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Nov. 23rd, 2004

I was weirded out yesterday hearing an ad on the radio for a military school. I forget which one, but the ad just went on and on about "does your son this, does your son that, your son needs this, your son needs that, he, he, he". And it got me thinking about single-sex education; if I recall correctly, the private school I attended actually had separate classes through grade 3 or something, perhaps they still do, I'm not sure. (Hrm - they don't mention it on the webpage, perhaps not.) Either way, I never attended at an age when that happened, or any school that had it. It seems anathema to me, particularly for younger children.

But then I think, I really wish I had attended a women's college. (In the alternatve universe version where I still get to keep all my awesome friends and loves.) Hollins, for example. In some weird way, given the way my personality developed, I feel it would have been a thousand times better for my academic performance and focus. (Subtext: I fucked up college over a boy.) Why do I think it's ok as a near adult but not for little kids? I think in my truly ideal world, in the one where gender roles are so fluid as to be nonexistent, this would be a moot point. But we don't live in that world, so I wonder. Some research says it offers less pressures of stereotype. Some say the opposite... But doesn't it just reinforce gender stereotypes? Of course it does.

Anyone here actually endure/participate in single sex education? What are your thoughts on it? Even if you didn't? Should such a thing even exist?

(Reading some of the research, I can already tell I'm way over my head on this question...)


( 28 comments — Leave a comment )
Nov. 23rd, 2004 05:38 pm (UTC)
There's a lot to be said for single-sex education, just as there's a lot to be said against it. I think that in many ways it's like everything else related to humanity: different people require different circumstances to flourish. I don't think it would have helped me, but I also was very very sheltered before college, so I think I needed the full spectrum of humanity. :)

Oh, and if it's the boy I'm thinking of, he was fucked up anyway....
Nov. 23rd, 2004 07:20 pm (UTC)
Oh, there's really only one boy that can be blamed for the problems in my college years... and yeah, he was fucked up. But I was fucked up in that I let it ruin things for me over and over.

When I chose a school it was based on wanting a full spectrum of humanity; in retrospect, I think I was a little short-sighted with that. But I wouldn't give up everything I gained from going to Tech for anything, even though I might have had a more successful scholastic career elsewhere.
Nov. 23rd, 2004 07:50 pm (UTC)
If you think that's a shortsighted reason for picking a school... I chose mine because the lake was pretty!
Nov. 23rd, 2004 07:54 pm (UTC)
Well, full confession, the final choice I made was because of the aforementioned stupid boy. *sigh* But in general I had been at a small private school so all my applications went out to large public schools.
Nov. 23rd, 2004 11:13 pm (UTC)
Not that I knew that for sure, but it doesn't surprise me. I recall him celebrating on your 18th birthday because you were now legal. Oy....
Nov. 23rd, 2004 11:15 pm (UTC)
Just more reasons to rack him if I ever run into him again.
Nov. 23rd, 2004 05:43 pm (UTC)
I was at NA for part of the single-sex lower school (3rd, 4th grades). It was honestly different in no way from my prior school experience, except that it made 5th grade kindof a bitch, with the adjustment.

I would expect that it's most useful at like a middle school grade level (the research on middle schoolers shows it makes a huge difference in performance, both for boys and girls), and would be interesting for college to an extent. That depends on what you want out of college - if it's real-world preparation, not so cool, but if it's academic pursuit, very cool.
Nov. 23rd, 2004 07:31 pm (UTC)
I was reading about the issues surrounding publicly funded single-sex education - I wasn't aware of all the permutations of the VMI story. So I guess in a way my question is twofold, whether the practice has any usefulness (which it sounds like most people are willing to grant that it does on an individual basis) and what role it should/could take in public policy.
Nov. 24th, 2004 12:25 am (UTC)
VMI, ugh... they were trying to recruit me for indoor and outdoor track.
Nov. 23rd, 2004 05:46 pm (UTC)
Private schools
It's been my experience (from my hometown) that private schools tend to bring with them many issues besides gender equality. All of the single-sex schools I knew of were both private and religious based. So that introduced issues of money and class as well as religion into the works.

In the end though, I found that girls will be just as mean to one another with or without boys present. As a young woman, there can be just as many scars placed upon you from your own sex as can come from the opposite sex. A good teacher can eliminate intersexual competition within the classroom by placement of individuals, attention paid to both sexes, etc. However, eliminating intrasexual competition is far more difficult. How do you stop a young girl from knowing that she isn't as pretty as other girls, or that she isn't as socially capable as other girls? You can't. You can prove that girls are just as academically capable as boys by looking at test scores and such. But getting rid of social inequality is practically impossible whether the school be same-sex or coed.

