves students without any useful skills or benefit outside the daled amos of halacha. Read “Aharon’s” comment above if you are unfamiliar with this sort of thing. How one leaps from what I wrote to a claim that one is ready to enter the secular workforce with no training at all, I cannot imagine.

    I have a non-Jewish colleague who said he’d rather look at the resume of a philosophy student than one with a degree in computer science — for a programming position. That’s because, he told me, philosophy students are taught to think. The corollary is that I would inded prefer a “yeshiva or online degree” over one from UMBC, for purely professional reasons. If you don’t agree with me, I would presume to say that you’ve not interviewed both for positions in software development.

  • Yehoshua Mandelcorn

    Whether justified or not, the reality is that employers are giving the jobs with the good starting salaries and advancement opportunities to those who have college degrees in relevant fields.

  • Aharon

    “I have a non-Jewish colleague who said he’d rather look at the resume of a philosophy student than one with a degree in computer science — for a programming position. That’s because, he told me, philosophy students are taught to think. The corollary is that I would inded prefer a “yeshiva or online degree” over one from UMBC, for purely professional reasons. If you don’t agree with me, I would presume to say that you’ve not interviewed both for positions in software development.”

    This is the kind of generalization that may be cute at the Shabbos table or in converstaion with a friend but is worthless (or should be) when dealing with the real world of hiring people appropriate for real positions in the work place. I have personally hired 20 or so programmers and analysts – at least one of which had a degree in philosophy. I looked at experience, interview, and references and gave little thought to education – computer science or otherwise. I would certainly not make any decision based on whether they learned philosophy in college. I also dont think it would matter to me if they were from a yeshiva or from a university if their experience matched the position, they interviewed well and their references had positive and corroborative things to say about them.

    I actually hope this is true for R. Mencken as well. If not, I think this is illustrative of a very wide difference in approach to problem solving.

  • Ori

    Instead of generalities, can we try to divide the problem and maybe cut it to size? There are several components of education relevant to the job market:

    1. Thinking skills, which can be divided into analysis and synthesis. You can encourage people to develop those, but I don’t think you can force them. You can flunk out those who refuse to learn, but most universities would rather keep taking their money.

    2. Domain-specific skills. Reuben the Rosh Yeshiva may be a genius, but when you’re sick you still go to Shimon the doctor who knows more about medicine.

    3. Diligence, being used to work hard on intellectual pursuits. Paul Graham, for example, says that he’d much rather fund a startup founded by diligent smart people than one founded by lazy geniuses (link available by e-mail, ori simple tech com, because we’re not supposed to post links here).

    4. Cultural familiarity, which makes it easier to work as a team.

    5. Bragging rights. A B.Sc. from WGU might be as smart as a B.Sc. from MIT, but with MIT you know the person is smart, whereas WGU does not have the same reputation.

    6. The elephant in the room, something so basic that only an ignorant fool like Ori wouldn’t think about it ;-) .

    I can see Yeshiva being as good, or possibly superior, with #1 and #3. Especially when colleges get money for giving degrees, rather than for giving high quality degrees. I find it hard to believe it is as good with #2 or #4.

    BTW, I think we should stick with statistics and ignore anecdotal evidence such as Bill Gates. There’s no doubt that some people are so talented and diligent that even without any formal education they would have succeeded.

  • Dr. E

    I don’t think that critics are proposing college education as THE “holy grail” towards occupational success, as much as about playing the percentages. Proponents of continuing the Yeshiva system approach to training and credentialing in the form of BTL’s and on-line degrees conveniently point to exceptions to the rule like Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer (and exceptions within the community), rather than look at the more typical common life and employment outcomes for many of the graduates of the system. (If one looks at the facts-on-the-ground in terms of actual empirical outcomes for the majority, there is a large amount of self-inflicted underemployment and unemployment.) To explore the comparison further, those two individuals had not only an entrepreneurial spirit, creativity and life skills going for them; but on their ascent to their success were not bound by the high costs of real estate in frum neighborhoods, kosher food, day school tuitions, and large families. While there are some (exceptional) frum entrepreneurs who make it big without college, they are often the beneficiaries of a well connected father or father-in-law which is not the case for the rest of us.

