A Coeducational Response

Reader Jung has responded to my controversial post defending single-sex schooling. He writes:

Yeah, but the issue of mixing the sexes aren't the only social pressures that distract students from learning. To eliminate that one issue will not help students to learn better. In fact, it may be the case that because of their lack of interaction with the opposite sex, students become less socially adept when they are faced with the unsegregated real world. Single-sex schools may quite possibly repress the sexual urges of these students, forcing them to release these urges at a later time, and stalling their emotional and psychological development. Releasing these sexual urges, that is to say, gettting in a "high school" relationship and then having it inevitably break apart, is an EXTREMELY valuable learning tool to understand the world we live in. I'm not going to go into that much detail, but maybe I'll post something about that later on...

My overall point is that the issue of mingling with the opposite sex during school hours is something that "must be overcome" so to speak, and not something that children must be protected from. It is the equivalent of having a parent keeping a child indoors their entire lives for fear of abduction, injury, skin cancer, or whatever. Let them overcome these problems and grow from them, instead of shielding them from it, making them weaker and more vulnerable later on in life. Because if these social pressures aren't dealt with now, they will inevitably have to deal with them later on.

First off, people seem to have the impression that single-sex schooling precludes in some major way interaction with the opposite sex. Precisely, what I was calling for was that all aspects of school that were considered educational would be carried out in a single-sex environment. This is because I think that school-type education, whether it be academics, etiquette, athletics, organization-building, whatever, doesn't mix well with the other kind of equally important education that we get as adolescents, which is learning how to relate to ours peers and members of the opposite sex, both functionally and romantically. My impression is that having to navigate the trials of romantic relationships during school only distracts and detracts from the business of learning and training that school provides. And I think it would be hard to make the case that having the two types of education concur is synergistic somehow.

But say you think boys and girls should learn how to interact in a cooperative, work environment. This is a laudable goal for its effects on later inevitable interaction between men and women in the workplace. School, the way it is set up now, is a very individual endeavor, with each individual striving for achievement, grades, learning etc, and where there is very little cooperative work. Group work and collaborative projects are subordinated by the push for individual achievement. So having girls and boys together in the same classrooms won't teach them how to work together nearly as much as some people would think.

If you're going to start getting into the "it's tough but it will make them stronger argument" or "it's natural" I think you should seriously re-evaluate your position on the matter. Do we, for instance, have a system where students with only higher than a certain grade point average cut-off are eligible to take the more advanced classes? This would certainly exaggerate any competitiveness, raising the stakes at all times, increasing stress levels and making school generally a harder experience. My high school doesn't even rank students, because they see it as unnecessarily competitive and something that will detract from the education. Do we permit taunting and teasing in school, which is both difficult for the victims and happens naturally, because it will make the victims stronger?

By all means, there should still be school dances, and school-sponsored socializing with the other sex. This way even the timid and less proactive youngsters will have experiences with the opposite sex at a critical developmental stage. And all students will find an outlet to "release their sexual urges" so that, as Jung cautions, we don't raise a group of children "forced to release these urges at a later time, and stalling their emotional and psychological development." There's nothing about having school-aged girls attend a different school than boys that makes dating difficult. Sleep-away camps have been built on the prototype of brother and sister camps for many years, and yet summer camp is still known for being a time of experimenting with the opposite sex.

I know my stance is controversial, and there may be some structural effects arising from this scheme that I haven't anticipated (like perpetuating workplace segregation / inequality) which would be bad, but for now I'm going to hold to my belief that this could be good and is something people ought to consider.

Update: (pub -- I fear this view won't sell with the mainstream of Americans...)

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