As adults I think we are just a little more socially aware and can reconcile social differences amongst ourselves. I don't know that this is true of younger people. So I guess this long-winded comment is to say that I don't really see a benefit in single-sex education for younger people. Mind you, I've never experienced it myself and am willing to be convinced otherwise by someone who has.
Nov. 23rd, 2004 07:46 pm (UTC)
Re: Private schools
I can't really say anything bad about my private school education (from my own experience) except that it is a crime that not everyone has access to it. Norfolk Academy was a great school, academically. I basically ignored the prayers at lunch or what have you, and no one gave me any crap about it. I think the whole thing was fairly a-religious. It might have been an exception, and not the rule, though.

How do you stop a young girl from knowing that she isn't as pretty as other girls, or that she isn't as socially capable as other girls?

Heh. Well, I think this might have been a rhetorical question, but my answer would go something like, stop teaching girls that their value is based on an arbitrary judgement of appearance, and that beauty is a myth, and that there's not just one way to be socially capable... but I know that's a tad idealistic. :) This is why many of the women I know want to home school.
Nov. 23rd, 2004 05:53 pm (UTC)
I went to a women's college. For me, it was a great relief to escape the social pressures of high school and just be in a little enclave/ivory tower where I could wear sweatpants and read books all the time. I think I would have stayed uptight and worn makeup and done poorly in class if I'd gone to a coed college. But that may just be me.
Nov. 23rd, 2004 07:48 pm (UTC)
It's just that image that makes me yearn for a women's college. It's not just you.
Nov. 24th, 2004 02:09 am (UTC)
I think I did it all wrong, then...my standard outfit was sweatpants and I read books all the time at my coed college. :)

I think whether or not a single-sex college environment would work well would depend entirely on the individual...some people are more comfortable with people of their on sex than mixed classes. For me, it depended on the class...I always wished there were more guys in my soc classes, especially when talking about gender issues because I think it is hard to understand both sides without having both sides represented. My unix class, though, I did wish there were more women (the two that were there had dropped), if nothing else because I was a bit shy and really I think I would have done better if I had asked my classmates for help...I think I would have felt more comfortable asking another woman.

This is an interesting subject...
Nov. 23rd, 2004 06:28 pm (UTC)
NA is still split out for lower school (1-3 or 4). It's been a foreign concept for me. But then again, I've spent a lot more time around boys than girls both in high school, college and adult life.

I always thought about it in my head that it would be like creating a false environment to split males and females out. Eventually, you will work in an office with men or meet them in a restaurant (or argue with them over a dishwasher) and you have to survive through that ... excel even.

I've not looked for much literature on the pros and cons of it though. This is all just rambling of mine ... :)
Nov. 23rd, 2004 07:53 pm (UTC)
Really? It's funny that they don't even mention that on the site (that I found in my quick perusal...).
Nov. 23rd, 2004 08:13 pm (UTC)
I've seen a lot of Discovery Channel shows that indicate that in general, girls thrive better academically under a different set of teaching methods than boys do. Boys do ok by themselves; girls learn better in committee, so to speak.

If single sex schools take advantage of this kind of thing, it might be worth the social cons. I wonder if it would have made me better at math which would have made me better at physics.
Nov. 23rd, 2004 08:21 pm (UTC)
I'm always incredibly skeptical of studies that show that humans do anything behavioral differently along gender lines; really, that's what we expect, and that's how we socialize, so I am not surprised to see results that show that. I would be happier if we could tailor schools to individual people's learning styles, not to boys or to girls.

I had a pretty special education, but it was competition with other girls that made me good at math and science to the extent that I was. Really, in my experience smart kids (the highest achievers) were always a pretty even mix of girls and boys, in any subject.

Um... I am not sure what I'm saying here, but I'm sort of playing devil's advocate to everyone. (Although, what I said about studies like that stands - I come down on the side of social determinism, not biological.)
Nov. 23rd, 2004 08:18 pm (UTC)
I'm personally opposed to single sex education! I think we are all humans, or differences are largely cultural and there is no way to "seclude" yourself from the other gender in the real world, so why do it beforehand? I would offer that had you gone to a single sex college you would have fucked up college over a girl.
Nov. 23rd, 2004 08:22 pm (UTC)
HEE! Yes, indeed, I may have fucked up college over a girl. You make a good point there. It's hard to say because I never considered being bi until junior year of college.
Nov. 23rd, 2004 08:19 pm (UTC)
gah. i actually went to hollins for a year, but unfortunately i'm about the last person you should ask, because by about halfway through the year i was in the middle of a major depressive episode, so i totally failed the second half of the year. (well, except creative writing. 'cause i liked that.)

my recollection, however, was that had i been able and willing to apply myself, it could've been a wonderful environment. i think any single-sex environment probably has extremes at either end of the gender stereotypes, but there's also plenty of in-between. the people i know who went to bryn mawr all seemed to love it.

