“Your Daughter is Smart, but You Don’t Have to Worry”

Our friends recently met their 15-year-old daughter’s teacher at the semi-annual parent-teacher conference. The daughter attends a religious Zionist girls’ high school, whose matriculation scores regularly rank it among the top three schools in the country.

The teacher told them, “Your daughter is smart, but you don’t have to worry. She’s not so smart that she’ll have a problem getting a shidduch.”

This is wrong on so many levels. The teacher is employed by a school, yet she places a low value on women’s intelligence, and by extension, education for girls. She assumes that most men feel the same way. And my friends are not looking for a son-in-law for their ninth-grader.

The teacher’s statement reflects another common attitude toward intelligence that has nothing to do with sexism: It’s just not good for children to be too smart. So when coming across a highly intelligent child some people feel they must minimize that trait, or make a comment about the child’s social skills. It’s as if they hope to prevent the negative consequences of being so smart, which include not finding anyone to marry and becoming a maladjusted adult.


  1. That is an appalling comment for a teacher to make. I hope that your friends reported the incident to the principal. The teacher should be reprimanded for saying something so inappropriate.

  2. Anonymous says

    Raizy, they reported it to the teacher’s supervisor, who was equally appalled.
    Ilana-Davita–we sure do, now more than ever.

  3. This is so stupid. I can’t understand how anybody could wish to have a smart, but not too smart, daughter.
    The “religious feminist” in me cringes! We need bright Jewish girls, teenagers and women.

  4. Funny…. my sons specifically sought out and married intelligent women. Why would they want someone who wasn’t too bright as a mother for their children???

  5. Absolutely apalling. Good for them for reporting this so-called educator!

  6. Lion of Zion says

    whoops, forgot to sign

  7. The teacher told them, “Your daughter is smart, but you don’t have to worry. She’s not so smart that she’ll have a problem getting a shidduch.”
    There’s two kinds of wrong being conflated in the post: factually wrong and morally wrong. Your point is that she’s morally wrong; no argument there. But she’s not factually wrong. In the community (read: dating pool) relevant to the teacher and her students, a smart girl does have a harder time getting a shidduch. I hate it, I despise, and I suffer from it, but I don’t deny the fact of it. Viewed in that pragmatic, amoral sense, telling parents that their daighter is “not so smart that she’ll have a problem getting a shidduch” makes (twisted) sense.

  8. tnspr569 says

    oy vey.

  9. Anonymous says

    i’m curious what type of background this teacher comes from. is she herself RZ?
    or is this where the RZ community in israel is headed in general?

  10. My first experience with this sort of attitude was from a non-Jewish friend in college.
    “Men don’t like smart women,” she told me. Say, what? I thought. It was soon after that that I discovered I liked smart men. And as I hung around other smart people, I didn’t find this attitude at all, especially not among smart Jews.
    Sorry to hear it exists in your community.

  11. Is the religious community in Israel filled with wimpy men? I have a higher IQ and more education than my husband and from what I can tell, it never fazed him and he doesn’t give it much thought. If anything, I think I treat him more respectfully than the average woman treats her husband, although I think that has nothing to do with his intelligence or mine. A lot of women treat their husband’s with disdain.

  12. Heh. Of course in a post when I mention IQ and education I make a grammatical mistake. DOH!

  13. Grrrr. That kind of thinking really makes me do a slow burn. I was hoping that “teacher”‘s comment was a joke, but apparently it wasn’t. How pathetic.
    And how pathetic that being smart is considered a hinderance for women in the world of shidduchim. I want my sons to marry intelligent women- and I’m sure my in-laws felt/feel the same way ๐Ÿ™‚

  14. You’d think that, by now, we’d have gotten past these offensive attitudes…
    I worry for my children — both the boys and the girls…
    When the time is right, may God grant them the good judgement and good fortune to find partners who will complement every aspect of their lives: emotional, intellectual, spiritual, etc.

  15. a teacher saying it is good a kid is not too smart?
    maybe she is just justifying why she did not do a good job teaching….

  16. There are too many very accomplished educated religious unmarried women around.
    Perhaps this is what the teacher was referring to.

  17. Mother in Israel says

    Jerry, you only need one, and I hope you find him.
    LOZ, virtually all of the teachers in that school are RZ. I hope that attitude is heading out.
    Leora, maybe this teacher doesn’t know many smart men.
    To everyone–I don’t really know how prevalent this attitude is. There are many reasons smart, accomplished women might have trouble finding a partner, including starting to look seriously later than average.

  18. mother in israel says

    Sorry for the misunderstanding Jerry! It was the part about suffering for it that confused me. Unless you are talking about your own daughter? And names don’t mean anything nowadays.

  19. Umm, I’m a guy. And I married a freakin’ smart woman. ๐Ÿ™‚

  20. that’s better than what I got from the teacher when my daughter was flunking math in 4th grade:

    היא יפה,
    ורואים שהיא נבונה,
    עז יעבירו אותה
    there’s nothing to worry about

    and she had no idea what could possibly be wrong with what she said!

  21. Ariella says

    How old is your daughter that the teacher already thinks shidduchim would be your top concern? Obviously she is not into shidduchim yet.
    To share something in my own experience, when I went on a trip to Israel with a few friends in the summer a few years after our year in Michlalah, R’ Copperman expressed mild disapproval of my pursuing a graduate degree before being married. It’s not that he was opposed to the degree, as his daughter had just completed her PhD, though she had been married with a few children before she started on that track. Of course, then one is adding classes and papers to the standard juggling of home, work, and childcare. I ended up finishing all my coursework before marrying, but I was not yet 23, and my husband was just 21. So I could say the delay was bashert. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  22. mother in israel says

    For those who can’t read the Hebrew, daw’s teacher said that because the girl is pretty and clearly intelligent, they’ll pass her anyway.
    Ariella, the girl, who is not my daughter, is 15.

  23. sylvia_rachel says

    Oy vey.
    I wish I could say this shocks me, but alas, I’ve seen it often. Which means it certainly isn’t confined to the frum community.
    Unfortunately, my own father exemplifies this very attitude (he went through three highly intelligent, highly educated wives before settling on the current one, whom I could aptly describe as “smart, but not too smart”). Fortunately, my husband is proud of rather than threatened by his “extremely smart” (his words) wife ๐Ÿ™‚

  24. I actually do understand the thought. I have a friend who has a doctorate in something I don’t understand. I’ve tried to set her up with men once or twice, but I just won’t set her up with someone who isn’t absolutely brilliant, because often men can’t take a woman who is smarter than they are.
    On the other hand, I have a male acquaintance who is quite smart, and I’ve dismissed shidduch possibilities for him because they didn’t seem smart enough.
    My husband is a good match for me, because I’m more verbal and he’s more analytical. Shortly after we were married, he said he liked that I was “almost as smart as” him.
    I went online, chose the first online IQ test I hadn’t taken, and challenged him. Needless to say, I beat his score. Since then, he acknowledges that he might not understand how my brain works but it works just fine. ๐Ÿ™‚

  25. As many of you, the teacher’s statement surprised and shocked me. But the ensuing discussion of whether people are more or less “smart” than their husband/wife is confusing to me. Since entering adulthood, it has become obvious that smart is not a one- or two-dimensional quantity, if you know what I mean. There are all kinds of smart – with people, with money, with numbers, with words, with mechanical objects, with plants, etc. Every person has a subtly different soul and talents. Individuals can be “smart” in different ways. School teachers do not always appreciate this. But a good shidduch does. It is the very thing which shidduchim are made of.