As the newly elected chancellor of the New York City schools there is an important issue that I feel the need to address forthwith and that issue is coeducation . Now what do I mean by coeducation – it is simply having both sexes in the same classroom. History has shown that equal education was not always shared by both sexes in the same classroom. Boys were taught to read and write whereas girls learn only to read -- a good example of unequal education. In the early nineteenth century before the institutional structure of urban school systems became standardized, city schools separated and mixed the sexes in a variety of patterns; girls were excluded entirely, girls were educated separately on separate floors of the same building with boys, or taught them together with boys in the same classroom. (p. 81)
Some form of coeducation was practice for young boys and girls in the rural areas in what was known as the dame school at that time. The dame school was the forerunner of the American public primary school. The parents paid for the young boys and girls to attend the school and to receive instructions in reading and writing. Basically the girls were smuggled into the schools to be taught by a male teacher whom parents paid to teach at odd hours before the boys came or after they left. (Colonel New England, p.14) This was coeducation with inequality. Why? Because the boys were taught with the expectation of progressing onto other schools, while the girls were taught knitting for they were not expected to further their education. A higher standard of accomplishment was expected for the boys but at least a basic literacy for girls. These dame schools eventually evolved into the early primary schools. (Tyack and Hansot 1997) Therefore coeducation should not be terminated but should be continued. What needs to be discontinued is the inequality directed towards girls (not being taught the same content as the boys) and the coeducation continues way throughout the elementary years.
Due to the bureaucratization of the system “the ideal of the common school decreed that public education should deliberately mix different kinds of people in order to create a unified nation of people who shared similar civic values (p. 89)”. This decree was met with opposition by prominent male figures from the upper class in society. These authorities prefer separate schools because they wanted to protect their “delicate” daughters from “coarse” boys. They also claim that their daughters need to be protected against associations with the sons of poor and immigrant families. When the real issue was ethnicity and social class also they were not in favor of girls being educated in the same fashion as the boys. One such prominent figure is the popular “King Canutes” who without reservation attack the role of female education.
According to John Dewey an advocate for coeducation, male and female need to learn and grow socially in order for them to coexist in society, (Dewey 1978)”. In the cooperate world they have to work alongside each other, so why not expose them to this in the classroom while they are young. Everywhere “in all the social gatherings of the young, whether in the domestic circle, in parties of pleasure, or in rural or other excursions, it is desired and expected that both sexes will be brought together to participate in, and add to the enjoyments of the occasions.” (p. 94)
What are some of the benefits that could be achieved when both sexes are educated together? Girls especially will learn not only to read but also to write which they were denied in the early century and will now have longer periods in the classroom rather than just attending summer schools. In having both sexes in the same school educated officials supported the idea that coeducation will lead to better discipline, more balanced instruction, and a healthier psychological and sexual development of both boys and girls. (Tyack and Hansot p. 104) Mixing the sexes in the classroom merged boys’ and girls’ different mental abilities and tastes, resulting in better learning for each.
Since I am in favor of coeducational schools I will take a step towards all students having access to all subject areas, classroom materials and extra curricula activities such as sports and the arts.
Another solution I will focus on is staffing. It is good for students to have both male and female teachers. Also having staff developmental sessions where teachers will learn strategies for differentiated teaching in the classroom. We know that boys learn differently from girls so the teacher must be equip for the task since each teacher is responsible for the instruction and discipline of her own class.
A third solution will be you the parent, having your support by opting to send your children to coeducational schools. Since coeducation was opposed due to socioeconomic status
The real purpose of education for all children was not to train narrowly for vocation but to “develop the mind, to draw it out, and give it a scope and balance and strength”
Dewey, John. "Is Co-education Injurious To Girls?" The Middle Woks 1899-1924. ED, Jo Ann Roydston. Southern Illinois University Press, 1978; 153-164. Print.
Tyack, David, and Hansot, Elizabeth. “Smuggling in the Girls": Colonial New England. 1997.
Tyack, David, and Hansot, Elizabeth. King Canutes Attack: The Perils of Coeducation and Women Teachers. Learning together: A History of Coeducation in American Public School, 1992
David, Tyack (1974) The One Best System: A History of American Urban Education, Harvard University Press Cambridge, Massachusetts.