    There was a time when Yeshivas were not in the secular credentialing business. They taught Torah and understood that their students would get their occupational credentials elsewhere. Provided that their students played by the rules of the Yeshiva in terms of attendance and rigor of their Sedarim, the credentialing was “outsourced” to commuter colleges, albeit with a reasonable amount of Yeshiva credits accepted. Now, the marketing is that they can do both–-guys can learn 3 sedarim a day, AND get an accredited, marketable Bachelor’s degree from the Yeshiva or from some online diploma mill (in as short as a year and-a-half!). Halivai life should be that convenient, and parents of these prospective students should be a bit more astute before enrolling their children in these institutions. I haven’t seen any money-back guarantees offered by the institution, nor have I seen any tracking of outcomes to support these claims of credential equivalence.

    To even get to the interview that Rabbi Menken claims that that Yeshiva guys will ace, applicants need not only the piece of paper and the “analytical skills”, but also must have things like recognizable work experience, industry standard certifications, and normative professional skills. And if they get that interview, they need to exhibit proper social skills and not overrate their accrued “critical thinking skills” as a proxy for actual work experience that most of the other candidates for the same position will have.

    Don’t take my word for it. Just speak with seasoned, frum Yeshiva-educated professionals who have been asked to go to bat for recent Yeshiva graduates with their own employers. Let’s see how satisfied they are with what they have been seeing (with or without the Yeshiva/online degree), and how willing they are to put their credibility on the line, despite any allegiances to their alma maters.

  • Miriam

    Annecdotally my wife who went to a good law school and had yeshiva students in her class never saw the yeshiva-excellent lawyer correlation

    Tee hee… obviously because yeshiva boys don’t talk to girls in class! (See also Ori’s #4 above)

    But jokes aside, I don’t think any of us are debating whether ages 18-21 should be universally spent at college vs. yeshiva (or army if you’re in Israel). And I think most or all of us agree that (a) college can be slightly abbreviated, and (b) someone who can make $200 an hour as a plumber can skip college.

    The bigger concern many of us share is setting up long-range yeshiva students to learn indefinitely, and telling them that they can easily enter the work force when the financial need arises. So they wait until they have a number of kids, one or two in elementary school with real tuition bills and now eating more than noodles, their wife buckling under the strain of a full-time job plus all the home upkeep and now another pregnancy with bedrest, painful vericose veins, lack of sleep, whatever.

    …the reality is that employers are giving the jobs with the good starting salaries and advancement opportunities….

    It’s not realistic for someone with no degree and no experience to expect a starting salary above $30K – just because he’s been learning for 15 years and has 6 mouths to feed. Besides, that’s where many college grads start ($30K or below, not a family of six).

    I’m a computer programmer too, and it’s true that once one is experienced, the education section of the resume becomes irrelevant when landing a job or negotiating salary. But that can take 10 years in the field – tending to the kollel’s computer network or maintaining their fund-raising web site won’t do it.

  • Steve Ehrlich

    A friend of mine is a law professor at Rutgers. He has seen a lot yeshiva students over the years. He tells me they come in two flavors, one of which excels and the other of which, uhm, has a very difficult time. The type that excels are those that take the attitude that the law has rhyme and reason, and certain assumptions. Given that body of logic, they can work with it. But the other flavor are those looking for Truth and have a very absolute view of “How Things Should Be”. These guys dont do so well.

  • L. Oberstein

    How does this apply to Jewish continuity? One reason 85% of young Jews in the recent Jewish communal study in Baltimore don’t feel a need to identify with any Jewish organization is the total failure of our Hebrew Schools. Another reason we have so many of our own children fishing in foreign waters is the failure of their day school education to be relevant or meaningful to their lives. Dale Carnagie wrote a long time ago that you speak to a customer in terms of his interests, not yours. At a time when America is going down academically and not competing well with China and India, we need to find a way to make our schools motivate students,not warehouse them.

  • Miriam

    By the way I’m not so sure what the elephant you’re seeing looks like, but most people probably don’t see the real one guarding the longer-term learners from access to decent workforce preparation.

