Jewish Academic Success
From then Principle
As many of our students prepare to sit their exams, I am reminded of a recent article in ‘The Australian’ newspaper titled ‘Jewish Genius Abounds, but Why?’ In the article, the author put forth a series of unfounded, hypothetical nonsense points that endeavour to explain a so-called ‘disproportionate’ representation of Jews in areas of scientific and academic success. While I am proud of the successes of the people to whom belong, the notion that as a race we have inherently higher IQ is scientifically impossible, particularly as Jews are not a ‘race’, as pointed out by the author and then subsequently ignored in the reminder of her article.
To dismiss ‘cultural’ determinants for Jewish success starves our society of important conversation that could be informative to others.
As the Principal of this amazing school, I can speak with authority as to the factors that contribute to Jewish academic success, factors that were missing from that article.
Our community invests heavily in education. Our founders begged and borrowed to build educational institutions that would excel in Jewish and General Education. Tight budgets and boundless dreams necessitated prioritising the indispensable; outstanding teachers armed with chalk and a chalkboard was the sure-fire way to ensure a golden ticket for everyone. Everything else was just noise.
The traditional Jewish way of learning, known as ‘chevrutah’, encourages dialogue. Students talk and argue their way through problems, actualising the educational jargon regarding ‘deep learning’ and ‘critical thinking’.
The Jewish ‘family’ (the one eloquent phrase put forth in the article) has a high rate of social capitalisation, defined as the percentage of people in any group who are able to reach their potential. All Jewish schools, both here and over East, make it a priority to provide all Jewish students a Jewish education. If there is talent out there, we capture it and capitalise on it. Our schools comprise an assortment of class and socio-economic levels. There is equal access, equal opportunity resulting in outstanding achievement.
Community also plays a big part. It is not a ‘sense’ of community, but rather tangible actions that bind us. For the most part, we look out for each other and put in place processes and infrastructure that is so tightly woven, no one falls through the cracks. Obstacles such as poverty, inadequate health care and family crises are lessened by the support community provides.
The article is wrong in trying to ascribe racial qualities to a people who are racially diverse. The characteristics that do unite the Jewish people are steeped in our culture that finds origins in our ancient religion replete with timeless values. And we are not the only people who have these values or successes. Pride in genetic inheritance is misplaced and leads to laziness and apathy, attributes not becoming of our people and one that I do not wish others to bestow upon us.
And so, to those students (and parents of students) preparing for exams, I wish you good luck. I hope that you find solace in the knowledge that your family, our community, has as its ultimate aim that you will reach your potential.
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