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Isn't it pretty?

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Single-Sex Education

Via Lamed:

Interesting article from the NY Times about the federal government backing the establishment of more single-sex classes and schools.

Possibly surprisingly, I'm totally for it. I think non co-ed education is extremely beneficial for students, especially past elementary school age, and especially for girls. I didn't have this luxury (though I'm not complaining at all about my education, I received an excellent one), and I saw and personally experienced the detriment of being in a classroom with both girls and boys.

The truth is, for guys, I actually am not sure if it's beneficial to separate the sexes. From what many teachers have told me, all-male classes tend to be quite a bit rowdier, high-energy and more difficult to control than co-ed classes. Add a girl or two into the class and it magically transforms. Amazing how that works.

But for girls, and I speak from my own experience, I think the co-ed experience can be very harmful. Again, from what I went through, there is an implicit undercurrent that flows that females should not be smarter than males, especially in the math and science arena, but really all of them. And girls, if they care at all about being attractive to guys, don't want to seem too smart, because they quickly learn, all implicitly of course, that brains intimidate men. So they hide their brains. And teach themselves to act like airheads. And don't speak up in class.

I got hit with a double-whammy. I attended an accelerated program for high school. The truth is, there were a lot of very intelligent females there, and many of them were not ashamed to show their intelligence. But they also came off as the snobby intellectuals, and to anyone outside our school, they were viewed in a negative light. So I learned both to not act like an intellectual and to defer my intelligence to whatever male was around. Had the damsel in distress act down pretty well. And the airhead act.

But there was a point at which I realized that the acts were dumb, and not really me. And I realized that any guy who was intimidated by my natural intelligence wasn't the guy for me, that I want a guy who nurtures my intelligence, makes me think, and enjoys the fact that I do, rather than just wanting a girl he can feel superior to. (It's interesting that I realize that this change in my attitude came at a time when, educationally, I was lagging behind. Must have been some kind of compensation.)

Anyway, I digress. I really believe that single-sex education helps women nurture their intelligence and express is freely. I also think that it helps girls and guys focus on what they are learning, rather than the opposite gender, which I'm sure most people will admit is quite the distraction. So I think the establishment of single-sex educational institutions is a great one.


  • I can only speak for my own single-sex education. My school didn't place any particular emphasis on academics, being a RW Yeshiva. But from a sociological and developmental perspective, I do think that single-sex education stunted my abilities to interact with the opposite sex. Such interactions were strongly discouraged if not expressly prohibited except for "tachlis" dating, (which wasn't done in High School anyway). What happens then is you have classes of HS graduates who have no clue or experience in dealing with the opposite sex. Great relationship prep, no?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10/25/06, 10:45 AM  

  • I may have written about this once. My rebbe/principal in HS gives a special class to seniors covering a range of topics. While discussing co-ed vs. single-ed, he stressed that one of the major deficiencies of single-ed was how it hurt their ability to interact with the opposite sex. Nevertheless, in most other ways, it was superior.

    The interaction problem could be solved by allowing them to interact outside of the classroom.

    By Blogger Ezzie, at 10/25/06, 11:04 AM  

  • NJG and Ezzie -
    The social aspect is one that I didn't really think that much about, but I certainly see your point. I wonder if a useful solution would be a mixed-gender school, but separate academic classes? Maybe with some activities done as a group? That way, the girls wouldn't have to feel shy about showing their intelligence, while the students would still have the opportunity to interact in a mixed setting. (I'm sure, in many Orthodox Jewish circles, this would be frowned upon anyway, but outside of that, it's an interesting alternative.)

    By Blogger Shoshana, at 10/25/06, 11:26 AM  

  • I know from when I was at JTS a big Female Bible teacher their sent her daughters to an all female school instead of Solomon Shechter. For boys, having girls in the class can be a big distraction because the boys are concentrating on the girls rather than their work. All boys classes are only more roudy when the teacher cannot control them and the parents cannot discipline them.

    By Blogger FrumWithQuestions, at 10/25/06, 1:31 PM  

  • interesting post and comments...

    i should admit i learned a little more about girls here since i had single-sex ed :)

    i also think that single-sex ed will tend to create competition among the students and this can be really harmful for some...

    By Anonymous h2oil, at 10/25/06, 4:18 PM  

  • I grew up in public schools decades ago.

    there was a time here, when my kids had mixed for secular studies and separate for religious studies.

    Actually I teach in a yeshiva hs and love it. Can't stand teaching girls.

    By Blogger Batya, at 10/26/06, 1:18 AM  

  • my high school was girls only and while the education was excellent (women nurture their intelligence and express is freely --> it was one of the top in the state) there wasn't that interaction with males like a co-ed school would have. I had to find that outside of school and being a somewhat reserved/shy person when in large groups that sort of social setting did take some getting used to!

    By Blogger ~ Sarah ~, at 10/26/06, 7:12 AM  

  • this means we have a lot more to do....

    Bush: We Will Consider All Proposals to Help Iraq

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10/26/06, 9:35 PM  

  • Recently spoke to someone in a philisophical discussion - who disagreed and said - co-ed education was healthy in that it taught both genders about each other..and helped develop healthy relationships later on..

    By Blogger the only way i know, at 10/27/06, 5:05 AM  

  • looking back at ezzie's comment
    see it's along the same lines

    By Blogger the only way i know, at 10/27/06, 5:06 AM  

  • Well, the obvious answer is for everyone to ahve large mixed gender families, and then the kids will learn how to interact with their brothers and sisters.

    Just kidding. My kids' school is co-ed, but they start splitting them for gym at 4th grade, and then gradually for other things. My son's Mishnah class is almost all boys (4th and 5th graders, and some 5th grade girls wanted in to the mishnah class, so they let them) and the corresponding 4th/5th grade tefillah class is all girls.

    By 7th grade, I think, they're basically completely separate, but there was all that interaction in the younger grades, basically before attraction and other silliness sets in.

    My oldest is that 4th grader, so we'll see how it all plays out, but I'm very impressed with the older kids coming out of this school. (Rather "out-of-town," and the only Orthodox choice here, in case that matters.)

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