OTOH, environment might affect things a bit more. it seemed to me that there was more to do on & around bryn mawr when i visited a friend there one time, but at hollins there was exactly jack & shit if you didn't have a car. so there was a lot of external focus, lots of planning for the weekend or this party at VMI or that dance at hampden-sydney. hrm.
Nov. 23rd, 2004 08:25 pm (UTC)
Random thought: I think it's also extremely telling that most single sex schools for males are military schools.

And your point about focusing on activities outside school is also telling - I think I have my rose colored hidsight glasses on. I would have probably fucked up college by running away every moment I could have to see some stupid boy. Like, if I could do it over again right now, I'd be able to take advantage of the atmosphere, but had I made the choice then, I would have effed it up some other way.
Nov. 23rd, 2004 10:51 pm (UTC)
"Random thought: I think it's also extremely telling that most single sex schools for males are military schools."

I think that's a misconception (admittedly based on my own personal experience).
Of the all boys schools in Baltimore I can remember:
St. Paul's
Mt. St. Joseph's
Boy's Latin
Calvert Hall

Gilman was the only one which Might have originally been military, though I assure you it is not today. In fact, McDonnough is the only private school in the are that I KNOW was former military, and that is co-ed.
Nov. 23rd, 2004 09:01 pm (UTC)
I went to an all girls high school and wish like hell that I hadn't. The artificial environment it created left me with some really skewed views that have taken years to correct. Coming out of it, I thought of boys/men as this other, distant group of people, and had no clue how to relate to them or integrate them into my daily life. My school absolutely reinforced the gender stereotype, between the sorority-like atmosphere, the uniforms, the lack of traditionally male classes (shop, computer programming, advanced physical sciences and math) and the emphasis on "being nice".

I think that doing things the other way around, going from a co-ed high school to a women's college, would have been a very different story. Presumably it would have involved some choice on the part of the student (for me, high school did not) and would have followed years of normal day-to-day interaction with the opposite sex.

IMO, the best thing to come out of my 13 years of private school was the decision that my own childrens' education would be democratic and child-led.
Nov. 23rd, 2004 11:51 pm (UTC)
Who's to say you wouldn't have fucked up college over a girl instead?
Nov. 24th, 2004 12:16 am (UTC)
Re: ...
Heh - see my response to zenthia above.
Nov. 24th, 2004 12:17 am (UTC)
When I was fresh out of high school (just a brief background in case this has more to do with rural life..the town I grew up in had 500 people, and so I had pretty much the same 18 people in my class from kindergarten to grade 12) there was no way I would have ever considered going to an all girl school. From where I stood, girls and boys were pretty equal there, a lot of it stemming from farm work, which usually both sexes did. So I went on, finished college, worked for a bit the the worst male-centered-what-the-fuck-are-females-doing-here job that really jaded my view, because before that point I figured I could do whatever I want...until I realized how many obstacles there really was. Now I'm back in university, and I really would have like for my university to have been single sex. I honestly don't know what single sex university would be like, but I would hope that it would give me more self esteem to speak up, and perhaps be more encouraging. Maybe I'm just in dream land thinking it would be like this, maybe smaller classes would achieve the same means. I'm not sure....this was all opinion anyways. The only all girls school anywhere near here is a religious private high school in a town of 50 people. You never see the girls out of the walls; it reminds me of a prison
Nov. 27th, 2004 04:35 pm (UTC)
The people I know who went to single-sex high schools had a rough time in college (and sometimes later adulthood) learning to relate to the opposite sex. They didn't have the normal high school dating experiences, for the most part, and often had no social skills for relating to the opposite sex at all. I also don't think the torment level was any less -- girls are cruel to girls, and boys are cruel to boys, whether or not the other gender is present.

On the other hand, I can definitely see the benefits of a junior high school that is single-sex (anything that separates the kids into a less zoo-like environment is good), and for some people, single-sex college education is a better environment, depending on their individual make-up.

Personally, I've generally preferred the company of the opposite sex over the company of my own sex -- even today, if I make new friends on my own (as opposed to being introduced to a group of couples) they are almost 100% likely to be men, not women.
( 28 comments — Leave a comment )


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