Blurring Stereotypes

IMG_2629Up until high school, it was established that boys played basketball in the schoolyard and used the grade on their most recent math test as an arbiter of intelligence, while girls read mystery novels during recess and earned A’s in English class.

As a student at a co-ed middle school, the lines were drawn and were almost never crossed. Even teachers and parents played into these gender stereotypes and used a student’s gender as an excuse for a poor grade. Unsurprisingly, my friends and I viewed the math and science classes as the only periods of the day to which we could look forward, while we unanimously agreed that subjects in the humanities represented the source of our boredom. It was easy not to notice any problem with this system as my friends and I fell nicely into these stereotypes, but my experience at a single-sex high school has shown me that some of these subjects don’t have to be so tedious.

I enrolled at Stuart Hall expecting to develop my passions in math and science, the subjects that boys are supposed to enjoy, but I soon came to realize that the subjects that I had only tolerated in middle school (English, history, language) had now become some of my favorite classes. Fortunately for me, the clear division of the supposed male and female academic interests that dominated my middle school years has only continued to blur throughout my high school experience—and I’m not the only one. When I now look around campus, I can see that there exists a healthy distribution of interest in both the traditional “boys” and “girls” classes. I have classmates who not only want to attend medical school, but to also become writers one day. Moreover, others plan on studying both American history and environmental science in college.

It is hard to say why the distinctions between what boys and girls are supposed to study have disappeared in high school. Perhaps it is the quality of teachers or maybe it is simply an issue of maturity. But, I also recognize that a single-sex education allows for a unique classroom environment that I wouldn’t have found anywhere else. Had many of my classmates and I attended co-ed high schools, perhaps we wouldn’t have shared the same interests that we are now planning to pursue in college. Of course, people will continue to debate the issue of what subjects boys and girls are more attracted to, but I get the feeling that many of the people who argue that men and women can’t enjoy conversing about literature or work in a lab together never had the opportunity to attend an all-boys or all-girls school.