Is It Time to Return to Single-Sex Boarding Schools?

With the recent trial of rape/consensual sex at St. Paul’s School between a senior boy and a freshman girl, we’ve had lots of conversation in our family about whether it’s time to return to the days when boarding schools were all boys or all girls. I’m not sure what, if anything, it would solve, but it seems to me there’s so much enticement for sex on a co-ed campus that it’s not at all surprising so many incidents of rape or senior ladder contests exist.

Of course, common sense says that back in the day in single-sex schools, boys were still having sex, it’s just that they saved up their horniness for the weekend, when boys and girls schools had mixers or they invited a girlfriend from home up to the campus and found a way to get a motel room.

AND, it’s not as if the girls weren’t equally interested in frolicking, as you can see from the wanton looks on the faces of the Miss Porter’s School grads.

The change to co-ed didn’t come without male students complaining bitterly but the social times determined single-sex schools were discriminatory. But to whom? Probably the major benefactors wanted Susie and Biff to be alums of dad’s school and pushed for the campus to go co-ed.

My sister’s older daughter was the first class of girls when Lawrenceville School went co-ed, Lawrenceville one of the last to add girls, and those boys were hell-bent on teaching the dumb girls a few lessons or two for invading their male space. My niece would say the hazing emboldened her to stand up for herself and it must have been successful since she went on to Dartmouth, not exactly a place for Pajama Boy males.

Mr. EOS is a product of an all-male boarding school in the 60s but the children went to co-ed boarding schools. Each, if asked, would say they liked the environment they were in.

The single sex environment in a boarding school has its pros and cons. (And I’m talking boarding schools here, not day schools). I’m not positive, but I bet guys would go back to single-sex before girls would. I think the girls felt left behind academically in an all-girls school environment, although back in the 1960s, the girls I knew who went to boarding school, and it was more than half my eighth grade class who disappeared, would all say they got a great education!! Is it that today’s idea of education for a girl is that much different than today? Probably yes, since many of my friends went off to Bennett or Briarcliff Junior College and we all know what happened to those colleges! But I think they really had a place in education and I think its sad they are gone.

Bennett Junior College

Girls today are probably better off in a co-ed environment to compete on a daily basis with men as they will later in the workforce yet single sex education might give the girls more power to learn without being embarrassed to get an answer wrong sitting next to the cutest boy in the class. Yes, that does happen.

Back to the subject at hand, sex in the co-ed boarding school. Definitely easier because there’s no waiting for the weekend. Are the girls more likely to have sex with a classmate when they are around them all day every day? Is it that the girls report it more today than they might have in the 1960s – that unwanted sexual encounters happen just as much now as then, but we know about it now? My kids went to pretty small boarding schools where faculty knew what was going on, for the most part. Take a huge school like St. Paul’s, Andover, or Exeter, kids can sneak off anywhere.

My point? I’m not sure I actually have one other than to ask whether the co-ed nature of boarding schools today brings about more sexual activity. I haven’t decided in my mind whether the St. Paul’s boy was guilty of rape, even though the courts found him guilty of the lesser charge, a misdemeanor. The media blamed the school for not knowing what was going on. I say that’s utterly stupid, that if sex is what the kids want, they will make it happen.

18 thoughts on “Is It Time to Return to Single-Sex Boarding Schools?

  1. EOSR:

    A most interesting topic. A solution to which I have known for many years, and which I also think is OBVIOUS ON IT’S FACE!

    All schools should be coed. Grammar school should be fully coed, including all class room instruction. Starting with middle school, when the hormones first begin to rage, and throughout high school, class room instruction should be boys in one class, and girls in another. However. HOWEVER!! Homeroom, lunches, assemblies and social activities should all be commingled. Dorms would not be coed, and it’s even better if you could segregate them by grade.

    Having coed classroom instruction causes too much distraction, and is not conducive to a rich learning environment. Am I going to be listening to some old codger talk about the Byzantine Empire, or am I going to be fantasizing about the perverse things I would rather be doing with Mary Jane McCarthy’s funbags, who is sitting right next to me? The answer is obvious, me thinks.
    But. BUT!! Spending a lot of social time in off learning activities will reduce the probability of turning out a bunch of social retards who don’t know how to interact with the opposite sex, and will also reduce the probability that they have an unwanted homo or lezbo experience because that is all that is available. We all know that is rampant at sleep away non-coed boarding schools.

    And does going coed increase the probability kids will have sex sooner? I don’t think so. If kids are willing, they will figure out a way, no matter what. And the sooner we make them smarter, teach them right from wrong, and the risks involved, the better off we will be. So in the class room, I say non-coed, because it is more conducive to an enhanced learning environment.

    Plus nowadays, all the kids are banging there teachers anyway.
    Hope this helps.
    Your Pal,

  2. If you want to supervise your children, you should probably care for them yourself instead of sending them off at a young age to live with strangers who may or may not share your values and concerns. Of course, no one can prevent their kids from doing what they really want to do, even if they were (God forbid) home schooled. But boarding schools have long had a reputation for greater incidences of drug abuse and sexual indiscretion for that very reason. And there’s little incentive to report mishaps unless caught out, as St. Paul’s was, because it demonstrates an abuse of the trust parents put in the school. My experiences at top Farmington Valley boarding schools confirm the same.

      1. What about my personal experiences do you disagree with? I can understand the base inclination to defend your parenting decisions, but let’s not be hyperbolic.

        1. Because I thought your comment was dismissive. If you read this blog regularly, you know I love other people’s opinions and stories, but your comment lacked a real story and was more a commentary on what you thought was bad parenting. Now, if you want to tell the whole tale, fine.

