“Single-sex education is better than mixed education, for it prepares young people for the future,” was the question I was confronted with for my English transactional writing exam.
I decided it was a conversation that shouldn’t just be held with my examiner.
Usually ignorance doesn’t provoke much but boredom for me. Though it wasn’t always like that. For about six months my eyes rolled at least two-hundred times a day at the ill informed, shallow and moronic comments of the boys in my year.
For example, “Oh, I read in the news today the bigger a woman’s ‘arse’, the more intelligent her children will be,’ answered with, ‘Oh God, can you imagine how stupid —-‘- kids will be?”
Or even worse, being asked at 8:30 in the morning, “Shouldn’t women get paid less naturally because they’re allowed maternity leave?”
So, rather than throwing chairs and arguing, I educated. I realised people are just a little more likely to listen, if you aren’t screaming and if you are prepared to listen too. It’s a conversation, and I want to take the feminist conversation out of the classroom and into the world.
But, seriously? Is it not obvious that if you go to a single-sex school, it really does mirror and prepare you for ‘real life’: or is being segregated from men that normalised?
As a 15 year old young woman who is already struggling with society’s conventions, I am at odds with the idea of single-sex schools. But why, you’re thinking, right? I bet you’re thinking if the majority of your problems are because of young men, why are you against the idea of single-sex schools? And that was the exact ignorance I fore-mentioned. The problem is not individual men; feminism isn’t a personal attack. It is an attack on society’s patriarchal constructs that uphold beliefs of the superiority of the male sex, and as a result oppresses women; especially women of colour, but that’s a separate conversation we need to have. And you’re also probably thinking, ‘why is a 15 year old even thinking along these lines?’ Probably because of the internalised misogyny I’ve had to deal with all my life from other people: the fear of walking alone, and not understanding the instinct to repeatedly look behind me; why I was never chosen when the teachers asked for someone ‘strong’ to carry the benches out of the assembly hall and the sexual objectification I experience every day, with no exception.
I repeat, before you get carried away, I do not hate men. Men are great, as are women. But I do hate the oppressive nature of society. One that our ancestors have endured for far too long.
It’s often said that girls and boys will do better at single sex schools because of maturing at different rates, learning in different ways, distractions and the different (stereotypical) traits girls and boys have. It’s not to be said that single sex education doesn’t want equality, but that equality for men and women simply isn’t the same. Mostly because of those different traits, both physical and emotional biology. Therefore, single sex schools are best fitted for a child’s needs.
I don’t agree.
I think using stereotypes and generalisations to understand how best to teach kids, is dangerous. Stereotypes in themselves are dangerous: they become a person’s only story, and – almost always – confines them to society’s expectations. Children shouldn’t be confined. Our capability to change and learn is incredible. We should be able to flourish in the environment best for ourselves. Tress only grow best where the soil suits them. And that’s not to say a child doesn’t have the capability to learn in any environment! That’s a skill needed throughout our entire lives but being young, that’s a lesson to be learned in the right environment.
You get the jist I’m against single-sex schools. Am I for co-educational schools though?
One day, I will be in my own trading office, surrounded by men employed by me, who are listening to me. Rather than being hidden away from their sexually objectifying eyes and fragile egos. And I think that’s the environment a co-educational school creates. It shouldn’t be women or men. It should be men and women. Opportunities should be based on talent and potential, rather than gender. I certainly don’t want to be employed because I’m a woman, especially if it’s just for good statistics. I want to be employed because I have the capability of doing the job. I want that same capability to transcend gender. Gender is such a confinement, if you think about it, as is any label. Or perhaps, gender wouldn’t be a confinement if those of power, did not abuse it…
Sometimes I can’t help but think a co-educational school is just as bad anyway. Does the dream of equality fool me? Does it fool you too? Are we, boys and girls, continuously indoctrinated by what other people think is right? Those people being the older generation, whom generally speaking, don’t like change. Is that why my skirt is so annoyingly long, to not ‘distract’ boys – as I’ve been told many times before (of course it’s my fault). Does that not negatively affect boys, just as much as it affects girls? Is that why it took our feminist group a battle to get trousers for girls? Is the hard task of being a teenager, being made even harder by our need to defy our environments in order to do what’s right? It’s uncomfortable to even think about, even scarier to think that this limited environment I work in, just like single-sex schools, is mirroring my future.
It is as simple as this. Children thrive and flourish in schools that offer opportunities, success and academic support. Shown by Alan Smithers and Pamela Robinson, who work at Buckingham University: “while there are some very good girls’ schools and boys’ schools, it does not look as though they are good because they are single sex.” [independentschoolparent.com]
Perhaps you will work aside talented young women in your school years, whilst I work aside talented young men. But it doesn’t matter, because both you and I know it will not define our future.
We will be working on a trading floor, men alike too. We will be at university, sitting next to educated men too. We will be a leading political figure, with men too.
Men and women are the future. Humans are wonderful. Go kick ass.