Atheist Jews love to deride religious education. Yeshiva students, they note, don’t even know mathematics. That is not necessarily true, as Israeli yeshivas often have courses of basic sciences. A more fundamental question is: are secular studies really as useful as they are purported to be?

By far most adults don’t remember anything from their school studies on mathematics, physics, biology, or any other science. The school knowledge is equally useless for developing a wide worldview, logic, or memory. Disciplines, whether in schools or academic sciences, amount to a hodgepodge of unconnected facts. Modern scientists know an immense number of facts but haven’t inched closer to understanding them: the perpetuity of matter, the process of bodies’ construction from DNA, and the reason why humans alone of all primates have pubic hair remain as enigmatic as ever.

There is no logic in school studies, for not even one pupil in a million asks his physics teacher why fire burns. We would expect hard objects to liquefy rather than burn; why wood burns?. The explanation, by the way, is long and far from simple. If anything, school education, in which facts are dumped upon students, teaches them to avoid thinking.

Nor is school education good for memorizing. Any former student knows that lessons are forgotten almost immediately after exams. It is actually impossible to remember disembodied, unconnected facts; we only remember by connecting facts into mental images.

Education is terribly wasteful. How come a grown up person of eighteen years still sits at the school desk? By any measure, he must have long entered adult life: work, marry, or fight. Why should an accountant study for seventeen years? A barber for fifteen? A nurse for eighteen? A farmer for twelve? And then they take job and go through years of apprentice training—the only training they ever needed. A lot of professions require no academic education whatsoever. What is there about an MBA education that a manager needs? Liberal education is an outright scam: FDR did not study “political science,” and Stalin hardly used any of his significant academic skills to rule his empire.

Useless education creates a vicious circle of infantilism. Government wants to keep young people under ideological control until they enter the army, parents with an insignificant number of children want to keep them home longer, and the children are happy to avoid taking job. Academics use ultra-long education to further their significance, bureaucrats increase the period of education to get more government jobs, the establishment employs schools for brainwashing soon-to-be voters, and trade unions create labor shortages by sucking immense numbers of youth at their most productive age into schools.

One argument for the long school education is empowering students to choose an occupation. Few, however, are able to say at the age of seventeen what they would like to do at fifty-seven. Their choice is random, relying more on current fashion than on school classes. If school courses are any guide to future employment, how come so many young people choose law, accounting, and medicine—which are hardly touched at schools—and not physics, chemistry, and mathematics, which are studied intensively? A few decades ago, parents still were making employment decisions for their children, with no particular unhappiness resulting from that fact. Observing both their child and the markets, parents are more likely to reach a correct employment decision than young people. The huge number of people with university diplomas who work in other fields confirms that schools are often, if not mostly, counterproductive in professional orientation.

In comparison, religious schools look remarkably well. Ten years after graduation, yeshiva students remember no less of their secular studies than their atheist counterparts: both remember nil. Religious students remember a huge body of specifically Jewish information. Unlike atheists, religious students often continue their education for their entire lives, keeping their memory and logic sharp. Arguably, religious education also fosters ethics and Jewishness.

For two thousand years, Jews prospered among gentiles despite having no universities. Today, many yeshiva students study there on par with secular graduates. In general occupations, graduates of religious schools score no worse than their secular counterparts.