Should schools be co-educational or single gender?

September 3rd, 2019 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 6 comments

Co-education mean girls and boys taught together in one school. This subject is relative and it depends on societies, but in general it is useful educationally. It creates more devotion to studying as boys will be more serious because girls in general like to be serious which inspires the boys. Also  it helps more cooperation and understanding among the girls and boys. Is this narrative correct?

Vinjay C.

Dear Vinjay,

We thought it appropriate to answer your question on a day when many schools are beginning their  new year. You posit two reasons why co-education is a good idea, though if we were making a list of pros and cons, each column would have many more items than just those  you mentioned. If either co-education or single-gender education produced only positive or only negative results, the decision would, of course, be easy. 

However, you aren’t asking us for our opinion but rather what the Biblical prescription for education is, so we must answer from that perspective. . The Biblical command is, “And you shall teach your children…” (Deuteronomy 11:19). Each parent is obligated to teach his and her own offspring and, as we see from Jacob’s blessings to his sons, to be aware of each individual’s particular talents, abilities, weaknesses and needs. Furthermore, Proverbs 22:6 famously advises “Teach each youngster in the way most suitable for him.”  This is enormously challenging because all parents have a tendency to favor their own styles and to employ these styles on every one of their children regardless. Turning down their own instincts in favor of generating just what their children most need from them is surely one of parents’ most exciting and demanding challenges. Parents are required to provide a religious education as well as whatever is needed for a full life, including workplace and home skills. 

At a certain point in history, schools did come into being.  Today, most schools in the Western world educate boys and girls together while others separate the genders.  As we all know, almost anything carried too far becomes toxic and the rampant concupiscence and premature sexualization that has become characteristic of American public education is obviously something no responsible parents would want for their children. At the other extreme, some parochial schools insulate boys and girls from one another to an undesirable degree. As with so many instances in life, the golden center is so much harder to maintain than the appealing and simple extremes.  

In general, Biblical direction tends towards separating boys and girls, men and women to a much greater extent than our society does today.  This applies to educational, religious and general social activities. From the time of, “male and female He created them,” until today, while each and every person is an individual, there are still tendencies that most males share and those that most females share, making different methods of teaching and learning more suitable to one or the other gender.

There are possible pitfalls in separating the sexes, including as you say losing out on positive influences from each other and failing to learn how to cooperate with the opposite sex. There is only one solution and that is to make sure that in your family, your home must be far more influential in shaping the moral attitudes of your children than their schools.  If education is outsourced, as it is for most people today, then the family must remain the mainstay for making sure to counterbalance those negatives.

One part of achieving this is for both the father and mother to play equal and complementary roles in the child’s upbringing.  Nothing that children see or hear at school about male/female relationships should influence them nearly as much as how they see their own father and mother interact.

Keep on learning,

Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin

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6 comments

Louis Jenkins says:

I agree mostly with recognizing each chit learning style and adjust your teaching methods accordingly. However in regard to coeducation, I have found it to be more beneficial to my sons to be at an all boys school. Many of the issues boys have to deal with when girls are on the campus, ie, dress, how do I look, Will she like me, am I kool enough, rejection, acceptance, on and on. My sons had more focus, determination, academics excellent and less disruptive behavior. Plus I asked my sons why they wanted to be at this school and they said, because all the girls wanted a boyfriend from this all boys school. So, I am in favor of all male schools and all female schools.

Brian F. Tucker says:

Dear Rabbi,
Once again from my own experience. I attended both co-ed, until 10th grade then I enrolled in one of two of most prestigious all male public high schools in Baltimore. One focused on engineering and science. In the one that attended most of students were aiming at proffessionai carriers. Our school was able offer specialized curriculums depending on your carrier choice. All this in addition to the math, englsh, history etc. I personally had 10 periods a week in six different disciplines of art. I can’t think of another school public or parochial, co-ed or segregated in Maryland that offered this klnd of opportunity. Of course this does’nt mean that my freinds who attended co-ed schools where failures in life, but I am grateful fo the opportunities it afforded me.
Faithful freind,
Brian

Rabbi Daniel Lapin says:

Well done, Brian,
On a side topic, you may know the answer to something that has puzzled Mrs Lapin and me. Why of all cities, is Baltimore MD so incredibly well endowed with so many top rate private schools?
Cordially
RDL

Brian F. Tucker says:

Sorry, I can’t answer that with any factual authority. My best guess would be that many of our schools were founded in post revolutionary times. Many probably evolved into institutions of higher learning. My school was started in the 1800s and was named Baltimore City College. There where also a like amount of all girl schools. Both public and private. BCC was public.

I attended an all girls high school. The greatest benefit I saw was that at an all girls school, you have an opportunity to be class president, and other positions of responsibility without personality contests or male domination. So, when you apply for college, you have held positions in student government and other male dominated areas. I also love the idea of uniforms – everyone is equal. Less distractions without the opposite sex. Also, there was no bullying at all in our Catholic High School.

Susan Lapin says:

Annette, we have also seen the advantages you mention. All good points.

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