Single gender schools are not ideal

I enjoyed the commentary by my colleague Christopher Post of The Boy’s Latin School (“Face it: Boys learn differently than girls, and that’s OK,” June 26), but I must respectfully disagree with one important aspect of his argument, namely that “an all-boys approach” is the best way to ensure that young men develop into fully-realized and academically well-prepared adults. As head of Friends School, I believe that our boys and our girls benefit in innumerable ways from living and learning side-by-side in a coeducational community defined by equality and respect.

My deep conviction on this matter comes from my own experiences as an educator; from our school’s 233-year history of coeducation here in Baltimore; and from the most authoritative educational research on this topic. A meta-analysis of 184 separate studies involving more than 1.6 million students in 21 nations found that “Results from the highest quality studies … do not support the view that single-sex schooling provides benefits compared with coeducational schooling,” debunking a claim that has long been used to justify the separation of boys and girls during this critical developmental period in their lives. Meanwhile, as Susan McGee Bailey, executive director of the Wellesley College Center for Research on Women, has written, “Sex-segregating students closes off opportunities for learning from and with each other.” With single-sex education having been proven to have no discernible benefit in academic interest and achievement, it becomes difficult to understand why we would deny our children the cognitive and emotional richness of a coeducational environment.

Paradoxically, one of the most important understandings that boys and girls take away from the experience of coeducation is that they aren’t so different after all and that the personal qualities they share far outweigh the more superficial differences society ascribes to their genders. And, of course, the best preparation for developing healthy relationships in the world that our young women and men will enter after graduation is to spend their formative years alongside the full range of people who will populate that world. Indeed, in an age in which diversity of all sorts is rightfully celebrated as essential to meaningful learning, the decision to embrace the enormous benefits of gender diversity that a coeducational setting provides seems only logical.

Matthew Micciche, Baltimore

The writer is head of school at Friends School of Baltimore.

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