Wednesday, May 28, 2008

An argument for single-sex education

Don't jump on me just because of the title; you'll see, by the end you'll be nodding your head in agreement.

I attended a day school (Hebrew Academy of Long Beach) which had single-sex classes from first grade and up, although the boys and girls were in the same building and shared lunch and recess periods. I gather that this was more or less normal for "Modern Orthodoxy" in the US in that period, the late ‘70s and early ‘80s.

Today, I usually see two more extreme approaches: The militantly segregated, separate-buildings single-sex approach, and the militantly mixed, put ‘em together and stir ‘em up and see what happens approached. (It seems to me that this is consistent with much of today’s religious ideology; the middle seems incapable of holding its ground.)

I have generally been firmly on both sides of the fence on this issue. I see the scholastic and religious benefit in separating the kids. I also see the humanizing effect of keeping them together, particularly as it influences the boys.

Yesterday, though, I heard the best argument yet for separating the groups: Boys are better off not understanding girls. If separating them will help confuse the boys as to what the girls think, that will be all the better.

This lesson came from the following event: My six year old daughter told my wife (the esteemed Rebbetzin), “I’ve decided I’m not going to marry X-classmate after all. Instead, I’m going to marry Y-classmate, because he’s serious but he also knows how to have fun, and I think that would be good for me.”

Yes, she’s six years old.

If I had known, as a kid, that this sort of thing was going through girls’ heads… I would have run as far as I could in the opposite direction, and then some. I am very glad that I had no clue at all what the XX’s were thinking.

So, please, keep the boys and girls separate; it’s better for the boys’ sanity.


  1. LOL - don't worry, this is not the kind of thing the girls usually discuss with the boys in question. They're much easier to manage when they don't know about your plans for them. :)

    In all seriousness, I have recently begun thinking about the issue of single-sex ed for baby Chalal, who is so stereotypically "boy" it blows my mind. Yes, he's only 21 months, but it's already clear. Unlike his little female peers, he wants and needs to get up and run around, to tinker with things hands-on, and to occasionally get to be lous and boisterous. Most of the little girls are perfectly happy to sit still and listen to stories or sing songs all together for a much longer time.

    What will happen when he goes to school and they want to turn him into a girl/model office worker? (ie., sit still, be quiet, and do mental, not physical, tasks)??!?

  2. In all seriousness, that situation you describe is one of the major motivations for single-sex ed in the secular school system. As I heard one researcher put it a couple of years ago, our school system is heavily biased against its male students.

  3. I am not a big proponent of separation. I have heard of numerous problems that have been created because of infrequent gender interaction.

    That is obviously not a scientific answer, but one based upon my own observations.

    There is something to be said for socialization skills that are developed because classes are mixed.

    At some point in time the hormones kick in and it doesn't matter if they are separated, they'll go and find each other anyhow.

  4. Jack-
    I actually submitted this post to FrumSatire for the blog carnival under "Humor," but he took it seriously. Didn't read it, I suppose.

    In any case: I know many reasons for and against gender separation in grade school. This post, though, wasn't one of them. I was just having fun.

  5. I was just having fun.

    Ah, I see. Caught me flat footed on this one. :)