Mom’s Pearls of Wisdom III
Start of June 13 Column

Single Sex Education: Boone, Bane or Both?

Both my wife and I experienced single-sex education in high school. We agree that it has its good and bad aspects. I went to Portland’s Benson Polytechnic High School, which is now co-ed. Vicki went to Westlake, now Harvard-Westlake in Los Angeles, which has also gone co-ed.

She then went to Pitzer and the University of California, Berkeley, both of which were co-ed. When I arrived at MIT in 1970, it had been “co-ed” for a century, but the ratio was 90/10, so it might as well have been all-male, Ellen Swallow Richards (first female grad) to the contrary notwithstanding. The Tech,  the school paper and my main activity was 90-10. WTBS, my second-most important activity, was 100% male. My living group, Student House, a co-op for students on financial aid, marked my introduction to women, since it was about 70/30, and I actually lived with them.

MIT deliberately set out to increase the number of women, and succeeded, as it is now 50/50.

Vicki feels her time at Westlake was her most rigorous academic experience, although she isn’t sure that related to it being single-sex.

In my case, there is no question. Women in my high school classes would have made it impossible for me concentrate, what with hormones and all. So, I  concentrated on academics to the exclusion of a social life.

But it was bad because I was raised in a YMCA (three men and my mom) and had few female friends, so I did not learn to relate to them socially. I fell in love for the first time at age 19 in college. I now firmly believe you should fall in and out of love at a lower-consequence stage in life, like high school. Admittedly, love in college shouldn’t have major consequences, but it seemed more consequential, and I’m sure I’d have handled it better with some prior experience.


Daniel Dern

(BTW, until I started reading the item, I thought it was going to be about
"sex ed classes, separated by gender)

IIRC, the number of women admitted to MIT was artificially constrained up
through my year (entering in 1969) by the Venn diagram of "all frosh must live in an MIT dorm/living group for their first year" and "female undergrads may only live in McCormick Hall" (which, by definition, had a
finite # of spaces available). So my class was 18:1. (The actual habitation had already begin to shift a little, but not the admissions #s/ratio.)

The beginnings of co-ed housing, e.g., your fraternity, and new dorms like Student House (and perhaps Random Hall?), starting, let this officially change change.

Robert E. Malchman

I lived at Wellesley as part of a residence exchange in 1983-84. Two thousand women, nine men. Even I couldn't strike out with those odds.

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