          What I chose to do has nothing to do with anything. Every family makes choices that work for them, their situation, their values. If it’s not boarding school, fine, but to be curtly dismissive of it and home schooling bothered me.

    1. Anonymous at 12:10 is obviously a helicopter parent. A hovering controlling excuse-maker of a parent.

      Martha might have a word or two to set you straight about home schooling.

    2. I felt like you contradicted yourself. First, you said if you want to watch over your kids, keep them at home. Great, but then you indicated disdain for homeschooling. Which is it?

      I’m a total advocate for homeschooling, if mom and dad are on board and willing to commit. It’s not easy, and it’s not for everyone, but it is amazing. It puts you, the parent and the child, in control as opposed to some government entity. Your child gets 100% customized education to their needs and abilities. They get the freedom of time to dive deeply into subjects they find interesting. And they get it presented to them by the one person in this world that cares the most. 💗

      1. Five star response Martha. Glad you chimed in about home schooling. As you said, it’s not for everyone, but glad it’s working for you and your boys.

        1. Martha…My dear. I know very little about home schooling, but I am curious about it. As I am with most things. Would you be so kind as to entertain some questions?

          It would seem to make the most sense, and be easier to do, for younger kids. Is this correct? Do you do so through high school?

          What if you have two kids who are a few years apart? Do you need to teach two different sylabussessess?

          If it’s only one kid, who does he cheat off of?

          Is most of the curriculum based around on-line learning? If so, isn’t the temptation for them to surf porn a hard obstacle for them to overcome?

          How do you teach them French or Japanese if you don’t speak the language?

          Has your 5 year old ever asked you a sex ed question that you didn’t know the answer to? If so, what was it? I can help.

          Where do you hold the prom?

          Are the classes clothing optional?

          Do you make them crappy brown bag lunches so they have the same terrible experiences as other children their age?

          I have a lot more, but let’s start with those. Thank you.

        2. Hmmm, I am hesitant to feed the troll, but dinner is in the oven and maybe my responses will help someone….

          My kids are younger and as far as I have heard, young kids are the most fun. Lots of interesting projects–we disect stuff and today we are mummifying a chicken (6 week project). The trade off is they get more independent as they grow older

          Different ages just get taught a different level of depth. So, we study the same things. My kinder draws pictures and gives oral reports, where my 5th grader will read in depth library books and write reports.

          Cheating….one of the best part of homeschooling is the ability to integrate character training in all aspects of the day.

          We don’t do much online learning, but when we do, you can be assured net nanny will be in use, and things will be monitored. Character training comes in handy for this.

          Husband is Swedish, so they are both native in Swedish and English. We are also learning Latin and dabbling in French.

          How was your prom? It was likely pretty awful. But, if they are interested when the time comes, many homeschoolers get together for proms.

          We often come to the schoolroom in pjs. And, I can assure you, my children eat better than 99% of the population.

          Hope that helps!

        3. Oh! Laughing at myself now! How did I not recognize him?😀

          Walt, you had better go make my fondue and report back!

  3. Anon at 11:52 makes a great deal of sense but having segregated classrooms would be difficult. And I don’t agree with anonymous at 12:10 unless she means boarding schools for junior high and younger kids.

  4. This is a very interesting to me.

    I grew up in the Philadelphia suburbs and had the privilege (I mean that, I’m not being snarky) of being a day student at an academically demanding all-girls private day/boarding school for my final few high school years.

    Non-academic observations, shortly thereafter:
    Holy sh*t, once there, did I get ever get my eyes opened. These girls were light years ahead of me and my public school pals when it came to boys, booze, drugs, sex, contraception, and — in general — Getting Away With Stuff.

    Subsequent appreciation of academic opportunities:
    Much of what I did well in college was directly related to what I learned at this school. As in … not freaked out by having 8 books to read for a history class … not wigged out by 3-hour blue book exams, having already endured the business of 2-hour blue book exams … becoming a skillful essay writer without really knowing it, via “business as usual” everyday homework.

    Long story short … at private schools you will learn a lot of stuff (good, bad, inspiring, harmful…) you likely wouldn’t learn otherwise.

    1. Great background story and that school you went to always whooped our Wilmington butts in field hockey. Lacrosse too.

      Anyway, I’d say for me it was just the opposite growing up. The public school girls were the smokers and dated early. Not that my private country day school didn’t have girls drool over guys but with sports mandatory, I didn’t know any girls who smoked. Some guys did, except those who ran track.

      Agree with you about the academics though -as dumb as a post I was, I still knew that my high school years were rigorous academically, and going from that to a mickey mouse all girls college, I had it made in the shade. Unfortunately, I didn’t apply myself except to the ski slope at DU frat parties, but down the road, my years of AP Latin and French, plus fabulous history teachers did me well. Look, I turned out to be a blogger. 🙂

      As a funny compare and contrast story: one of the girls had a friend with whom she played soccer. She lived in the city, went to Spence, but the family had a weekend house in Bedford. On her 12-13th birthday, she invited a huge group – half her Spence friends and half the Bedford girls. The Bedford girls were like hicks from Little Rock (KIDDING) in comparison. The Spence girls talked about boys the whole time, some wore makeup, etc. It was night and day.

  5. I guess the great divide was PANACHE. The private school girls had more privacy (bigger houses, parents who went out more often), easier access to cars, more pocket money, lavishly-stocked liquor cabinets to raid, and the kind of confidence that comes from travelling to places other than the Jersey Shore (who, moi?) So perhaps they weren’t “worse” … they were just a lot more stylish about it!

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