Sunday, April 23, 2006

final four

This NYT article draws your attention to the last four all-male non-seminary colleges in the country. One is Deep Springs, which hardly counts since most students proceed, after graduating, to attend other co-ed schools; that leaves us then with three to compare. One is Southern good-ol'-boy; one is a strict liberal arts college in (and largely for) Indiana; and one is a historically black school next to all-women's historically black Spellman.

The tone of the article, you will notice, is very mild: the author seems intent on describing, not judging. S/he does list some issues that people have with the notion of single-sex male education, and just as quickly addresses them. The impression I was left with at the end of the article was that the author believed that there's some merit to the overall idea, especially in light of the Trouble With Boys that plaguing America.

That's perfectly legitimate, of course -- but it does leave me wondering, What would Twisty think? Not being privy to the inner-workings of the brilliant, patriarchy-blamer's mind, I can only humbly put forward my own two cents.

1) The Trouble With Boys is an irritating bugaboo that will not die. The idea that many boys are feisty, exciteable, and in general not as willing as girls to sit quietly in their seats and learn something is at least as old as Huck Finn. And at least Huck Finn didn't blame Becky Thatcher for his attention problems.

2) Arguing that simply because all-girls schools still exist, all-boys schools have a right to exist as well disregards the important historical differences in how those groups have been treated. It has long been expected that boys will have to find jobs, support families, and prove themselves in the world. It's only in the past fifty years that girls have heard that they CAN do similar things. In the same way, all-black schools can be justified, but could an all-white school be?

3) This is my biggest problem: in all-boys schools, how does a boy learn that a girl can be smarter than he is? If not confronted with it daily in the classrom, or in student groups where girls act as leaders, or on sports teams, how does a boy not just maybe "understand" intellectually but really KNOW that a girl can be bright, confident, and strong? How does a female become more than a sexual object? Justice Alito is a perfect example of how a smart guy in an all-male environment can disrespect women, no matter how intent he is on being a Gentleman (an old-fashioned but not worthless idea that these schools champion).

4) It shouldn't require an absence of women to make men Gentlemen anyway. We should all aspire to the qualities that define the mythical Gentleman: a considerate, concerned citizen. And that leads me to my last point. Men and women really aren't that different. Single-sex environments let us believe otherwise.


sarah said...

oh my god, do you remember that kid from deep springs? HE WAS SUCH AN ASSHOLE.

ester said...

right! he was mean to me when i first met him, mean to all of us in the barn -- i remember chalking it up to his not being used to girls.

Lillie said...

when we five women in roberts needed someone to help build our loft, he stepped up. i kept telling myself it was because he'd gone to a school that made him build stuff, not because he was a guy and we were girls. but then, are there any women's schools that make you build stuff?

ester said...

maybe not, but I know a woman who went to Smith back in the day, and she said she was taught there how to debone a fish AND how to get out of a convertible while wearing a miniskirt.