    There’s a big debate between the charedi moderates who advocate that all yeshiva boys have a long term plan for livelihood, versus the more uncompromising charedim who contend that any planning or livelihood preparation activities/studies will distract those boys from their sole focus during their learning years. This fear, of weakening one’s Torah-only pursuits, is further intensified by the additional warning that the sooner they prepare for leaving yeshiva, the sooner they will put that second foot out the door.

  • Ori

    Miriam, the point is that I don’t see any elephants, but I’m an outsider. There are probably factors I don’t recognize.

    BTW, are Yeshiva students supposed to get married? Getting married and having kids is a lot more distracting than any professional course of study, at least outside the military.

  • L. Oberstein

    If one knows a little Jewish History, which I get from listening to Rabbi Wein in my car or Rabbi Dovid Katz in person,it is clear that the fight over a core curriculum in the chareidi schools is viewed by the chareidim as a continuation of the efforts of the Maskilim to force a core curriculum on rabbis and on the cheder system in Czarist Russia a long time ago. It is like a time warp, except that this time, the chareidim are much stronger and able to resist the Maskilim better. This will continue as long as money is funneled into this community to preserve the status quo. It isn’t a battle that the Ministry of Education can win, if it is viewed as persecution in a “shaas hashmad”.
    If one really cares, ways must be found to get the chareidi leaders themselves to endorse whatever changes they can live with . It can’t be forced on them from alien and hostile elements.

  • Dov

    Miriam’s comment of Jan 24 2:37pm is, I think, an accurate reflection of what people think. Years ago I was very attracted to the Chareidi (Yeshivish) world because I saw there people that made decisions based on what Torah and Chazal said, not based on other agendas. Nowadays I’m disappointed to see people ignoring what Chazal said (e.g., lelamed libno umnus, ohev es ha’melacha, Torah bli derech eretz eino miskayem) in favor of agendas such as those Miriam summarized.

    As for other comments, they’re all theoretical. There’s no question about correlation between employment levels and salaries and college education (and in Israel, bagrut matriculation).

  • Dr. E

    Miriam makes some cogent points here.
     
    I think that all of us agree that Bitachon and Torah study are cardinal and nonnegotiable values on both individual and family levels.  The problems are twofold: (1) these concepts have been operationally re-defined in ways that never existed before 25 or 30 years ago, except for the chosen and deserving few; (2) proponents of the existing Yeshiva system are not accountable for the financial and social outcomes that are being set up.
     
    The myth of easy entry into the workforce is one that seems to be prevalent today.  While some may stipulate that in 20010-2011 it is indeed quite difficult to make the transition, they imply that this is merely a function of the economic times, as opposed to admitting systemic shortfalls in the new reality of work and jobs.  Furthermore, in contradistinction with the way things were before 30 years ago where the goal of Jewish life was financial responsibility, financial need (to leave Yeshiva and work) now means a scenario of financial hardship.  I don’t think that I am going out on a limb when I say that the concentration in learning of a financially independent 40 year old will be greater than for someone the same age who is financially dependent on the community who now realizes that the system let him down—not to mention a Shalom Bayis in which his wife has lost respect in him, and whose kids may want a better life for themselves than what the prevalent system is able to deliver.
     
    Another trend that seems to be in play is for guys to use the online degree or Yeshiva degree as a “stepping stone” towards a Masters program.  Because of an interest in increasing enrollment revenues and because the degrees might be technically accredited, lower-tier graduate (online and brick and mortar) programs will accept these degrees without experience as an entrance requirement.  However, after the person gets the graduate credential, most recruiters and hiring managers will not fully understand why someone with no work experience somehow has a masters degree, and is seeking an entry-level position.  The more logical and compelling candidate will be someone who has worked for the company or similar one in a nonmanagement role, most likely with only a Bachelor’s degree, with this job being a logical career progression.

    Finally, Miriam draws a distinction between “Chareidi moderates” and “uncompromising Chareidim”. However, the reality is that the former tend to choose chinuch options for their children which are led by the latter. This tends to mute the effectiveness of parents in transmitting, what would have been a noble balance, to the next generation.

  • Miriam

    Hi Dov. Personally, I wouldn’t call a Torah-only approach to general youth education an agenda. And since Charedi Gedolim are quoted as advocating only the exclusive-Torah schools, one has to admit that Rabbi Menken’s approach of devaluing any secular studies must have merit according to some greater plan.

    Inside the Charedi circles I hear 3 general arguments for it. (1) In today’s world no one can survive balancing work with a serious Torah lifestyle, so they have no choice but to neglect the working as much as possible so at least the core values of their life can be maintained – even if they suffer physically (and these communities are sincerely prepared to suffer, G-d forbid). (2) This path is 100% valid: Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai said one can skip the umnus (profession) and learn only Torah, and the Rambam says anyone can choose to be a Levi, to be the chosen tribe within Israel that learns in lieu of working, and serves as a Torah example. (3) Why would any parents sell their son’s potential short and help him plan for an ordinary livelihood, when instead helping him stay in the olam halimud for as long as possible can indeed give him the chance to rise up as the next Gadol HaDor. (I am not being facetious #3 is a major component of charedi parenting workshops.)

    But regarding #1 and Ori your point – that marriage and children is distracting – indeed a kollel couple cannot avoid juggling and generally struggling for it. As much as possible the burden is shifted to the women, which calls into question whether a Gadol can really come out of an early childhood when there is so much stress and so little attention (here in Israel the neighborhoods often do raise children, but as Rabbi Jonathan Rosenblum wrote in the past – apologies to Hillary – Gedolim don’t see that as an ideal). And in other cases the men pick up the slack – cutting into their learning schedules to take care of sick children, do the shopping, tend to the children when they come home in the afternoons – which means they aren’t really learning all day after all.

    I imagine it would be possible to develop a small, Charedi-friendly general studies curriculum that supports Torah topics, similar to what Yosh says above about writing essays on Torah content. And to develop it in a way that it gets support from Gedolim. But then the practical problem will kill it anyway: where to find the educated baalei teshuva (men only) who will take the dismal teachers’ salaries to teach those the late-afternoon, second-class subjects to hormonal teenage boys.

  • Ori

    Miriam: (1) In today’s world no one can survive balancing work with a serious Torah lifestyle

    Ori: But aren’t the women expected to do exactly that?

  • dr. bill

    Discussing the benefits of a college education seems a tad abstract and perhaps distracting given elementary school trends in Israel.

  • Aaron

    Regarding that 10-line Princeton thesis. Nice anecdote but I wonder what happened to his career. If in academia, where “publish or perish” is the rule, I doubt he has a series of 10-line publications. The ability to write longer coherent prose will inevitably arise.

    Al Weis may have been the trivia answer to the question “who was the Mets’ most valuable player in the 1969 World Series”, but he was hardly a Hall of Fame player. He had 86 games, roughly half a season, remaining in his career. Red Sox fans have a special middle name for the Yankee’s Bucky Dent, who hit an uncharacteristic home run during a one-game playoff. Was the aforementioned Princeton student a one hit wonder? My strong suspicion is that his prose, while far from his mathematical prowess, is probably WAY above average.

    Bill Gates is hardly one upon whom to extrapolate. The argument is a non sequitur. Let’s look at the FULL statistical sample of college drop-outs and their career paths.

  • Miriam

    But aren’t the women expected to do exactly that?

    Well Ori, that was kind of my point – that while everyone is so worried for the men, that they won’t get any “real” learning done, or they’ll be subjected to the treifos of modern secular society, in one way or another the women are put at risk. Which might explain the appeal of (wild tangent here….) tznius as getting center stage as the woman’s core mitzvah, something to uphold without requiring any actual investment of energy.

    Traditionally a woman’s role is to raise children – if she’s spread too thin tending to the physical matters of the home, including full-time work, what’s left for the kids? It goes against every woman’s ketuba for her to assume the role of primary breadwinner – and that’s because most of us can’t play superwoman indefinitely.

    But it’s tempting – my husband, who B”H does the balancing act quite well, tells me the Torah knowledge these initially-ordinary guys have amassed by shunning any livelihood for 15-20 adult years is quite impressive. And if Torah learning is the man’s core mitzvah, why shouldn’t he?